05 July 2008

Takes a stiff upper lip just to hold up my face

26 June

I tried to get to the cyber cafe at lunch today. But it's not open
during the lunch hour. Grr. This means that I will have to hoof it up
there after a session next week, unless it is perhaps open on Sunday.

The cafe is up a big hill, which would be nothing in Edinburgh, but
it's amazing how much more difficult it is to mount a hill when the
weather is hot and humid. In Edinburgh, there was always the motivation
to walk briskly up and down hills just to get the blood back into my
toes. It felt good to warm up and take layers off as I made my daily
journeys between the gym and work.

There are only so many layers one can take off.

So instead of de-layering, I have to practice yoga techniques like
using my breathing to slow down my heartrate (and thereby lower my
internal body temperature). This is good and kind of interesting. It's
not that hot right now anyway, so best to master the techniques during
the cool rainy season so that I'm prepared for the hot season coming

We received the overview of the site assignments today. I am so excited
to look over my notes again and start thinking about where I want to
be. The posts are spread out all over the country, but there are quite
a few of them in the furthest south Region de Maritime. I think I am
particularly drawn to the further south posts. I have already begun
learning Ewe, which is the local language in most of the villages in
the south (and is commonly spoken in Ghana as well, which will come in
handy with visitors. hint hint)

I would ideally like to be in a place with electricity and cell phone
coverage, but I came prepared to get along without such amenities. What
matters most is what work I want to do. There are fantastic
opportunities all around the country and every volunteer I've spoken to
says that basically the location does not matter – it's the volunteer
and her motivation that matters. I will find microfinance institutions,
groupements (small cooperatives), lycees (high schools), and
entrepreneurs (small business owners) in every location.

I am particularly inspired by a post called Mission Tove which is only
15 kilometers from Lome where the focus is particularly on young
people. There is a lycee that has a particular problem with teenage
pregnancy and drop-outs, there is a center for training young women in
business skills, a seamstresses' trade association, and a huge rice
producing population that badly needs access to loans and financial
management training.

Another post in Tabligbo where the volunteer works particularly with a
batik-making non-profit organisation, helping to develop their
financial management and work on export possibilities (maybe
coordinating with an info-tech volunteer to develop a website shop).
There is also a lycee where Junior Achievement programs would be very

Both of those posts are in the Maritime region, close to Lome, which is
a mixed blessing. It would be great for hosting visitors, but I might
be too reliant on the big city?

There is a brilliant post up at the furthest north point of Togo where
there is an opportunity to do some great work with really motivated
young people who do their own income-generating activities to pay their
school fees. It's by the border of Burkina Faso. There's a fantastic
marche on the border where one can find all sorts of goods really
inexpensively. It's fairly isolated, but there's a really good bus
service all the way up and down the country.

I'm going to have to take some time this evening, read over my
descriptions and then give my brain a chance to sleep on it. The
frustrating/exciting thing is that I actually have no real choice about
where I end up. I can state my preferences, but it is up to the program
director to place all the volunteers according to skills and needs.
Yikes! I could end up anywhere!

Current media influences:
Music: The Archive Soundtrack ;) Ani DiFranco - Wish I May
Book: The Earth Path by Starhawk

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