It's only 4 days from my birthday and it is hotter than ever! The past two nights, the heat's been so bad I couldn't sleep. I'm in the process of organizing a soccer tournament for World Aids Day here in Pagala which is actually why I'm on the internet right now. I have to send a request to a big company called PSI for tshirts, condoms, banners, etc. World Aids Day is Dec. 1, but our tournament will be the following Saturday, the 4th. Then my cluster is planning to so Christmas caroling on the 5th. Lots to look forward to!
For Thankgiving, many of us are getting together to go another volunteer's house. We'll be having all the traditional foods - even going to kill a turkey! This will be my first Thankgiving away from my family.
Remember the van on Little Miss Sunshine? Broken horn, had to get a running start, etc.? That's what all the taxis are like here. It's pretty funny. Sometimes the doors won't slide closed, sometimes they break down, sometimes they have to roll backwards to start. Oh Togo. I heard that Togo is listed as one of the Peace Corps "hardship" countries, meaning it's one of the hardest countries for volunteers to live in. Lucky me! I also recently read that "they" say that joining the Peace Corps is twice as stressful as the death of a spouse. I don't know if I believe that, but it certainly isn't easy! I went all the way up to Sotoboua (1.5 hrs each way) to use the internet 2 days ago and it wasn't even working. I was so bummed because I wasted so much money to get there (3600 CFA, or $7).
My homologue, Djobo, came over the other day for lunch. We made fried plantains with spaghetti and tomato sauce. It was delicious! He's a great cook, which is rare in Togo where women do ALL the cooking, cleaning, etc. This past weekend, we did a three-day formation called Mens as Partners (Hommes Comme Partenaires) and Djobo was one of the teachers. He's so progressive. The day after the formation, the Chef du Canton (chief of several surrounding villages) came to the hospital to get an HIV test! He said he was really inspired by everything we talked about at the formation. While Djobo and I were cooking (ok, he cooked, I watched) we kept saying "hommes comme partenaires!" We had a great time eating and discussing our ideas for work in the upcoming months.
Living in Togo isn't so easy, but I want to tell you want Togo isn't. Maybe blast some misconceptions you may have. The people aren't starving and walking around with big bellies and covered in flies. Although a lot of times kids do walk around totally naked or wearing only a shirt. For the most part, people have enough food to eat and almost of the kids attend school (it costs money to go to school in togo). People don't drink their water from muddy puddles. PLAN, a big NGO, has put pumps in all over Togo, and several in Pagala alone. People get their water in big metal cuvettes and transport it on their heads to their houses. It's not clean by any stretch of the imagination (I have to filter and bleach it), but it's certainly clean enough for them. People are into being on time. Almost everyone has a cell phone now, so they always have the time. That's not to say I've had several meetings start exactly on time, but I've had very few that started more than an hour late.
So, this is my life. Want to give a shout-out to all the awesome people who've called, sent letters, sent packages, sent birthday presents, etc. You are all so amazing and make life here in West Africa just a little bit easier. I miss you!