Acts of Grace Benin Republic: Proof that Language can’t stop Kindness

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Acts of Grace

I visited Cotonou Benin in January 2022. Benin is a francophone which means their official language is French. This is the language everyone speaks as well as other African languages such as Fon, Yoruba and Somba.

How many of these languages do I speak? None.

When I told people that I was going to Cotonou, Benin, some asked: “what is Benin?” and others asked, “why Benin?”

For me it was easy, it is a country and visa-free. I knew people didn’t speak English but that wasn’t even in my criteria of choosing.

True to the name, most people speak French and local languages with very few of them understanding one or two English words.

Here is where the acts of Grace in Cototou started.

I picked an Airbnb in an area I don’t normally pick in other countries. It was in my price range and it had Internet. And I had read online that Cotonou is pretty safe. The host was also very nice from the start and he spoke English. Though he also lives in France, so his housekeeper would be the one to welcome me.

When I first arrived at the Airbnb I remember wondering what kind of place I had picked. It was downtown, there was an abandoned house just outside and there were multiple groups of men in different establishments like bile repairs, street food joints and kiosks.

In all honesty, it is the kind of place I normally avoid passing by when I am in Nairobi. The kind of place where you instinctively hide your belongings.

My fear was heightened when the cab driver asked me why I had chosen this area. He seemed very scared and worried for me too.

Getting into the house, the house keeper was nice enough but he only spoke a few English words. He showed me my room and the first thing I did was shut the door and lie on the bed wondering just what I had gotten myself into.

I immediately took my laptop out and started searching for another Airbnb, this time I was looking for something closer to the airport since I had seen a nice neighbourhood when I was in the cab.

I found a nice one, more expensive than the current place but I was ready to pay for it and also lose the money I had already paid for the current one.

Just before I booked that new one, something in me told me to contact the host first. Since he had been very helpful so far I at least needed to inform him that I didn’t think his house was the best option for me and more specifically, I did not feel safe.

During the call, he told me that despite how it looked, it was very safe, he also told me that he would be travelling to Benin from France in the coming week and he would be staying there with his French friends, it was a way to reassure me. He also told me that his daughter who is a young woman like me stays there when she is in Benin.

I had no proof of anything but my gut told me it would be okay and so I stayed.

That was the Holy Spirit guiding me, telling me that God’s got it. And throughout my stay, there was not a single moment where I felt afraid for my life. I didn’t even get a single cat call from any of the guys along that street or anywhere else in Benin for that matter. That in itself is a victory in my books.

From the word go, the housekeeper, Christof, without even understanding most of what I said, was ready to help with anything I needed.

That first day I asked him about a supermarket and he told me he’d take me. He took me on his motorbike, waited for me to shop and took me back to the house.

The next day I wanted to go to the beach, he dropped me off and picked me up hours later when I was ready to go back.

Christof was always there to help me, from driving me around, to running errands for me, he did so much.


There is one moment I will always carry with me. During my stay in cotonou, I found out that my 11-month-old nephew had passed on. I was distraught and heartbroken. I was all alone and I couldn’t be with my family. On one of those following days, I had been crying in my room when Christof knocked door.

I quickly washed my face and tried to erase any evidence of the tears. I don’t even remember what Christof needed but after he left I received a text from him.

He had noticed how sad I was and he sent words of comfort. Only later did I come to realise that he had used Google translate to convert his French words so he can send me that message in English. Moments later, he knocked on my door again, this time he didn’t speak, he simply handed me a packet of plantain chips and left. He probably never even realised but his gesture meant a lot to me.

I felt a little less lonely, that even though I couldn’t be with my family, I had people around me who actually cared.

I also met Sedjro, who was staying in another room in the same Airbnb, he is Beninese but he speaks enough English to carry on a proper conversation. He also loves to travel, so we had a common ground and a lot to talk about.

Sedjro became a dear friend who would help me out in many ways through out my stay in Benin.

He is the one who guided me on the trip to the north. I saw a picture of him on Instagram and he told me he and his friend had taken that trip and I decided to do it too.

Sedjro and I having dinner in Cotonou
Sedjro and I having dinner in Cotonou

During that trip, as I was stranded in a small town with no ATMs and running out of cash. He graciously accepted to pay for my motel via mobile money and I would pay him back when I was in Cotonou.

He also took me around the city to shoot my Benin city tour video and also took me to the beach on his motorbike.

Sedjro is now a dad and I wish him all blessings in this new journey. I pray that his son grows up healthy and loved.

Sedjro introduced me to his friend Cindy, who is now my friend too. Cindy was lovely to talk to and hang out with. We spent an afternoon at the beach together, and she was happy to spare her time for me.

My host, August, arrived in Cotonou with his friends Jean and Paul. The four of us went to Ouidah together for the Voudon festival and so ate together multiple times.

Dinner in Cotonou
Dinner in Cotonou

August hosted us for a dinner where all the people I knew in cotonou were present. It felt like a family get-together.

August made sure I was comfortable and that I felt at home.

On that trip where I was stranded, he also helped me pay the bus driver by mobile money.

If it wasn’t for Sedjro and August, I honestly have no idea how I would have gotten out of the small town. I am forever thankful to them and to God. I didn’t even have to think about it since as soon as I called them and told them about my situation, they were eager to help me.

While my trip to the north didn’t end up as expected, it wasn’t without its own moments of grace.

On the first day of the trip, I arrived at around 6 in the morning. Most shops were still closed and I thought I’d have to wait outside the museum for hours before it opened at 9. However, the attendant opened up early for me. He also offered to be my tour guide, he took around the entire day on his motorbike.

When he dropped me off at the bus station at the end of the tour, I wanted to find some bananas to eat. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a shop anywhere nearby since the station was a little out of town. I gave up the idea and bid him goodbye. I bought my ticket and sat in the shade waiting for the bus.

Almost 10 mins later, I was reading something on my phone when the person sitting next to me tapped me on my shoulder. I looked up and they pointed towards the door. My guide was carrying a bunch of bananas on his motorbike looking straight at me.

My guide in Natitinguo

He had gone back to town, bought them for me and brought them. I didn’t send him and he didn’t accept payment for them. He just did it out of the kindness of his heart.

During that trip, I also met a very nice French lady, Marie. We ended up having tea together back in cotonou. We talked about our jobs and travels.

Sedro, Cindy and I had a goodbye dinner together on my last night there.

I ended up extending my stay in Cotonou by a week. That is how comfortable I felt.

In a country where I had to use signs and Google translate to communicate yet, I felt welcome and appreciated.

Thank you to all the people who made my stay in cotonou a blessing. Even those who will never read this. May God bless them immensely.

Thank you God for gracing my stay in Benin. For being my source of love, joy, peace, hope, strength and so much more.

I hope reading this encouraged you to have faith. Faith that God is always there to help you. Some people are afraid of following their dreams because they aren’t sure what they will find in the unknown. But what I say is that God will help you out, just start.

People ask me why I am so brave travelling the world alone as a woman. My answer is simple: I am not alone, I have God.

Read some more articles about Acts of Grace throughout my journey here.

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