30 November 2008

Official Stuff

30 November 2008

Official Stuff

I've had a really busy two weeks.

Two big "meetings" – the first was for the program Junior Achievement – an organisation based in the states that's currently being introduced in Togo. The meeting was to look over a program for developing enterprise skills in high school students. We're adapting the manual to work in the Togolese context. It was really interesting and inspired me to do a trial program next year (it has to start at the beginning of a school year in order to have enough time to do the whole project).

I made a couple good contacts in the business sector in Togo – plus the West African director of JA who is from Mali. He invited me to visit (my trip to Timbuktu next year!)

Last week on Monday and Tuesday, I was at a meeting of the Project Advisory Committee. There were seven SED volunteers and 8 Togolese counterparts (both present and former) to talk about the SED program, why it's important for Togo, what volunteers are here to do and how we can encourage improvement and effectiveness by encouraging constant and regular reporting and collaboration. It was an odd sweet n sour mix of bland and interesting. Some of the sessions went on forever and seemed largely pointless, other sessions really helped me come to grips with my purpose and generate great ideas for facilitating cooperation among volunteers and homologues around the country. I left feeling like I could really influence things and do great stuff.

I got back to Mission Tove just in time to go to choir. Instead of singing, we also did "official stuff": we elected a new set of officers. The pastor's on a big renewal kick and getting strict about attendance at groups, including the chorale. I learned that people who arrive late are supposed to pay 25F and if you miss a meeting you have to pay 50F.

My friend V was elected "policier" which means she gets to reprimand people with bad attendance, or if they aren't paying attention to the director, etc.

Current reading: Testament by John Grisham

28 November 2008

Correspondence Match 28 November 2008

Hi LR,

I am currently in Lome, I have come into the capital city so that I can celebrate Thanksgiving with other volunteers. Every year, the country director hosts a big party with traditional holiday treats including two turkeys imported from the states and cranberry sauce.
It's an amazing feast especially for the volunteers who haven't been home since arriving in country.

In response to the students questions:

My Typical Day

On a typical school day (Monday through Friday) I wake up at about 6am (dawn). Most of my neighbors wake up an hour before me and begin sweeping the paths around the houses, starting the fire for cooking breakfast, etc. The roosters start crowing about 5am and continually compete for who can be loudest and longest, and therefore prove their ability to be good fathers for chicks. It's amazing, but after 5 months in country I've become able to sleep through rooster calls.

I wake up and open up the shutters around my house so I can have enough light to see by. I usually warm up some water from my filter to make coffee (instant nescafe) or tea with sugar and powdered milk. I also put on a big pot of cistern water to boil. I let the big pot come to a rolling boil and stay there for one minute before turning the heat off.
The water then sits in the covered pot until it cools enough to pour into my filter. It usually takes about 8 hours for the water to cool enough to pour into the filter. I boil and filter all my water because if I do not it tends to taste like my tin roof. This is understandable since all the water is collected from the runoff from my roof.

How I cook:
My stove is a gas stove. I don't have an oven or anything like that; the gas bottle connects directly to the stove and when the gas runs out I have to lug the bottle to the capital city and search for several hours to get it refilled. There's currently a gas shortage in the country so it's often hard to find gas. When I first arrived at my post, I didn't have a gas bottle yet so I had to cook on a charcoal stove. It's kind of like using a grill, except that charcoal does not come in nice easy long-burning briquettes here. I had to fan the coals to get them hot enough to cook my dinner. It was very frustrating and took hours to cook and boil my water, I am very glad to have my gas stove now.

With my morning coffee or tea I tend to eat a piece of fruit - I have an orange tree outside my house - or some bread. I can only buy bread on market days, though (Wednesday and Saturday) and bread here doesn't have preservatives so it doesn't last much more than a day, so I don't have bread very often.

If I am quick enough, I have time to take a bucket shower. Then I hop on my bike to go to the complexe scolaire (college/lycee) where I will chat to the other professors about my programs, work on my french exercises and generally gather ideas and promote my own ideas. I use the other professors at the school to help develop my ideas for the area and work on my French.

