31 December 2008


31 December 2008

I never realized that getting my hair braided would hurt as much as getting a tattoo. No, seriously – try sitting on a tiny stool so low to the ground that your knees are level with your chest, exposing your butt bones to the wooden slab without cushion of either muscle or fabric, for four hours. Then add in three women pulling mercilessly on tiny pieces of hair all over your head – approximately 250 pieces of hair to be precise – for four hours. As some frosting and cherries, keep in mind that you can’t even distract yourself with conversation because none of these women speak either your first or second language. And don’t forget the aftereffects – 3 or 4 sleepless nights due to being unable to find a comfortable position for a headrest as every surface elicits tiny shoots of pain with any pressure. (And DO forget about trying to work on your yoga headstands – highly unrecommended.)
I think I’ll do it again at the end of this month. Why? Because it looks pretty.
I enjoy playing around with my hair. Ever since college I’ve changed my haircut, style or color at least every 2 months. In this much more conservative environment, I’ve decided to forego the color and search for someone who knows how to cut “yovo” hair is still ongoing. So it it can’t be cut or color – it’ll be style. I assume that eventually I will get used to having a prickly scalp and I’ve already felt the benefits of having my scalp open to the breezes – oh how much cooler it is! So it’s a give and take. I will continue experimenting with different styles to figure out what suits me best for both practicality and relative painlessness.

Current reading: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

29 December 2008

making a difference

29 December 2008

On my return to Lome after Christmas, I picked up my emails and found several nice and unexpected messages – including one from the man who was a volunteer in Mission Tove in the 60s. What a delightful surprise!

I’ve spent the past few days checking up on all my non-school related projects and friendships. I really do feel I have made a successful start on all the key aspects of my time here – work, integration and encouraging people back home to be interested in Togo/Africa.

My “cultural integration” post of a few weeks ago was a particularly frustrating incident, but it is not my normal experience nor my usual attitude. I considered taking the post down but I prefer to keep the story there and just continue telling you about all my positive adventures as well.

Chasing down the friends and acquaintances of the previous volunteer should be particularly enjoyable – apparently there’s a cistern here somewhere that has his name on it. I’m on a picture quest now – trying to document lasting impressions of the former volunteer (perhaps in the hope that I, too, will be making a sustainable difference).

28 December 2008

Freezing at 60degrees F

28 December 2008

When R called up the butcher at 10 am and the cow still had not yet been killed, we started to get a bit worried about our barbeque beef kebab Christmas Eve dinner. M successfully distracted us with homemade eggnog (real cream! brought in from the big city) and before I could start fretting, the meat was delivered and we got our hands dirty chopping and tenderizing and marinating. It was bitterly cold – about 60 degrees Fahrenheit and we were all dressed in layers. Under the noon sun out walking to fetch beers or new arrivals from the center of town we sweltered in short sleeves and light pants. But as soon as we hit the shade of the paillote in R’s compound, the strong Saharan breeze (called the Harmattan) ripped through our light clothing and sent us in search of pagnes to wrap around our shoulders.

The whole trip was a bizarre step outside of normal life in Togo. Four of us caught a bus up to Kara from Lome at 7am. An air-conditioned bus – where we each got our own seat – and they played Vin Diesel’s silly XXX in French. Wow. Normally travel in Togo means going to a taxi station around 7am, waiting for a car to arrive for about 30 minutes, waiting another 30-60 minutes for the car to fill up (filling up means at least 4 people in every seat that should hold 3), then trundling off creaking and spluttering, the driver occasionally stopping the car to perform typical maintenance like using his mouth to suck the fuel out of one part of the engine and spitting back into somewhere more useful. (!!!) The traditional entertainment is playing the ‘name that body odor’ game or avoiding the sharp beaks of the live chickens at your feet or in the lap of the woman with whom you are sharing a seat. I was inspired by rumors that one of the volunteers who just finished his service used to meditate in the back of bush taxis and I gave it a try one time. Nothing jerks you out of a zen-like calm faster than a nibble from a chicken on a sandal-clad foot, I’m telling you!

