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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Photos posted!

Posted an album on facebook, find them here!

If you can't access them let me know and I'll try to post them somewhere else next time.  Will try to do the captions next time too so you know what you're looking at.  

Random thoughts from Togo

So a story I forgot to mention in my last blog was that I have had yet another meal where I had to watch my meat killed in front of me before eating it.  It happened during post visit on one of my last days my counterpart decided to cook lunch for me.  She asked me if I ate chicken and I said I only eat it if it’s very well cooked.  I immediately regretted it and wished I had said I only eat tofu; I knew what would be coming after I said I eat chicken.  She had me over to her place, where I saw her son kill the chicken, then drain the blood, then bring it over to us where she plucked it in front of me and then ripped it to pieces with her hand and a knife throwing the pieces into the pan on the fire.  Thankfully after preparing my lunch for me she sent me home with what she prepared so I at least could pick at the chicken and only eat what I wanted from what she gave me and didn’t have to hide any disgusted face that I might make.  The chicken was horrible, but I survived and have another fun food story to add to my list!  
So far things are going good and I’m managing to keep myself fairly busy despite not really being able to work on any projects.  I mostly just go out and meet with people just to get to know them before really starting to work with them.  So far I’ve met with the  group of women who make soap and watched them make soap, met with the group of weavers and watched/chatted with them for a while (they’ll be my main focus once I get going on projects), and met with the group of women who make shea butter and watched them make their product.  I’m returning next Monday to see the beginning process of the shea butter since I missed it this week.  I’ll then be meeting with the Social Affaires office next Monday too to discuss how I can work with them on their projects since they often do many of the same type of projects that I would do.  Then next Thursday I’m going to sit in the office of the micro-finance institution here to see how they work and see if there is anything I can do there to help.  Other than that it’s a lot of just walking around town, visiting the market, and exploring some to see what all is in my town.  Tuesday of this week I road my bike to my closest neighbor’s house, which is 15 km (9 miles) away from my house. It was a beautiful and pleasant bike ride and one I hope to do often.  Little bit of a challenge with a few hills but considering how hilly it is in my area it’s pretty flat between our two towns so that’s good.  I spent the night at her house and then hung out with her the next day and another volunteer who had come up and then hit up her market that afternoon as she has one of the largest markets in country and I can get fruit there and have more veggie options at her market than in mine.  Then rode my bike back and just hung out at home the rest of the night.  Friday I went to my second closest neighbor’s house, which is about 24 km (15 miles) away on the same road as my closest neighbor’s house and in the direction of our regional capital (Kara).  She informed me how I can set up my own compost pile and plant my own garden.  She also fed me an awesome lunch and baked me m&m cookies!  Afterwards I continued on to Kara for a meeting with other volunteers to plan Club Espoir which is a club for kids who are infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS.  Then this morning we had the club for the kids.  It’s a monthly event which I hope I can participate in often in the future.  It was really fun watching the kids play and have a good time.  
I still don’t have my furniture but hope to get some pieces within a week and a half.  I can’t wait till I have it all, especially my bed.  I don’t sleep to well on my cot, or maybe it’s the heat and strange noises, or just a combo of it all.  My time here is really going to be a test of my patience as everything is at a much slower pace here and just overall difficulties in communication with the people here.  They tend to 1. speak in generalities or be very vague, which is very frustrating at times. (Ex: The other day he came by your house and you weren’t there.  Who? When? Why????) 2. Give you a response to a question even though they have no idea (Ex: We’ll have your electricity installed tomorrow. Me: Oh really, the electrician is coming tomorrow?  Togolese: Oh I don’t know, we should ask.) 3. call us all whitey, which is really annoying coming from adults, but can be cute coming from kids.  They have the word Yovo which is the southern word for White person/foreigner and then up North they have Anasara which means the same thing.  That’s what the kids call us all and then they have their song “Yovo, Yovo, bonsoir, ca va bien, MERCI!” It’s cute coming from kids, but is rather annoying and seems more derogatory coming from adults.  But what really annoys me is when they straight up call us Whitey by calling out “La Blanche” or “Les Blancs” when we walk down the street.  I ignore those calls and refuse to respond to them. They can call out Madame if they don’t know me and want to get my attention, that I will respond to.  I’m also making the effort to stop and tell all the kids that I don’t like Anasara and that my name is Kristine or Cililo (my Kabye name).  They’re slowly catching on and starting to call my by one of my names instead of Anasara.  Hopefully with time I can get most of them to stop the Anasaras. What’s funny is they think anyone who isn’t black all looks the same and they can’t tell us apart very well.  So whoever replaces me will be called by my names for probably a very long time.  Just as I was called Stephanie when I first arrived in Tsevie, since that was the volunteer who stayed at my house before me and walked the same path I walked.  It took a while but I finally got most of the kids to start calling me by my name.  I also finally heard the story of why they call the used clothing stores (the stores that sell clothes that come from our Good Will and Salvation Army stores) dead Yovo stores. Apparently huge shipments come in, I think to Ghana, of all of our discarded clothes which to the Togolese are all in very good condition. Not understanding why anyone would give up such nice clothes and so many of them, they assume that the person who owned them must have died.  So they purchase the clothes to resell in Togo in dead Yovo stores.  This becomes more humorous as you see everyone walking around in these types of western clothing, yet what’s funny here is that they don’t understand the shirts or clothing.  So you see lots of people wearing shirts that have English writing on it that is actually really humorous on the person.  An example is that my closest neighbor Virginia one day saw a large Togolese man wearing a bright pink shirt that said “Daddy’s little Princess”.  Everyone seems to have seen these types of spottings, yet I haven’t had the pleasure of catching any shirts like that but I’m on the look out!  I do see lot’s of funny hats on people here though that have come from our discarded clothing.  Like santa hats on men working in the fields or like this week my host brother wearing a little kids hat that had puppy ears on it (he’s 24).  It usually brings a smile to my face, so I really enjoy these sightings.  Although it is also a reminder of how wasteful Americans can be and how much we really do get rid of even though it is still in wearable shape.  But at least someone is getting use out of it still.  
Well this post really just turned out to be a mess of my random thoughts over the last few months.  Moving forward I’ll try to blog a little more frequently, or at least have them written and ready to post on my computer more often so that they flow a little better!  

