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