We (being all the Africa Mercy crew) were invited to dinner with His Excellency Yayi Boni, President of Benin last night at the Presidential Palace.
We arrived with the first group of people about 5.45 having followed one of the shuttle buses in a landrover, and wondered if we were going to be let in at all after observing a very heated debate between the bus driver and the men with the guns at the entrance! Then we had quite a wait until the shuttles had finished and everyone was there (we are talking about an hour and a half or more) at which point they put out (not quite enough) drinks. It was like being at a wedding, everyone dressed up, hanging around chatting, although I have never worn clothes quite so similar to my family before, and as I don't have any photos yet that will have to be a whole different post later!
We were shown into a banqueting hall where the tables and chairs were all dressed, giving a bit more of a wedding like feel, although with not quite enough chairs so we ended up being shown to a table that had been reserved for military personel near the top table, making us slightly anxious about having small children present!
So...about 8.30pm we all stand to the Benin national anthem while the President and his ministers enter. By this point Joshua has fallen asleep on Tommy, who held him (while standing) through the Presidents arrival, through the welcome and presentation ceremony for about 40 minutes. Part way through all the talking, which was being translated from French to English, (except for the last bit which was paraphrased significantly according to the man who told us 'that was what they said - in a nut-shell') Tom sat down, put his head on the table and fell asleep too.
Finally it was announced that we could eat, some what tricky for those of us with sleeping children on us, but still a lovely meal and the first time we ate rabbit - as well as a lot of other food! Then we watched some African dancing, all sorts of different dances with different dress from different areas of Benin, dances with people wearing unusual objects on their heads and a dance where sticks were banged on the floor! It was an experience to remember. It was a shame the boys slept through a lot of it - when we got home and Tom had been carried in he asked - 'so was there any food?'
No cameras were allowed, but you can see most of our friends in the picture on Amys blog and how lovely they look, and I will try and get the photos of our family that our friend PJ took of us and add it soon.