Sunday, February 24, 2008
Feb 14th 2008
So last night we celebrated the anniversary of George. George was a lapin (rabbit) who made his way up from Lome with a couple members of Aglame's ONG (NGO). George was unable to express his gratitude for the celebration because his birthday was also the death of him. You see, George the lapin was a product of their new project of elevage (animal husbandry). Rabbits here are rare but the meat tender, so in search of an income generating activity they have turned to raising little George cotton tails. I have to admit...as I sat there amongst them and stared at the little piment covered chunks of meat laying on a bed of a brown cement paper bag..I was interested in a taste. So they poured the glasses of 2buck table wine as we sat in front of the buvette chanting “joyeaux anniversaire” to George. Then we nibbled on him. Tender indeed and quite yummy as the last time I had rabbit was when I studied abroad in Italy 2002. By the taste of it, I think they have the beginnings of a great business if they are able to charge top CFA for them.
Earlier that day I had all intentions to go into the office but got a little distracted. My homologue called me to say that they were in the middle of organizing the “cahier de caisse.” The last time we went through that I remember sitting there for about 4 hours as we taught the importance of recording transactions in a log for each groupment. Two hours went to just explaining what info was to be placed in each of the columns...leaving about an hour for one person amongst them to finally figure out that “objet de transaction” was not a calculation or date but what in fact they bought or sold. Next time I think we should start with basic vocab. En route to the office I decided to take the long way and visit my “good friend” the menusier (carpenter) just to see if in fact he had finished my pantry cupboard. Ohh “pas-encore”...so I critiqued what was yet to be finished and told him to bring it to my house by tomorrow afternoon at the latest. There is a long story that goes along with my relationship with him, full of disappointment, delay and disgust. I have already used the terms “merde” and “fache” in my conversations with him.
Leaving chez lui I popped in to see what was going on in the mini cafe. Dieu-Donne(“God-Given”..love the names here) was watching a fuzzy tele that flashed in and out of what seemed to be a test of the National Weather Alert System. I soon realized that what they were watching in broken fuzzy translated French was “Red Dragon.” I proceeded to try to discuss the film in which a disturbed man turns to cannibalism. The conversation quickly turned to the fact that in the US our televisions are not crappy like the ones here, because in Togo “nous suffrons.” I threw in the whole debate on suffering over television quality and reminded him that he ate well today and there are not those in my village at least who are starving. But Dieu Donne will continue to ask God for a new television as if that was his only wish.
I then made my way over to my budding Starbucks cafe. Issac was sitting in there chattin it up with the gens. I took a look around his boutique and noticed empty boxes...dust and a few products on the shelf. What's going on? Ohh waiting for the money to roll in before he does something about restocking the shelves, he mentions. I explain to him that now would be a good time to clean up and make it “proper” for when he does in fact find money to re-stock. Ohh...but I'm lazy, he explains. So I begin to do what I think is needed here. I take action into my own hands and begin to move empty boxes and reorganize. I think what they need is just a bit of a push from a little yovo to get things up and running. Little before we know...brooms are flying, dust fills the air and Issac, his employees and I are all in the middle of a clean sweep. A couple young boys (lazy teenagers of which my village has more than I would like) pop in to seek amusement in watching me help them. I turn to them and say that it's not a television show and if you want to stand there and watch you better help out. I must have made my point because soon they were moving boxes and taking action. That lasted all of 5 minutes as they headed back out to the streets to sit with all the other moto drivers. In due time we had wiped all of the shelves, reorganized the remaining inventory, caught a mouse, learned a bit of spiritual healing with melted rosin that warns off bad spirits (not Voodoo..but Muslim spiritual rituals), and created a bit of enthusiasm for a new beginning. I decided to return home after Issac thanked me for my time with a great big “Ak bey ka ka.”
Upon my return home all dusty and dingy I discovered the water was cut so I proceeded to make a little income generating product for Issac. I turned to baking as I love so much here and adapted a time old traditional recipe of Snicker doodles to Togolese taste....instead of hard to find cinnamon to mis with the sugar..I replaced it with cayenne powder for a spicy substitution.
Try it sometime...”Pimentdoodles”...mmmmmmm
Feb 17th 2008
So the weekend has passed again and in a wink I am approaching the new week. I biked to Kpalime to spend the V-day love with the other volunteers in my region. I love the bike down to Kpalime. I am stressing the down....with ups ..but more downs. I don't mean emotional downs..more of momentum..physical..it's a nice ride lets say. I say that even more so because it's Sunday morning and I am sitting here, sweat dripping down my leg with a huge bruise on my knee that marks the results of my return. It's hot here..currently 101 degrees at about 3 in the afternoon. I left Kpalime this morning around 9 to make the 28K journey back home. Due to the seasonal winds, and of course lay of the land I had to bike uphill with a strong head-wind. Upon my return, I then cleaned the house a bit and decided to wash up...till I noticed the water cut. So dirty me decides to take a nap instead. I was never one for naps but with the heat, bordem and at times the sheer lack of nothing better to do you tend to cut up your day with a nap. Plus, everyone else is on “repo” too.
