25 December 2009

Christmas in village

25 December 2009

Christmas in village
I actually spent Christmas Eve with volunteer friends, making lots of yummy foods – much of it put together thanks to generous packages from friends and family in the states. We had salad with eggs and bacon bits, sausage and cheese on bread appetizers, Christmas-tree shaped pasta with mushroom sauce, and three grilled pintades (guinea fowl) yum!

This morning I made what I consider to be my family’s traditional Christmas breakfast: baked green apple french toast. Yum. Basically, I just bought bread, cut it into 2” thick slices, laid it in a pan, then poured a mixture of egg and milk over it, put apple slices on top and liberally sprinkled cinnamon and brown sugar over the apples. Then I baked it until the egg was all cooked. We made a really scrumptious (fake) cream cheese icing to drizzle over it.
I’m trying to space out the presents I’ve received in the mail – so I just opened one from my Grandmother – a lovely little Nativity set.
I arrived back in village around noon, changed into my new Christmas complet that Da E made for me as a surprise. Then I stuffed my gifts into my bike bags like a sporty Santa and pedaled over to E’s house. I was dead tired after having stayed up late chatting, but it was a lovely low-key lunch – fufu with tomato sauce

and papaya for dessert. My contribution was the money to buy a chicken. I set up my new Nativity set on the corner of the table and put on my favorite Christmas album – the Mediaeval Baebes “Mistletoe and Wine.”
After the meal, I gave E and her two kids little gifts – pagne for E, crayons, a coloring book and a bracelet/toy car to S and E, respectively. Then I crashed – as the sky got dark, threatening rain, I pedaled home for a nice long full-stomach Christmas nap. I didn’t wake up until E stopped by with tonight’s meal – rice with spicy tomato sauce. Sweet! I don’t have to cook. I ate a couple of mouthfuls and then got dressed and headed across the street for the choral concert at the Baptist Church.
In addition to singing with the Chorale, I agreed to sing a last-minute solo. No one told me I’d be first on the program! So I put on my brave face, grabbed a good luck hug from a tiny child, and sang O Holy Night into the acoustically void cement and tin-roof church. It was fun and over quickly, and the women’s choir danced up the aisle with their opening song.

The women’s choir is a cute group – some young mothers but lots of tiny wrinkly, spunky old women. Among the volunteers we had an interesting conversation last night where we decided that older women in Togo must be in the happiest time of their lives. They’ve out-lived their pesky drunken husbands and they now have an army of children and grandchildren to do all the housework. So they’re free to do as they please. And it pleases lots of them to sing and dance with abandon and joy

17 December 2009

Holiday Correspondence Match

16 December 2009

Dear 7th grade history classes,
I’m not sure you’ll get this before Christmas, but you can be sure that I was thinking of you!
Christmas in Togo is about the opposite of what Christmas is “supposed” to be = it’s dry season, super hot (easily in the 90’s all night), there are tons of mangoes falling from the trees (I eat about 4 mangoes a day!), and no one’s singing Christmas carols – except for my English classes!
Last year I taught them Jingle Bells and Silent Night. It was fun, but not what one could call “pretty” – a cacophony of notes and mumbled words until the students reached a word they were sure of – like “Jingle” or “peace.” This year I got to help them really master the songs which is particularly fun for me as singing is probably my favorite thing to do.
Did I mention that I joined the choir of the church next door to me? It’s by turns really fun and tearing-my-hair-out frustrating. It’s bad enough not knowing the melodies or the words – but I don’t even know what the words mean! Have you ever tried memorizing a series of nonsense syllables? It’s really hard. For example:
tchi tre na yesu. nuseto akpe kaka fia ye fia ye mawu kplom
Trying saying that three times fast. Then put it to music! Yikes!
Anyway, my trials with choir in Ewe make me much more sympathetic to my English classes – they get much better at the songs in their last year of collège (3eme – which is approximately 9th/10th grade) It’s not because their voices are bertter, it’s just because they now have had 4 years learning English, so they’re much more likely to understand what they’re trying to sing.
Today was my last day of classes before the holiday (congé in French) so I had a little party with my students in 4eme and 3eme. I brought the big packet of beautiful Christmas cards that last year’s 7th graders sent me (I didn’t receive them until September, how crazy is that?!?!) I handed out the cards to the students and they took turns reading them out loud to each other. I had to explain some words like “awesome”, “sooooooo”, and “Hanukkah”. Then we sang Christmas songs and took pictures (which I’ve attached to this email).
My plans for Christmas this year involve staying close to my village. My friend in the big town near me is hosting a get-together on Christmas Eve (I’ve got lots of fun stocking stuffers to exchange thanks to the package my family just sent me). Then on Christmas itself, I’ll be back in village to have a big feast with my Togolese friends among the tailors and apprentices. Speaking of, my best friend in village, V, just passed her exam to become a couturière, that’s French for tailor. I’m so excited for her, she’s worked so hard!
For our meal on Christmas, I’m planning to buy a chicken for about 3000CFA (about 5 dollars) and we’ll all share together. V’s promised to make rice with red pepper sauce – it won’t be much like what you’ll be eating at home!
Have a Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Solstice, Merry Christmas, and an awesome New Year!,


Dear Rose...

