Wednesday, July 13, 2011

12 July 2011

Well, things are heating up! Not literally, the weather is actually cooling off because of raining season. But work is getting busy.

July 4th went well, but we didn’t play games. Unless you count Settlers of Catan.

Now preparing for things ahead. This week: met with a groupment to discuss growing moringa. A groupment is a group, usually comprised of women, who combine their money to buy land, crops, fertilizer, etc; grow and work together in the fields; and split the profits. Moringa is a hardy tree originally from India which Peace Corps pushes as a great alternative to multi-vitamins. The leaves are full of vitamins and, when dried and ground into a powder, can be added to food to save the lives of malnourished children and add a much-needed vitamin boost to the typical Togolese diet. The groupment and I are going to start teaching Pagala about the benefits of moringa and they are going to plant a few trees to try out. Next year, if all goes well, they want to plant a whole field of moringa and sell the leaves and the powder in the market.

My apprentice club is going well. We went from 7 girls too shy to talk to about 50 apprentices from all trades who are lively and motivated. We’ve talked about everything from their apprentice exam to condoms to marketing. I look forward to going every week and they have come so far already!

My club des meres (Mother’s Club) and I are going to be making pommade de neem on Thursday morning and preparing for our first Nettoyage du Village. Pommade de neem is a lotion people can use to prevent mosquito bites which is really important right now during rainy season and malaria season. Nettoyage du Village is going to be a village clean-up every Sunday after the Saturday market. Pagala’s market is the 5th largest market in Togo (not bad for a little village without electricity, huh?) and after the people come, they leave behind a huge mess! The club des meres and I are going out to the market, armed with brooms to clean the market and burn the trash. This is also in preparation for our big celebration the next day – African Women’s Day!

Friday is Pagala cluster’s traditional welcome party to welcome our newest cluster member – Lauren! Saturday is our regional post visit party and I spent the morning planning our somewhat American menu.

Sunday is a soccer tournament to promote clean water. The volunteers have a team and we’re playing against a team from Pagala, Waragni, and Tchere-bou. We’ll be bringing in the other village teams in bush taxis and motos, serving them lunch, and promoting water purification, hand-washing, and using pump water instead of river water. After a big party, it will be interesting to see how the volunteer team fairs, ha.

I’ll try to keep updating on the reg. Only 13 more months!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

2 July 2011

2 July 2011

So I’m sorry that I’ve fallen off the face of the Earth. Actually, I was in Switzerland which is a much more connected place than Togo, but was too busy eating cheese and drinking fabulous wine to post on my Peace Corps blog.

So training went well. On June 3rd, I welcomed 23 clean, bright-eyed Americans to the Lome Airport. They were so excited to be here and full of questions! Me and two other trainers hung out with the new trainees for a few days in Lome and taught them about how to filter our water, the importance of taking malaria medicine, and how to use a latrine. I then went up to Tsevie with them where they met their host families and began the first leg of their service in Togo – training. They definitely started freaking out after the first couple nights and the training manager took me aside to say, “go get them drinks and talk it out!” Everyone is still here and I think they’re getting the hang of things.

After my week of training, it was off to Switzerland with my boyfriend and his family. We stayed in a beautiful chalet in a village called Leysin. We had a view of the Alps and the city and were a two minute walk from a bakery, so we had fresh breads and pastries every morning! We also ate a lot of traditional Swiss meals such as raclette and fondu. We visited lots of friends and lots of friends visited us! We also hiked around Leysin, explored Gruyere, and swam in Lake Geneva. Overall, a perfect, and much needed, vacation.

Welcome back to Togo where taxi drivers try to overcharge you and people yell “yovo” when you walk by. Did I miss this? Not really. It’s been a tough adjustment back, but luckily, I have several projects going on so I’m keeping busy.

We stayed in Lome for a day to help us adjust back and then went to Atakpame for a couple of days to see other volunteers. A few times, I almost had breakdowns.
Example 1 – went to a “nice” restaurant for brunch for a volunteer’s birthday. We were so excited to get pizza and the waiter tells us there’s no ham. Ok, no big deal, cheese pizza is great too! Oh wait, there’s no cheese? There’s no beef? What do you have? Rice, spaghetti, and cous cous. Breakdown number one.
Example 2 – make it back to Pagala and have a girl do all of my laundry. She hangs it all on the line and leaves. A few hours later ... CRASH!! The entire clothing line fell down and all of my wet, clean clothes went right into the dirt. Breakdown number two.

I’m keeping Cousteau, my boyfriend’s dog, for a few weeks and he’s so much fun! I miss having a dog, so I’m looking into getting another volunteer’s dog when he finishes his service in November/December.

Upcoming events:
July 4th, duh! Always the hostess, I just couldn’t let July 4th pass without at least a little party. So we’re grilling out hot dogs with the traditional sides of pasta salad, potato salad, etc. And for dessert, brownies and s’mores! We’re also going to do some American games, so I’ll take pictures.

July 16th – post visit party. The new volunteers are visiting their posts for a week, so we throw them a little party every year to welcome them to the region. The Centralers voted that Pagala was hosting this year, so we’re going all out. Roasting a pig in the ground and having a good ol’ Southern barbeque.

July 24th – training, again. I’ll be heading back to Tsevie to spend another week with the trainees before they swear-in and become real volunteers!

One of the only things that made coming back to Togo bearable was having packages and letters waiting for me at the post office. Thanks you guys, I could never make it here without you!