Friday, July 31, 2009

Au revoir

Here I go...after over two years spent in Togo..bon voyage

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Peace out Togo

Peace OUT
And thus it has come this far, I am at the end of this wild roller coaster ride and I'm on my way home in a matter of weeks. I never thought I would feel this great about it all and make it through but then again, I never say never. And when I say I'm gonna do it, you better believe it will get done. So where to now? Pittsburgh out I'm coming home from the wilds of Africa. Some things will never be the same.

Here are some samplings of what I may miss, and what I can't wait to update...

Haute Couture de L'Afrique
I am sure going to miss being my own personal designer with custom tailors on site. Don't worry, I've made a complete fall and spring line to wear statside out of the printed patterns of Africa.

Grocery shopping
I can't wait to expand my list to include anything else that you don't see here. Because this is as good as it gets my folks, so pass the maca and sardines.

Video Club

Having the option to experience foreign films, well mostly pirated copies of foreign films is available. But, I will be running back into the arms of Netflix and the cushy lounge chairs of the megaplex cinemas.

I never though I would say this and if you had asked me in the beginning I would have said "for sure!" as they invaded my privacy and screamed "yovo" at me. But look at them...anyone with a heart would miss thier precious lil faces.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Out with a Bang..and a building

So here it is...gaze your eyes on my final project for my fellow villagers. The construction of an exhibition hall for artisans and the trades of Adeta. Here is a short blip but the reporting is all there complete with photos on all phases of the construction.
This project was realized in part due to a strong community of trades people and their need for a hall to promote and sell their crafts as well as on the part of Peace Corps Partnership funding, where a number of generous friends and family back home in the USA contributed to the purchase of materials. Since my time here as a Peace Corps Volunteer working in the domain of Enterprise Development I have witnessed a lack of such a venue. It is my hopes that this hall will invite the progress and development of numerous tailor trades and youth of Adéta as well as become a site where many a visitor can experience all that Adéta has to offer while finding that special souvenir of their time in Togo, West Africa. So please come and experience the art and trades of Togo.
I would like to Thank everyone again who contributed to the realization of this project. Your thoughts and wishes rest with the community of Adeta, Togo and they are truly grateful.

Here is the original summary of the project as listed on the Peace Corps Partnership Website:

A community center plays a large role in the development and solidarity of the population it serves. As a centralized location, it provides trade unions, artisans, women, and other community members with a forum to share goals and launch activities. In the town of Adéta, there once stood a community center available to meet all the demands of a growing population. After removal of funding from the state the building fell apart and closed its doors.
With community leaders, we have mapped out a plan to rehabilitate the community center through the proposed the idea of holding a “Spectacle de Créativité”(talent show). This event would aim to promote the artist trades of Adéta as well as the activities of its youth, generating the economic development of Adeta. To further realize these goals, this project looks to install a self-sustainable exposition hall and information center to house promotional events focused on the artisan trades and creative youth that will initiate the rehabilitation of Adéta's community center. The exhibition center will house handmade articles for sale made by community members, as well as offer community information on activities. Contined participation in events such as the "spectacle" will generate revenue for the upkeep and growth of the exhibition hall. The local community has purchased a plot of land and agreed to assist in all aspects of the construction. To complete these efforts, this project requests $993.24 to aid in the purchase of materials for the construction of the exposition hall.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Construction of Adeta's Exhibition Hall...coming soon!

Thanks to financing from donors and supporters stateside, My Peace Corps Partnership project to build a community exhibition hall and promotional center is slated to begin this week. The community is ready to turn the donation into a physical place where all the trades people of Adeta and the creative youth can show the world the talent they possess. It will also aid in promoting the collaboration of many village associations and active community entrepenuers through the sales of locally handcrafted items, further stimulating its economy and placing an importance on local craft and solidarity amongst its members.

Ak bey ka ka looooo!

Petite a Petite l'oiseau fait son nid....

les petites...

Ohh kids...they say and Do the darndest things..especially when they know you have a camera. Here are some images from the kids of the Andikra fishing village in Ghana. They swarmed around me chanting "my friend, my friend, come with me and I'll show you my home..." It was a really sweet day.


So if you may be wondering what's on the menu in Togo, here are a few favorites enjoyed by many.
Where else can you find a car full of nanners and pineapples! right at my local taxi station!

I ran out of gas and was thus forced to cook like the locals...over charcoal and a slow flame.

When you are on the road there is never a need to pull over or seek out a local drive-thru because all of the country is one big drive thru window...they come to you but you better be quick with the change because the driver waits for no one.

No need to pound the yams..this one is like instant need for a massive mortar and pestal.

