In 2013 I had the opportunity to revisit northern Benin, to see the people and places of Nikki four years after my Peace Corps service there had ended, and after four years in another West African country. I was curious to see who and what had changed, how my memory's snapshots stacked up to reality, how Benin compared to Mali, but mostly to spend time with some very good friends.
Not surprisingly, Nikki had changed quite a bit, thanks to the long-awaited asphalt road that finally (and efficiently) connected Nikki to the rest of Benin and Nigeria. Construction was everywhere. I surmised that maybe Nikki was in fact a microcosm for Benin in general, which seemed also to be budding, if only by act of being pulled along by the ear by its increasingly fastidious (and alarming?) president, Yayi Boni.
However, I found that people had not changed so much, particularly in Nikki. This was good, because it meant that I found in my dusty Borgou town the warm, enthusiastic hospitality and touching generosity that had made me feel at home six years ago. And the fiery, educated conversation, usually under a mango tree or with a beer in hand, that kept life fresh, and endeared the place so much to me, even after all this time.
Below are some select photos from Benin, mostly of Nikki, and mostly from this summer's three week homecoming trip. Enjoy.