Friday, August 26, 2011

26 August 2011

Take Our Daughters to Work Week was a success for the most part. My favorite moments included: the girls seeing computers for the first time and playing games to learn to use the mouse and keyboard. The girls visiting the hospital and my 2 girls from Pagala telling me that they want to become doctors. My session on feasibility studies and AGRs which I did by myself in French! Playing games and singing songs with the girls. Listening to a song the girls made up for us on the last day – it brought tears to my eyes.

Unfortunately, I’ve been fighting a cold for two weeks now. I think it’s finally starting to go away. This week, the week after Take Our Daughters to Work, I have been too lethargic to do a whole lot. I’ve read two awesome books though – Empire Falls and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Next week is our Mid-Service Conference in Pagala and after that, I’m heading down to Atakpame for a few days and then to Accra, Ghana with Lyle to celebrate making it a year in Togo! I’m really looking forward to a break before starting my big latrine project, closing out the Take Our Daughters to Work project, and starting the 6-six business skills series. Volunteers always say their second year is better and infinitely more productive that their first, and I’m already finding that to be true.

Friday, August 12, 2011

11 August 2011

I realized that I don’t have a ton of continuity between my blog posts. To update you on all the things I already talked about:
Post Visit party was awesome, lots of delicious food and dancing at Plasir’s, Pagala’s famous bar. The soccer tournament went well, I actually played … and then couldn’t move for two days afterwards because I was so sore. The volunteer team lost in the first round 4-8, but that’s better than last year’s volunteer team who lost 1-8. Pagala’s Togolese team won the tournament and the “grand prix” of 10,000 francs! That’s about $25. Everything else I mentioned from earlier posts went well, even though halfway through pommade de neem, I was convinced it was going to be a huge failure. It wasn’t.

Next week is Take Our Daughters to Work week in my region. Two other girls and I are organizing it along with three incredible Togolese counterparts. It’s for girls aged 13-15 to come to a big city (Sotoboua), meet successful Togolese women, learn general lifeskills, and gain encouragement to stay in school. I’m getting really excited about it!

Next week is also camp Joie, the camp for handicapped children, in Pagala. I’m really bummed I won’t be here. I read some of the letters the kids wrote, and they sound awesome. I hope the camp will really change their lives.

The library the volunteer before me built is having major cashflow issues. I’m trying to figure out what to do about this without just giving them a bunch of money. Unfortunately, giving them money (or rather, stuff like a photocopy machine and solar panel) is seeming like the only viable/sustainable option right now.

My next big project idea is a six-week business skills series for artisans in my canton (like seamstresses, carpenters, mechanics, masons, and hairdressers). I plan to do questionnaires beforehand and individual follow-up after the series. I also want it to be completely self-funded (this is the most exciting part to me!). We’ll see if people go for it or not. People don’t like to pay for things like this and they’re used to an NGO culture who pays them to go to things like this. On vera!

I can’t believe I’m finally down to less than a year. It’s still a really long time, but one of my best volunteer friends and I realized that if we have one thing per month to look forward to, then that’s only 12 more things. Totally doable.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

