Sunday, July 15, 2012

14 July 2012

Last night, I sat on my porch after dinner drinking hot citronella tea with green papaya – a welcome gift from my neighbors. The wind was blowing and lightning was lighting up the sky as an ominous thunderstorm rolled in. All of my basins and buckets were set out to catch water as it flowed off the roof. I was relieved I wouldn’t be pulling water up from the well the next day to replenish my water supply. As the rain started tapping the tin roof, I thought that I will really miss this life. I’ve been so busy trying to wrap up all of my projects, sell all of my stuff, take care of administrative stuff for Peace Corps, prepare for a 5 week trek around West Africa, not to mention say goodbye to everyone! I’m not sure when it’s going to hit me that my service is finished and my life in Togo is over. Maybe it will be when I leave village for the last time. Maybe it will be at my going away party. Maybe it will be today. With only 2 weeks left in Pagala, I’ve been able to reflect a lot on my Peace Corps service. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve done it! I think I could probably do anything now. The Peace Corps marketing people put it best when they say, “It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love.” I will never, ever forget my experience here, the people that impacted my life, the obstacles I overcame, the determination I saw in people’s faces. I think the weirdest part for me is that my life is about to change dramatically, while my neighbors will still be living in the same house, still pulling up water every morning from the well, still doing laundry by hand, still living the exact same lives. Everyone’s lives will go on without me. And I’ll be living a life of luxury – throwing my clothes into the washing machine, cooking elaborate meals on a real stove, watching TV whenever I want. I will say that living without for two years better make me appreciate what I have in America. I was the one as COS conference who said I wasn’t at all nervous to go home. I knew I’d fall back into life easily. But the closer it gets, the more afraid I am of having a weird culture shock moment. Luckily, I know you guys won’t judge me for it! Another fear is that I’ll fall back into everything so easily, I’ll forget all about Togo, or at least forget the details. I’m definitely keeping myself busy up until I leave, and that helps. This week, I’m in a prefectural capital called Sotouboua working with two other volunteers to run a week-long camp-like experience called “Amenons Nos Filles Au Travail,” or Take Our Daughters to Work. We have 20 middle school girls coming from all over the Centrale region to learn about the importance of staying in school, planning for the future, etc. I help run the project last year and am looking forward to running it again this year. Last week, I was a counselor for Camp Joie (Camp Joy), a camp for handicapped Togolese children. It was incredible to see the girls go from being quiet and timid to being outgoing and confident. They were given a chance to share their stories, and their stories were so touching. These girls come from a culture where people encourage families to abandon or kill a handicapped child. Their stories were stories of pain but also of determination and perseverance and inspiration. BIG NEWS!!!!! I got an email from Peace Corps about an NGO called Africa’s Tomorrow that sponsors girls going to college in the US for 4 years. I had a girl from Pagala apply – she’s amazing. First in her class and still finds time to participate in extracurriculars, help her mother at the market, and work at the Pagala library. Anyway, SHE WON!!!!!!!!!!!! She is one of only 3 girls on the whole continent of Africa who won this scholarship. Now the real work begins. She has to take an English language exam, get her passport, a visa, and get into college. Africa’s Tomorrow works with a university called Berea College, so Alice is applying there. I been running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to deal with all of the forms and essays and money. Anyway, you can help. Yes, you person reading this in America (or wherever). Africa’s Tomorrow will sponsor her tuition, school fees, books, housing, etc., but I need to help raise money to initial expenses like the English exam, passport, visa, plane flight, etc. To donate, or for more info click on any of the following links: To see the students and info on Africa’s Tomorrow: To donate to Alice: See the cause on facebook: Of course, all donations are tax deductible. Every little bit will help Alice get to college for fall 2013. She is such a deserving student and would never have this opportunity if it weren’t for your generous support. Thanks in advance for donating!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Getting ready TO GO

And to think I used to brag to people about how great I was about updating my blog! I’m only one month away from finishing my service! Since last posting, here’s a quick rundown: Safari in Benin: AWESOME! Saw lots of birds, antelope, buffalo, elephants, and even hyenas! Close of Service Conference: Made it to the end, so Peace Corps got us a nice hotel for a couple of nights and we talked about readjusting back to life in America, how to find jobs, etc. It was nice, but the best part was getting to hang out with all the awesome people from my training class. We came in as 28 and we’re leaving as 25. A pretty great success rate for PC Togo. Couch surfing: Hosted a girl in my village for 3 weeks who was a volunteer in Madagascar. We had fun drinking tchouk and palm wine, hanging out with village friends, and learning French. While she was here, I did a Men As Partners (MAP) training with 20 men from Pagala and all the awesome volunteers in my cluster. It was amazing to see the men’s attitudes change after only 3 days! They shared that they felt more ready to communicate with their wives, help around the house, and help raise their children. Highly successful project and a great way to end my service and my couch surfer’s visit! Regional MAP Training: In addition to the Pagala MAP, I did another MAP conference in Sokodé for husbands of the women from the Women’s Conference in March. The men weren’t quite as awesome as the women. They were pretty “villageois” and didn’t really like what we were telling them about treating women fairly. But overall, I think they really enjoyed the conference and got a lot out of it. Petit à petit. Camp Joie: A camp for handicapped children in Togo funded by you, friends and family from home. My boyfriend’s the national coordinator (and co-founder!). We had a training of trainers, and camp starts this week. Today in fact. But I’m stuck in Lomé with malaria. Malaria: Well, I got it. I lost 5 pounds in a week. I’ve been in the PC Medical Unit for 5 days, and can finally go home tomorrow. Malaria is miserable. To all PCVs reading this – just take your prophylaxis! Random ending note: Drivers in Togo put such weird bumper stickers on their cars. Example – Golden Child. It’s a little white baby in a diaper crawling, and under it, it says Golden Child. Why? Example 2 – STOP. Don’t Kiss Me. What does that even mean?