The weekend was great fun. It's nice to get out once and a while to be around other volunteers and hide out together. What is funny is that even together, we don't talk much. It's good to have the company of others just to have a sense of home but we don't entertain one another all the time. Which is a good thing because we would probably drive one another nuts with our problems. It's also a time for dinner parties and we all love to eat here in Togo. It's usually no fun cooking for yourself so making a nice meal to be shared is a welcome pastime here. We went on a whole Mexican theme making flour tortillas, beans and salsa and sides for burritos, as well as cheese dip and fried tortilla corn chips. To top it off we also had a chocolate cake, my little strawberry heart cookies and some good ole American box brownie mix. Not bad eh? Everytime we get into the whole cooking thing it always comes out great, maybe it's the though of eating something other than rice and beans, or pate and fufu? In any case it's always one of the best meals in country.
Now I'm back at home bored out of my mind. Bored of myself and wondering what I'm going to do with my week. I think tomorrow I'll go to the office in the morning, then hang out with the marche mamas in the afternoon. I love my marche days. In those I learn so much and feel that it is my time to do a little cultural exchange. That and there is something going on in village where everyone is occupied and busy doing something. That means they don't bother or annoy me as much because they aren't sitting around needing the “Yovo Show.”
My new loves....
*Almonds, raw (my love for them is unmeasurable when all you get are peanuts here)
*Dried fruits esp: apples, apricots, prunes and figs ....teachin them fruit dryin..Cayenne Pepper and *Wasabi
Hummus and Veggies
Grapefruit and Apples
*Dark Chocolate..the darker the better and with almonds even better...Green Tea, White Tea (expensive here)
*Cereal...I would kill 4 some mini wheats...lucky charms...any of the 100 varieties America stocksTogo Meringues
Beans and Tofo...the possibilities are endless (mmm lettuce wraps)
*Got Latte?...not in Togo(International Delights Powder?...ohh please)
*Feel free to send me more rations of the ones with the asterick, as those are unavailable here..hint hint
Monday, February 11, 2008
Friday, February 8, 2008
Time has gone by so fast already and since I am not in month 9 of bring in Togo I can see how quickly it will be until I see you all in a year plus....well after Wil and I decide to wake up from our COS trip (Close of Service) we may be eternal vagabonds...I think of how funny it will be...and who I will be
will I eat with my hands..not question the age of foods that may have spoiled and eat them anyway..like the time I noticed that on the third bite of bread there was an ant colony living in it...didn't phase me..protein?....ration a bag of goodies like it was the only one in the world and the CVS wasn't across the street...go out in the backyard forging for Tamarind pods and funny looking beans to eat...to my great suprise finding that the bush in the front has produced pomogranate fruits and I have a citron tree as well as cherry tomatoes and mini peppers.....discovering new street treats....raising my brows in interest when a girl in village tells me that it's possible to make cheese from plantains???....is it possible?
missing the little goats that cross my path and dodging the poo pellets...doing the runway walk when leaving the house through my village where everyone now knows my name as they scream it out..."Adjovi...Adjovi" and I throw a complimentary wave or "bonjour, bonsoir"...while the theme song to "Cheers" plays in my head.....knowing what it is to be famous....or are they just taunting me.....waking up to the sounds of rooster crows and muslim prayer calls at 3am-4am-5am-6am-and all other times of the day..or what sounds like pig calls coming from the woman selling bread door to door.....this is Togo....
...living off beans and rice and using one of now 15 different ways to flavor black eyed peas (think lettuce wraps with cumin flavored-cayenne beans, onions, veg) but knowing that the will never be as good as the ones here that sit in the kettle all day and get mushy so I will start to cook beans in a crock pot to mimic the ones I get from the bean lady that gives you a full cent franc worth....spending the better part of my morning peeling apart a grapefruit section by section and eating the meat while enjoying the crisp tart taste (slow down and try it sometime)..amazed at how much hot pepper I put on my foods...I love me some cayenne!!!...when I never could handle it in the states...having time to play in the kitchen..
..sealing everything I own in ziploc bags....garbage bonfires....using toilet paper one square at a time...sometimes waiting to use the toilet three times before I flush...finding a use for every bit of garbage so I don't have to burn it...recycling...spending all day at the marche wondering around and doing "stall (window) shopping"...asking questions..learning....hangin out with the marche mamas...and sharing my time with them...
...to be continued....ohh but there is so much more....