2 August 2011

Typical Day in Togo … Take Today for Example

6am : The sun is shining in my windows. I want to sleep but the sun is too bright and I really have to go pee (even though I hate my latrine, especially first thing in the morning).
7am: Finally out of bed, making breakfast – an egg sandwich with spreadable cheese (Laughing Cow) , mayonnaise, and some spices. If this sounds gross, move to Togo. You’ll be surprised how your tastes change.
7:30am: eating breakfast, while working on a SPA (Small Project Assistance) proposal for “Amenons Nos Filles au Travail” (or Take Our Daughters to Work).
8:00am: doing dishes and cleaning up the house to leave for the day. Also, making a list of things to do. Leave for my seamstress’ shop, take a back road with my bike and get covered in mud from the knees down on my way there. On the way, a woman calls out to me from her house to come wash my feet and shoes at her house.
8:30am: arrive at my first “to do” of the day, my seamstress. I pay her a little bit of money each month to teach me how to sew. She isn’t there and neither are her apprentices, her shop is closed. I call her and she says she is in her field and she’ll be there tomorrow. I explain that I’m too busy to work with her this month, but hope to continue next month.
8:45am: Arrive at the one place to photocopy things in Pagala and they’re closed. There are two phone numbers on the sign. I try both and both neither work. I vow to make these photocopies tomorrow. Receive a call from my boss letting me know that a new volunteer will be shadowing me in the next few months.
9:00am: look for the president of a women’s farming group. I received some moringa seeds she wanted and wanted to set a meeting with her group to figure out the next step. I asked around her neighborhood and no one knew where she lived. Sigh, another set-back.
9:15: Go to ICAT, the agriculture leader in Pagala, to meet with a guy about a workshop on STIs and HIV/AIDS that he wants to do in our canton. He gave me a really inflated budget (typical Togolese) so we discussed how we can cut off about 2/3 of it.
10:30: pretty tired, return to my house to chill and talk to Lyle on the phone for a bit. Feed the dog (I’m dog-sitting or another volunteer) and start soaking beans for my dinner later that night.
11:30: Go to the Pagala training center where Camp Scientifilles (girls science camp) is going on and watch them discuss Ecology and watched a biogas demonstration where a volunteer showed how to make gas from pig manure.
12:30: eat lunch at the center with other volunteers, then go get a drink at a bar across the street before sessions start again.
3:00: go to a Village Savings and Loan group. No one is there so I walk to a local beer stand and find the members drinking there. I remind them that the meeting started 10 minutes ago, but they convince me to have a drink first.
3:30: a little tipsy, we restart our Savings and Loan group from the year before. We had just finished in June. They changed the pay-in to be more than the year before so everyone is saving a little more now. Before I left, they gave me a tshirt and headscarf they made for the club and we planned on having a little party around the 15th of August. Buy “l’huile rouge” or red oil, a locally made oil, from the club president to have with my beans tonight.
4:30: Stop by the shop of a handicapped tailor to let him know that three of the kids he nominated were selected for Camp Joie (or Camp Joy, a new camp for the outcast handicapped youth of Togo). I gave him letters to give to the kids and met a guy who gave me a Kabye name, Sika.
4:45: stopped by the post office to send two letters and received two letters from America!
5:00: stopped at a woman’s house to buy bread for tomorrow’s breakfast; she makes it fresh everyday, but I can only buy a little bit at a time because with no preservatives, it goes bad in 2-3 days.
5:15: return home, put my bike inside and walk to my neighbor’s house. She sells tchouk, the locally brewed beer, every Tuesday. She was out of fermented, so I drank the sugary non-fermented, tchouk. While drinking, I read my letters from America and had a conversation with some guy about sewing and selling clothes in America and corn-based ethanol to power cars. He was shocked that we would use corn for anything other than eating.
5:45: finally home for the day. Start boiling water for my bucket shower and start boiling my beans for dinner. Watch the nightly descent of the bats from the neighbor’s roof into the dusk. Take my shower. I may not have every mentioned how much spider webs are a part of my daily life. They are everywhere and I run into them daily. It’s annoying, but I don’t freak out anymore.
6:45: smell something burning and realize that it’s my beans. I manage to salvage the beans that aren’t touching the pot and add some gari (dried and ground cassava) and red oil with fried onions for dinner. Save half of the beans for a meal tomorrow.
7:00: receive a message from one of the science camp organizers asking if I can bring sewing needles over. I’m already in my pajamas, but call up a moto driver I know to come to my house and bring her the needles.
7:40: writing this blog post while a bug continuously flied into my computer screen. I must have flicked it away 10 times by now but it keeps coming back. Reflect on the days events and thank my lucky stars that no matter how many times I tell people I’m fasting with them for Ramadan, I don’t actually have to. Although, I am making a point to only eat in my house for the next month and not eat in public.
7:45: if this bug comes one more time, I’m going to freak out. Going to read and go to bed!

PS - Friday makes my one year anniversary at post!