FORTUNE’ (a new angel) Notes from the last journey to Benin Sometimes, during our journeys of responsible tourism one may encounter human dramas that lacerate our hearts and imprint images in our minds, that will stay for a long time.
All facts and people are real. Our holiday in Benin was over. Pierre and Elodie, the two young French that we left in the north of the country, would be back in Ouidah in one day. I thought, possibly, there would be some time to show them Ganvie, the lagoon city.
Therese, my Beninese wife, SORROW was preoccupied. “Do you remember that young girl that we met in that village up in the north? Just 14 years old, she’s pregnant. Once the child will be made, she will be expelled from the village. I fear both for her and for the child. What if we tell the two French to pick her up and come here with her?”
Done, immediately. In the evening we would meet the two French and the little pregnant girl in Cotonou, one of the new capitals of West Africa.
A heap of cars, lorries and super-polluting motorbikes frantically driven by stressed people. Who thinks that the poors have at least a quiet life, he should change his mind! So we had the meeting: here are the two French, here is the girl. She didn’t look good. Just tired, or did she already have the contractions? We loaded her on our car. We thought going home to let her take a bath, but there was no time. The girl was vomiting, we drove her directly to the hospital of Ouidah. The doctors were not there, they are never there on evenings. The nurse looked at her only after I paied, and bought a thermometer by myself. It’s fine, with 20 children and 10 mothers in our Maison de la Joie, I know very well this hospital. I know the cashier as well. Yes, she had the contractions, the child would be born that same night.
My wife’s sister would stay with her, she knows the local language. We went home late. We rested a while but we knew that there would be little sleep that night. In fact, at 11 pm they called us. The girl had a problem, the child was not coming out. My wife jumped in the car and went to the hospital. The Voodoo feasts were still on-going, nobody should get out in the night, women definetly not.
At 4 am the baby was born, dead. The umbilical cord was around his neck. At least his mother was safe, the little Julie who never played with a dolly but worked hard. In dim light, I saw him. It was just beautiful. A little angel who already flew to heaven. We would have called him Fortune’ (Lucky), because we thought that a lot of fortunate coincidences were going to save him, and also because in his future familial condition, a name like this would protect him from all the hate he would meet. The time for a baptism, he was put in a box and brought to the North. He has been buried in the village my wife comes from.
We didn’t hide anything to our tourists. At least, we saved the girl. In the evening she was already in our house, sitting in a corner, crying silently. I shall never stop to wonder the resistance of African women. I looked for French words to comfort her, but I knew that only after time she would be able to smile again. I told her that she could stay in our home, or, more exactly, that it’s her home. The day after we were back in Italy, back in the normal life. One week elapsed. A person in Faenza knew the story, he promised to send the little Julie to school.
Africa continues to make us cry of pain and laugh of joy.