Monday, December 17, 2007

dreaming of a white christmas

Well I know most of you are wondering where I’ve been…lets just say out and about. I am right now sitting in the bureau of the Peace Corps lounge. I’ve just heard the Fan Milk man toot his little horn. This signals that the ice cream cart is within range where for 100cfa a pop you can get an ice cold milk treat in a sac. The heat is too much to risk leaving the air-conditioned bureau for an ice cold treat. How I feel for that Fan Milk man trying to pedal his way through the sandy pit called Lome in search of herds of Yovos with spare pocket change. One things for sure in Togo since I’ve been here. They are not starving.

At least in my region. In joining the Peace Corps I had these ideas of going to sub-saharan West Africa to help the starving children. Well not exactly but most people do have those ideas. I can honestly tell you from what I’ve seen there may not be a well balanced diet, but they are not suffering to the extent that you see on tv infomercials. It’s not that I am here to bring these people up from the depths of poverty and I am now understanding that I am really here on a cultural exchange. So as long as I reach someone and connect with my village…I will in part be doing my job.

Life in village is fine and all but lately I have been kind of fed up with a whole lot of people. The gens have been a bit too much lately. You sure can’t hide from anyone in my village and most often during the day when there are way too many teens out sitting on their ass doing nothing..because there really is nothing to do. Same with me… I am bored out of my gourd.

I have however started to formulate some idea of whay work I may be able to accomplish in village…and as time passes maybe I’ll be able to get things up and running..but as for now I am awaiting the Holiday season with Wil in tow…he arrives tout suite!!

Update: 12-16

So Wil arrives in days now and so crazy it’s been about 6 months since we parted. I can’t imagine having to go another 6 months but that’s life..I will cherish the time we will get to spend together over the holidays even if it is 12 days short-lived. I talked to him the other night to get flight info and I can just see me jumping into his arms at the airport after trying to entertain myself with quite anticipation ….

Christmas here is hard but not as hard as I may have thought. I have decorated my house with cut snowflakes and dried pepper mistletoes…popcorn garland and some wonderfully donated twinkle lights from the Baptist missionaries. The only thing different is sweating my ass off as we enter harmattan season..the dry season here in Togo. Even though all of you are home shovelin snow …layering up and making cookies and trimming the tree…..I am trying to do just as much here. I’m even jammin’ to some good ole Christmas tunes…even though I can’t stand them most you need all the reminders of the seasonal cheer you can get… The only thing missing is all that family…I am so glad to at least get Wil here with me. But it still won’t be the same without all of you. I miss you all so much..

So as for me I know I’ve mentioned earlier that village life had me on my last nerve..well it ain’t so bad lately. I feel like since I was gone for a bit with work in the capital they missed me a bit. My friends in village even want to throw a fete for when Wil gets here. I think they missed me a bit cause everyone has been more than hospitable. I even enjoy hanging out with them. I taught my omelet guy who runs a little café how to increase his menu options hoping to turn him into the next starbucks or city diner. We had a lesson in French Toast..and it was a hit. I am trying to teach him new options for what he can make with the ingredients he has on hand…so when one make egg sandwiches and move into..french toast, quiche, develied eggs, and then throw in some new things like baked goods and cakes. He recently bough a gas oven and stove along with a fridgerator which he has yet to fully utilize so I prepared a list of questions for him to think about what he can do to get the most out of these investments. That’s the problem here..they make impulse purchases once they save whatever they can because they think automatic development comes with new appliances..humm sound like our culture too? But they need to continue thinking about how this new device is going to create revenue once they pay off the expense in purchasing it. Forward thinking is not popular here. They sit in anticipation waiting for you to tell them what to do and how to do it. That is how it goes.

So other than that is the same. I have all the anticipation in the world to start my agricultural (café and cacoa) groupment on the path to Fair Trade (Commerce Equitable)…work with the artisans in Kpalime in the same manner…try to organize groupments (savings associations) among market women, some clubs with the lycee students-running-art…and all while trying to enjoy life in Togo. But the funny thing with me here is I have never felt so lazy in all my life and with such a lack of drive and motivation. I don’t know what it is about this place..can’t keep blaming it on the heat. But for some reason I am having a hard time trying to pump myself up to do anything. I miss the energy the states has..everyone in a constant progression forward. You have to try to work at these things a lot harder here while everyone sits around waiting for things to change on their own or in quiet contentment for life as it is.

I’m sorry that everytime you read my blog it seams as if quiet complaints underlind the fact that I am not enjoying life here. I do enjoy some things..other times feel I am in a prision..but I am not ready to leave..this country is forcing me to figure out things about myself ..what I want out of life and how people live outside of the little bubble of the great US of A. I am not ready to leave but hope that I can start to figure out how to increase my capacity of enjoying my time here and stop thinking of all the things I want to do and become once I leave. It’s a nice forced pause in my life since I know that if I was still in Chicago I would be running around filling my schedule with things to do. This place has slowed me down to a simple life..and I think I kinda like it. Like I’ve said before..

I’m ready for that home life…open up a bakery/café…live small and simple..without the daily grind.

Wishing you all the best this Holiday Season…I hope that Santa reaches you in good cheer….health and safety. I miss the snowflakes and gingerbread men…spicy hot cocoa from Vosges and marshmallows, sugar canes, icicle lights, smell of evergreen and even the feel of defrosting after coming in from the cold. Family and friends and giving gifts…even some of the stress associated with finding the perfect Christmas gift. first Christmas in a place far far away…where I am still in flip flops and tank tops wiping the sweat from my brow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

more to come...please stand by...

visit my flickr site to see new photos...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Il pleut?

