Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Things You Should Know About Togo 6/23/10

Typical Day:

Wake up at 6am. Ok, ok 6:20. Get a bucket bath and eat breakfast. My friend, Elise, comes by at 7:10 and we walk to class. We have class from 7:30-12:30 and then walk home for lunch. It is traditional in Togo for the whole family to come home for lunch. Our classes are usually language, bike, or a “tech” session where we learn about enterprise development in Togo. From 2:30-4:30 more class (usually language). After that, we are free. Some days we go to the local bar for a cold beer (YES COLD!), some days we play Frisbee or soccer, and on Mondays and Fridays we can go to the market. The world cup is on, as you know, and watching it here in Africa is really exciting. People are so into it. When an African teams scores, you hear people cheering all over the city! My family has satellite TV so we have an incredibly clear picture of the games. When I get home around 6, I eat my dinner, take a bath, do lots of French homework, and go to bed! Pretty standard.

The Sights: the vegetation is lush; there are coconut trees, avocado trees, mango trees, etc. The ground is a red clay-like sand that makes my feet perpetually dirty. On my way to class, I walk down dusty roads (unless it rains; then the roads are muddy and flooded) with houses on either side with people selling bread or fish or just hanging out. It’s true – the women carry lots of stuff on their heads. I want to learn to do it as soon as possible. Our training house (the “tech house” or “salle tech”) is a compound fenced in with a giant stone wall and there is a guard there 24 hrs a day. Sometimes in class I get distracted by the colorful lizards running around because our classes are all outdoors in circular huts with straw roofs. There is a flush toilet in our tech house! I use it every chance I get. I have to be careful to watch for motos on my way to class. That seems to be the main mode of transportation here. No worries – if you are in their way, they will scare you to death by blowing their horn at you. People pee everywhere. I pretty much see people peeing in their front yards everyday on my way to class. I think it’s funny!

The Sounds: People here sweep all the time. With the constant rain plus the constant heat drying everything out, there is dirt everywhere! It’s so weird because people sweep the dirt in front of their houses. It actually does make it look better because they sweep the trash away. There is the constant swish-swish of brooms. When I wake up, I usually hear gospel music and roosters. The roosters start at about 4am, but I am great at sleeping through that (and my alarm, whoops!). My family has a dog, and sometimes other dogs will howl in the distance and our dog answers VERY loudly. I hear goats bleating and kids crying all the time. It’s hard to tell the difference between the two! Of course I hear yovo like 2.5 million times per day. Fan milk guys are a welcome sound. They ride around on bikes and honk a horn. They sell fan milk, a frozen treat that is like soft serve ice cream. It’s amazing on a hot day! The mills are peppered throughout Tsevie and the sound of grinding corn into corn flour can be heard outside of them. The corn flour is used for several traditional Togolese dishes like pâte (basically water and flour with a sauce). The tok-tok of wood hitting wood as people pound yams for fufu is also a common sound.

The Smells: Well, the deodorant isn’t great, and it’s like 90 degrees here everyday, so use your imagination. I also smell animals often, like chickens and goats, not freshly washed inside-dogs. La marché (the market) smells horrible. People sell fish on every corner and it may be the most disgusting thing I have ever seen/smelled. They are black from being smoked (to preserve them without refrigeration), but are always covered in flies and half rotted. They smell so gross. I can’t even walk though the food section of the market because the smell makes me nauseous. The beef is just as gross. I’m considering becoming a vegetarian once I’m at my post. There are good smells too! I come home to my family cooking lunch and it smells fantastic. Many women sell pastries and the smell of fried dough lingers in the air.

The Tastes: My diet is basically all starch. For breakfast, I usually have either porridge (like grits with sugar), tapioca, or bread with nutella or cheese. I also have a cup of hot tea when I actually wake up on time. For lunch, I could have rice with beans and a red sauce; spaghetti with tomatoes, onion, and a boiled egg; “salad” which is carrots, beets, yams, a boiled egg, a cut-up hot dog, all mixed with mayonnaise; or a traditional meal. For dinner same thing or avocados, fried plantains, “colico” – a local dish of fried yams (like French fries), or white beans with red sauce (a personal favorite). My only saving grace is that I get fresh fruit with every meal – fresh mango, pineapple, or bananas. Yum! They asked me last night to cook an American meal for them. If you have suggestions, let me know! I’m limited in ingredients, but was thinking of eggplant parmesan or French toast. All of the vegetables are mini here! Probably lack of water and genetic engineering.

The Touch: Holy cow, it is so hot. I am almost always hot except when I pour cold water over myself in the shower.

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