I'm terrible about updating my blog. Since I don't have electricity, I don't use my computer very often. People keep saying electricity's coming to my village, but I doubt it will be anytime soon.
Sometimes I feel like I like inside of a moving photograph. I saw pictures of Africa for so long before finally coming here, and I'm always amazed that I'm actually living in the world from which those pictures came. For example, the other day I was riding my bike to the post office and I saw an old woman. She was bent over from old age and her brightly colored clothes gently swayed in the breeze while she hobbled along with her walking stick. She had the face of a woman who had lived a hard life but overcome so much. It was almost breath- taking how beautiful she was. I have moments like that so often where I just think, "This is my life. I'm really in the Peace Corps."
So things have gotten much better for me here. I'm getting used to the lonliness and the lack of amenties. I've started a garden in my compound (everything always dies except 3 tomato plants, but I'm going to keep trying), starting to paint, learning to sew, got a kitten named John Galt, and a puppy named Jacques. Work wise, I've done a few formations with various groups on hand washing, feasibility studies, time management, and income generating activities. I have lots of ideas and my French, although still terrible, is good enough for me to be able to start on things. I'm really hoping to be able to work with entreprenuers, apprentices, and microfinance organizations over the next two years.
This past week, all of the volunteers were in Pagala because we have the Peace Corps training center here. We had a week of training and really good food (by Togo standards). It was so much fun to see everyone and we had a big Halloween party the finaly night. I was a witch, but some of the other costumes were more creative and funny! We had a box of wine, a cop who's lost everything, and a fanmilk (that's like the closest thing we have to ice cream in Togo). The Togolese people probably thought we'd gone mad.
This weekend, I'm helping run a formation for MAP (Men As Partners) where 30 men are going to come from surrounding villages to learn about gender equality, domestic abuse, sexual health, etc. The weekend after that is my birthday so people from my cluster are going to come celebrate with me in Pagala and I'm going to attempt Greek food! Then I'm going down to Lome, Togo's capital, to see new volunteers be sworn-in. I won't be the newest anymore! That's pretty exciting.
I'm getting to know my village and the people in it more and more. My homologue, Djobo, is so amazing and works so hard. There are so many people in my village that are loving and welcoming. I can find almost everything I need in my village so I don't have a reason to leave very often, which is why I'm almost never on the internet. The only real reason I have to leave is to go to the bank once a month. Pagala is such a beautiful village, surrounded my mountains and so green. Papayas, oranges, grapefruits, limes, bananas, mangoes, avocadoes, and more grow freely. One of these days, you'll see pictures. I'm so inspired by the people here. There are so many students and adults who love their villages and love Africa and really believe we can make a difference in the lives of Africans. For example, I work with the English club at the high school where they open and close their meetings with a hymn called "We Will Overcome." It made me emotional the first time I heard them sing it. I also work with a club called Peer Educators who exist soley to teach the community about better health practices and basic issues such as child trafficing, income generating activities, and teenage pregnancy. They are so passionate about what they do and I can see them all going on to be very successful.
Two years still seems like a really long time to be here, but taking it one day at a time and one week at a time seems to be working pretty well. I made it through my first 3 months at post, making a total of 5 months in Togo! Only 21 months to go...
I'll try to update more often. Thanks to everyone who's called me and written emails, letters, and facebook messages. I love knowing you're thinking about me and I miss you all so much!