From these lovely little fruits of the baobab tree come a juice called "langba" which is the best local energy and vitamin elixir.

Looking for exotic meats, python perhaps? No worries there may be someone on the side of the road selling a recent kill. Tastes like chicken my friend.

It was a red African treat found at my local marche and tasted much like starfruit.

A Togelese 7-11
Dunkin Doughnuts

Is there a doctor in the hut?

Some of the best inspiration for graphic arts in Togo comes straight from the many medical problems they face here.

Even a visit from evil spirits can be treated by a certain miracle elixir as this advertisement states.

A chart detailing the female reproductive system that hung in a community medical center.

Posters and Promotional Banners hung in a stall at the FESPACO artisinal show selling medicinal concoctions to treat anything from malaria to hernias.

Even Obama is the best medicine.

The African Pharmacy

The medicinal consultant sits with his hand painted medical images detailing any health problem under the African sun.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spectacle Nights in Togo

I am happy to announce through all the stress and the sweat and toil of planning this event has brought me nothing but joy in the aftermath. I am sure that I am the most popular Yovo this side of Togo. There is so much to say when explaining how the red carpet rolled out that for now I am going to let you make your own assumptions and just enjoy it as if you were there through these photos.
There were moments of panic and some things that didn’t go well or as planned but I am happy with all the help of the team behind me in working together to realize these events. I have been asked by many people in village when is the next spectacle, sadly to say I am hoping that it will be something my replacement can continue to facilitate along with the others. I have faith in the Association behind the planning of the events and believe that they are now equipped with the knowledge of how to accomplish another event of this magnitude. It won’t be long before the Spectacle makes a nationwide debut calling in participants from all towns to perform together in the Togolese Idol meets Project Runway meets Star Search du Togo.
I would like to extend a special thanks to all of you who contributed to the Friends of Togo Funding Grant that helped me realize these events. I have already noticed an increased presence of self-confidence, accomplishment and spirit throughout my village. It was a time to be able to recognize and award the efforts of many creative and talented people in a small town in Togo.
Francois the haut couture mens and womens designer sporting a wonderful mix of Miami Vice meets Men in Black

Claudine shines as she graces the podium

I grabbed my favorite tailor in village to walk the runway with me

Wheres Yovo... here I am in line with all the models

Yankee presents his finest calabash art

A wonderful work showing the union of the US and Togo

Even the local carpenters participated in promoting thier work with a performance of -the joy of finding money under the couch cushions-

The second night of the spectacle opened with performances from the Dagbeneva Group in Kpalime...they brought in the crowds with thier proffesionalism and left the youth with something to aspire towards-even better in traditional dance

Hip Hop has its influences here but these boys had created their own proper tune...complete with bustin dance moves

Aglame created and performed his latest hit -simplement-

It was wonderful to see some raw talent from the petites in village and after they broke into a dance many of us joined them on stage

All the participants of the two evenings recieved thier diplomas of participation -and were excited to see the USA Peace Corps logo on it; Barack has made the US logo more popular here-

The crowd wailed and cheered and left wanting more but when things start late -as is the case en Afrique- you get tired quick and hope for a timely exit

As the funds arrive for phase two of this grand project the community waits with excitment for the use of thier new community exhibition hall

