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Saturday, July 30, 2011

1 year in and still going!

      Well as always, it’s a been quite a while since I’ve last blogged.  I’m not sure why but I just never feel in the mood to blog.  It often feels that I have nothing to talk about even though I’m sure a lot of what does happen here could be considered interesting.  For me it just feels normal and not all that interesting anymore.  Also there’s just been a lot going on over the last few months.  Since my last blog my closest neighbor early terminated her service, I had my 30th birthday in Togo, I went on safari in Benin, assisted with a women’s conference in Kpalime, celebrated our one year in country mark and with that welcomed the newest arrival of volunteers (can’t believe that was me last year!), helped train the new volunteers for a week and a half, was a coordinator and counselor for Camp Espoir, went to Rabat, Morocco for 4 days, sent two apprentices and one student to camp UNITE, partook in the Evala (wrestling festival) festivities in Kara, and eventually made it back to village after an almost two month absence from my post.  And with my arrival back to Pagouda I feel as though I’ve hit my mid service crisis.  I have little to no desire to do any sort of Peace Corps work and feel that in the years time that I’ve been here I’m managed to accomplish nothing that would actually improve the life of anyone in my village.  So for the last week that I’ve been in village I’ve spent my time working on my house, installing a gutter, getting my gazebo cemented and planting flowers around it, working my field (yes, field! my host family gave me some land in front of my house that I’m planting stuff on), cleaning like crazy, or just sitting around drinking Tchouk with friends in village or reading at the house.  I keep telling myself that tomorrow I’ll start back up on some work, but it just isn’t happening. I’m hoping soon I can motivate myself to get back to work.  I’ve talked to other volunteers who arrived at the same time as me and it seems many of us are all going through the same thing.  So at least I’m not alone! 
We’re also now in rainy season, it’s not raining every day yet, but still raining pretty frequently.  Last year I couldn’t stop praising rainy season for how easy it was to get free water and how it cooled everything down.  This year I’m only seeing the negative sides to rainy season.  Yes, water is easy to come by which is great considering water is often a problem for people, and yes it is much cooler and even “cold” while it’s raining.  However, the roads are just giant mud pits and it makes it really hard to get anywhere, everyone is more concerned with their farms then they are with doing anything with the local peace corps volunteer, mosquitos are out of control, weeds  are everywhere and I have to spend so much time weeding in and around my yard for fear of snakes if I don’t weed my yard, and the electricity cuts off a lot more during rainy season.  And the hardest thing I’m finding with rainy season is that this is also the poor season.  Yes, my village is always poor, but this is truly poor during rainy season.  At this point most of the crops have all finished from the november/december harvest and since the rains only just now started again they’re only just now replanting.  Which means no one has food and the price of food has gone up a lot since there’s hardly anything left at this point (if you actually managed to stock pile well enough you’re doing good!).  Everyone is so concerned about their crops and buying fertilizer for their crops too but they don’t have any money for it.  So now we have the other downside of rainy/poor season, go ask your local white person for money so you can buy fertilizer.  In the last week I’ve had several people come up to me asking for money, where it’s only happened one time during my year here aside from now.  It really sucks having to tell your neighbors that no you can’t loan them money, especially when they make the plea to you saying they need to feed their family.  However, if I do it I’ll have the whole village knocking at my door asking for something.  It just makes even harder too when I’m running around village spending a lot of money right now on Tchouk, snacks, getting work done on my house, etc and I have to tell them I can’t loan them money.  I did tell one man he could weed around my house and his wife could do my laundry and I’d pay them for that work.  So that at least was helping him out some but making him work for it so it’s not just a hand out.  I guess in general it’s just been tough seeing for the first time people in my village struggling to get the basic necessities.  My village is poor but not so poor that they don’t have the basic necessities in life.  Right now though, everyone is struggling and it’s hard to sit by and watch it.  Also the rains started late this year so everyone is worried about how long it’ll be until they get the first harvest. I’m hoping it all works out ok and am just doing what I know best and spending my money in village trying to support our local economy.  
So from an outsiders perspective this probably sounds like a pretty negative blog, maybe you think I’m having a really rough time right now.  I want to assure you all that I’m fine and am still happy to be here.  I actually keep thinking about this time next year when I’ll be packing up to leave and realizing how hard it actually is going to be to leave my village.  I’ve made some good friends here and it is going to be really hard leaving them.  I feel almost guilty that I can go back to America, “the land of the good things”, and have to leave them here.  I wish I could take them with me, or at least give them a much better life.  Best I can do at this point is just enjoy this next year with them.  
And to end things on a better note, I’d like to say I’m pretty proud that in the year that I’ve spent here I’ve only gotten amoebas once, dehydrated once, and one cough/cold.  Other than that no other illnesses which compared to other volunteers I think is quite an accomplishment!  One year down and no malaria! Here’s to one more year of pretty decent health!