Tuesday, January 3, 2012

26 November 2011

Still nothing turning up in the case of the missing money from my latrine project. I’ve started noticing that a lot of volunteers have things and money stolen from their homes, and I’ve learned to be more careful. We are just walking targets it seems.

For my birthday, I travelled down to a girlfriend’s house in the Plateaux region. Another volunteer was running a training for the local agents santé communitaire (ASCs). We followed the training, ate lots of beans and gari (my favorite Togolese meal), and drank lots of boxed wine. The next day, my boyfriend came down to surprise me! I was so shocked because the village I was in was six hours away from his house! He brought me a camera as a gift, since mine was broken and then stolen. Finally, I can take some pictures! We had a delicious Mexican dinner with nacho cheese dip from America. The next morning, we all hopped in a car to go down to Lome. My boyfriend left because he had work in village.

In Lome, I was teaching a session on marketing at the 2nd Annual Artist Trade Show. One of the organizers found us all housing with ex-pats. I stayed with a guy who is in charge of giving American visas to Togolese people. His house was so nice! I took a long, hot shower and slept on a soft mattress in the air conditioner. After that, it was back to Togo where all of the artisans were late to the trade show and my morning marketing session got pushed back to the afternoon.

Education des Patrons pour l’Amelioration de leur Travail (EPAT) ended up being a two-day training that I taught myself in French (gulp!). I really enjoyed myself, and I think the artisans got a lot out of it. We played games to learn accounting and analyzed realistic scenarios to learn how to do a SWOT analysis. Since Togolese people love to sing and dance, we sang, danced, and clapped our way through our business skills training. At the end of it all, everyone got a cold juice, a chicken brochette, and a certificate of participation. I took some great pictures with my new camera!

For Thanksgiving, several of us got together, killed some turkeys, brought instant stuffing from America and feasted! We stayed at a cool hotel and enjoyed each other’s company. It’s rare that that many volunteers are gathered together in one place, so it made it really special. This was my second Thanksgiving in Africa. Next year, I can’t wait to spend the holiday season with my real family!

December 1 is World AIDS Day and I held an event with my Peer Educators groups. There are 60 kids in the group, and they were split into teams of 6. The idea was to have an “information fair,” where people in the market could pass by each stand learning what HIV/AIDS is, how to prevent it, what to do if you contract it, etc. However, everyone was about an hour late, the materials I requested for the project didn’t come through, and I left in a tearful fit, telling them to call me if anyone bothered to show up. I came back after I had a Fanta and calmed down, determined to make it work. Everyone has projects in their service that don’t go as planned, or fail, and this was mine. Each group ended up presenting their themes to a mostly drunk crowd and giving out a few condoms. I was really glad when it was over.

The past few days have been spent in village, chilling out after my two big events. I’ve been on a cooking and cleaning spree. Djobo and I cleaned my house from top to bottom, getting rid of the ever-present spider webs, wiping down everything in sight with multipurpose cleaner, and bleaching the concrete floors. After that, I started cooking and just couldn’t stop. I pickled okra, canned tomatoes, made ricotta, and attempted yogurt (it turned into sour milk). I made homemade granola, stewed okra and tomatoes, made banana jam, and baked about 20 English muffins.

There are days when I feel I’m going to burst with the love I have for Togo and for my work. There are days that I want to kill the little kids who yell “yovo, yovo” at me. But every single day is an adventure, and that’s exactly how I want my life to be.

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