There is a break at 9.45 for the whole school, I usually buy 100CFA (approximately 25 cents) of rice and beans and spicy sauce to eat. For the break, several women come to the school to sell snacks to the teachers and students. In addition to rice and beans, there are little fried cakes that usually have a bit of fish or tomato sauce in the center. I can also find a warm drink called "bouille". It's made out of the local starchy staple food, manioc, and is mixed with milk and sugar to make it tasty. All the professors meet together at a table either underneath the mango tree or in the new library building. Often the proviseur (principal) will use the time to have a quick meeting with all the teachers about school things.

I usually leave the school after the break and head to my homologue's house. "Homologue" is the term for the host country national that serves as my guide/liaison with my community. My homologue's name is Da E. She is a couturiere (dressmaker). She has a small dressmaking workshop at her home where she teaches three girls the trade. Normally apprentices have to pay for the training but my homologue offers the training for free to girls who come from poor families who don't have the money for the fees. I generally spend two hours at her house. We talk about my projects and the apprentices teach me how to use a foot-pedal sewing machine and how to replicate African fashions.

At noon, I bike home (it's about a 10minute bike ride). I do a little sweeping, gather water from the cistern, and gather leaves and kitchen waste to toss into my compost heap. Once the chores are done, I do about an hour of yoga. Yoga is really important to me - it helps keep my body in shape and is great for clearing my mind of the busy-ness of running about the village. I'm not always hungry at lunch, I find that the intense heat of midday wipes away my appetite, but I make sure to drink a lot of water and I'll often have some fresh papaya or banana if I can find them.

After yoga I usually take a quick bucket bath before heading out for afternoon activities. Some days I have a club in the afternoon at the high school, other days I go back to Da E's workshop. If I don't have anything in particular planned, I will stay at home to work on French exercises, clean the house, develop lesson plans for the various groups I'm working with, or just read for fun.

What I eat:
Sometimes I will go out and chat with my host family in the afternoon.
Often they will invite me to eat with them. They tend to eat one of two staple food: pate or fufu. Pate is made from cornflour, fufu from manioc or igname (two root vegetables that are grown and eaten all over West Africa). With the pate or fufu, they have sauces. There's a peanut-based sauce, a slimy sauce made out of 'gboma' which is a leafy vegetable kind of like spinach, and tomato-based sauces.

If I'm making dinner for myself, it's usually based around vegetables: tomato, onion, and a tiny little yellow version of eggplant. I'll either make a vegetable soup, a stir fry, an omelet, couscous or pasta.
On market days I can find fried tofu pieces called soja that are really yummy and go beautifully in a stir fry. I was a vegetarian for 5 years, but since arriving in Togo, I have started eating meat again because I worry about getting enough protein. Vegetarianism is also not very well understood here. When people invite you over to eat at their house, they will specifically make a meaty dish to honor their guest and often set aside the largest bits of meat for their guest. It is nearly impossible to refuse the meat without being rude. In general, though, I prefer not to eat meat. I get my protein by eating beans and lentils, eggs and milk and soja. I recently bought a chicken so that I can have a ready supply of eggs. (I've named her Arabella after a character in a book I just finished reading called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell).

I make dinner around 5.30 and usually settle in for the night with my books afterward. On Tuesday and Saturday nights, though, I have choir practice at 7. But I don't have to go far for that - the choir practices on the steps of the church that's only about 20 yards from my house.

I tend to go to bed around 10pm, tucking my mosquito net in carefully around me so that I won't get bitten while I'm asleep.

Happy Thanksgiving!

