Thursday, December 26, 2013
My plans to go up north to the big holiday party there changed due to a lack of money and no tickets for the nice bus. Without those tickets I would have been stuck taking bush taxis the whole way which is in no way a vacation.
Instead I ended up at Peace Corps' other transit house in Atakpame, a larger city (town really) with fresh vegetables, lots of avocados and mangoes and a yovo store that sells Pringles and Snickers bars. The two other volunteers and I spent most of the time hanging out, cooking and enjoying the unlimited wifi available here. A blender was recently purchased for the house, so we've been taking advantage of that and making lots of mango smoothies. Yesterday we went and got beers and pizza for Christmas dinner- pretty good to me! Without any Christmas weather, decorations or music going up and playing around me, I didn't really get into the Christmas spirit this year. In a lot of ways though that made it easier. Last year in France I considered very much trying to buy tickets to go back, and this year the thought didn't even really cross my mind. That made it a lot easier the celebrate here.
I know after my last post a lot of you got worried about me- don't! I had been debating putting up the post, but after a conversation with another volunteer, Lucas, about how people rarely show both sides of the Peace Corps experience, I thought it was worth including. Things have gotten better since then as well. A visit from Rose, the education program director, helped sort out a lot of problems that I had been having at school. Not all of them are necessarily fixed now, but now I also have a good idea of who is willing to work with me, and who is disinterested in the Zafi community. Also, as much as I hate quitting anything, if i really had huge problems, I'd ask for a site change or go home. As the Country Director said "Two years is a long time to be miserable."
Vacation has given me a bit more free time (between classes, English club, Science club and helping the eighth graders in the next town with end of year English exam prep I'm actually starting to be busy!) and in the free time I've been able to start walking again. My ankle still isn't 100% after that sprain from early October, but it's getting there. Because of that I don't want to start running again quite yet, but hopefully soon. I found out the Ghana half marathon in Accra is September 28, 2014. I'm not quite sure of my commitment to it yet, but the first registration deadline is in May, so I'm leaving my decision until then. All the same, it's something to look forward to doing.
It's always a little hard to leave the big cities, good food and internet to go back to village, as much as I love Zafi, but of the presents Mom and Dad sent, I made sure to keep a few wrapped and leave them waiting for my arrival back home in village.
With that, I need to buy some veggies, avocados and mangoes and then head back, so I'll leave it here. Most of all - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Friday, December 6, 2013
Sunday, November 17, 2013
The Savannes region is about as different possible from Maritime. Maritime is still green and humid, while things are turning dry, dusty and brown up here. There's hills and even some mountains, where as at my site and the surrounding 30km I rarelly have more than a 15 foot elevation change. Moba is the most popular local language in Dapaong, though others are in the area while down in Zafi Ewe dominates, even to the extent that many women don't speak much French.
Togo and neighboring countries were divided by European powers during colonization without regard to ethnic groups or geography thus Togo had great variation from the North to South. What this also means is that there's a lot to explore over the next two year, and I'm just getting a first taste!
Saturday, November 16, 2013
As I mentioned last time, the start of the school year was marked by strikes, and my off handed joke about striking until Christmas has become a little too true. The past few weeks have been marked by starts and stops. This has led to mostly stops, rather than starts, in my work.
I announced my girls' science club and twenty minutes later the school was shut down for what turned out to be about a week and a half. Our teaching timetable hasn't been 100% hammered out yet, so that's been holding me back on when to even find times to meet for clubs.
We are now headed to In Service Training (IST) which gives me a chance to talk to other volunteers and, importantly, my director. This will give me a chance to hammer out some issues and get ready to get back to work with new excitement in village.
Hopefully, I'll have some goo news to report after IST!
Saturday, October 19, 2013
My first day here wins prizes for being the least organized but also the least stressful. The first day had been pushed back several times because of strikes, and there was rumors to keep striking and not start of Wednesday, but the following Monday. With teachers unsure whether or not they should be working, the day mostly meant sitting around in the teacher's hut chatting, and vaguely considering teaching.
I have only one class 5iemeA (7th grade, section 1) and only 4 hours a week of class. The kids had a year of English last year, but unlike my middle school French classes which only ever addressed the present tense and passe compose, heavily interspersed with art projects and cultural lessons, these kids are expected to pretty much learn all the English grammar possible in four years and not much else.
I managed to give out American names (to my disappointment, no one chose Bubba, but we do have Barack, Tex and Junior) and go over some classroom commands, but not anything else. The teachers repeatedly told me that "next week we will actually start teaching." So the best is yet to come.
Not only am I to teach these kids English, but reteach them how to learn. The classroom in Togo is dominated by rote memorization and copying from the board, not very heavy on the critical thinking skills. The hardest part of this is getting the kids to ask questions. It's just nor normal for them to do that.
That might be related to some of the punishment techniques often employed here. I was informed that each week there is a "Teacher of the Week" who is like the dean of students or disciplinarian. What that really means is hitting the bad students with a stick (often in front of the entire school). So in addition to creative lessons plans, I've been working hard on trying to come up with punishments that the teachers will accept, but won't look too soft either.
It's been good to be back at school. I actually have some work starting, I people I can work with, as before many were gone on vacation and I have somewhere to go during the day. Zafi isn't very big and so it's hard to wander too far without ending out of town.
I know your school years started weeks (or months) ago, but mine starting just in time for another strike to bring me to Christmas vacation I hope!
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
I found little ants crawling around in the sugar today, despite the tightly sealed plastic lid. I didn't want to waste the sugar so I just shook the container a lot until I thought I killed them all. Then I made my oatmeal and added the sugar.
