05 September 2008
27 August 2008
Last Thursday I officially became a volunteer! Woot! Well, actually the official signing a piece of cardstock paper was on Wednesday afternoon in the midst of a rather dull administrative meeting. But the proper ceremonial bit complete with fancy dress and the US Ambassador to Togo was Thursday afternoon.
I wore a green and white striped complet (picture below hopefully) that my host sister made for me out of a pagne that my host family gave to me as a cadeau (gift). I was chosen to give the “long” speech in Ewe. Each newly-made volunteer went up to the microphone to introduce him or herself in the local language of the area to which s/he is going. Out of each regional language, one volunteer was chosen to give a slightly longer speech (a little bit more than just “my name is... I’m from... I’m going to.. to work on...)
I was (willingly) selected to give the speech for Ewe. When the day came to start working on it with my teacher, though, I had a bit of a panic. It had been a big weekend with little sleep and lots of traveling so I was just plain tuckered out, body and spirit. The prospect of giving a speech in a language that I’d only been learning for 3 months in front of a crowd of 200+ people including diplomats, ambassadors and my host family freaked me out.
It was not an issue of public speaking. As those of you who know me know well, I am very comfortable speaking in front of groups. Speaking, singing, dancing etc. I’m a performer and I love the energy that I receive after a well-delivered performance of any kind. The issue with this speech was precisely that I know my own standards and capabilities and I felt I fell far short in my grasp of Ewe and ability to mold it into a passable speech.
It took a bit of an emotional morning for me with the help of my classmate M and our teacher to put together something I was happy to use. In the end, we put together a 3 minute simple speech which talked about the diversity of the volunteers and our hopes to integrate into the community, particularly by learning the local languages. I expressed the importance of learning local languages and living with local communities in order to discover both questions and answers, problems and solutions together, rather than coming in with ready-made solutions.
And it worked.
I practiced over and over again with the recording my teacher made for me to help get all the subtle lifts and lows of the vowels.
It felt like learning a new song – I not only had to learn the words, but also the melody of their pronunciation.
I have a video of the speech, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get it somewhere accessible to most of you – probably not until I return to Lomé for my birthday – so keep your eyes out for that!
P.S. Happy birthday Bridgette!
Current reading: A Perfect Spy by John le Carré