25 November 2008

22 November 2008

22 November 2008

I'm at the wedding of a fellow professor – M. Z (I think that's his
name – it was very embarrassing showing up here and being asked which couple I had come to see – I stumbled out a bit of "Z...Z...? he's a professor of science at the lycee in Mission Tove?" big smile please believe me. But who's going to turn away a yovo who wants to come to a wedding. No one. Especially not an exceptionally pretty yovo wearing a Togolese complet.)
The church the wedding was held at is Deeper Life (Vie Profonde). It originally started as a non-denominational Christian prayer group but has become a successful small church in its own right. There are branches in several cities around West Africa. The premise is that he man who founded it was frustrated with "Sunday Christians" and called them to live a deeper life – their faither calling them to lives of morality, social justice and evangelisation not just weekly celebrations.
Anyway, they keep things quite simple – no photos during the ceremony for one thing - . It's 9.30, the ceremony was supposed to start at 9.
Only one other professor is here so far – the German teacher. He and the groom had a long conversation about Deeper Life on Wednesday when I asked for direction how to get to the church. Apparently the German professor, who is a pastor for the Evangelical church, was part of the prayer group in university. Deeper Life is particularly interested in attracting intellectuals to their teachings. Pastors for the church must have at least their Bacc (Baccaleaureate- rather difficult test at the end of high school). All the church teachings are in English because they were developed in Nigeria and therefore pastors need a good level of English.
I had a small adventure getting here, but it was actually easier than I'd feared. Nobody thought I'd be able to make it without taking a moto
– but I did fine. I took a taxi from Tove to a toyota dealership in Lome, then walked up to a crossroads and spent a little while trying to hail a cab. I had to "louer" which means pay for the whole taxi rather than share the fare with others that the driver picks up along the way. This means it was almost as expensive as the hour-long trip from Tove
to Lome, but it was easy and I feel like I know a new part of Lome (a little bit) now!
As soon as I arrived, I made some friends. I walked up to a couple women who were in the street and asked it they were here for the wedding, they said they were and then we all giggled a bunch over my attempts to speak Ewe. I went with them to get some beans and rice yumyum. Really good red oil/piment mix.
After ridiculous deliberations, I've decided to go to a birthday party in Vogan after the wedding, then go straight from Vogan to Tsevie for I's birthday and a training on developing the SED program on Monday and Tuesday. This means that I've got a stupidly huge bag with me – mostly because I wanted to bring my laptop. Being without electricity in village means that anytime I leave village to spend the night somewhere with electricity, I have a hard time keeping myself from bringing my laptop along. The additional space and weight to take the laptop with me is a bit silly, but it will be good to be able to type up emails and sort out photos, get everything ready for the next time I have internet.
The whole wedding service was performed in French and translated into Ewe. This was great for me as I could actually follow the whole thing (as compared to Sunday services in village where I often sit for an hour or two just letting incomprehensible words flow over me). But the drawback to interpretation is the delary. The speakers really didn'tlike losing their flow in French so they kept interrupting the interpreter, who started shooting frustrated glances at the speaker. It made me giggle.
The chorale was quite good – they had two electric keyboards, two standing microphones and one handheld microphone!!! The handheld was for one woman who sings solos. She unfortunately didn't have any idea how to handle a mic and continuously moved it around, magnifying the sounds of the mic brushing against her complet and causing those awful screeching noises that come from a mic getting too close to a speaker.
The keyboardist frequently punctuated various moments in the presentation of the couples with synthetic drums and cymbals.

14 November 2008

14 November 2008

Interesting morning at the atelier, which – in case I haven't explicitly defined it before – is Da E's couturiere workshop. The old couple who live just behind Da E had visitors from Lome arrive. They told the woman her younger brother had died. She began to wail in mourning, but by the time Da E had run over to see what had happened, they realized that someone had stolen the woman's goat.
A death and a goat-theft. Lots of wailing. Who would steal a goat from a little old lady? Her husband was sitting near the goat, but he's nearly blind (and almost always blind drunk). It appears that the thief came up to the old man, chatted for a bit with him, calmly untied the goat and led it away when he left. It's almost unthinkable here. People let their goats roam everywhere, eating whatever the can find and somehow each family recognizes their specific goats and no one touches someone else's livestock. If you were going to steal a goat, why not take the one wandering around the road instead of the one tethered to the house of an elderly couple?

Current reading: The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K LeGuin

24 November 2008

15 November 2008

Here M is having a snack before getting ready to plant manioc. When I say 'getting ready' I mean she's cracking jokes and making all the rest of
us have fits of giggles.

15 November 2008


Here a couple great pictures of the three lovely apprentices at the couturiere workshop that my homologue runs.

Sometimes they do work in the fields at the end of the day.

14 November 2008 Making Mushrooms

14 November

Making mushrooms

This is a highly illustrated post.

1. Growing mushrooms starts with compost. Mixing the ingredients – the
waste bits from rice, corn, grasses, manioc. Plus some chalk to help
keep the mix from being too acidic.

