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Friday, March 11, 2011

The last few months in Togo

So again I've failed to update this regularly, I think I'll just stop apologizing and admit that, well it's probably just the way it's going to go from here on out. 
Well since my last update the holidays have come and gone.  And despite the weather and lack of any sort of holiday spirit floating around, I actually really enjoyed the holidays.  For Christmas eve I had 3 of my closest neighbors over for dinner and we all cooked dinner together, made spiced wine (well as best as we could), and listened to Christmas music together.  It actually felt a little like the holidays.  My friends stayed at my house after dinner while I decided to make the trek across town to go to the midnight mass at the catholic church.  It took everything in me to not fall asleep during the mass and actually make it to the end at 1:30 a.m.! The next day we had a great breakfast of french toast and scrambled eggs together before everyone slowly started heading back to their own villages. Once they were all gone I had lunch at my friend's house, then just meandered around town handing out these chocolate peanut clusters I had made to the people I'm closest with in village.  Then that afternoon there was of course camu (traditional dance). I was told it was to start at 3 p.m. at the catholic school.  My friend called me around 3:30 asking if I was going to the dance and I told her I was on my way. I arrived around 4 p.m. and there was just about no one there.  Worried I had missed it, I called my friend back asking where she was and confirming that I was in fact at the catholic school.  I was in the right place, and yes it was in fact starting late, very late.  So waiting for it to start I took a seat at a random bench that was sitting there and naturally a calabash of Tchouk appeared in my hands within minutes. After a few minutes of waiting several groups of dancers started arriving from all different directions. Then before I knew it, camu was in full swing! For a little over an hour everyone was just dancing in a circle around the drums.  To my surprise the women were dressed as men and the men were dressed as women.  When I asked why this was the case I was told “because it’s Christmas, we do the same for New Years, you’ll see”.  When I then asked why so many people were carrying suitcases I was told “because they’re old suitcases, don’t you see”.  After a calabash or two I was eventually persuaded to join the dancers and was immediately given a pair of castanets and found myself dancing around the circle with my friend from the micro-finance office clanging my castanets and completely surrounded by a herd of children. Once the dust became too much my friends and I decided to all start heading home and thus was the end of Christmas in Togo! 
For the next few days not much really happened.  I met up with a few friends in Kara the day after Christmas and spent some time at the pool but other than that it was basically just waiting till New Years Eve.  For NYE I once again stayed in village my closest neighbor Joni came out to spend the evening with me.  We had dinner at my house, hung out a bit and then headed over to the hotel for their NYE party. I was told the party started at 8 p.m. but to not get there till 9 or so.  We ended up arriving around 10 or 10:30 and were about the 3rd and 4th people to arrive.  We grabbed a drink and sat down and watched as a 7 year old girl just took over the dance floor by herself.  She was adorable and quite a good dancer.  I grew attached to her and later in the night met her dad and asked him where she learned to dance and he told me from watching t.v.  She fell asleep in my arms at the end of the night and I wanted to take her home!  But before all of that, after we watched her dance for a bit my friend in village showed up and told us we needed to go have a drink at another bar that was near by and then we’d return to the hotel’s party.  It was at this point 11 p.m. so it seemed a little odd to leave our new years eve party so close to midnight, but we obliged and headed over to the other bar.  Turns out it was a bar I had no idea even existed in town and is a pretty cool place.  We wound up doing our midnight countdown at that bar, and by we I mean Joni and myself, and once we finished our drinks went back to the hotel.  We stayed at the hotel for quite a while and eventually made it back to my house.  The next day we went over to my friends house and had lunch, after which Joni headed back to her village and I just roamed around town greeting people, participated a bit in the New Years camu, and eventually wondered back home and hung out with my host family that evening.  And thus the holidays in Togo came to an end.  All said and done, I’m glad I stayed in village for both holidays, it may not have been what I’m used to and what I love in the holidays but it was a good time nonetheless and everyone welcomed me into their homes without any hesitation.  
Since the holidays my schedule seems to have finally calmed down a bit and I feel like I’m finally starting some bit of work.  At the end of January I started my women’s group which will meet once a month and I’ll train them on a new topic every month and we’ll also discuss women’s rights and how we can help the young girls in the schools.  The first meeting I went over feasibility studies and we discussed some of my ideas for reaching out to the young girls in school.  I’ve also just started my computer classes for the teachers at the high school and my adult english lessons.  I’m still continuing my English clubs in the schools, but for the middle schools the attendance is little to no one so I’m getting rather frustrated with them.  Aside from that I’m still working on compiling information on Togo to make a country guide and am working with club espoir in Kara once a month.  We have a couple of camps over the summer that I’m now trying to apply for as I want to participate as a counselor and also trying to find participants I can nominate from my village. When I actually talk about what I’m working on it never seems like much, yet some how I always feel so busy and like I never have enough time to do anything that I need to do.  I do however spend a lot of my time doing housework between boiling water, hand washing my laundry, washing dishes, sweeping, washing the floors, dusting, moving water from one bin to another, washing out my water bins, etc.  Being here really does make you realize how much time we gain by having machines do so much for us and just by having running water even.  
