26 July 2009

26 July 2009

26 July 2009

I’m back at Pagala! It’s the lead up to three weeks of camp for students. On Wednesday the counselors for camp will be arriving to receive their orientation and training for camp. And then on Monday starts boy students camp. I’m so excited to actually be present at the camps with the young people, since I missed the last one when I was in California.
Last night we had the post-post visit party for the new trainees in the Maritime region. That means that it’s been one year since I first saw Mission Tove/1 I’m glad that my first impression of Tove didn’t hold true- I ended up in a much more comfortable situation than I had first anticipated.
On Saturday morning we went to the “zoo” in Lomé. Viola some photos

21 July 2009

The Joys of Being Back

21 July 2009

The Joys of Being Back

The lovely humidity, that makes my skin so perfectly moisturized

seeing my awesome volunteer friends that I missed so much

sleeping in my own bed

having my kitten lounge on my chest, purring so deeply I can feel the vibrations in my sternum

having little kids’ faces light up when I was and smile at them (there’s something to be said for being so obviously different - a certain celebrity/monster status)

receiving happy shouts of greeting as I walk down the street

my landlord’s sister bringing me a plate of food just when I was contemplating gathering the energy to go searching for ingredients

the satisfaction of seeing my cat take on a spider as big as my hand – and winning!
the peace and quiet and solitude

having a new ipod where i can choose the track I listen to!

remembering French and Ewe and making myself understood

20 July 2009

Wow Toto, I think I’m not in America anymore

20 July 2009

A woman’s voice crackled over the loudspeaker, informing the airport that the flight from Paris to Lomé will be delayed, but will board as soon as possible. Immediately people began to line up. I use the word “line” very loosely. This “line” was about four people wide, very few of the people in it had any respect for placement within the line, and half of the people were sitting in nearby chairs, but became very disgruntled if one tried to move beyond them to the seemingly empty spot in line. When I found a place, and began to listen to my ipod and calm down from the crash and clatter of the airport, the man to my side started shuffling around, bumping into my book several times and knocking over my bag once. Without acknowledging or apologizing for stepping on my personal space. I admit I grew rather indignant until I remembered that personal space is an American thing. Got to let it go for another year.


The surging crowd around the baggage claim at itsy-bitsy Lomé airport far exceeded any roiling ridiculous mob I’d witnessed at the huge Los Angeles international. Luckily, I only had two bags, and both showed up! (Miracle of miracles) I headed toward the exit, only to join a new “line” to put my bags through the scanner before exiting. Now, this could be overly cynical or possibly unobservant of me, but I didn’t see anyone actually watching the monitor for the x-ray machine. The conveyor belt was working, but I can’t help but wonder if they only stopped me because I’m obviously not local. So they stopped me, I approached the man at my bag and he asked me what was inside without opening it. I told him “ a few gifts and candy for my friends in village.”
He said, “Do you have a gift for me?”
“Um, I could give you some candy?”
“No, no a cadeau (gift)” and rubbed his fingers together in the universal sign for money.
“I’m a Peace Corps volunteer, I don’t have much money.”
“Alright then, we’ll open the bag.”
Perhaps I should have looked up the rules but I assumed I would be able to bring some packets of oatmeal and spices in for personal use. A woman approached, pointed meaningfully at her ‘Phyto-biologist” badge and told me I wasn’t allowed to bring that into the country without papers.”
“No one told me that! “ I protested, as salt water began accumulating in my eyes.
She gave me a LOOK, then turned around and walked away, leaving me with the man. I sheepishly asked, “If I give you a cadeau, can I just go?”
He shrugged, which I took to be affirmative, so I offered him a crisp 1 mille bill (the crisper, the better – I’ve had people reuse money that was too dirty) and then I packed up the bag again and headed out to do battle with the taxi drivers.
1 mille – what’s that? about 2 dollars? a.k.a. 1/3 of my daily salary. But it let me get out without hassle. I weighed up my conflicting emotions, - relief to get out, frustration at being forced to bribe someone – and then I remembered all the other bribes I’ve had to pay here.
Guess I’m not in America anymore, Toto.


Friday afternoon I quickly repacked my bags so I would only take 2 small bags with me, leaving the two monstrosities at the Peace Corps bureau. I had to get up to the training site and then back to my village, so I wanted to be pretty light on my feet. My friend I and I took a taxi over to the stand for shared taxis at Dekon. As we pulled up, our driver identified a driver going to Tsevie and pulled up next to him to facilitate our transfer from one to the next. The Tsevie driver picked up my backpack and started toward his car, when all of a sudden, a third driver snatched my other bag and started running away with it. I quickly glared at both drivers deciding whom to chase – the third driver earned my wrath and I charged after him, grabbed hold of a strap and started tugging and yelling in an incomprehensible melange of English and French. I recovered the bag, after covering nearly half a block, and then walked back, bristling with adrenaline and anger. I reached the originally chosen Tsevie car and the manager of the taxi stand reassured me saying, “He just wanted you to go in his car”
“Will, stealing my bag and running away with it is not a good way to get my business!”
Only in Togo does someone steal your bag in order to convince you to buy something from him. I mean, really!!