this is a birds eye view of my home

(see more photos of mine on (search under)- The Life of Megs)
Okay so this is the raining season currently and we are not to expect the dry season until the end of December but for some reason the past 4 days we haven’t had much if an rain and I’m wanting it to pour at any moment. It’s so funny how much I love rain here. I am getting pretty good at forecasting the clouds now and can tell based on the heat and wind cycles when exactly the rain will hit again. Blossoming into a tried and true Togolaise or if anything maybe I can go into weather forecasting when I get home. So I know it’s been ages since I had another post pop up on my blog. Well I have my reasons. I have been unable to leave my village to use the internet in another village until the elections for Togo’s legislative body are over. Well they are over now, and all is calm and nothing has changed. As they say here “Rien Changes.”
It is easier for me to breakdown my updates into categories for fear that if I don’t you will hear a lot of babbling and ranting…but to let you know..I am doing well. One day I’m up …one day I’m down, this trip is an endless rollercoaster through victory and struggle. Peace Corps said it and man they were right..”the toughest job you’ll ever love” When I was back in the states if I had a bad day at work I would go home, vent to Wil, maybe go for a relaxing run along the lakefront. Heck, even get out a bottle of wine and have a nice dinner and lose myself to the moving pictures on a tv screen and the reality that I could pause my life to be immersed into another. Here…. You have a hard time finding that pause button. Here, I don’t have my boyfriend, my family, all things familiar and within easy access…no place where I can run and not be watched, “yovo’ed” …I have too much time and space for reflection. If you know me well..that could be a bad thing. Here one has too much time to think about themselves, what they are doing, what they need to do, what they want to do, how they should do they are viewed by all of the village..and the list goes on. A lack of structure in the program really makes a person look inside to develop. I know I am going to get a lot out of this experience but man oh man….I can’t wait until it get’s a bit more comfortable. Another problem is that I need to create the program myself. Peace Corps does a good job of training and making resources available but once you get into village and if you are not taking over for a volunteer who is leaving some work to be finished you really have to start from scratch. In that it means that I need to get to know people in my village I can trust and also try to figure out what type of advise I can give to people who are afraid of change and only think things will work if money was involved. They live day to day here so new ideas are not a thought because it means investment and how do you invest in something that you have no idea will work, when you have no way of obtaining the capital for it either. It’s a risk.
Work life:
Since the elections are finally over (well not quite yet..still recounting the votes) I will start my work with my main counterpart in Adeta. I am hoping to set up an office in their bureau so I can get out of the house more often. I don’t know how anyone who works from home doesn’t feel like a shut-in. Maybe not in the states, where most people are but here..when I stay at home reviewing materials I feel like the village thinks I am avoiding them. In reality I need to prepare for them. I read up on my French every day and will someday start tutoring if I need it. The organization that I will be working with deals with farmers of café and cacao. I need to help them in the way they organize their office and would also like to help them in the development of a better production of coffee bean. The organization is basically a cooperative where all these farmers gather to determine selling price, buying price, discuss buying and using fertilizers and also do stock age. They work in a very democratic way and I have been impressed by their structure. I would love to help them increase whatever capacity they can while here in Togo. I talk to them about the difficulties of export, and the reasons why many Americans buy their coffee from South America, and other regions where the beans are more robust and richer. They are very interested in wanting to have their crops reach a larger export market. And for the most part find a way to directly export their grain to the European countries that currently buy it from Togo. Erase the middle-man. Which is hard to do in a country where individual farmers and let alone groupments or cooperatives/unions don’t have the capital to sell directly. Also, as of now a lot of the grain gets shipped to neighboring countries to be processed and sold. There are very few places in Togo that roast and grind the grains, and even then …they sell it locally to a small population in the capital and larger cities. In Togo, even though coffee is a big crop, the people here drink imported instant “Nescafe.” There is not a strong capacity for production and their grains cannot compete with other familiar and long popular coffee that comes from other countries. If anyone has any way to send me different tips and tools on what I can teach them by way of developing and harvesting better crop, both café and cacoa…I would be very grateful. With the lack of internet..”google?” and books and resources, my teaching is only from what I currently know. So if anything can be is some requests…
Samples of different coffee beans…with the name and origin.- (whole grain, or even bags of ground grain)
A small coffee grinder
A moka pot and/or French press
Books and literature on coffee growing and how to create a stronger flavor, better grain.
Information on roasting, grinding and processing.
Information on “Free-Trade” products (even, sending me bags of coffee and cacoa products from Whole Foods, Starbucks and other coffee shop chains to see current market trends and desires)
Any experience and insight that is out there…I know a lot of you who love your coffee so send me any info and tools you maybe one day you’ll be drinking a hot cop of Togo Joe.

Updates on fun times”

On a lighter note.. I will finally get to see my boyfriend in 2 months and counting.. I can’t tell you how excited I am. He will be here on the 18th of December to spend a mere two weeks with me over Christmas. It’s not much but I’ll take it. This has been a hard 5 months being so far apart but we are doing great.
I have become a baker since my time here. I bake scones almost every other day in my little Dutch oven. (Basically a pot on top of my gas burner) I can’t tell you how amazing they are here and much better than any I’ve made in the States. You are really missing out! I even told Wil of my thoughts of coming home after all of this and opening a bakery…yup..Megan’s love of food has driven her to the point of wanting to be a baker. That’s what Africa has done to her thus far.
I am settling in well and have been going out more often with a small group of friends I have made here. I met a lot of people through an ONG (NGO) FAGAD, a French ONG that works with development and activities for young children here in Togo, some orphans of AIDS. I got a chance to meet a great Japanese girl before she finished up and left for home, and am currently hanging out with a girl from France who has helped me with my French and I have consulted her on her English. She’s great and I invite her over for coffee and scones and just to share our languages. She thinks it crazy how long I will be here, sometimes reminding myself of the same thought. She will leave at the end of October as many of the volunteers that work there only stay for a couple weeks-months at a time.
If anything I have to realize that this is a truly worldly experience that I am having here and should embrace it. Not many people could make this work and I know I can. It’s rough even though my housing conditions are great. It’s hard being alone in a foreign country. This is the first time I’ve lived in my own place and the funny thing is how extreme I’ve made it by not only living alone, but I am all alone in a village that doesn’t speak my language or can relate in any way to my way of life. It’s strange how things work here…especially emotions. I will have to reassure you that I only had one crying outburst since I’ve been here so no I am not sitting here in a fit of depression. I am loving many days and hating others, getting excited about learning new things and then wanting to escape from it all and hide. It is day to day here. Overall I am not ready to leave and know that I still have so much work to do here and so much to learn and gain from this experience.

I wanted to send some thanks out to all of you who have sent me care packages. I can’t express how much it helps to get pieces from home. I will try to mail out cd’s of photos and letters as soon as possible to all of you. Since it may be easier than trying to post things to a blog with an internet connection that runs at a rate of circa 1992.
Mom- the package was wonderful and I loved everypart of it…you are the best mom I could have ever wished for.
Carolyn, Hugh-I can’t thank you enough for everything, you guys are and forever will be part of my family.
Kate, Joe and the gang- That package was perfect and unexpected…thanks sooo much
Jules- I’ve got your wonderful letters, news updates and made those combos last a full week of cheesy goodness. I need your address and hope you are well in China. I’ll try to send something your way..sweetie! And I just found out the news and couldn’t be more happier for you two! I wish I was there to express a big round of congrats!!! Hearing that news makes me miss Wil even more, you two are truly lucky for one another, never forget it!
Heather, Louise and gang- Thanks so much for the goodies.. I will be mailing you the Subway Coupons from the Reeses wrappers. Since I have no use for them here and I know how you love those fake chicken subs. I know how busy EA can be…keep those letters coming..Jodie? Kat?
Dianna and Lydia and Christine- THANKS! Love the memories of good ole EA..and congrats about ..Dianna-good luck in England! Christine-I am soo happy for you and sad to miss the most special day of your life..good luck with planning on “no rain” and Lydia, take care of the office for me…I miss my work routine but know all is still there. Send me catalogs of the new collections and publications if you ever get a chance. I loved the photos of the office life…I MISS YOU all !
Thanks everyone! And Keep those letters’s good know that you have people from home who are supporting you and want to know that you are not alone. I miss you all but will be back sooner than you can say “Hot Tomato!”