In mid February after club Espoir I headed down to Lome with Mary, a volunteer about an hour north of Kara who came in country the same time as me and is one of my closest friends here. I had to have a few tests run (nothing serious!) and also just wanted to get back south to visit Tamara and my host family in Tsevie.  A big group of us wound up being in Lome together so a bunch of us went out for valentine’s day together and splurged on some really good pizza and mediocre wine. That afternoon though, Mary and I took advantage of the Ambassador’s open invitation to PCVs to come and use her swimming pool.  It was an awesome pool and we had it to ourselves. It was the perfect temperature and so clean, it was great!  We also found strawberries and excitedly bought a demi kilo, not really knowing how many strawberries that would be.  We paid too much for them but it’s funny what becomes a splurge when you give up so much.  We very excitedly brought them to the pool with us thinking this was going to be the best idea ever.  As I pulled them out and was just about to bite into the first one I realized we hadn’t washed/bleached them (as we have to do with all fruit you don’t peel).  We weighed our choices of risking getting sick or enjoying our expensive strawberries and very sadly wound up putting them up and deciding we’d try to figure out how to bleach them back at the hotel.  We wound up just having to take them with us when we left Lome the next day.  She was headed back to Kara and I was headed to Tsevie for a few days.  So thankfully I only had to wait one day to finally enjoy my delicious little strawberries.  
I wound up spending 3 nights in Tsevie where I was able to catch up with Tamara and spend an afternoon with my host family.  As always it was great to see them all and I had a great time.  I got to see a little of the work Tamara is doing and got some of my own work done as well as relax a little.  I also unfortunately/fortunately received the news from some tests done in Lome that I had Amoebas.  Good news in that I know something was in fact causing my diarrhea and I could now take medicine for it.  Bad in that well Amoebas I had been told are no fun.  It hadn’t been as bad as other people had described it so far, so I wasn’t too concerned though.  I was originally planning on leaving on Thursday so that I could make sure I was back in village by Friday night at the latest since I had my computer classes starting on Saturday morning.  And since one never knows how long a bush taxi is going to take it’s usually best to give yourself more than enough time to arrive and in my case since getting to my village from Kara after about 5 p.m. can be tricky it’s best if I give my self an extra day in case I have to spend the night in Kara.  However, I talked myself into staying Thursday night and leaving extra early on Friday taking a chance that I would get a good bush taxi and make it home before dark.  And thankfully I did for once get a fairly decent bush taxi.  It was never too crowded and didn’t make too many stops between Tsevie and Kara and I wound up making it to Kara by about 3 p.m.  Unfortunately though, on our way up the mountain in to Kara we passed two big semis that had tipped over and sadly with the second one we came across the man I assume to be the driver was lying next to the vehicle dead with just a t-shirt put over his face.  It was the first dead body I’ve seen and it was rather creepy.  Yet I found my self not being as shocked as I feel I should have been and I couldn’t stop staring at it as we drove by it ever so slowly. 
I happily arrived back in village before night fall, had time to catch up with a few of my friends in village, unpack, relax, and go to bed at a normal hour.  Early the next morning I got up, packed up my stuff and biked out to the high school to start my computer classes with the professors.  Much to my dismay they didn’t show up and the director of the school told me to start my classes the next week.  Frustrated that I was so stressed the day before about making it home in time for the classes only to have them cancel on my without notice I was discouraged from doing anything else the rest of the day and pretty much did nothing the rest of the day.  Sunday evening was then to be the start of my adult english lessons.  And yet again to my dismay no one showed.  So needless to say I was in a very discouraged mood and had no desire to work the whole week following and honestly did very little for several days after that other than personal stuff.  I visited Madjatom’s monday market which is the large market on the border of Togo and Benin.  Wound up spending all day there on Monday and on Tuesday I went to another border town for the second part of a funeral for my friend’s mother’s husband.  Upon returning from that around 12 on Tuesday I was then invited to go back to that general area for another funeral.  Since I wasn’t in a mood to work, I accepted and headed back to the border area to see another funeral.  Unfortunately they weren’t doing any big celebrations that day (it was an 8 day event since it was for a Chef), however, just before we left I did sit down and watch them slaughter a giant cow that had been killed before our arrival.  I watched in amazement as they cut up every single piece of the cow and divided it amongst the various elite of the village.  I reflected back on my first time in France when at the age of 17 I watched my host family slaughter and skin a sheep in front of me with complete disgust and wanting nothing to do with watching that.  And here I now was 12 years later willingly watching as these men were not only skinning the cow but cutting up all of it’s parts and even cutting open the stomach and intestines right in front of me.  
Within the last month I also had my dog neutered.  When I talked to the vet about it, he said he’d come to my house to do it but to make sure that I had two strong men with me to hold my dog down.  I told him I didn’t know how to ask two men to come do that for me so he said he’d bring two.  He wound up not showing up on the day he was supposed to come but came the next day instead.  His reason for not showing the day before was that his son had been kidnapped to be brought to Nigeria.  They had thankfully caught him and the son was returned but he was busy with the police all day.  I couldn’t believe he was still showing up at my house so soon to do the operation and I had no idea what to say to him.  He was so nonchalant about it was strange.  But apparently since we’re a border town that happens a lot here so I guess they’re not as shocked by it.  Anyway, with my dog chained up and the two men holding him down I stood there and watched as they neutered my dog.  I don’t know why I watched and I don’t know why I wasn’t more disgusted by it.  
I think it’s now clear I’ve become too desensitized and perhaps a true PCV.

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