Zagnanado – A Walking Tour

Alright ladies and gentlemen. Gather around, please. We’re about to begin the tour. Okay, here we go. Of course, where else would we begin but Chez Geoff (who totally didn’t clean up most of the squalor just before taking these photos!)? We’ve got a lovely little two-room house, here. There’s the living room:

Tour 1 - Living RoomTour 2 - Living RoomTour 3 - Living Room

And the bedroom:

Tour 4 - Bedroom

And the “kitchen” (really just the walled-in backyard):

Tour 5 - Kitchen

Moving right along, we walk out the front door and, well, there’s a huge pile of charcoal.

Tour 6 - Pile of Charcoal

All for the President of the NGO Geoff is installed with. But if you look a little to the right you can see the rest of the yard:

Tour 7 - Yard

Yes, it is now a construction zone. They’re building an orphanage right there in the yard. The Toyota belongs to the NGO President. A little bit farther to the right and we can appreciate Geoff’s porch, which he shares with the NGO President (when he is not at his real home in Porto-Novo) and the family of the principal of the private primary/secondary school that is also run by the NGO.

Tour 8 - Porch

Speaking of the school, just walk a little bit farther along the porch and:

Tour 9 - School

We’re going to head up to the top floor now, just to get a nice view of the neighborhood:

Tour 10 - View from School Tour 11 - View from School Tour 12 - View from School Tour 13 - View from School

Don’t forget to check out the swing-set as we head out to the road:

Tour 14 - Swing Set

Right across the street, you can see a little stand selling things like tomatoes, soap, etc.

Tour 15 - Stall

And they’ve spotted us, so we’re going to have to spend a few minutes taking pictures of each and every one of the children and showing each photo of each and every one of the children to each and every one of the adults. This is the price you pay for bringing a camera out with you. Okay, now that that’s finished, we can head left toward the market.

Tour 16 - Toward Market

Here’s the baobab tree where all of the zemidjans (taxi motorcycles) hang out:

Tour 17 - Zem Baobab

As you can tell, the Zagnanado zems wear blue uniforms. We’ll make a quick left to the market that leads to the Catholic hospital.

Tour 18 - Market

There are stalls selling all kinds of things to make dinner with, mamans selling rice and beans, fish, tometoes, onions, pasta, fried tofu, hot peppers, oranges, etc. But we’re not hungry or sick right now, are we? No? So we’ll head back the way we came, toward town. Notice on your left a bite-sized establishment called Buvette Clin d’œil (Wink Bar).

Tour 19 - Bar Clin d'Oeil

This is where Geoff gets cold beer whenever he wants; as you can see it is just across the street from his house. This is a point of jealousy amongst many other volunteers. Anyway, we’ll continue on down the path that leads to town.

Tour 20 - Toward Town

Not much to see on this path, just a lot of crops.Tour 21 - Toward Town

We’re at the end of the path. You can see behind me the municipal soccer field, which some nice men are in the process of mowing (with machetes, obviously).

Tour 22 - Soccer Field

Now, if we take a left, we’ll pass a village called Doga and head up a tall hill toward Dovi, where another Peace Corps volunteer, named Jill, lives.

Tour 23 - Toward Dovi

 If we had a motorcycle it would only take a few minutes. But we don’t have a motorcycle. This is a walking tour, so we’re going to go right, toward the center of town.


Just a quick pit stop at the bakery. Baguettes cost 100 francs each (20¢).

Tour 25 - Bakery

On we go. From here you can see the main intersection of town.

Tour 26 - Main Intersection

That’s the goudron (tarmac), the road that leads west to Covè (about 5 minutes by zem, the main market town of the region) and Bohicon and east toward Kpedekpo, where you can turn southward to go to Porto-Novo and then Cotonou. This is, essentially, the main highway in Benin. Which means that all of the buses and trucks come zooming past here all the time. Not exactly the quiet little neighborhood where we started out, is it? On the left is a big mango tree, under which is another enclave of zems. In the background is the giant mystical baobab tree that lords over Zagnanado. If you try and cut it down, you will die. It is that powerful. Oh! And we have a visitor! Everyone, this is Geoff’s friend Victorien, who works at the high school.