So, what with the on-time departure, amenities, and hip-room, our bus ride was amazing and made the trip seem like a real holiday. Being able to spend quality time with friends, eating good food and playing absurdly violent games of spoons was a fantastic way to spend Christmas.

I was so happy to have received my hand-knit-by-my-mother-when-i-was-a-tiny-child Christmas stocking in a parcel the day before heading north. My stocking wasn’t exactly “hung by the chimney with care” rather, it hung from the end of a very well-endowed wooden penis (for condom demonstrations) being used as a coathook, which epitomized the brilliant melange of festive and fou (French for crazy).

22 December 2008

I just received two amazing packages from the states - from my grandmother and my parents. Thank you so much!

18 December 2008


18 December 2008b

“You’re going to see something bizarre soon. Don’t get upset.”

I’d been forewarned already, but I still wasn’t interested in seeing the apprentice kneeling in front of me being hit with a paddle. She had already endured half an hour or more lecture from Da E and the other tailor officiating at the liberation ceremony. Her face had started to crumble and her voice had gotten shaky and weak. I just didn’t need to see any more of her punishment, thankyouverymuch.
A liberation ceremony is when an apprentice is released from her patron and declared finished with her apprenticeship. This was a special case – the apprentice had passed her test before her 3 years of work were up; she’d been discovered stealing from the workshop and she refused to return to finish her obligation to Da E. Generally, the mood was tense and punitive rather than joyful like it should be.
It is a normal part of the ceremony for the patron to deliver a couple of blows of the paddle to the apprentice – as a symbolic punishment for any frustration or bad behaviour over the past three years. It was very unusual for the officiating tailor to take the apprentice’s parents aside to fix an amount for recompense for stolen materials.
In the end, though, the idea is that all is now forgiven. After the punishment, the apprentice changed out of regular clothes into a piece of kente cloth – expensive traditionally woven cloth usually used for ceremonies like marriage – and received the tools of the trade: scissors, pins, and a tape measure. Then everyone partook of sodabi (local gin), beer, and soda before sharing a meal of pate and ademe sauce.
The ceremony finished, my friend V who has already performed 3 years of service and is only waiting to pass her test, started talking about how she wants her liberation party to be. She said that she has been in Mission Tove for nearly 4 years now and her mother hasn’t come to see her yet. Her father died several years ago, leaving V unable to continue with school because she couldn’t pay the fees. So she came to Tove to live with her uncle and learn couturiere skills from Da E. At her liberation she plans on inviting all of her family to come down – the party will be in a public place – perhaps at the church or the Centre Sociale. And her family will bring down lots and lots of sodabi.
I can’t wait for her party – it should be amazing and much more joyful than this one. Of course, once she’s liberated, she won’t live here anymore and I’ll miss her a lot.

Current Reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix

cultural integration

18 December 2008c

Frustrating day in the “cultural integration” sector.
This afternoon while I was doing yoga, a man stopped by. He was so self-assured and confident that I at first assumed we knew each other already and I simply didn’t recognize him. He walked into my house – odd behavior here for a man to enter the house of a single woman – gave me his phone number and then told me he’d come by and visit again. He offered to bring me a little generator so that I could have lights and watch television and have a fan. He really caught me off balance. I think I’d gotten into that meditative yogarrific state so I wasn’t prepared to face up against a charming man who seemed so confident he was hard to question. He even successfully got my phone number and I’m generally so careful about giving it out. When he left, he said that next time he came, he’d sleep at my house. At this point all the little suspicions that had started niggling finally broke through the yogarrific daze and I said strongly,
“No. You will not sleep here. I’m married and faithful to my husband.”

Of course, instead of backing off, he asked where my husband was and how many children I have. I told him we don’t have children yet and my husband is currently in Scotland. His reply? ...
“Well, then. We can give it a try.”
“What did you say?”
“We can give it a try then.”
I said, “No, I’m not interested and I’m NOT looking for a lover.”

Then I went inside and raged a bit. It feels like everyone here who approaches me pretending to offer friendship actually just wants money, a visa to America, or to sleep with me (if not all three at the same time). I hate it. Isn’t there any normal friendship out there that I can find? Is my skin color and my American citizenship such a huge obstacle that people only see me as some kind of specialty vending machine, not a person?

