We landed on the sandy beach, between two palm trees jutting out over the water at awkward angles. A few village kids were watching us from one of the trees, and another small mob of children eyed us shyly from farther up the beach. The men at the landing looked at us inquisitively for a few moments and then broke into big smiles. Soon the children came running up to us. We exchanged high-fives with a few and Jasmine started a game of "can-you-make-this-face." She'd do something and all of the kids would mimic her. It was the most hilarious thing I'd ever seen. At one point she started singing Harry Belafonte's banana song and they ran around in a troop singing it for an hour. Even after we left them we could hear "Daaay-oh, day-ay-ay-oh" off in the distance.
The wildlife was amazing. A big black iguana with an orange head and tail scurried up a tree. A million bird nests hung from the fronds of the palm trees above. There were mangoes, coconuts, and little figs growing everywhere, with some banana trees. The ground was paved with beautiful little shells: purple ones, white, pink, and orange. Most lived in mud huts with thatched roofs, but there are some cinder-block houses with tin roofs as well. We saw goats, sheep, dogs, turkeys, and chickens (the baby chicks were dyed bright pink to deter the hawks). We later found out that all of these, even the dogs, are raised for food. There were a few cats too. Hopefully no one eats those.
The trees are very beautiful: Neem (bodhi tree), royal poinciana (regarded by some as the most beautiful tree in the world), some tulip-looking tree, and mangroves seemed to be the most common. All the furniture was made of mahogany and teak. There is sugar cane everywhere as well.
We gathered in chairs under a tree and had a quick lesson in Dangbe, the local language.
Moiye - Hi (Welcome)
Yay - Hi back
Kayonga kay - How are you?
Inga sa minya - I'm good
Onga sa minya - How are you?
Eeeeeeeeh - I'm good
It's a funny language. Kinda like something Bob Marley might spontaneously invent when he's baked. We noticed that people would have entire conversations consisting mostly of "eeeeeeeh". It's a standard greeting, acknowledgement of understanding, and a general catchall response to any question.
After our introduction to Dangbe we made a procession through the villages and dropped each member of our group off with their host family. Each time we'd give a round of hugs, say "eeeeeeh", and keep going to the next village. We ended up spread out over almost two miles, among a few different villages connected by sandy footpaths. I found out that I would be the last one left. We walked for what seemed like forever, and the scenery began to look less dusty and more sandy. I noticed more palm trees and sugar cane. We were approaching the end of the long island.
We came to another village and met my host family. An elderly man with a towel around his waste wrapped me in a sinewy bear hug. I would call him "Father", and I was introduced to my "brothers" and "sisters". My new mother was ushered out from somewhere inside, and she greeted me with a big smile. They were going to teach me Dangbe, feed me, and I would live with them in their hut, they said.