While we’re here, let’s take a look around. There’s a phone credit shop and a barber shop next to a gas station (that’s what they’re selling out of those old liquor bottles).

Tour 28 - Main Intersection

And next we have the big cyber-café, run by the NGO that Geoff works with, and where he meets the rest of the NGO staff for weekly meetings.

Tour 29 - Cyber Cafe

Anyway, let’s head down the goudron (west, toward the mayor’s office).

Tour 30 - West

Here’s a sign for the only cafeteria (that is, coffee-shop; not the same meaning as in English [also, don’t get excited – the coffee is instant]) in Zagnanado, where you can get an omelet sandwich in the morning if you want.

Tour 31 - Cafeteria Ad

Let’s keep walking.

Tour 32 - West

If you look to your left, you can see the “public park,” in which no one ever ever ever hangs out. It is now overgrown.

Tour 33 - Public Park

Moving right along, we can the town Civic Center, which has been commandeered as an annex for the gendarmerie (police) when it is not in use (which it almost never is).

Tour 34 - Civic Center

And here’s the mayor’s office. It’s frowned upon in Benin to take pictures of government buildings, so we’ll just be sneaky about it.

Tour 35 - Mayor's Office

Let’s head east, back toward the intersection, shall we?

Tour 36 - East

We’re going to walk quickly past the high school, here.

Tour 36b - High School

This is where Geoff has his twice-a-week English Club, where he did the big AIDS event, etc. Continuing down the goudron we see a couple more government buildings, the treasury:

Tour 37 - Treasury

And the Social Services Center:

Tour 38 - Social Services

As we reach the intersection again.

Tour 39 - Main Intersection

We’re going to continue east for a bit

Tour 40 - East

Pay no mind to the fact that it’s starting to rain despite the fact that it was a nice sunny day four seconds ago as we pass the boutique (little shop) where Geoff buys his eggs, flour, and milk powder.

Tour 40b - Boutique

Yes, that is gas being sold out of that big glass jug. Now, here’s another famous Zagnanado landmark, the big Jesus statue.

Tour 41 - Jesus Statue

If we turned right here we’d head to the Catholic church, but we’ve got a stop to make so we’ll keep on going east. Here’s the post office:

Tour 42 - Post Office

And the shop that makes custom t-shirts for events:

Tour 43 - T-shirt Store

The town you can see in the background is called Agonlin-Houegbo:

Tour 44 - East

And here we are at Geoff’s favorite bar, Chez Doudou. I’m also going to point out Geoff’s favorite place to sit in the bar:

Tour 45 - Bar Chez DoudouTour 46 - Bar Chez Doudou

Well, it’s getting late so we should head back home. Luckily, I know a shortcut: this nondescript dirt path conveniently located right across from Chez Doudou:

Tour 47 - Shortcut Tour 48 - Shortcut Tour 49 - Shortcut

We’re going to cross the paved church road now. And look! The kids just got out of school:

Tour 50 - Catholic Church

Moving right along,

Tour 51 - Outside Barber Shop

We’re going to stop here at this random barber’s shop because I’ve always wanted to get a picture of the drawing hanging up in here:

Tour 52 - Nelly and Obama

Yes, indeed. That is Nelly giving Barack Obama a haircut. Let’s keep going, shall we?

  Tour 53 - Shortcut Tour 54 - Shortcut Tour 55 - Shortcut

You should be able to see the school Geoff lives next to from here:

Tour 56 - I Can See My House

And we’re back in the neighborhood!

Tour 57 - Back in My Neighborhood

And back at Geoff’s house. Meanwhile, the Toyota seems to have mysteriously moved….

Tour 58 - Front DoorTour 59 - Home Sweet Home

Whoooo. I’m wiped. Thanks for taking this Walking Tour of Zagnanado. That’ll be 10,000 francs each. Cash only.


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