Current reading: The Pelican Brief by John Grisham

Another list

18 December 2008a

It’s that time again – stuff I’d like to get from overseas:

deodorant/anti-perspirant (the strong stuff)
I can get these things in country, but they’re expensive and hard to find

Lush conditioner bar – I think it’s called jungle something or other. It’s fantastic and I can use it for shaving my legs, too, which is great.

AAA rechargeable batteries

Hard candies – peppermints, butterscotch, jolly ranchers, etc.

Drink stuff
• fruity – Crystal Light seems to be the most flavourful that I’ve found so far (maybe to make up for the fake sugar they use)
• Hot chocolate mix :) M sent me some over the summer and they were such nice treats!
• Tea – any tea bags, I can find some tea here, but I miss the huge variety of tea I used to enjoy back home. If you want to send whole leaf tea, go ahead and pop in a tea strainer thing too.

• energy bars – Luna bars, especially
• Dried fruit – stuff I can’t get here like apricots would be amazing, I’m working on a plan to make my own dryer so when the mango tree outside my window starts getting plentiful I can dry the fruit and have it all year round!
• oatcakes – och. how I miss the wee crunchy biddies
• whole wheat digestives (maybe with dark chocolate?)
• Extra mature cheddar cheese
o ok. don’t actually send this, but LIGHT do I miss it!

Letters – I haven’t been very good at writing back, sorry. But I’m keeping a blog soooo much more consistently than ever before. That’s pretty good right?

Biosnacky sprout seeds – I have a sprouting jar, but I’m about to run out of the little packets of sprout seeds. It’s such a nice thing to have, especially now it’s hot season and there is very little water and all the veggies in the marche are looking pretty wrinkly. They don’t have to be ‘biosnacky’ brand, any seeds specifically for sprouting will do.


P.S. Still haven’t received 3 packages sent from the UK. I’m assuming/hoping that the delay was due to the elections in Ghana and they will be coming through soon. Cross your fingers for me!

