Sunday, October 30, 2011

30 October 2011

Happy Halloween!

We threw a Halloween party in Tchamba and welcomed new girls education and food security volunteers to our region at the same time. My boyfriend and I dressed as Fulani, an exotic-looking nomadic tribe. Our costumes were a big hit, although we didn't win the grand prize - a box of Ghiradelli brownie mix. We also held an epic dance off that the Togolese people enjoyed ... or at least found interesting.

Last week was In Service Training (IST) for the new health and business volunteers and I helped out, facilitating sessions on village savings groups, working with artisans, and organizing business training workshops. Other projects in Pagala are going well, although I'm struggling with my latrine project. Next week, I'm meeting with the Assistant Hygiene in Pagala, along with Djobo and the mason building the latrines. I'm hoping we can figure out a better plan of action moving forward.

EPAT, the business training, should be starting soon. It's taken on a completely different format than I'd envisioned, but I'm learning to be flexible. We often have to work around the harvest schedule since everyone, even people with office jobs, is a farmer.

Rainy season is on its way out and the Harmattan winds are on their in! Tabaski, a big Muslim holiday, is coming up along with the funeral for my village chief who passed away in November of last year. I once asked what they do with the bodies while they're waiting to save enough money for the funeral. Apparently, they often freeze them. I thought that was a joke, but, well, it's not!

Yesterday, several volunteers aand I traveled to Tchamba in a car. The car had five spots, but there were seven of us - the driver, two in the front seat, and four in the back seat. As we were loading up the car, the drivers were tying up three muttons to put in the trunk. When he saw me looking at them, he simply said, "le fete," referring of course to Tabaski. The Centrale region is the most Muslim region of Togo. Anyway, once we slowwwwly got moving (the car had a terrible accelerator and even worse brakes that may have worked better when the car was first made in the 80s), one of the muttons managed to get himself untied and walked around in the back of the car the whole time. One of the newer volunteer was completely freaking out, but I guess I've just gotten used to the way things are in Africa, because I saw nothing abnormal about the situation.

Every morning when I wake up, I think, "I'm going to America in February!" I can't wait to see all of you and I'm working on an itinerary planned by the hour. It's making me remember all of the fun things to do in the States! Unfortunately, we'll be flying out of Africa on the 6th, missing the 2012 Superbowl on the 5th. Man.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

28 September 2011

You wouldn’t believe the African sky. A blue clear sky to can change into an ominous gray raincloud in minutes. On clear nights, I watch shooting stars and gaze at the unbelievable clarity of the milky way. The sunsets light up the sky in salmon hues flecked with violet. But the thing I will never forget about the African sky is its vastness. Maybe it’s because there are no tall buildings to block in the sky, maybe it’s the flat terrain, but either way, the sky goes on forever. It’s always changing and always startlingly dramatic.

We finally got a workstation in Sokode! It’s a little office with a computer, internet, and (the best part) a printer! It will be a place I use often to work and charge my electronics.

This evening, another volunteer’s parents came to Atakpame and made us an amazing Indian dinner. It was a really nice and delicious treat for all of us.

All new volunteers have to shadow older volunteers in their first three months. My shadowee is coming to visit next week and I look forward it. I hope she learns a lot from the visit, although I’m nervous that she’ll be bored because I don’t have much planned for those days.

I decided to come visit America in February! I’m looking forward to being home for a couple of weeks, but I still have many months before that happens.

It’s funny how much can change in one year. People pass away, they get pregnant, they divorce, they get engaged, they move, they get dogs, they graduate, they get jobs, they get laid off, they get deployed. The world remains in the wake of hurricanes, earthquakes, military operations, economic downturns, presidential elections, revolutions, and royal weddings. Bands release new CDs, new movies come out, technology advances. And advances. It’s a strange feeling to see my life as I knew it going on when I’m so far removed from it.

As I write this, it’s about 2:30 in the morning. I plan on trying to leave Atakpame at 4:00 in order to get back to Pagala before a 6:30 meeting. I drank a Coca-Cola this evening and the caffeine is still powering me along! I try to do as much work as I can while I can use electricity, so I think I’m just going to power through until morning. Until la prochaine fois, bon nuit et au revoir!

PS - Here is the link I didn't put in the last post about Djobo going to Tanzania.