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.