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.
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.
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...?)
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.