8 June 2008
Here is a cute little hotel run by a sweet Asian lady in Lomé. I’m in a room with a double bed and a single bed, sharing with R. R is the person you picture when you think of a Peace Corps volunteer – blond and blue-eyed champion of the oppressed and the environment, a yoga devotee and has a great wardrobe of appropriate outdoor-wear. She’s a great roommate :)
I’ve got the double, which is nice, but not much bigger than the single when you take into account the huge lump of wood in the middle of the bed where the mattress is worn through enough that it might as well not be there. I successfully wrapped myself around the obstruction last night and had a surprisingly good night’s sleep.
I’ve started my anti-malarial drugs – they assigned me the daily dose of light antibiotics. It makes one really sensitive to the sun and apparently makes yeast infections common in women. But every drug has its side effects – the weekly one gives one nightmares and some people even experience hallucinations.
The weather currently is brilliant. There’s a slight haze over everything due to the humidity, but there is a lovely cool breeze and the heat is only sweat-inducing, not brain-frying.
A bunch of current volunteers – representatives from each region, some diversity committee members, etc – met us when we arrived at the hotel and we had a light meal. I was assured by M (a current health volunteer) that being vegetarian (well, pescetarian, anyway) is not a problem. She’s just really careful to get protein whenever it’s available in the form of eggs, soy, cheese.
I was surprised by the availability of cheese at our evening meal as my Tea-obsessed former flatmate explained that there won’t be much cow or cow-products available in West Africa due to the tse-tse fly. This is generally fine by me as I’m not a beef-eater and I do my best to avoid milk products, but I would have missed cheese for the protein as well as for the taste.
Today we are doing general orientation stuff, including an oral assessment of our French abilities. I’m worried about it. I’m sure everyone is. Even though I’ve got experience with French and I understand pretty much everything I hear and read, I am rather weak at expressing myself. Mostly this is due to fear of embarrassment by getting it wrong. And there’s not really a way of conquering this. All I can do is repeatedly tell myself to get over it.
Ooh... almost forgot! There’s a piano here at the hotel. So I sat down at it and fumbled a little until I noticed that there were books of sheet music on the piano. Score!!! A book full of Chopin’s waltzes! It was so amazing to be able to sit down and play pieces that have kept me going for years. The piano was ruined by the humidity – many of the keys simply didn’t work and those that did were only vaguely the correct note, but the melody was still there. My fingers are unpracticed and I’ve let my nails grow too long – but my hands still knew the sweeping phrases once I could give them the first few lines.
So I’m settling in and things have started off harmoniously.