2. The mixed compost goes into a huge vat to be warmed to help the compost start decomposing quickly.

3. After sitting well-covered for a day or two, the compost is packed tightly into black plastic bags, with a layer of mushroom spores laid in carefully.

4. Yummy spores.

5. Mushroom bags (all the ones in the foreground were prepared by me!! I hope I did it right)

6. Our two AIDER agents, in the doorway of the little house set aside for mushroom growing.

18 November 2008

Correspondence Match 18 Nov 2008

I have started a correspondence match with a 7th grade history class at my high school alma mater (wow, I graduated 8 1/2 years ago ... that's aaaages) I've decided to share my responses here on the blog (with some editing for anonymity of persons other than myself). Enjoy!

Dear students,

Thousand Oaks is very different from Mission Tove; electricity and running water are just a few of those differences! Because Togo is almost directly on the equator, we don't have much of a change in the times of sunrise and sunset like I was used to in Thousand Oaks. I can pretty much count on the sun rising and setting at 6am and 6pm respectively. This means that I have to make sure to do all my household chores between these hours as it's really frustrating to try to clean my room or cook dinner with only candles to light my way.
(I've attached a photo of me cooking by kerosene lamp).

One of the rooms in my house has a window that gets good afternoon sunshine, even right up until 6pm. I usually choose to settle in this room for reading and studying after I've returned from meetings or groups during the day. When I find myself starting to squint to read, I put the book down and set up a few candles on my various tables.
Usually I will cook dinner in the last half hour of sunlight - it's too dark to read by, but I can cut vegetables and stir pots without too much difficulty. Once the sun has fully sunk beneath the horizon, I go outside with my hand-crank flashlight (a flashlight that doesn't require batteries - just a frequent cranking motion) and close the wooden shutters for most of my windows. I have to leave a couple open to get enough air flowing to sleep peacefully. Even at 9pm, when I usually go to bed, I am often wearing a light nightgown and still sweating in the constant warmth.

Between sunset and bedtime, I usually light four candles and work on various craft projects while listening to news programs on my short-wave radio (BBC News World Service has become my best English-speaking friend). Most people here do not have candle holders, they will simply dribble a little bit of wax onto the surface where they are placing the candle to help make it stick. I've learned to improvise candle holders so that they are more portable. I have an old ketchup bottle, several tuna fish cans, and a big can filled with sand as my candle holders. I'm still experimenting with making hanging candle lamps - in my first attempt, the candle melted the string that was holding up the can! Luckily I caught it before it fell, but I'm being much more careful now.

One of the interesting things about living without electricity in Togo is that it can be much less frustrating than living with electricity.
This is because the electricity lines are pretty unreliable, so one can get really used to having electricity and suddenly when the lines are cut, your world tumbles into darkness and your mood goes with it.

As far as running water goes... I really do miss that. I collect my rain from a cistern that's just outside my house. The water in the cistern comes from the rains (I have a drainpipe runoff that goes directly into the cistern). This means, though, that in the dry season - from November to April - it will almost never rain and the cistern will quickly empty. Once the cistern is empty I will have to hire young men and women from the village to walk the mile to the river to collect water for me. The huge jugs will be carefully filled and then lifted to be carried back to my house on their heads!

Not having easy access to running water has made me really careful about my water use. I use the runoff from my bucket baths (fill a bucket with water and use a large cup to pour the water over yourself to get clean) to flush my toilet and water my plants.

Well, that was a long answer, I hope you found it interesting.

Thanks for your question!

Election Day

4 November 2008

It’s election day. I’m at the lycee, but will be heading straight to Lome afterward, with the hope of getting some internet time and then finding a location for watching the election. If all else fails, the BBC World Service will be providing live coverage, so I’ve got my radio with me.
I walked to school this morning – since I plan on going straight to Lome, I didn’t see the point in taking my bike back and forth. The walk takes about 20 minutes – it’s an interesting change to take the time to say hello to everyone rather than speeding by on my bike. I really wish a teacher had stopped by with his moto. I have my helmet with me and it would have been really nice to not have to walk through the wet sand.
I started doing my yoga routine again on Sunday after two weeks off due to AIDS ride and ensuing need for healing – SO nice to get back into it, although my neck and my belly muscles are sore from lack of use – my headstands are getting better – I’m still using a wall but I’m no longer scared of trying – that’s a big step!.

