Wednesday, December 29, 2010

15 December 2010

So I just had this moment. I was eating a can of lima beans by candlelight and realized Christmas is in ten days. I thought, so this is what it's like to be in the Peace Corps. Living by candlelight, taking cold "showers" (aka bucket baths) as fast as possible, and attempting to update my blog before my computer battery dies. This time last year, I was probably walking around some bookstore bundled up, latte in hand, perusing the selection of books and complaining about something mundane like the weather. How different life is here (ok, I still complain about the weather).

Nothing really changes here for Christmas. The weather gets cold at night, but there's no build up, no decorations, no christmas music, no christmas shopping. Definitely no christmas shopping. Not in a place where $1 is worth fighting over.

My Christmas build up has been the following: I sewed my New Year's dress. It was definitely more glamorous in my head. I talked with the chief about Pagala's biggest needs. Latrines apparently. I taught Silent Night to the English Club before bringing them a bunch of old magazines that they treated as sacredly as one might treat, say, the dead sea scrolls for example. I cleaned my house and bragged that it was bug-free. The next day, I discovered a giant spider near the ceiling in the kitchen. Oh well. Tried to go Christmas caroling with the English club, but the Togolese people didin't know what was going on and got scared so we stopped.

Mom, don't cry! I'm fine. I miss you; I miss all of you. This is just a commentary on the very obvious differences in holidays here and there. I'll be around lots of other volunteers on actual Christmas and we'll make it seem like home. In fact, we're even doing a white elephant exchange and I found some pretty awesome things in the marche (ie. mini water guns and tacky Christmas lights). I also got a package from America full of fabulous Christmas decorations (thanks Aunt Mello)!! As I'm putting together little presents for people and making Christmas cards, it's starting to feel more and more like Christmas. I'm even stuffing a stocking and going to put an orange in the bottom - family tradition! Merry Christmas to all of you back in the USA!

3 December 2010

All of the Small Enterprise Development (SED) volunteers have been in training this week in my village. Everyone brought their homologues, so almost all of the training sessions were in French. The first couple of days were pretty tough to get through.
Next week the CHAPers (health volunteers) will be here for the week training. I feel like I have been going, going, going, and have hardly had a moment to breath! For those of you who know me well, you're probably thinking that I'm finally in my element. True! Although, Peace Corps has done something to me, something very strange. I actually enjoy free time and alone time. Crazy, huh? So in a way, I'm just hoping for things to sloooow down soon, as I'm sure they will after the New Year.

I have a new clustermate named Becky and she's really awesome!! She's from San Francisco but spent the last year in NYC being some rich lady's personal assistant. She came to Pagala last weekend for our marche and we decided that in order to get through 2 long years in Togo, we needed lots of things to look forward to. We decided to plan a pool day once per month during hot season; there's a pool only 1.5 hrs away from her village in Sotoboua. We're also editing "Where There is No Whopper," the Peace Corps Togo cookbook all the volunteers receive during training. All the page numbers are off in the index and table of contents, and it's honestly just poorly organized. We have lots of ideas and definitely plan on helping each other stick it out through the tough and lonely times in village.

Think that's all for now. One example of how things work in West Africa: we've been trying to make hotel reservations for New Years because we're afraid of getting to Ghana and everywhere being booked! None of us could get through, but finally a girl's mom got through from the US and none of the hotels will take reservations pre-Dec. 20th. Does this make any sense to you?

While on the topic of things that don't make sense here, I'd like to give you a very brief lesson in Togolese french:
Togolese: Comment ca va?
Me: Ca va bien
Togolese: Et ta sante?
Me: Ca va bien
Togolese: Merci
Quick translation: How's it going? It's going well. And your health? It's going well. Thank you.
Togolese: Vous allez sortir on peu?
Me: Oui, je vais au marche.
Togolese: Il faut aller et revenir.
Me: Merci
Quick transalation: You're going to go out a little bit? Yes, I'm going to the marche. You must go and come back. Thank you.