Over and out…Megs

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

100+days in Togo and 1 month at post

Hey there all…

Since internet has been down and I have been unable to get to my email this post is a bit late in arriving with news of a more enjoyable time in Togo. My last two weeks at post were great and I can see what I can occupy my time with to make me feel more at place here in this crazy country.

I have met a huge amount of village folk and sit with them often just to meet and greet and to try to offer up any advice I may have or their businesses. I am much more at ease and comfortable in my village and really am starting to settle in. I can see where these people need me but it is still such a strain on me to maintain comfort here. I feel so sedintary..sit around the house reading..then I walk the rounds in village which is equivalent to half my neighborhood in Chicago. I went for a bike ride one day and nearly died of heat exhaustion till I was within a 1kilometer of completing the 20k return journey and saw the Fan Milk guy (the ice cream man in Togo). I flagged him down and secured a pouch of cold yougurt to make the final hill back into village. Refreshing..took a shower and napped. So unlike me if you know who I am.
The hardest part of this all is the change of pace..well combines with the change of living standards, lack of sanitation and refrigeration and ohh yeah the language barrier. For me at the moment is the energy factor. I miss my hometown running routine and am hoping to tap into the Yoga movement while here. Running is a stress here and making a space to stretch and calm myself inside will be the best thing for me. If only I attended more yoga sessions before leaving the States. So to any of you out there (Heather my trainer ?) Please send me any Yoga/Pilates? Home workout materials…charts of poses, instruction DVD ‘s mix cd’s to jazz it up….magazine workout pages. Running will come back to me soon and maybe I’ll turn it back up after I leave the heat of West here I’ll work to strengthen the core. I mean I’ve already had a successful running career, Boston Marathon 2007 !
Aside from that I can report that Adeta is a great village full of friendly people. I feel lucky to be posted in such a wonderful village. Not only that but a nice house. I am so excited be able to receive any visitors that may want to make a trip to this country. Any takers? There is an American Baptist Hospital that is 4k away in case any of you come down with what I think I may have. No need to worry about me I am moving and heallthy except for what I think may be Giardia. I am at the maison right now and have been for the past two days strucken with what I feel like is that scene in « Spaceballs » where the guy at the diner comes down with indigestion and an alien pops out of his gut. My gut makes noises….and I am waiting for something to climb out at any moment. I won’t talk about my bowel movements…you really don’t want to know. Let’s just say America is this wonderful place where you can eat an apple fresh from the grocery store where it is chilled and you don’t have to soak it in bleach for 20 min before chomping down on it. Not to mention public sanitation and drinkable tap, hot running water and not having to think about what precautions to take before ingesting anything. We’ve got it good in the US of A. Just remind yourself that daily.

So wish me luck as I prepare a stool sample to send to the med unit. Maybe I should just name what is in my gut as long as he is living with me. No need to worry…I have a pleasent life in village with wonderful people.

So far here are my projects that I have thought of could possibly be done with in village…let me know if you have any contacts
library_Togolese children dont get access to books here
girls running club:need donated running shoes and possibly sport bras
i havve many more ideas but are more localized to specific businesses so i will post them as they come

basically books and shoes are what im thinking for a possibility in the future once i scope it out some more

mom....dont worry toomuch about me..if there was anything really big and serious youd be getting phone calls from me boy Wil is coming to spend Christmas in Togo with me ...send me Christmas decorations when the time comes need for the mistle toe though...absence makes the heart grow fonder is right...i miss that boy so much and am counting the days till he arrives from dusty Mauritania....

i love Adeta and my village folk and will post better stories once i am not sitting in front of a French keyboard...take care all and im doing great....

send spices.....nutmeg too

Saturday, September 8, 2007

third weeks a charm right?

Let me just preface this by saying “week one” went much better….so enter..”week 2”

I can honestly say that I thought week 2 at post was off too a good start. I returned from a weekend at the maison regional, refreshed and ready to get to know my post. I was in good spirits as I got in the 15 passenger van headed back to Adeta with a couple of nice Togolese women and my friend Allison. We chatted it up…I used my best French conversation and found the ride enjoyable at most, even as the fumes from the exhaust poured in from the half closed trunk. Then the women I’m sitting with start humming the tune from the Lion King in French..well I join in the chorus in English and it caught them off guard. …”in the jungle the mighty jungle..the lion sleeps tonight….ahh weem ahweem a way …..” They then make me write the lyrics out in English to teach them. (Note: one goal of Peace Corps was achieved in this interaction) I made a cultural connection. Great! Sunday went well and I was back home ready and refreshed for Monday when I would go to my groupments meeting and listen in and then head out to marche.

Well Monday went well…the meeting was very structured and well run. I am assisting a agricultural groupment who deals with café and cacao. (Farming, loans, stockage, buying and selling) This meeting involved the Presidents of other groupments that all reside under this main umbrella groupment. The meeting was about the purchasing of manure, and fertilizers on credit. Together they devised a contract for farmers that need fertilizers bought on credit, in a way that would show the responsibility of the parties involved and the terms under which it is held. The all came to the idea of the layout and voted democratically and at the end of the meeting there was a form already laid out to be passed on to all the groupments. I was amazed at the efficiency of it all..something you don’t see from time to time here. I had fun writing notes in French trying to get used to hearing agricultural terms.

Then came Tuesday and as much as I was ready to head out for a run..nature struck. I felt like a case of amoebas…runs…..fever…who knows. So it pretty much meant house arrest for biggie since it rained all day and when it rains, nobody’s out and about. Sick.