17 November 2008

17 November 2008

I bought a chicken!!!

I'm going to call her Arabella and feed her lovely worms and corn and she will give me yummy eggs.

Current reading: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark

12 November 2008

exciting new projects!

12 November 2008

I’m feeling pretty accomplished this week, which is great. I biked to and from Tsevie this weekend, had a successful meeting with the apprenties – where they remembered the story from the previous meeting perfectly!! I was so happy – an interesting and hilarious meeting with peer educators – we were working on skits for the ABCs of HIV prevention. Some of the students really got into their roles! :) – I’ve been adding to my compost heap everyday (I decided to do it little by little rather than devoting several hours to it at once) and my headstand in yoga is getting easier everyday.
The most exciting thing, though, is getting involved with a newly-conceived NGO calling itself AIDER (Action Investir Dans l’Entrepreneuriat Rurale – Action Invest in Rural Enterprise) who have decided to use Mission Tove for their pilot project raising mushrooms, developing compost as an alternative to artificial fertilizers and producing potatoes. I’m really looking forward to getting this started all over Mission Tove – currently they are working with a single women’s groupement, but they plan to branch out once they have some success and get other groupements and the schools involved. This is a project worthy of writing home about (and possibly asking for Peace Corps Partnership funding).

Current reading; Dissolution by Richard Lee Byars

12 November 2008c

Tuesday: Went to school, gave English teacher some sheets of paper to make a list of students who want to join an English club – I think one on Tuesday afternoon for 6eme and 4eme and one on Friday afternoon for other classes. That way I can reach more students, as I'm hoping to use English club as a place to explore some Life Skills and business skills too.
Went to the home where they are constructing the buildings to grow mushrooms.
Really exciting!
New ONG called AIDER (Action Investir dans l'Entrepreneuriat Rural) is doing a pilot project in Mission Tove to grow mushrooms -> and then use the compost from the mushrooms to grow other vegetables, like potatoes! They're starting with a single groupement to try to get people interested and excited about it.
(This could be a good project to look into PC Partnership funding – to build the houses to grow mushrooms?)

Wednesday: Went to school, reminded 1eres about peer educator meeting, had brief conversations with other profs and worked on my vocab list from the book in French I'm currently reading. I really need to start putting the lists in the bathroom where I'll work on them.
Went back to mushroom project, but nothing much was happening till the afternoon. Went to atelier, played with an adorable baby called Cherita, agreed to teach how to gift wrap on Friday and showed the beginning of my knitting project (knitting strips of plastic bags to form bigger things).

At 15H I had the peer educators group at the lycee. It started 15 mins late because I was waiting for more people to show up. In the end, I had 8 eleves. We did jeu de l'epidemie (a game where we explore how quickly HIV can spread in a community), some True or False questions and then worked on the skits for the ABC's prevention - Abstinence, Bonne Fidelite, Condom, and Depistage (getting tested). The eleves had a lot of fun acting out the skits – we did each skit 4 times in total, with different people in different parts.
I promised we would do condom demonstrations next time, I might also have them do the skits with gender roles reversed – could be interesting to see how they do.
We spent considerable time talking about how an HIV-positive mother can pass the virus to her baby, etc. It got pretty technical, going into the fact that tests measure presence of antibodies rather than the actual virus and therefore all babies born to HIV+ mothers appear to have the virus themselves simply because they have the mother's antibodies. It might be worth doing a couple activities to seriously address the scientific specifics of VIH – not for a general sensibilisation – but to help the mature peer educators better understand in-depth questions.
Stopped by the marche on my way home, grabbed bread, biscuits, tomatoes, a mug with a lid. The soja vendors still hadn't arrived when I was ready to leave, so no soja for me today. I've heard that beans are going to become scarce once we hit the dry season, so I'm going to try to stock up. Important to keep protein levels up.