17 December 2008

Notre Dame des Sept Douleurs

17 December

Surrounded by sweating hordes of people sweeping me along up the hill, I considered carefully before attempting what could be a very dangerous manoeuvre: pausing to take a picture. An opportunity presented itself: two cars parked in the middles of the road, ten inches separating the bumpers. I would come to the space in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 step—woosh—I slipped between the cars and the small space I’d occupied in the mob was quickly swallowed. I took advantage of the space to clear my nostrils a bit, falsely assuming that it was everyone else who smelled slightly rancid and not me. But no, I blended in perfectly. A 5km bike ride midday in a nice complet and 30 minutes shuffling along a dirty, muddy, overcrowded path can make anyone smell native.
I aimed carefully at the vendor on the side of the churning river of people. I focused on his wares – wacky plastic Jesus figurines, glow-in-the-dark crosses, pastel pink-cheeked cartoonish images of Mary, etc. – and *click* successfully got a beautifully fuzzy picture of someone’s sweaty backside. Hmm. Maybe standing between the crowd and the subject of my photo wasn’t such a good idea. I contented myself with a couple snaps of the flow working against gravity, struggling up the muddy hill on their yearly pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.
Every year, on the first weekend of December, thousands of Catholics come to Kovie, the town right next to Mission Tove – it’s close enough to be considered part of my work area. Teachers discussing it at the lycee told stories about seeing apparitions of the Virgin in the sky. (Unfortunately this story lost both credibility and coherence being recounted by a rather drunk Monsieur M.) Normally this festival is considered the beginning of Harmattan in Mission Tove. Harmattan is the wind that come down from the Sahara, carrying huge dustclouds along with it. The dust is so intense that the temperature drops into the 60s (very cold by local standards).
This year, though, we have not yet seen huge dustclouds or a drop in temperature – in fact it’s been oppressively sunny and hot, making me fearful about the “real” hot season that’s supposed to come in January. On 5 December, the Friday before my trip up the hill with the pilgrims, the skies opened and poured down rain for 10 hours. All the roads were churned up, every car or moto leaving deep tire treads in the earth.
Did I mention the thousands of pilgrims to the shrine the weekend of 5 December? The roads were a mess. Especially the road leading from Kovie up to the shrine. When one runs a finger across the path of a line of ants, they seem to lose their way, swarming around the lost trail, confused by the strange smells and oils left by the finger. They slow down and spread out, wandering but usually are able to take up the trail again eventually and resume their energetic business.
At the lowest point between the two hills the swarm of pilgrims was thwarted by the strange and goopy finger of God (aka a rain-flooded stream). With careful steps, helping hands, and great patience everyone eventually got across after much milling about like the aforementioned ants). Even those in cars and on motos, although they were much cursed by pedestrians. We crossed, we climbed, we reached the summit and then we camped. Well, I didn’t camp, but everyone else did. There was an amazing diversity of set-up: fully-equipped tents will small generators for charging the laptops warming the laps of young men in suits, families sleeping around a cooler full of soda and brochette sandwiches on a few pagnes laid out on plastic mats, some families even constructed mini-houses out of palm fronds to keep them away from the sun.
When I reached the top, someone was calling out the rosary over a loudspeaker – first in Ewe, then in French. It was interesting to hear prayers that I know so well being spoken in other languages. I could feel the same insistent rhythms but couldn’t join in even if I’d wanted to.
It was rather alienating actually; being in the presence of something so familier and yet so different. I have voluntarily distanced myself from Catholicism, but it’s still a very potent part of my heritage and my self-understanding. 10 year of Catholic school certainly encourages that. I ended up feeling rather overwhelmed and lonely and left after only about an hour on top of the hill. I hung around the vendors a bit, bought a few souvenirs and chatted to the women and children, showing off my small Ewe knowledge. I felt a bit better outside and recovered my sense of self and community as I re-entered Mission Tove where kids and adults alike yell excitedly when they see me – ‘Da Adzo Da Adzo!’
I will never be perfectly integrated here, but I have a role and a job in this community. And it’s hard not to feel happy when I’m greeted with such squeals of delight.

15 December 2008


15 December 2008

You go, sister!

The word for “to learn” is srõ
so, if I want to say I’m learning Éwé, I say:
me le éwé srõ

The word for teacher is nusrõla
broken down: nu = thing, srõ = learn/teacher, la = one who...
So teacher is : the one who teaches things

The word for spouse is srõ because in marriage, the spouses teach each other all the things about men and women

“yo” basically means “ok”
It is the response to everything:

woezoloo (welcome) .... yo!
avakaba (come back soon) .... yo
babaloo (sorry about that) ... yo
nezo (bon appetit) ... yo

My name is Éwé is Da Adzo – because I was born on a Monday (dzodagbe). Every child gets a weekday name. For children born on Mondays girls are called Adzo and boys are called Kodzo. (The former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was born on a Friday – Fidagbe – girls are called Afi and boys are called Kofi)
Dzo is also a verb meaning to go/to leave
a dzo can be the conjugated subject and verb: you go (a is the subject for second person singular)

Da means sister. It’s kind of an honorific along the lines of Miss or Madam

So, my name Da Adzo can roughly be translated as: You go, sister!!!