Wednesday.hummm I have now confirmed that even though I may be a lucky one and have running water in my house..I don’t “chaque mercredi” “c’est coupe” So since like clockwork it happened again…every Wed. no running water from morning till sun down. At least it’s on a schedule. Tig came in to visit me and we headed out to Kpalime to pick up bank “debit”..YEAH cards and go to the post. All was going well…got to Kpalime…stopped by the vet and talked to him about the needs for the two little cats I have..Perfect..what? advantage flea drops for their head and de-worming meds..750fcfa? ($1.50) sweet…go to the bank and pick up debit card for the brand new atm they installed…perfect!...go to the post to get mail ..find a letter from Julie!..Yeah a letter..getting better!..go to eat lunch ..mmm fresh salad..french fries and mint ice cream..yeah
Okay so on the way back it starts to rain and I realize I am at the wrong station (Tig was heading south and I..north so we parted ways)..have to run to the other side of town and get in a hatchback with 10 other passengers because the driver can’t say no…getting dark and I need to make it back…it is times like this when one is wedged into a hatchback where the driver poured just enough petrol in to make it to the destination..the tires probably have never been changed as I feel every bump in the road..the doors and trunk are pretty much tied in place and it doesn’t seem like his headlights work too well…where I wonder if we were to crash…would I feel the impact or will all these people around me cushion the fall…hummm…best not to think about the crashing part.
So get home finally and then the shit hits the fan….someone calls…it’s the teller from my bank..”Do you need something? Is there a problem with my account?..ohhno..He just wants to tell me that he wants to call me and can’t stop thinking of me…arrrggg..I tell him “no sorry..not free to talk…can’t call me…”hang up….then come the text messages…It sucks being an American woman in Togo…when the bank teller decides to use your personal information from you account and call you up to say that he’d like to get to know you better…hummm confidentiality in Togo..nope…so he continues to text in English..broken…”I just want to make friends with you and get to know you better…you interest me”… so I have to reply..”got a for work…no time…”
Phone lines are open and he is standing by waiting for me to call….(take note: while all this is happening I am administering the meds to the cats..very carefully) couple of drops on the head to stop fleas….crush ¼ tablen in food to help de-worm. They seem to be well.
Then I get a call from Wil..and luckly we get to talk for a bit then …phone cuts…so that puts me in a sour mood…then I look over and notice that the one cat is drooling profusely…and seems freaked out… foaming at the mouth….twitching….great!! what have I done…I’m running around trying to clean his mouth..make him drink water…now the other one is twitching..foaming at the mouth..ahh what have I done..I’ve poisoned these cats…they are they are shitting all over the place diarrhea….ahhh…it’s getting late..I keep texting Tig (she used to be a vet) asking what to do…maybe I got some bunk meds from the vet and now I’ve killed the cats! I can’t sleep..freaking out …they are foaming at the mouth..running around trying to bathe the medicine off their heads…so I try to make them as comfortable as possible and then get some sleep ..hoping that I will not wake up to two dead kittens…
Thurs. morning…
Wake up..cats are alive and seem to be a bit better. I decide to use the flea shampoo and bathe them. After more distress they seem to relax…the one has head twitches and seems bothered by something the rest of the day….what can I do..I’m in Togo. I decide to do things around the house and not head out until the afternoon. I constantly feel like a prisioner in my own house..fear of steppingout in public since it takes so much out of you. You’d have to be here in my “yovoness” to know what I mean..more texts from bank guy…won’t stop..then a couple other guys come by to see what I am up to. Shit…where can I get some lady friends here in Togo..all the guys want to be my friend but I have to sway their intentions and that takes a lot. Some of them are nice though..and I know could be good friends…but they always want to know what you are up to.
So I head out and decide to go to my “host family” where before I had helped him type a document …brought some cookies…stopped by for a little visit and they make me type another document …don’t even ask me..just make me read some chicken scratch
French..typing on a French keyboard…not knowing what or how to spell what I’m typing..well that just threw me for a loop…the way it was thrown at me…ohh well I guess it is in repayment for the dinner the other night. I hope it doesn’t become constant or I may have to start a keyboarding/computer class. Mannerisims are quite different here in Togo. There is not that sense of knowing when one is being “rude” here…

Well after that ..I though..I need to get away from all this drama…back to the maison to decompose for a day or two…and then I’ll start week three on a clean slate. In hopes for a better attitude….heck maybe I’ll stay out of the house most of the week..hummmm. grin and bear it and hope it gets better…..

I can’t tell you how hard this has been for me and how I wish I will get excited at some point about being here but right now I am still in survival..maintain sanity mode….i miss my Chicago routine more than one can imagine.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fin de stage

So all is done and now we have the opportunity to start fresh. Stage is nearing the end and we are all getting ready to head to Lome and by the time you will be reading this post I will be in Lome plugging it on to the computer since for one I will be with a great internet connection. And so it goes…

How do I feel? Well I still think I am here for all the right reasons but I can’t even express the difficulties one must endure from day to day. Emotional difficulties. I am having a hard time being myself when one is in such a controlling environment. Make the most of the situation and yet I am still running and hiding just trying to find quiet time alone. I have little energy to do a lot of things and hope that all of that will return once I get to post. My emotions roll in waves through the day and I have a lot of ups and downs. One moment I’m up and excited and then I crash and just want to sleep. I think it’s dietary changes, environment changes, and the feeling that whatever I do I’m being watched and if you know me…I don’t like to be on display all the time. It’s too much.

And I’ve talked to my boyfriend who is in Mauritania right now..far far from me. That poses another difficulty. After being so close for two years now we are miles apart. I have gotten to talk to him at length for just two times Thanks in part to his parents and their involvement in setting up a conference calling system (3-way). It is too expensive to call Togo to Mauritania and since we don’t have internet yet Skype is out of the question. But the boy is well and we are already planning when we will be able to see each other…in mid December.

Anyone out there got a pen and paper?
Also I have yet to receive a letter in written form from anyone. I can’t stress enough how important letters and photos from home have become. I’ve gotten a couple packages and I appreciate everything inside but that stuff is just novelty, my emotions are crying out for some contact from home…written on paper…I need letters. I have not received a single one. Much more so than packages. And if you do send a package..please….please…send a letter in it. Newspaper clippings from home, photos, anything personal. That is all I need right now and one knows how important it is when they haven’t gotten any. Wil has sent me a letter from Mauritania but who knows if it will ever reach me. Please write snail mail to me since internet connectivity is unreliable and few and far between. It will probably be that way until December where they may run another promotion on Illico (the home internet for Togo). It is too expensive right now for a Peace Corps Volunteers budget. Sorry to stress this even harder but when one is at the end of the emotional string and gets a little excited when a package arrives….she tears past all the goodies from home and doesn’t find but a single letter….anything personal….the tears return. You could never imagine how important letters are until you are worlds away and long for them in times of emotional discourse.