pack your bags for the land of yams and palm wine

(keep in mind you will experience weight inflexions due to stress and diet changes, pack clothes that allow for such)
• A large supply of underwear and bras.12-16pairs. (Cotton is best but nylon dries quicker and is more comfortable when sweating your bum off.)
• Cotton dresses and/or skirts, knee length or longer.
• Terry knit gauchos (they are comfy and can be dressy. I have worn mine almost daily)
• Loose fitting cotton tops and t-shirts (nothing too revealing or cropped and they say business casual..stress the casual since business clothes become the traditional pagne outfits you make in country)
• Tank tops (sometimes cami tops are good for lounging at home) (Remember that cultural norms are much more conservative than those in the U.S. You may only wear tank tops while hanging out in your house but I wear them in my town so just nothing too revealing)
• A few nice outfits for those two or three special occasions in your village or when visiting regional capitals (just bring a dress or skirts or pants that fit you well and can use as a pattern to be can make and have fun fitting in with dress clothes from the traditional cloth here)
• One or two pairs of jeans (I gained weight and never wore they were too stuffy and hot - A couple pairs of cotton capris or linen are better when you need a break from skirts...think biker friendly...)
• Cotton socks for jogging or sports (just a few needed, quick dry and a pair of tall ones)
• Shorts (sports shorts should be a bit longer than normal, and cotton pj shorts and pants for sleeping and lounging around inside are great some volunteers like leggings)
• Cotton bandannas (perfect for riding in the bush taxi with window down, and as a snot rag during harmattan, and good for wiping the sweat off your face and trying to fan yourself in the hot season..don’t leave home without it..many are available in the market)
• Hair bands and barettes (my hair has been up in a ponytail my entire service)
• One pair of good supportive sandals. (I brought Chacos and never wore them preferring the comfortable cheap and lightweight market flip flops)
• Sneakers/running shoes (I brought trail runners that were not as comfortable and asked for my road shoes to be sent..there is pavement in some parts)
• Windbreaker and compact umbrella (make em small lightweight and packable, big golf umbrellas can be bought au marche)
• Light weight fleece sweatshirt or longsleeve shirt for occasional cool evening. (rarely worn and if you don’t have space you can find one in the dead yovo clothes piles- I found a North Face fleece here)
• Day pack for shopping; larger backpack for traveling. (rei has a great packable back pack that folds into itself, and there is never a shortage of stylish purses and bags here 4 day use)
• Bathing suit (for that beach time in Lome or trips to the falls)
• Sun Hat (comfortable sun hat if you have a favorite, again easy to find here in the used clothes piles)
• Sunglasses with UV protection (you can buy many here that are pretty stylish but probably offer no protection, I worried that nice ones would get ruined scratched lost or stolen so I didn’t invest)
• Catalogs or pictures of clothing you may want copied (I brought a few catalogs and had others sent in care packages)
General use items
• Luggage that is tough and flexible such as duffel bags and internal frame backpacks plus luggage locks. (Best if you think of taking trips around Africa, at the end you can buy a wheeled luggage case for cheap-tons of chinese imports here)
• Money belt or pouch that can be concealed under clothing or worn on the waist to carry money and other valuables. (barely used but always good for travels)
• A reliable alarm clock, or a watch with an alarm. (never used one when you have will wake up earlier than you think- plus most cell phones and watches have em)
• Swiss Army knife or equivalent (I brought a small swiss army knife with cork screw wine opener and then a Leatherman with screwdriver attachments, pliers and saw blades for home repairs..both good ideas)
• Small sewing kit and safety pins. (good but since its a strong trade here, you can come across supplies or a tailor to mend your worn affaires)
• Headlamp (you can buy flashlights in Togo)
• U.S. stamps. You can often have letters mailed in the United States by people traveling there from Lomé.
• A small pillow (so necessary if you are a light sleeper, pillows here are filled with hard knotted cotton, just grab a small polyfiber insert (at local Target made to fill couch pillowcases))
• Plastic water bottle for traveling. (Nalgenes are good..)
• Pillowcase and one flat bed sheet. (Bring at least one set from home as you will need them right away, I brought a silk sleeping liner to use during stage then bought bed linens au marche, you can find pagne here to use as well)
• Hammock (good idea but...I rarely used since it brought about too much attention (kids thinking it was a great toy) and not enough calming benefits. You could always have one constructed here out of local pagne)

Healthcare and Toiletry
• U.S. toiletry items and favorites (I stressed about this and still haven’t used the majority of what I brought..but here are some ideas on the most useful...)
• Face Wash and exfoliant, Burts Bees Shower Soap, Spray in hair detangle, some tubes of conditioning treatment, sensitive skin face sunscreen
• Contacts and contact solution (if you want to overstep their disclaimer..bring enough to last the entire time and be careful to wash well..I have thrown out many pairs from bothered eyes due to scratched corneas)
• Makeup (I really only used mascara and some spf concealer for the ocassional breakout ..all others come unused but that depends on give up being pretty when you sweat it off plus you can find some things here)
• Deodorant (If one needs to use it a lot bring what makes you feel fresh and have more sent later)
• If you take prescription medicine, bring a three-month supply.
• Eyeglasses (two pairs).

Households and Exercise
• Water resistant sports watches with chrono etc.
• Yoga mat (perfect for sleepovers and at home workouts, I also asked for a stability ball to be sent along with Pilates DVD’s)
• Compact, quick drying pack towels. (I loved having mine for travel purposes...You can buy regular towels in the market or use a pagne)
• Good scissors and nail clippers
• Colored markers, crayons, and construction paper. For making visual aids and playing with kids. These items are available in Togo, but expensive.
• Journal. (Moleskins are paperback style journals are available in Togo)
• Writing paper (bring any small amount of preference...There is plenty available in Togo just maybe not the lined kind you are used to).
• Pens. (Bring your favs...the ones here are cheap)
• Duct tape/packing tape. (highly can find scotch here)
• Pictures of home. Your Togolese friends will be very interested in seeing what your “former life” was like.
• Maps of the United States and the world.
• Mini office supplies (stapler, hole punch, white out, post it notes, nice pens and sharpies)
• Calendar/ day planner pocket size is best (you’ll need it to countdown the days...and leave notes on daily adventures)
• Seeds for personal garden (the best ones are herbs like cilantro and basil, I also brought flowers and carrots, bell peppers and broccoli..the broccoli grew but I waited too long to harvest in hopes it would get bigger and it bloomed flowers instead... you can find local seeds here in the agro regions)