11 December 2008

how do you explain 'sleigh' to people who've never seen snow

11 December 2008

The AIDS sensibilisation at the lycee was supposed to happen on 1 December – International AIDS Awareness Day. It was pushed back due to the week of composition – kind of a mid-term exam – it’s administered regionally; all the students in the region take the same test at the same time. I offered to do the sensi the Friday before the test week, but the proviseur told me to leave it until the Monday after mid-terms, 8 December. No problem. Imagine my surprise when on Saturday, 6 December, at my chorale rehearsal, one of the girls in the peer educator group I’ve been forming told me that Monday is a Jour Ferie – a holiday due to a Muslim Holy Day. I showed up early to school on Tuesday and asked the Proviseur how he didn’t know about the holiday? Grr. So we moved the sensibilisation again – to this Friday. It WILL happen. No matter what. Come rain or shine (I might back down if it miraculously snows).
{Speaking of snow – it’s very difficult to explain what a sleigh is to people have never even seen a picture of snow.}
I’ve started teaching conversational English classes at the CEG Kovie. The CEG is new – a state-created school that doesn’t actually have any buildings yet. They only moved out of their temporary lodging at the Catholic primary school this week. They now have three little thatch-roofed “classrooms”: packed-dirt floors, thatch roof supported by thick branches buried into the floor. The design of the roofing makes a lovely little microclimate that keeps the classrooms several degrees cooler than the surrounding area, and the roofs are so severely slanted that I imagine any rain will slip right off and away from the room’s occupants without problem. There are enough wooden benches that only a few students have to be three to a bench.
I’m starting my English classes with easy stuff – introducing myself and getting the students to do so, talking a little bit about where I come from and why I’m here in Togo. After the introductions, I’ve been teaching them Christmas songs – Jingle Bells and Silent Night. They seem to already know the melodies at least a bit, which helps. I almost sang myself raw today, though – two hours of teaching songs was surprisingly hard on my voice. I guess I need to work on some vocal exercises to keep up my endurance :)
I’ve decided to head to Lome tomorrow to do internet, but more importantly, to get to the bank. I’ve got to get some money – and start being more careful about how I spend it!
Last time I was in Lome, I was standing on a street corner waiting for some friends with a bag of watermelons between my feet when a man came up, chatted to me, and upon learning my name was Rose, promptly bought me a pretty pink rose. It was bizarre but not creepy, which is nice – he didn’t pressure me to give him my number or anything. Huzzah.

10 December 2008

Les Moucherons

10 December 2008

Today was the beginning of football season at the Complexe Scolaire Mission Tove. It was the “moucherons” today – 6emeA versus 6emeB and 5emeA versus 5emeB. “Moucherons” basically means “fleas”. It’s a cute nickname for the youngest classes in the school. 6eme roughly translates to American 6th grade and 5eme to 7th grade. The actual ages of the students varies a lot more than in the U.S. – from the itsy bitsy 11 year old that all the teachers tease for his size (except me, of course – I’m not up the teasing, yelling at, or corporal punishment that the teachers rely on to keep order). There is one 20 year old in 6eme. He’s recently married – I think it’s really cool that he’s decided to come back in and try to get his formal education. There’s no Togolese GED, so he’s got to go all the way through Billy Madison-style (although without the joy of quick promotion.).
Because of this age disparity, the football team members are generally much larger than the average 6eme or 5eme student. Some of them are pretty tall and muscular for 6th graders. And REALLY good football players (football as in what Americans call soccer).
I’ve never actually played soccer on a team – I was a linesperson for AYSO one year, but I’ve only ever kicked a ball around in very informal settings. So I really have no idea of the rules, much less an understanding of the worldwide obsession with the sport. And obsession it is. Football is everywhere. The majority of my notebooks have football players on the covers – I have to look really hard to find non-football themed notebooks (the one I use to write up my blog has a gorgeous sea turtle on it which makes me think of Crush from Finding Nemo and keeps me “chilled out.”
Anyway. Football here looks pretty much like AYSO. Adults on the sidelines cursing out the referee for ‘bad calls’. Girls on the sidelines screaming out cheers and dancing, paying much more attention to their own shouts than the actual game. If you look a little closer though, you can see clouds of dust bursting up from the field around the players, slipping and sliding on uneven terrain. But why are they slipping so easily? possibly because only two of the players have shoes on. They are running around on a huge field (that we continuously had to shoo chickens off of) where the “grass” (shrub-like green stuff) has been trimmed by 12 year olds with dull machetes. The grass is patchy with dirt – especially after last week’s heavy rain that eroded much of the loose soil away. Two boys wore shoes. About 5 others wore mismatched socks. The lucky ones even had two pairs. I even saw a boy with only one sock on (and a huge hole through the heel).
It was an amazing game.

04 December 2008

C Match 4 December 2008

Dear LR;

In looking over the last email and questions, I realized that I didn't answer the question about chores very completely.