So…words on the Togo side…

We are all ready to get to work and head to our respective villages and therefore I can say that we are all done with structure and group activity. Yeah but that doesn’t mean that when we get to post we will be heading off in pursuit of meeting up again. The closest volunteer to me is about 30k away and we have already planned our first bike ride to meet each other. Ohh and we have also been planning our great big thanksgiving feast so feel free to start sending me Thanksgivin fixins-gravy packets, seasoning packets, stove top, meat and cheese tray, dessert kits, (yellow cake mix with chocolate fudge frosting), coffee cake mixes, snack mix, etc….goldfish crackers, chex mix, poptarts, mmmmm

Ahhh…man I miss Chicago and the great US of A….

And now we are all sworn in and after speaking with WIl and comparing notes I am learning more about myself everyday.

These are some facts that I am ready to post:

I am sooo over group activities, esp when you are all on emotional rollercoasters and you are stuck in Africa and stuck in Togo.

I have never wanted to be alone so much as I do now. I will need to in order to maintain sanity.

I need an injection of happy serum because for some reason most of the time I am easily agitated and irritated and not excited.

Stage sucks but post is better so my emotions are improving. Post will also be even better once Wilcomes for a visit...three months in counting :(

wish me may not see a post for a while since there is no internet cafe in my town and there may not be working internet in the other town I have to bike to.

so snail mail me!

on y va!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Images of Togo

Lovely Pagne Cloth....

Heather~ Kate~ Megan ~ Carolyn “The fearless foursome”

Greetings from the yam capital of the world

So I am here yet again to let you know that I am still alive and kicking…kicking that is since I am in desire need to regain control of the time for myself. So when you are in “stage” as they call it here during the first three months in-country you are basically babysat and you have a “host” family to answer to. That means you will need to interact in the local language which is French with a little Ewe mixed in for good measure. I have two weeks left until I swear in as a volunteer which means that I will then be transferred to my post where I will be the only American there. Yes. that means that anything I want to do or say will then by way of the French language..a language that I have learned in a little over two months now.

Can you sense my struggle? Well it is learned bit by bit but ohh how much easier it would be to discuss business practices if I spoke the language. Enter sarcasm. That’s okay though because one can get by for a while by pointing and sprinkling the language as necessary. Oh yes…most everything is possible in Togo..but certainly not all…well not much.

Update on Health:

I just finished cleaning the infected bug bites on my legs. Right now 5 are covered with bandages…all the others are left to scab, of which there are probably about 20 on each leg and 10 on each arm.

Update: I am in Lome getting treatment for the 10 infected bites. But alas, I am fine...would love fabric bandaids of all sizes sent if possible...

I have not gotten Malaria yet and seem to be fine for the most part

I have not been able to get on a normal “potty” routine since my bowels are still confused by the massive amounts of fat and starch I consume daily.

I have gained what I think to be about 10 pounds yet feels like 50. Since I have not had the time to go running due to a number of reasons:
Heat, open sores on feet, constant fatigue, time…yes time….I will have such in 2 weeks time.

Update on Progress:

I have been assigned to a wonderful post in a small village just north of where our training is going on. It is in the plateau region which resembles what the Amazon may look like.

I am still…still tackling the French language…it will come ohh yes it will.
But wait. I will be forced to speak in 2 weeks once I get to post and am the only on there for miles around…ha ha ha ohhh geeez

I sprinkle in the local language whenever possible to entertain the community. How exciting when the “yovo” (foreigner) speaks the local dialect! You can pretty much get by with “YO” whenever you forget the rest of the salute.

I think I know what to start to work on once I arrive at post…but I really don’t. Let’s start with the youth…. “petite a petite” …..they say

Update on Cultural Affairs:

We all went to the Yam Fete this past weekend and had a blast after drinking a little “box wine” It took place in my town where the men run into the “enchanted forest” kill a goat and then run back out and dance. I was there dancing the “Cherie” dance and of course somehow managed to get on Togo Television. Can I say how excited my family is…TV is a big thing be on it is even bigger. I have yet to see the broadcast but somehow everyone saw me.

I am “Adjovi” in my town since that is the name given to girls born on a Monday. When they notice that you are gaining weight it is such a good thing that they even start to call you “Adjovi Gras” which means “fatty” Remember to be fat here is a compliment…but I am also called “Ah tee dwel dee” which is the word for toothpick in Ewe (local language)…so I must be pretty balanced.

I can take a bush taxi ride and turn it into an amusement park ride….with out the technician on duty to make sure the “ride is in working condition” So far still safe…no accidents yet though I may get hit by a moto coasting down the hill while I am walking on foot since most the time they are not minding the road.

I am a damn good bargainer when shopping in the marche and have folded many a marche mama into giving this “yovo” a good price. I think I can attest all that to my visits to the marches in China. That and since I am frugal and cheap.

I have embraced the local dress by buying the crazy cloth and designing numerous clothes out of them…sooo much fun!! Note the photos.

A word on Sanity:

Still searching on a daily basis for these things. Hard to maintain when your language skills are still developing and I need to make a list of “leave me alone” “I don’t want to speak with you” “I don’t want to eat meals made for 4 people” “I can do it alone” “sometimes you just don’t want to” “I have a boyfriend, fat chance, you can stop trying to get my attention and no I am not your “cherie””

I have 3 other girls who I have befriended to help me vent and maintain the focus needed to push on…we are there for one another from time to time. That’s what friends are for (cheesy song ..playing in my head)

Speaking of cheese if anyone sends me any I would love you eternally. Togo is without. Would love a Heritage Farms meat and cheese tray as soon as they hit the shelves for the holidays..or even a tub of Port Wine Cheddar.

My DVD player won’t work on this computer so movies are out of the question which is fine since I didn’t bring any with me anywho..but I will be fixing the computer……….anyone out there with any DVD’s to spare..send them in a padded envelope my way…
ohh and anyone out there with software to upload to fix the dvd reader please send too
I have two weeks until I am in Lome for swear-in where I will be able to ask the Ambassador what is going on in the world. It’s like I live on the moon here..I have no idea ….

Have learned that my boyfriend, Wil is withering away in Mauritania and recently got Salmonella poisoning and had to go to the hospital with other volunteers. He also smells like peanuts on a daily basis and eats nothing but rice and fish while living in an environment that could be described as looking “war-torn” I’m hoping that he will get some sense in him and have Peace Corps relocate him to Togo. Hopefully. but not at all possible…..he must make it through November before we will be able to visit.

Have yet to receive a letter from the home front………….anyone home?