I think today is when I officially became a Peace Corps volunteer.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Monday, September 16, 2013
Thursday, September 5, 2013
his teacher (note, we also often see them for sale at the weekly market), they are not ordinary objects, but ones that have been treated with certain powers, and the gross, crazy looking thing is a buffalo horn with seemingly too much buffalo still attached.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Friday, August 9, 2013
Peace Corps gives us a nice sum of money to cover the costs of settling into a new home. However, they don't tell us how to spend it, so you quickly see what people value. I spent the vast majority of my money clearing out the spices from the groceries, along with just about every other shelf. I also picked up a potato masher, whisk, cheese grater, cutting board and miscellaneous others. I will say that the liquor section of the store seemed to have much emptier shelves after we left.
Beyond shopping, we had the real reason to be back in Lome- Swear-in!
|Me and Ryan. Ryan is rocking a chief outfit, complete with hat|
Everyone had pagne (the colorful local fabric) outfits made. EGE went a step further, and in the Togolese way, got matching fabric as one does for special events.
|I have to say, we are a good looking group!|
Friday, August 2, 2013
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Mephloquin) waking up in the middle of the night, thinking there were
intruder standing over me, or unable to fall asleep because I was sure
someone was already in my house, or going to sneak in this NY Times
article was an interesting read for me.
I'm glad to take the burden of a daily pill, rather than weekly if it
means I'm no longer freaking out in my bedroom in Togo.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
|My backyard and temporary kitchen|
|From left to right: My shower, my bucket flush toilet, me, and dinner.|
|Basketball is played with real baskets here.|
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Togo doesn't have a unifying, country wide lingua franca, so it's only this year that Peace Corps has really started local language here. In Senegal, it's easy to have everyone start learning Wolof, because no matter where you are it's helpful, but here in Togo it's very region dependent. This poses a problem, as when we first arrive, they're not sure yet where to send us in the country for our posts, so they're not sure what language to have us learn.
With the early push for local language, all of us found ourselves doing our first technical presentation in a language we are uncomfortable with speaking- French or otherwise.
Somehow, many of us were able to stutter though Ewe (and even Bassar) presentations introducing ourselves, talking about Peace Corps' mission, the English and Gender Education goals and what work we will do at post. Those who gave presentations in French did a great job, even though there were many butterflies in their stomachs before hand.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
|The patriotically dressed of the group|
|Me and Amelia|
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Monday, June 24, 2013
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Sunday, June 9, 2013
In the 5 weeks I've been in the states, I've had an absolutely fantastic time. My goal was nothing more than to see great friends and family and to eat and drink well (which the 7lbs I gained can attest to!).
However in the 5 weeks that I've been back, I haven't really had time to slow down and take in the fact that I'm about to leave for Togo. I'm happy for my host family in Senegal, the crappy first year I had in France, going back to France and trying to all again (and succeeding!). I'm not totally prepared for what's about to come, but I'm not sure that anyone is.
There's been a lot of twists and turns, but I'm really happy about the path I took to get here. My original plan had been to join Peace Corps directly out of school. I wasn't ready for it then. I probably would have gotten through alright, but maybe not have taken advantage of all the opportunities, letting myself shy away and get closed in.
I don't have the same stomach turning fright that I had before I left for Senegal (a big thank you to Rebecca who talked me through all of it) but I can help but be a bit anxious.
With that, I need a good night's rest (ok, I still have stuff to cram into suitcases). Hopefully my next update will be from an airport or, even better, Togo!
Saturday, June 8, 2013
I asked my mom to write a bit about here experience, but gave no further direction than that. So here's what she has to say:
Friday, June 7, 2013
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
With Peace Corps paying for two 50lbs bags to Togo I don't have the same incentive to cut things down to the bare minimum either. I think I fed my bags water after midnight because my stuff is taking over the guest room.
Why the heck am I even bringing? Well, way too many shoes (Tom's don't count as real shoes anyway, right?) lots of undies and bras, toiletries, an American flag, 3 books, water bottles, headlamp/flashlight, a solar charger and solar shower, kitchen knives, boxed latke mix, markers and colored pencils.
Though let's be serious, the way things are overflowing, it's doubtful it's all making it to Togo. 4 days left to see what makes the cut!
Saturday, June 1, 2013
It was one of the worst races I've done. My calves were super tight the first two miles, and I was overheating the last three, but most of all my heart wasn't in it. I didn't have my head in the game and my results suffered.
That being said, it was a good reminder of why I need to keep active. The finish line is an active healthy life.
The Kate and I went to the farmers market and got donuts. Oops.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Kate, Ev, Pete and I ran a flashback 5k where I PR'ed by 1 second (though mostly by accident, not real effort).
|Like our family tube socks?|
|Gram and Me :D|
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
We ate and we ate and we ate. Then we talked a long while and repeated it. I can't think of a better way to have spent my time in Decatur.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
|The Springs! I couldn't stop myself from watching the water when there was a rescue. That being said, I did refrain from yelling at kids who were running instead of walking.|
Not bad for only 2 fulls days in ATX.
(ok, I'll come clean that I also got Salk Lick BBQ and Amy's ice cream at the airport before I left)
Saturday, May 18, 2013
My time with Amelia in Denver included LOTS of catching up, sun, attaya, drinks and dancing. I can't wait until I see her again (maybe Itriage wants to send her a business trip to Africa?! Wishful thinking)
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I've been running around doing errands, unpacking, repacking and going through endless shopping and checklists. There's always more to be done, but I'm starting to get a handle on it all. One item off the list- updated the blog!