Sometimes I forgot how very different simple chores are here. Every morning I wake to the sound of roosters crowing and my host family sweeping the compound (the land around the 3 small houses that are all part of the household). They sweep away the leaves that have fallen during the night, the various bits of trash, and chicken droppings. I joined them a couple times for sweeping, but 5.30am is very early and I've become used to having a little bit extra sleep.
During repos (the extended lunch hour that usually goes from about 12 – 2.30), though, I go around collecting the piles of leaves to add them to my compost pile. One of my most frustrating things here is the lack of trash collection – people throw candy wrappers, plastic bags and packaging wherever they've finished using it. It gets swept up in the morning and left on the side of the road as if people expect them to decompose along with the leaves! I have to sort through the piles of leaves before adding them to the compost. I'm working on a craft project that will use these pieces of litter. Hopefully this will not only provide a source of income by selling the crafts, but also provide an incentive for not littering.
In order to get rid of my own trash, I have to burn it. I do my best to set aside the things that I can recycle and of course I set aside the kitchen waste for my compost, but the rest has to be burnt so that it won't take over the house or spread germs.

Laundry is washed by hand and dried on clotheslines in the sun. I realized quickly that I'm not very good at hand-washing so I hired a local girl to wash my clothes. She is 13, named S, and is an orphan. She moved in with her aunt here in Mission Tove last year because the village she was from doesn't have a junior high and she really wanted to continue at school. The money I give to her is going toward her school fees and a new outfit for her baptism in the spring. Every Friday I bring my dirty clothes to her to wash and dry at her house. She brings them back by Monday. (I wash my own undergarments, though, because it's considered very rude to have someone else wash them for you. I have a clothesline hanging above my shower area to let my things dry in a private place. My main clothesline is in front of my house, so anything I hang out there will be seen by everyone passing by.)
Washing dishes is also by hand. Because I don't have running water, I use a 3-bucket method: one bucket with water and soap, a second bucket with rinse water and a third bucket with holes for drainage for drying. I get the water for washing from my cistern. I've attached a photo that shows my set-up for getting water:my cistern, which luckily is just next to my little house
the black bucket for carrying water inside (it's also my shower bucket)
the little metal bucket for fetching water out of the cistern (the rope is almost not long enough, the water level is so low already!)

the cloth frame I put together to help filter out the bugs and leaves before bringing the water in the house where I will boil it and filter it before drinking it.
I put my waste water from washing clothes and dishes into a bucket that I keep next to my toilet for flushing. No running water means no handy flush lever. I have to pour water down to empty the bowl.
You can do this in California – it saves a lot of water in drought season! Just set a bucket under your showerhead to catch the cold water while you wait for it to warm up. Then use the bucket to flush your toilet or water your plants (If you use it to water plants, try not to get any soap in it!)
One of my favorite authors wrote: “Abundance in a system comes not just from how much energy or resources flow in, but how many times that energy and those resources recirculate before flowing out.” In Mission Tove, where water is scarce, I am doing my best to make that water recirculate so I can create abundance rather than being a drain on resources.
Cleaning the house is also a fairly new experience. Lizards, spiders, and ants don’t seem to recognize any difference between indoors and outdoors. This means that I am constantly battling insects, webs, and droppings. My floor is just cement, so I simply sweep every room every day (or as often as I have the energy and time for it). Brooms here don’t have handles, so they can be a bit tough on the back. Sometimes I hire a couple local kids to come help me clean. It’s a big, sweaty job to do it alone. It’s nice to have the company and I always give them kool-aid, candy and some money for their help.
Well, that’s a pretty good summary of my chores. For the question about what I eat: here are a couple recipes for Togolese food that you can make from ingredients you can find in California.


“Dirty Rice”

2 cups rice, washed (I use locally grown rice, and I have to be really careful to pick out any small stones when I wash it. It’s no fun biting down on one!)
3 cups water
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 large cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 or more hot peppers, cleaned and minced (we use dried red peppers here)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp ground cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste

Wash the rice well, add water, salt, tomato, onion, garlic, minced pepper, and oil. Bring to a boil uncovered over high heat. Stir once. Reduce heat and simmer, covered with a tight lid for 15 minutes or until rice is done. Remove from heat. Fluff with fork. Cover and allow to steam an additional 5 minutes. Add plenty of cumin and black pepper.

