The school strikes are still going strong. Teachers are refusing to go to school until the government meets their demands. Their demand being to get paid fairly. Unfortunately, the corruption in this country is overwhelmingly prevalent, and many people think that the strike isn’t going to work.
In other Togo news, the price of gas in Nigeria went up and the Togolese black market gas vendors buy all of their gas from Benin, who buys from Nigeria. So, Togo gas went from being 500F (about $1) per liter to 1200F (about $2.50) per liter over the course of a week. Needless to say, there are gas shortages everywhere, the price to travel by moto has doubled, and travel prices by car are changing every day. It’s a crazy (and expensive) time to be in Togo!
A few days ago, I was reading the book The Zanzibar Chest about a Reuters correspondent in East Africa in the 1990s. It was really sad reading about the famine in Somalia and the genocide in Rwanda. I thought of my Togolese brothers and sisters and imagine how heart-wrenching it would be if disaster stuck here. Anyway, I couldn’t stay in my house and be sad all day so I went on a walk and ran a few errands. I walked over a friend’s house who is a wood sculptor. He lives across the “street” from the village chief who recently passed away, and I noticed people gathering at the chief’s old gazebo. The artist friend told me they were having a traditional dance to honor the chief – the women from the nearby village of Adelé came to show their skills. We sat under the gazebo in the late afternoon and I watched the women dance like only Africans can. Some were dressed as men and I laughed as they imitated the men trying to dance with women and act cool. They brought out tons of locally brewed beer (tchouk) and gin (sodabe), and as the orange sun set over the distant mountains and the drums beat to an African rhythm and the women sang, danced, and kicked up dust, I thought that I could imagine no other life for myself than this.
It’s been tough to start a lot of projects in village knowing that I’ll be leaving for the whole month of February. Plus, I’ve been traveling to Sokode trying to deal with the Tribunal so that we can finally put to rest the investigation of the stolen money. I have to go again next week and I hope it will be the last time. I found a new house in Pagala. It’s next door to several families and I think I’ll feel much safer there than in my current isolated house. Peace Corps is coming up to look at the house next week and if everything goes well, I hope to move in when I get back from the US.
I’m really excited about the Women’s Conference coming up in March. We plan to give 20 women from the Centrale region a weekend that they’ll never forget. We’re putting them up in a nice hotel with hot showers and air conditioner, and doing things like yoga, meditation, aerobics, art, journaling, diversity activities, and other things that they’re going to think are totally off the wall! For most of the women, it will be their first time ever experiencing a nice hotel and fellowship with other women without the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and watching kids. I really think it’s going to change their lives. We’ll also we talking about self confidence, sex, menopause, financial independence, gardening, nutrition, etc. Check out the WWEC website HERE.
This morning on my way into Sokode on a moto, my moto driver stopped and asked me to get off the moto and walk a little bit. We were on a dirt path in the middle of nowhere. So I got off and he just drove away. I start walking. Fifteen minutes later, I finally see him and he’s with another moto driver. We said that I could take this guy since the original guy’s moto was broken. Togo! So, I hopped on this guy’s moto and we start trekking to Sokode when all of the sudden the moto driver started pointing at something and saying, “wow, look, look, look!” I saw two wild monkeys jump out of a tree and run across the road before jumping into the tree on the other side of the road. It’s the first time I’ve seen wild monkeys in Togo, although I’d heard that they exist. It was really cool.
Three more weeks until vacation!