15 December 2009

A selection of Christmas wishes I was sent last year... They didn’t arrive until September. (I got lots- these are the “most special” ones)

Merry Christmas. Wishing you the best of wishes! :)

I thank you for taking your time to telling us so far about your experience so far in Togo. I really hope you have a Merry Christmas and I wish you a HAPPY A NEW YEAR!!!

I know how hard it is to have Christmas away from home so I hope you try to make your Christmas the best it can be.

Hallo there! ... You are in Africa... that be cool. And nice. And wayy more than I would do to help out. (u.u.) Togo is so random though... randomness is rad. Very very rad. Wow... I’m getting off topic. And this is in sharpie, so I can’t erase it. Or scratch it out. ‘Cause that would look bad. Bot now I feel bad, ‘cause you probably dun get a lot of cards... and now it’s ruined. And for some odd reason we’re watching a movie in class. It’s fun. : D. It’s Mulan. And they’re singing! XD... and their bathing this chick. Ew. :1 Anyways... your still in Africa. And it’s still c ool. And nice. I be respecting you. O.o... Ughh. Sory for the internet faces. I IM/text a lot. Hahaha, sometimes I text my bestie in class. He’s sooo cool. And he be ignoring someone else. Makes meh feel special. Blah. Off-topic-ness. Anyways My hand hurts. Marry Christmas. <3

Thank you for answering our class’s questions!!!!! :) Life seems alot different in Togo! I don’t know how you survive! You inspire me soooooooo much!! I always say “If Rose can live in Togo, then I can do anything!” But I also think it would be cool to live with a whole bunch of native Africans! Well, I hope you have fun in Africa. Keep writing. Ttyl

Merry Christmas! I hope you are enjoying Togo! I understand how hard it is being away from home. I lived in Europe for 2 years in Portugal and Switzerland. It was very hard but it must be great to know you are doing a great thing

I know this isn’t the best card but I had little time and little supplies. But as what I made the card for is Christmas so... Merry Christmas! and A Happy New Year!

Hi. I just wanted to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
I know it is summer there but I could not think of anything [other than a snowman] to put in the middle [of the card]. ... My parents are originally form South Africa. They were both borne in Cape Town and all of my family lives in South Africa except for my cousins that live in [the states] and my cousin that lives in [the UK].
I love cats we have 4 at my house. All of the cats we own are rescue cats, their names are Bella, Buster, Nala and Ebony. Ebony is our most recent addition we found her on the street and took her, she is mostly black but has some white on her. All of are other cats we got from a lady that rescues cats. Nala was found in someone’s yard when she she about 4 days old. She is grey and white. Buster is my cat we do not really now his story but he is a pure white and long-haried. Bella was found with he brothers and sisters on the side of the street. they only took her to see if the mother cats were dead.

Merry Christmas
R – Radiant
O – OMG you are so nice
S – Sincer
E – Evan though your far away we love you

I hope you have a happy and safe Christmas I would love to visit Africa some day.

Merry Christmas! I hope you have a great holiday! May you still experience holiday cheer in Togo!

I hope you have a great Christmas. I know I will. Anyway Merry Christmas!

Happy Holiday, have a freezin’, pleasin’, holiday season

Merry Christmas! It is soooo amazing that you are in Africa! I hope you have a happy Christmas!

What do you want to do when you first come back to America?

Have a Merry Christmas! When I went to Africa last Christmas we had an Acacia tree for our Christmas tree. It was so cool! Well, have a great Christmas

I hope you have an amazing Christmas! Thank you for writing us! We really enjoy hearing what your life is like... <3 always

10 December 2009

A reassurance

I haven't blogged in a while because I've been working and running around and seriously freaking out about the LSAT.
I put up what I wrote the day after the LSAT. Please don't take this blog entry as my typical mood here. I promise most of the time I'm quite happy and excited about my work and busy busy busy.

miss you all!
Hope you had a brilliant thanksgiving.

06 December 2009

LSAT stress

6 December 2009

Having a tough morning. I think I might be suffering from post-traumatic stress after taking the LSAT yesterday. I keep crying at everything – when I found out the supermarket wouldn’t open till 11, when I couldn’t find peanuet butter to buy, when I couldn’t figure out the best way to get to Togo. And now I’m sitting in the back of a taxi! Waiting for it to fill so we can head out. I’m shaking and sobbing into a handkerchief that I just bought because I left my new soft lovely one in the last taxi (that made me cry too) And I just got harassed for a full five minutes by a teenage boy who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and want to go to Togo “ensemble.”
Even the act of trying to find a place to show my backpack has me crying. This is disturbing.
As for the LSAT, I’m not supposed to say anything, so let the fact that two out of the five Americans taking the test with me have decided to cancel their test before receiving their scores speak for itself.
I’ve become rather pragmatic about it now that I’m back at home and night has fallen – if I did well, great, I’ve still got to figure out whether law is really what I want to do. If I didn’t do well, then I can leave that career possibility behind and move forward. Fewer options to choose from – one of the things I loved about being a vegetarian too.