Please write.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

another welcome from Togo written weeks ago

I have posted this message to let you all know that I am alive and well in Togo. Alive for the moment that is because if I don’t get this French thing down soon then I may just take refuge in Ghana where they speak English.
Togo is lush and the people are very welcoming and at times too welcoming. As an American one must realize that the idea of one’s space is regarded very different here. You can never find that time alone and very rarely do you have it. I am in constant search of my quiet time for lack of a very limited conversation in French with my host family.
Here’s the breakdown…. I am currently near Agou in the plateau region of Togo. Right now we have training in culture, language, technique and survival. All of the former do aquaint to survival and to me the first problem I am encountering is the language barrier. The food is great, well at my host family that is. So far they have made me yummy lunches of couscous with veggies and fried plaintains. I also have rice with sauce d’arachide (peanut sauce similar to satay) pasta with a tomato sauce and other Togolese dishes which I have discovered to be quite tasty. One is the bouille d’riz, (rice porridge with sugar) tastes like Trix cereal. Ususally I discover these things when I ask my host mom what she is eating and she let’s me try it. They have told the host families to make foods more similar to Americain cuisine until we adjust. So far I have realized that I can survive on fired plaintains, rice, cous cous, veggies like beans and corn…ohh and tofu. Not to mention the pineapples and bananas, mangos and papayas. One girl in my group has a host mom that makes brownies and cookies so we buy them off of her almost every day.

My host father is a retired primary school headmaster and my mother is a housewife. She is 50 and is buff! Most women here are since they do manual labor all day from dusk to dawn. I also live with three kids aged 15, 10 and 5. The youngest girl is self sufficient at the age of 5. As I am writing this she is doing her own laundry. I live off the beaten path and my family has a farm. There are chickens running around and a cat with kittens. We have a simple set-up but I do have electricity which is not constant. That does not mean I have running water. I go to the bathroom in a latrine and I shower with a cup and bucket. The simple life is right!
So far roughing it in Africa has been going well. I don’t know if it is the Larium (anti-malarial drugs) or just the fact that one needs to adjust quickly to being dirty and very close to nature. The other day I was staring at my ceiling and noticed a wasp. Normally I would try to get him the hell out of my room, but with such calmness I noticed that not only a wasp was in my room but also a lizard. I stood there and stared for about 5 minutes waiting for nature to act. The lizard never ate the wasp. The show was over and I returned to reading my book. The whole act didn’t even phase me.
You get used to these things quickly here. I also killed two huge cockroaches in my latrine the other day. No problem.
We get our post assignments next week after having a discussion with the director of my program tomorrow. I am excited to hear about the areas and where they will match us up with. Some of the post villages are large and some are small as well as there are ones that have never had a volunteer so that means we will have to equip our houses and get things made. For the others we will just move into a house that was occupied by another volunteer who is leaving. All in all I will try to report back as soon as possible. Please write and send rations whenever possible. What they say about Africa is true, there is very little here.

Also the internet is slower than slow and it will have probably taken me 1 hour to post this to my blog and possibly another hour just to reach my inbox so feel free to write me. I would love to get letters!! And I promise to write back soon. My address is at the top of this blog.

word from the bush

Hi there everyone out there that is wondering where the hell I’ve been. Well when you are on the other side of the world where the internet runs at the pace of a page an hour there will be a lull in communication. So this is my first post for a long time until I get some way to have internet at my site. So for now PLEASE write me..send me love letters and packages from home because that has been successful. My address is to the right and any sort of novelties would be well appreciated. It’s a matter of survival here and so far so good.


Country code ( 011 ) 228 910 8378

I am currently in the plateau region in Togo near Mt. Agou. It is quite beautiful here, hot but beautiful. Right now is the rainy season and I have welcomed it every time it happens. The food is good in all it’s starchy nature but I have been missing all the novelties that we as Americans have in the states. Like artificial cheese, salty snacks and candy. Hint…hint. Ohh and everything else that makes one feel like an American. Coffee on the go, the movies, new music, magazines. My entertainment has been staring at my celing in my room watching to see if that lizard will eat the wasp on my ceiling so that I won’t have to dispose of him myself. I have no idea what is going on in the US let alone the rest of the world at this very moment. What I wouldn’t do for a Time or Newsweek…or NPR.

Well this post is one of the few for now since the internet is something I don’t have patience for here. It’s hard enough speaking French everyday…so be prepared to be clueless about my whereabouts until I get situated in my post at the end of August.

I do have some big news for now though!!! I have just found out where in Togo I will be posted for the two years I will be serving here. I am going to be in the same region I am in now but in another town called Adeta.

I am really excited to start work with the cultivators of coffee and cocoa as well as working with artisans in the trade associations. The artisans in individual trades I will be working with vary from welding, carpentry, batik, painters to tailors and seamstresses. A lot of what I did at my previous job will apply to this work so I a really excited to get started. I will be helping them attend trade shows and hopefully even create some export interest. But for now a lot of what I will be doing is internal, at a local scale. I am also excited to work with the cultivator’s farm association because they are very motivated. A lot of the crops are exported to other African countries and possible some European. I am not quite sure as of now since I haven’t started my work with them yet. I will have much to learn from they way they work.

There is not much donor aid to Togo and hopefully after the elections that will be taking place soon there will be more. This is exactly the work I wanted to get out of my service and I can’t wait to get started. I will be at my post at the end of August once I swear in.

If anyone that reads this can send me insightful information on the following or just simple things like the magazines dealing with trade (economist, etc. current trends in the global market that I could research to see if it could apply to Togo) Right now there is not a lot of market for exports here, most everything is bought and sold internally. So this goes for all my former coworkers at good ole Eastern Accents. Ridvan, I know you have some great advice on coffee, and you could even be one of my first customers once we perfect the blend for possible exports. The same goes for artisan crafts and textiles…start making some pillow designs and I’ll send you some batik!! The patterns here are amazing and I’ve already had a couple skirts made in some crazy cloth.

I miss you all and would love to have more mementos from home to decorate my new house with. As for my house…I get to see it in a week and a half and all I know right now is that it has 3 bedrooms, 1 living room and a kitchen and bathroom (not sure if the kitchen and bathroom are attached and whether it is a pit latrine or of the Western variety) But assuming that since I also have running water and electricity…it could be possible. There is also a place in my compound for gardening of which I am really excited to tackle.