12 November 2008b

12 November 2008

Saturday: Made gari with two apprentice friends then biked to Tsevie for post visit party. It took about an hour and a half. The road goes from the carrefour in Kovie (before the marche). The road goes past all the rice fields – they were very pretty, but I didn't take a picture with my digital camera because I didn't want to make myself any more a target for theft than I already was. To get across the bridge that fell apart it costs 500CFA. Half the bridge fell – and it's a huge bridge.
They put big logs across it to get people across and there are several men who hang out collecting the fee and bringing peoples' bikes and motos across.
The way to Tsevie is quite direct – the path comes out at Davie and I had to take a left and go up the National Route for about 10 minutes before getting to L and I's house.

Sunday: Headed back home at about 4. I should have left earlier – it was cool, but I was always either biking straight into the setting sun or in a shadow dark enough to make me worried about the condition of the road I couldn't see. In general the road's quite bad, sandy and rocky, but what can you do? It's Togo!

Monday: Went to school – teachers spent most of the morning adjusting the emploi de temps so they could have the days off "journee pedagogique" that they each wanted.
Worked on filling up my compost heap – water from shower, dead leaves from everywhere – I collect in a big plastic bucket and then pour them into the hole. It's going to take me a while to fill up the hole, so I've decided to go little by little, but try to add at least one bucketful every day.
Thought it was going to rain, but it didn't so had a meeting with Syncoutat (if it's raining, the meeting doesn't happen, as the meeting place is outside). Very glad to see how well they remembered and understood the first half of the Aminata story – from Feasibility Study book for Third World Women. Really need to go through and fix the translation. It could be stated much more simply, I found myself changing the words as I went along to help with comprehension.
Next week I'll work with the patrons- I figured a needs assessment/action plan from PACA, but I'd also like to take a look at the exercises in the Marketing book.
Saw the ICAT agent at the marche, he invited me to see his groupement de femmes learning how to grow mushrooms Tuesday morning.

05 November 2008

Vigil for Obama

5 November 2008


At the Agoe-siye gare again, waiting for a taxi to fill up. I am dead tired. I have been awake since 6am yesterday. I spent the night at the American Embassy in Lome watching the election results come in.
The embassy invited about 270 people to come watch – they set up a big projection screen for CNN in a large well-lit room. A side room – the library – had a smaller screen showing a French news version of the results. There were about 10 PC volunteers at the embassy, the rest of the two rooms were full of embassy personnel and local allies.
The American embassy in Togo is quite new. The US has designed a standard embassy layout - to ensure safety and security and make it easier for foreign service workers to transition from one country to another without the added inconvenience of having to learn their way through a new bureaucratic maze of offices every time.
The former embassy was located on a busy street corner near the middle of the city – it was a ridiculous place for a US embassy, even in a friendly country. Every time a car stalled outside the walls the marines had to activate high security tactics to remove the bomb threat. Because of the decrepit state of most Togolese cars, this unfortunate situation happened all too frequently. When the standard design came out the embassy in Togo was a top priority for the refit.
The new building is very ... functional. I don’t think it’s ugly, just boxy and obviously very institutional. The inside decor (and over-exuberant air-conditioning) reminded me so strongly of DeBartolo Hall at Notre Dame that my overnight vigil for Obama felt a lot like pulling all-nighters as an undergrad, desperate to put together an essay before the 9am deadline.
Watching the election results with a room full of Togolese people was fascinating. At first we, the volunteers, felt rather inhibited – we didn’t want to shout out our support for our candidate in the midst of a group of professionals. On our way in, two cardboard cutouts of McCain and Obama greeted us and the embassy staff invited non-Americans to fill out their ballot for the choice (out of the two largest parties) of which candidate. When the results came back 77 to 1 in Obama’s favor, our cheering inhibitions were quickly quashed, in fact, we were often out-cheered throughout the night. Encouraged in our enthusiasm by fresh hot coffee, biscotti (and a little red wine for those who chose to tipple) we soon became jubilant as states were declared for Obama.
Occasionally the 0% reporting or leads of 739 votes made me rather wary of CNN’s projections but as state after state blinked up blue, I had to just have faith in the necessarily unfathomably complicated mathematical formula used by the projecting team.
As time started to tick down, we took turns rushing to the restroom, sleeping on each other’s shoulders and getting coffee refills.
Occasionally we muted the chatter of the commentators: to hear a statement from the new Ambassador, to sing happy birthday to a 17-year-old daughter of an embassy employee, or to take advantage of snacks being passed around.
Suddenly controversial states started going blue – Philadelphia... Virginia...Ohio...The clock counting down to the close of the west coast polls didn’t even finish before Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and California were painted blue and Obama was declared winner with double the electoral votes of McCain.
It seemed so sudden, I kept watching the bottom of the screen for votes coming in... Florida went blue and I knew it was true.
So I cried. My shoulders shook slightly as my red-with-fatigue eyes began to leak warm salty tears of joy.
Everyone in the room stood and cheered, clapping and congratulations drowning out the television blaring from all three rooms. We did it! America elected a leader for change!
The first African-American president. And I witnessed it from Africa, celebrating the amazing victory with an embassy full of Togolese supporters.
John McCain’s concession speech was inspiring. I have always admired him and although I am glad he did not win the election, I hope he will remain strong and vibrant in the Senate.