Pâte Rouge

1 small onion, chopped
1 cube of bouillon
1 small can tomato paste (70 grams)
1 ¼ Cups corn flour
1 green pepper, chopped
½ tsp piment powder
1 ½ Cups water

In a saucepan, sauté onions, green pepper in a little oil until tender. Stir in piment, bouillon and tomato paste. Cook together before adding water. Bring to a boil. Stir in corn flour and mix vigorously to get rid of lumps. Scoop balls of pâte into small plastic bowls or small tupperware containers and allow it to cool for a bit. Invert onto a plate to serve. (perhaps with the pepper sauce below...?)

Pepper Sauce

6 large tomatoes, chopped
Salt to taste
Hot dried peppers to taste (or piment powder)
1 large onion, chopped

Boil tomatoes and onions in a little water until soft, adding salt and piment to taste. If you have a grinding bowl (mortar and pestle): transfer the mixture to the grinding bowl and grind until the consistency is smooth.

03 December 2008

3 December 2008

3 December 2008

I just finished a VIH/SIDA workshop with the girls club at the lycee in Tsevie. I arrived a bit late, but we still had lots of time and a really good class. I was worried that there would be too many participants for me to give out condoms to each – but it was relatively small (22 girls). They were already pretty well-educated about VIH prevention, etc. so we went through the activities and questions very quickly.
That gave me lots of time for the condom demonstration and the follow-up questions. I felt really successful and even my French felt really clear. Huzzah!
It's L's birthday, so we had a good little celebration – just a few sodas at the little buvette and then L made a yummy dinner just in time for I to return from working in Lome. After hours of good conversation – exes, law school, good books, religion, etc. L introduced me to Samurai Jack (a Cartoon Network series). Specifically the Scotsman episodes. I'm not sure I can do justice to the fabulousness of them.
Highly recommended.

01 December 2008

1 December 2008

1 December 2008

Argh. My bike is shot. By which I mean there's a hole in the inner tube right next to the air input –in such a way that it's impossible to patch – I will have to actually replace the tube. Luckily, the "bike man" from Peace Corps is coming on his semi-annual bike check this weekend. So he should be able to fix/replace everything. The list is getting long, mostly due to my tumble during AIDS ride:
both mudflaps have fallen off (a necessity for the muddy paths)
my bell was crushed so I can't alert people to get out of my way when I crashed my right handle got pushed out of place
my bike seat slides down as I ride, making my knees ache if I don't adjust it often enough

Anyway, what this means is for this week I have to walk everywhere. This means chub rub. My thighs rubbing together cause a friction rash that really hurts. It's a major reason why I didn't wear skirts much before coming here. I've successfully avoided it since arriving at post mostly by cycling most of the time, but just a few 10-minute walks has brought it all painfully back. Grr. This is not productive and bad for the ol' self-esteem and positive mood necessary for being effective in village.

I'm finding that I am much more moody than normal here. I cry really easily and not just at 'that time of the month'. I wonder if it might be related to taking Larium as malaria prophylaxis. I've heard it can often affect mood. I imagine it's also because I'm far away from home and a bit frustrated about feeling obligated to lie to people every single day, whether it's about small things like "yes, I'll buy you a present while I'm in Lome" or big things like "actually, I'm married, so I'm not interested in having you 'drop by' so we can 'relax' together".

I've been having trouble sleeping lately – to the point that I took a Benadryl last night to try to help me. I still didn't fall asleep until 1am, and I had to get up at 5. Made me rather cranky today despite my best intentions.

Today is the Journee Mondiale du SIDA – I went to the chief's house to be introduced to all the notables and watch my homologue give a sensibilisation on the importance of registering births, deaths and marriage. She is a parajuriste which seems to be someone who actively encourages local populations to find out about their rights especially pertaining to women's rights and family law. There's an element of health education, too. I learned all this from skimming through the parajurist handbook.

Current reading: Homeland by R.A. Salvatore