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Officially a volunteer!

So training was pretty busy and often the network was down when I went to the internet cafe or I just chose to go play ultimate frisbee with friends or have a beer instead of getting on the super slow computers, so sorry for the lack of any updates over the last several weeks!  So as of last week I officially finished training and was sworn in as a volunteer and packed up and sent off up country to my little house in Pagouda.  I've been there a week now today and so far all is well.  I have no furniture, just my cot and my gas stove and two wooden chairs I'm borrowing from my host family.  But I have ordered all my furniture and am just waiting on it to be made.  Should have the first 3 pieces on the 30th of August and then the rest will come in Sept.  Still trying to figure out how to get electricity installed in my house, so until then I have to travel about an hour to get to the internet cafe so I probably won't come too often.  Also just because money is a little tight and I tend to spend a lot of money here in the regional capital since I can get so much here I can't get anywhere else; like white cake or chocolate croissants I discovered earlier this week!!!! 

Being in my house has been nice for controlling my eating and getting to cook for myself and eat what I want instead of depending on others to cook for me and being forced to eat what they cook.  You'll all be happy to hear I ate liver and goat at my host family's house and even tried a tiny bit of fish which if you saw the fish here you'd understand just how big of a step that was for me!  But now I'm doing my own cooking so it's a lot of tofu (yay I can get it from my neighbor who makes it at her house!), spagetti, rice, and beans (yes I eat beans now for the sake of getting protein!). I did manage to make tofu fried rice with the soy sauce I found in Lomé the other day and it came out great so I'm really excited now!  I need to start controlling my portions though, I've gotten a little out of hand thanks to how much they fed me during training with my host family!  It's also now more of a challenge to find fruit and veggies up in my village so I really need to watch what I'm eating and make sure I'm getting my nutrients however I can.  So far so good though thanks to the tofu and the bit of veggies I can find and the bananas! 

As for my house I have a fairly sizable house, 3 rooms, one large living/dining room and two bedroom type rooms.  One will be my bedroom, the other will be my kitchen/bathroom/storage room.  I have an outdoor latrine (closed in with a roof and lock) and shower, and that's the only downside really to my house. Otherwise it's very spacious and nice and now that the drop ceiling is in place I don't have to worry too much about mice or other insects coming in from the tin roof.  Will post pictures whenever I'm able to get my own computer online. 

Other than that not much going on.  I have to stay in region for the first three months and am not supposed to work really.  So I don't have a whole lot to do most days, just work on getting my house set up and getting to know the town. I'm starting to do some meet and greet meetings and just sit and watch the work that people do do. However; we're in the rainy season and no one works when it rains so a lot of times things are cancelled due to the rain. Can't wait to come back to the U.S. and explain that I can't work today because of the rain!  There's also a coming of age ceremony going on for young boys in my town that has been going on for a while. They go up to the mountain and dance all day then come down and dance through town in the late afternoon with the boys participating in the ceremony wearing big headresses with, wait for it; baby dolls or stuffed animals in the center of the headress!  I have pics and hope to post as well once I can get my own computer hooked up to the internet.  This ceremony though is another excuse of why nothing is getting down in town.  But it's all good and it's entertaining to watch. 

Well must go, hopefully my next post won't be so long from now!