04 November 2008

AIDS Ride Chapter 8: in which Rose has to push past the limits of sanity

25 October 2008


We all woke up by 6 out of habit and got out of the house on our way home within 2 hours. Still suffering from Friday’s despair, lack of sleep and a growing need to restore my energy by being alone, I was cranky, stumbley, and uncoordinated.
Six people heading in to Lome rented a taxi together, I was hoping to hop in, but realized it would be easier just to get my own taxi to Nouafe because I knew there was a road between Kovie and Nouafe and since Saturday is Kovie’s marche day, I should be able to get a taxi fairly quickly.
I was dropped off in Nouafe in front of a completely empty taxi station. A couple “helpful” boys told me that there are only taxis to Kovie on Thursdays.
So I cried.
And then I put on my helmet, swung my leg over my bike and pedaled down the road to home.
15-17 km later, I collapsed on my front porch, undressed, washed and slept for the entire day.

02 November 2008

laughing cow

2 November 2008

Went to a Halloween party in Lome last night with a bunch of Americans. Very fun. I dressed as “La Vache Qui Rit” = wearing the complet that my apprentie pals finished while I was on AIDS ride. I made a snout and some horns out of toilet paper rolls and earrings out of VQR cartons and an udder out of a blown-up latex glove. Super classy. We arrived at the party just a wee bit early – the harsh normal lights were still on, the hostess was still putting on her costume and the punch wasn’t even set out yet.
It did give me a chance to have a chat with C (an intern at PLAN) and C? who works for PSI specifically targeting informal prostitution – primarily working with young women (even girls as young as 10). The project is very holistic – social counseling, education, etc. In fact it’s too holistic to fit under PSI’s health-restricted agenda so it’s currently being made independent. I would love to find out more about what she does (and how I could get involved).
I very unsuccessfully tried to make conversation with some of the Marines who work at the embassy – they were totally uninterested in chatting with me, perhaps I intimidated them with my challenge to their ‘beach boy’ costumes. All I did was ask for a song!
I got to know a couple of the current PCVs from before my stage better, chatting about what we’re doing after Peace Corps (what else, right?)
On a related note, I spent several hours today looking up MBA programs as a possible post-PC choice. I’m particularly interested in The New School in New York City, Yale University and UC Berkeley. All of their programs look like they would fit really well into a career track of NGO development/management and I’d be learning specfic practical skills. I have a lot of other options to look into, but it’s nice to feel that I’ve taken a gander at the MBA route and found it interesting. The difficulty with any ambition to go back to school is finances – how to pay for school, living expenses, and loans from my ND education?
So finding a job has to be my first priority, but I’m still going to study up for my GMAT, GRE and LSAT.

I am writing this while sitting at the taxi stand in Agoe waiting for my taxi to Mission Tove to fill up. I could take a moto – I have my helmet with me – but the last experience was so hair-raisingly unpleasant that I’m quite reluctant to try again. It’s only 2pm so I’m not in danger of getting stranded in the dark. I figured as long as I keep myself occupied and not idle, then it’s not wasted time – so blogging a bit is my occupation. I don’t really have enough money to be zipping about on motos anyway. They cost about double what a place in a taxi does.