So here is my list of requests for my new house and just for survival here. This is just a general list for things that will be well used by me here if sent. They are not a must……though some could be at times….most are things not found here and would be of comfort.
Packages have made it to me in a two week turn it’s a sure thing that I’ll get it if sent by air priority international
Remember pack it in Ziplocs and send me photos from home too…

Anything salty and with artificial cheese…weird yes but true…where the cheese at?
Kettle Chips, Cheese and Cracker Packets, Pretzel and Cheese Combos
Chex Mix and Peanut M&M’s (from the High Point Stash)hint hint….
Powdered Gatorade and “on the go” drink mixes (bleach treated water gets old quick)
Tea …anything but traditional Lipton
Spices..esp cinnamon, nutmeg, taco seasoning, pesto packets, seasoning packets from Rice a Roni etc…(I’ve got the rice and couscous)
Brownie and choc chip/oatmeal cookie mixes (to be made with oil and eggs)
Almonds !!! (for that lack of protein..there are peanuts here…
Snacks from Trader Joes (rice crackers, wasabi peas, Thai peanuts, etc)
Candy ..taffy, skittles, jolly ranchers and all others ….

Kitchen Items
(for things I have been unable to find in the market)
Rubber spatula
Measuring cups and spoons
Lightweight plastic chopping board
Tupperware and Ziploc bags (very important for keeping the critters away)
Aluminum foil
Anything really

Plain white tank tops and tshirts for batiking (send me a cheap pack of three and I’ll send you back a finished top)
Old navy flip flops (the ones here rub my feet the wrong way)~sz 7
Jersey knit gauchos
Jersey knit slip dresses for casual wear that hit at the knee (old navy/target)
Lightweight cap sleeve tshirts ~dressy(Target tissue weight are good)
Tank tops and camisole tank tops

Health and Sanitation (Sanity)
Saline solution
Wet wipes
Scented stuff for feeling pretty
The occasional make-up
Anything Burts Bees
Nail Polish and other manicure items
Leave-in conditioner (detangler spray)

Yoga manual
Poly pillow forms for a good nights sleep (hey y’all at EA…Togo don’t have pillows)
Magazines..Celebrity Smut, Natl Geographic, Time, Runner’s World, etc…news
New Books and DVD’s
Burned copies of music
Anything for my house

More to come….as time passes and I long for what I’ve left behind

Ohh I forgot to mention that I have a video of us slaughtering 5 chickens to then be plucked and fried for our 4th of July fete! Once I get it to youtube…you’ll see it!! It was a de-sensitising activity that was good for all of us to do.

And I have to let you know that I have what looks like chicken pox on my legs from all of the bug bites and I am still hanging in there. No dysentery yet though I have had some serious bowl issues….from one extreme to the next. In top shape though!

Also right now poor ole Wil is sweating his ass off in Mauritania where it is currently 120 degrees and we have been unable to talk since the phone calls are too expensive between us. If anyone can research and send me a cheap phone card for us to use between countries in Africa with a cell phone I would love you for it! Until I get Skype (if it is at all possible) we are at a complete disconnect. ☹ such is love in Africa..a 2 min phone call.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

And so it (I) goes...

I have been away from my post..and I promise that once I arrive there will be much more to say about Togo then about preparing and packing for a crazy adventure in the Peace Corps. I quit my job a week ago, sent my belongings home to mom, said my goodbyes, packed items in a hundred little ziplocs and weighed myself with my bags....

I know have backpack , a duffel and a messenger bag strapped to go to Togo. I leave tomorrow on a 9am flight to Dc where I will be meeting all the other emotionally and physically stressed volunteers like I. I'm sure we'll all be sititng there thinking "what the hell have I done"

I'll soon know as I arrive in Togo on Sat evening to the heavy air and strange smells.

I'm going to miss Chicago, and everyone and everything in's a great city and I'm sure I'll remember that while I'm away...but you only live once they say....and I have a whole lot of livin' to do ....

Now off to the DQ for some last bits of frozen goodness :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

World Fast Against Malaria

This Thursday! May 10th 2007
Adults all over the world are asked to fast from 9:00am until 6:00pm (drinks and medications are allowed). Children are asked to fast from 9:00am until12:00pm. 100% of donations related to the fast will go to buy long lasting life-saving nets for $5 per net.

Put down your burger and Fries and donate $5 to the fight against Malaria!

visit here for more info..

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

38 days and counting

..till I leave the US concrete behind and hit the African soil. It's hard to imagine that I am about to leave everything behind for a taste of culture. That and the need to make a difference in the way the world works. I am not expecting to make miracles happen, but hope that at least I can make more people aware of a life outside their countries borders. Borders. We fence ourselves in so tightly that any change in a lifestyle would pull us so far outside of our comfort levels that we fear it.

We fear climate change but do nothing about reducing our emissions.
We fear immigration but forget that we were once all immigrants.
We fear loneliness but never once acknowledge our neighbors.
We fear cancer but keep puffing on the cigarette, and tipping the bottle.
We fear poverty but apply for another credit card to get what we need.

We are a nation that feeds off of fear, and that's how I see it.

We live in comfort and feel that we are doing what is needed to change the world. For example: we buy a bottle of water at a local coffee chain that claims to donate a whole 5 cents of the $2.00 bottle to helping children around the world get access to drinking water. What is wrong with this charity?

Let's start with the 5 cents... why just 5 cents? Because it was started by business men who need the $1.95 for overhead? I've read their story and I know they have been there building wells and promoting the cause but still why only 5 cents? What does that promote? A comfortable charity for the public to feel good about?

And are the children really profiting from us buying bottled water? Shouldn't we just drink our own tap and be thankful that we have wells of our own instead of purchasing a $2.oo bottle of water and in return just invest that money in the charities that are there building clean water sources in countries like Africa?

We should know better.

I guess of all things that's why I am going there. To really understand all these questions I ask myself. So don't touch the dial...stay tuned.

I will be reporting from the field in Togo, West Africa. A 27 month series.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Beantown Success!

Well it was a huge victory. I can now say that I ran one of the most prestigious foot races in the world and also ran it in good form. Check another one off the list of "must do's" Not only can I say that I ran the Boston Marathon, but I can also say that I ran the Boston Marathon during a Nor'easter. Probably one of the most harsh racing conditions I was faced with.
What exactly is a "Nor'easter"? Well here is what Wiki has to say about a Nor'easter:

A nor'easter is a macro-scale storm whose winds come from the northeast, especially in the coastal areas of the Northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada. More specifically, it describes a low pressure area whose center of rotation is just off the coast and whose leading winds in the left forward quadrant rotate onto land from the northeast. The precipitation pattern is similar to other extratropical storms. They also can cause coastal flooding, coastal erosion and gale force winds.