19 July 2009

19 July 2009

19 July 2009

I am back in Togo. I’ve spent the past twenty-four hours sleeping and cleaning my house. The kids who took care of my cat also swept and cleaned my living room, which was really nice. Although I’m slightly confused about how they could have missed the spider webbing wrapped around the picture rail. By the time I finished gathering all those webs, my broom resembled a gray and dusty version of a stick of cotton candy. Ew.
My bedroom and kitchen were even worse- I kept those rooms locked separately; not because I don’t trust my cat-sitters, just because I believe in avoiding temptation. Being locked away for five weeks, even from the cat, meant that vermin and mold had a brilliant opportunity to go forth and multiply. Ew. I’m still mid-battle.
Almost none of my clothes are wearable – with the advent of the rainy season, my clothes have become active moisture-holders and mold-growers. My next step is to buy lots of sopa and bring a bundle of laundry over to my “laundry girl.” Overall, despite the little things, coming back has not been as hard as I’d feared.
Getting onto the plane in California and then again in Paris was difficult, but I didn’t cry myself to sleep on arrival like I’d expected. It helped that I was able to immerse myself in volunteer life before going back to village. I went to the training site for new volunteers – I was supposed to have been training them this week – to say hello and hand out Starburst. Then I spent the night at L & I’s and just chilled out with a silly movie (Dorkness Rising) and some wine.

07 July 2009

What I've been doing with my time

Being in limbo means that I haven't wanted to set up seeing friends on the chance that I might be flying out... also, being a peace corps volunteer I have absolutely no spending money. Any little bits that I had, I squandered on ridiculous things like buying sewing kits and cool yarn as gifts for my apprentice friends in village.

So, I've been spending my time reading and studying and researching about law schools.

I have a strong academic record and my practice lsat scores are good, so I think this is the list of schools to which I will be applying. If any reader has particular insight, please comment or email me!

I'm looking to do public interest work, therefore strong financial aid for such pursuits is very important to me. I may consider adding an MA or an MBA in Non-profit management to the law degree, so having the possible dual degree programs is also important.

New York University
UC Berkeley
University of Chicago
University of Pennsylvania

Any universities that I've left out that you think I'm crazy for skipping over?

also... have a picture of me anticipating how i'll feel in my first 1L class

Independence Day in the States

Due to my inadvertently extended vacation, I was able to spend the Fourth of July in the states!

My newly discovered fabulous cousin, D (not that I didn't know he was my cousin, I just didn't know how awesome he was before), came by on a cross-country road trip with his friend J. So we spent Friday hiking and swimming and then decided to head down to the Hollywood Hills to a family friend's house for the fireworks.

The family friend is a well-known producer and has an absolutely gorgeous house with a perfect view of the Hollywood sign. The only downside is there were no firework shows close to the house. As we scanned the twinkling horizon, it was easy to mistake a blinking neon sign for a small fireworks display.

I always meet very interesting people at this house. The 4th was no exception - the crowd ranged from a young wanna-be actor who's gotten into the technical production side of the job to a woman who has traveled the world as a singer (and, by the way, dated Keanu Reeves when she was singing backup for Dogstar and currently has an interesting band called DizzyX). I felt very happy to be able to contribute my own particular brand of bizarreness - choosing to live without electricity or running water for two years. Although, every day that I stay here in California makes it harder to imagine going back to my village.

In Peace Corps updates, my passport has been created, so now it's just up to Togo to decide whether they want to grant me another visa. Do they want me back? ...

03 July 2009

take a hike!

Yesterday, my sister and I found a gorgeous King Snake on the trail into Wildwood Park. It was beautiful, stretched out on the top of a hill, sunning itself. Of course, it inspired us into a mini-flurry of activity as I scooped up our dog Hunny's contribution to the cycle of life and L re-fastened her leash around her neck. Hunny is suicidally curious about things like poisonous snakes.

About a week ago, L and another sister, C, and I went on a hike off the normal trails to get to a cool cave hidden in the side of one of the hills. It was much less precarious than it felt - and only about a 45 minute easy walk/hike from our house. I love being able to wander the beautiful trails in California. The scent of sage is so comforting and homey to me.

Also, L has a plan that if there's ever a big disaster or war, we could all live in this cave. Awesome.

So have some beautiful pictures of a California adventure.