Port of No Return

Posted by martin.parnell |

Quest completed:

  • Comrades Quest 87

  • The Comrades Marathon (87km)
  • Sunday May 29th 2011
  • Durban to Pietermaritzburg
  • South Africa
  • Finish Time (target): 11hrs 59 mins 59secs
  • Finish Time (actual): 11hrs 51min 23sec
  • Course: Stats and map
  • Video: Comrades in 8 1/2 mins

Robert, Caroline, Heather and myself had been in Benin for three days and the reception we had received from the Right To Play staff, teachers and children had been tremendous. This morning we were going to learn a small part of Benin's history and it was to have a profound impact on me. First, we traveled to Quidah, 40km west of Cotonou and visited the Adjara-Dovie elementary school. We observed a lesson on child protection strategies. The children were in grade 5 and were hard workers. The lesson was an hour and they stayed on task the whole time. Robert, on the other hand, was sitting in a corner and starting to nod off.

Our next stop was the Quidah museum and the story of the slave trade. In the 1700's Kings ruled the country and they sold their people as slaves. A clay pipe was 20 slaves and a bottle of gin was 50. The slaves were then kept for two months, at a location that is now the museum, on only food and water. Many died and the rest walked the 5 km trek along the slave's road to the coast. We drove that road and along the way we were shown the slaves graveyard, where millions are buried. At the end of the road we reached the "Port of no return". Slaves would walk under an arch, knowing they would never see their homeland again. These slaves were sent all over the world and half of them would die in the boats before they ever saw dry land. When slavery was abolished a number of them did returned to Africa and form Liberia. Standing on the beach looking out to sea one can only think "But for the grace of God…"

That evening we headed over to Benin TV for a one hour program on the importance of sport in children's development. This is a national show and goes right across the country. The main speakers were Caroline and Heather with Marie from Right To Play and a government representative. Robert and I sat in back row with two members of the women's soccer team we had met the previous day. I really couldn't understand a lot that was said, but it was obvious that the discussion was somewhat heated at times. The presenter reminded me of a grumpy Tony Harris (if Tony ever got grumpy). I found out afterwards that he had been quite aggressive, asking why should girls do sport and was there any benefit to them. Interesting.

It had been quite a day and there was a lot to reflect on. I will never forget the morning at Quidah museum and the slave road.

Tomorrow, in my final blog on my trip to Benin I will talk about visiting the Vedoko school for the deaf and setting up a kids running club.

Dr Randolph Randolph's book of animal jokes

Q: What is cleverer than a talking cat?
A: A spelling bee!

Quote of the Day

"Whatever course you decide upon there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Standing at the Port of No Return

Port of No Return

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