Yup, that's right! What a beautiful day for a run. (enter sarcasm) My lack of excitement for the start of this years race may have been due to the numerous weather advisory alerts sent to me from the Boston Athletic Organization stating conditions for race day as "temps in the mid 40's with wind gusts up to 65mph and possible heavy rains." But as they have always said "The race will go on!" I had a hard time sleeping the night before the race as the wind howled and rain poured but I was there, ready to face it in good spirits. Many runners decided to forfeit the race all together due to the conditions. But not I.

so here is my experience in short...
* Got up at 5 am to get to downtown Boston in order to be put on a school bus and shuttled to the start in Hopkinton 26.2 miles away.
* Entered the muddy and wet "Athletes Village" which is no more than a school field where port-a-johns and white tents housed waiting runners.
* Waited in the pouring rain seeking shelter in one of the food tents for 3 hrs before walking a mile to the start in the rain
* Met lots of runners..made some brief friendships.
* Walked to the start in my homeless attire with plastic bags tied over my shoes and a garbage bag over me (did I mention that I described this whole "corralling of runners" as equivalent to cattle in a slaughterhouse)
* Waited for the gun...didn't hear it..but just started to move with the flow
* Zipped through crowds...rain...cheers
* Felt great most of the way but made a b-line for a visible porta-potty at mile 8.
* In and Out and on the road...
* In came the winds and at one point lifted me up while in stride and dropped me a foot to the left
* Slapped the cheering hands at Wellesly College
* Powered Up Heartbreak Hill and didn't even notice it (overrated)
* Saw the Citgo sign and knew I was almost home..reaching it with only one mile left
*Picked up speed through the cheering crowds to finish a strong 3hr37min marathon.

My best race time yet....
As Coach Donely would put it "we'll take it" :)

What you ask did I win? Lack of movement in lower limbs, pain and swelling in calf and quad muscles, enormous blisters...and the feeling of accomplishment.

I ran this race for myself, my family and the fight against malaria. Thanks to all who donated to the cause, raising almost $1,000 to purchase 185 bed nets for children and families in sub-Saharan Africa.

I am truly grateful for your support.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

nothing makes sense when your head is spinning

SO as many of you have noticed...I've been absent from my post. Get used to it. As of now I really don't have much to say since I am not there yet. My head has been spinning out of control trying to prepare for two years abroad as well as move out of an apt , train for the Boston Marathon which is in 12 days, figure out who can take care of my "special needs" kitty (trying to "keep him in the family") and still maintain my composure at a busy job as a product designer. Not to mention making sure I don't ignore Wil, my wonderfully supportive boyfriend. (Who will be joining the Peace Corps in West Africa as well....where? of now that info has not been released)

That's how I like it. My life doesn't resemble a fine dining experience with small portions so intricately arranged on a small plate while elevator music plays in the background. I guess you can say it's more like a super buffet with endless choices and big portions...tack on the environment of a Chuckie Cheese. Craziness keeps me motivated so I guess it may be just as well that some think I am crazy for leaving the wonderful world of America. The option of having anything at your fingertips, 15 different varieties of triscuits, endless options for entertainment, and the luxury of a nice hot shower and flushable toilet.

Ohh yes Enter Togo....(not the sandwich shop)

A few facts about Togo, West Africa...
*slightly smaller that West Virginia...mostly savanna..with lush forest near the coast.

*the temp stays constant through the year at 80-90 (feels like 110)...with rainy season starting once I step off the plane (June)

*largely indigenous country that practices Voodoo (animist religions) ..then Christianity...some Muslim

*French Speaking with three other local languages (of which I will have to communicate in all since very little to no English is spoken (I'll be practicing hand gestures, or maybe flash cards with photos)

*Rice and Beans is the staple...but they are a producer of cocoa and coffee....of which I will probably not see since it is worth more to them to export

*I will be able to have my own clothes made by the local tailor for cheap....just by having them look at a picture...I love it!

*I will likely live in a urban area or large village of5,000...with a Togolese family who will adopt me as one of their own... but won't let me do chores because I am a guest

*I cannot swim off the coast because there are strong riptides.

*I will be hallucinating on a daily basis from malarial drugs.

*There are no safari trips in Togo because most of the animals have been driven out by human development....even the elephants have escaped the park in the north and headed for Ghana.

*I will at times be jammed15-20 deep in a Bush Taxi driving down a jagged dirt road where no one will be wearing deodorant and it is an extreme faux pas to pass gas

*Pray for me.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

kitty in a corner

When I came home tonight this little guy was hiding in a corner of the stairwell. He didn't budge. I think he thought he was invisible. I tried to get him to move but he pressed himself further into the corner. Luckily, his owner found him before he was too traumatized.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

run for cover

While training for the Boston Marathon I have started a fundraising site through Against Malaria to aid in fighting those nasty disease carryin' skeeters. I would like to arrive in West Africa this June knowing that children and families there have been provided access to the most effective preventable measure against malaria, a bednet.

Feel free to visit my site and donate what you can for the cause. Thank you so much!

i come from chicago...

So you may be thinking...why the hell is she dressed like this? Has she joined some alien subculture? Nope, just trying to stay warm...

Well since the Chicago weather has been less than inviting lately and I can't stand to get back on the treadmill this is what must be done. I must go out and savor the chill since I will be heading to the hot zone for the next two years where the seasons amount to a hot wet and a hot dry. I also qualified last fall to run the Boston Marathon in April and since this is the only chance I'll have I figured why not go for it. I failed to remember the agony of Chicago winters where the temperature has been stuck around zero for the past couple weeks. So when it finally makes it up to 26 (that feels like 15) just have to go for it. Surprisingly there were more people out running than I expected. Of course we all looked like we were on the edge of death. But hey, nothing compares to the great outdoors they say. Just to breath in the frosty winter air seems so exhilarating. For the first few minutes that is...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

And so it goes...

I received my final invitation to Togo the night I got back from my holiday travels to New Mexico with my boyfriend Wil. We sat in suspense as I opened up the package and started to read the invitation letter that stated where in the great expanse of West Africa I will be dropped off. I scanned the whole letter once and didn't notice that the country of my service was stated in the first sentence. So when I finally saw "Welcome to Togo" I looked at Wil and we both dashed to the map of Africa. Togo..Togo....ohh there it is, the one country I didn't even think of. But now it's on my mind and as I prepare for my departure this June, I can't wait to see what will be in store for me there.

Wil is still waiting to hear of his placement as an IT Volunteer in West Africa as well. I'm hoping he will be across the border. But we are prepared to be far apart.

So now begins The Great Purge...The Final Meetings...Preperation...and Closure of All Things American.

Yeah Togo!