Entertainment & Electronics
• Camera (the best investment I had was a Canon Powershot SD800 IS Digital Elph...any in the series are great and takes wonderful quality images for its size) Bring a good case for protection.
• Photographic film is available here (but not widely used, best to take digital images and have family and friends print them out stateside to mail by burning cds and uploading them to flickr etc..)
• Back up batteries for digital camera and extra memory cards. (needed when going on long trips and you’re a shutterbug like me..I cringe at having to miss a great shot)
• Batteries. Rechargeable ones are best but be sure that your charger will run on 220 volt current, or is multi-voltage. (I brought a solar charger I barely used since I have electricity but I do recommend bringing a converter and about 8-12 AA batteries and 6 AAA, batteries here don’t last long at all and corrode easier)
• Laptop (with an external hard drive 200GB+ , USB keys and good anti-virus software)
• Digital “thumb drive”, at least 2GB. (Very useful for transporting digital files between computers, just beware of aquiring viruses)
• Surge protector/voltage converter as well as plug adaptors for Africa.
• Shortwave radio or satellite receiver. Stations such as BBC, Voice of America, and Radio France International can be received with a moderate quality short wave radio. (you’ll thank yourself for not forgetting this one esp. Since they took away our’s nothing like hearing American News by a Togolese more informed on world affairs that you)
• i-POD or MP3 player with portable speakers (I brought two ipod nanos (since one was old and might die out) and it was my saving grace at me)
• Hobby items such as sketch book, sewing/ crochet needles, paints Games, such as Scrabble, chess, UNO and Frisbee. (I brought UNO and was asked to play it by my host brothers more than I wished...don’t bring a game that isn’t quick to finish...Ordinary playing cards abound.)
• Frisbee, soccer ball, etc.
• Musical instruments—guitar, etc. ( I left these at home thinking that I should give drumming a try and test out their instruments)
• One or two books. There are many books in English in the Peace Corps Office library and the libraries at the regional transit houses. We are, however, short on current bestsellers and books (in English) by African authors. (enough are available to keep you occupied, bring only a few that may be necessary here)

• Ziploc bags (sandwich, quart and gallon..but always a good thing to have sent in care packages)
• Coffee French Press (one of the last things I packed and have loved having it here)
• Plastic food storage containers, a good can opener, small teflon pan, and other kitchen tools for baking (spatula, bake pans, measuring cups).(you can buy most kitchen items in the market but the ease of use and quality is lacking of what we are used to)
• Your favorite spices or sauce packets. Local markets may have bay leaves, chili peppers, garlic, anise, and peppercorns. Other spices such as curry, oregano, etc., can be bought in Lomé. Seasoning packets for pasta are highly recommended, as are cinnamon and burrito/taco spices.(bring spice packets from Rice-a-Roni and other boxed rice and noodle meals..couscous, rice and noodle all available here...cheddar broccoli and other cheese mixes are favorites)
• Garlic press and Cutting Knives (not needed, fork anyone? However good sharp cutting-chopping knives are a must, chopping and paring)
• Powdered drinks straws, Favorite Teas, Instant coffee creamer powder. (you can find some similar kool-aid like drink mixes but crystal light and others are good for a change, also lipton original black tea is most common, coffee creamer powders add a nice taste to the coffee one finds available)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Day 1 of Spectacle week ..SUCCESS

They were all winners in the end.
SO here are some photos from the soccer match I organized in my town between the middle school and high school. This match was to jump start the community-wide talent show events of this weekend and in the end...after all the stress and sweat running around town organizing, I felt good at the turnout. No one was hurt, the lycee (high school) won the close match and all the players walked away with school supplies to aid in thier final exams. Thanks Friends of Togo for helping me realize the first part of this weeks events.

Team White Lycee d'Adeta (High School)

Team Blue CEG Adeta (Middle School)

The referees make a final plea for a safe match after I signaled the event with a speech and the opening kick.

What a beautiful (but hot) sunny afternoon in Togo for a match.