Thursday, July 25, 2013

Post Visit

Well, I just got back yesterday from a 4.5 day visit to the village where I'll be living for the next two years come August! I was lucky, as I'm in Maritime, I didn't have far to travel to my post but others, like those in Savannes had a total of 4 days travel, just for a day up at post!

When I got out of the car, I had drummers pounding away, women dancing, singing, and a plate of spaghetti with a glass of cold, very sweet red wine waiting my arrival. My homologue, the middle school principal, Lucas, his homologue and I all sat down to to eat, as appraising stares made sure that we ate enough. Having finished, we headed back outside where the dancing and drumming was still going on. I won the approval of many by joining in in the dancing and shaking my booty. I figure I'm going to make a fool of myself no matter what over the course of the two years, so I can do it with a smile and dancing or sour-faced. I chose dancing :)

Then I had the introductions of many community members- many of whom I've already forgotten the name of. After all that excitement, I was finally given some time to settle in (and pee! I had to pee since before I got out of the car!)

Caitlin, the current volunteer arrived back into town about mid-day and from there she showed me around. It was nice to see her perspective on the town, what places are important to her and what her life is like there. She also showed me some of the prettiest views in village.


She will be leaving in mid-September which gives us a few weeks of overlap which is nice.

I'll be living in a different house than she had, but while she was in town we were able to cook together (spaghetti with local cheese, basil and tomatoes and french toast with pineapple topping!) Which was really nice.

Also, she has the best gift to leave me when she goes- a puppy!

One of these lovely puppies will be my own. I loved getting to play with them during post visit. The are such cuties!

When we move in for real, Peace Corps gives us a “settling in allowance” which is pretty sizable chunk of change to help us set up and pay for lots of initial costs like furniture and household items. However, we don't get that money until after swear-in. Because of that, I couldn't afford a gas stove right now (costs about 40 USD) and instead I cooked on a charcoal stove (costs about 5 USD) for the two days that Caitlin wasn't there!

My backyard and temporary kitchen
I joined the waterfront staff at Glen Spey, not in small part of avoid doing camp cookouts. I am awful at cooking over a fire, and more than one of my cookouts ended in me sneaking into the camp kitchen to steal away granola bars for my campers. So it was no small miracle that I was able to do pretty well on my charcoal stove. One day I made a sort of stir fry with rice, pineapple and soy which is sold around town. Another day I had tomatoes, onions and lentils. There weren't the most spectacular meals I've ever made, but they were decent and hot which was enough.

From left to right: My shower, my bucket flush toilet, me, and dinner.
On my last full day, I stopped by the school to sit in on the “conseil de classe” which happens at the end of each term and each student is discussed. It being the end of the year, a major topic of concern was who would pass on to the next level, and who would be held back. The meeting was called for 8am, I was told by an English teacher to be there at 8:30, all the other teachers were there at 10:30 and the principal showed up and we started around 11. The meeting went until 2, at which point we ate lunch together, finally ending everything around 2:30/ 3pm. It was a good insight into how things might go for the next year.

There are 12 teachers at the school, including tow other English teachers. The school doesn't have many resources- including things like toilets. Or latrines. Guys just pee where ever, and girls go into the nearby field. I'm the only female teacher. Can you understand why I was desperate to leave the 6 hour meeting? Other than the lack of bathrooms, the school seems fine. There's a teachers' paillote (straw hut) in the middle and then class rooms surrounding it in a U shape.



Basketball is played with real baskets here.
I had a really great post visit, and I'm glad to have a little insight into where I'll be living for two years!  

Communication

Just a quick update about contact info since now I've visited my post. I'll be keeping the same address, and and all packages can go to it. My town doesn't have good Togocel (my current carrier) reception, so there's a small chance I'll get a new number with a different carrier but probably not. I don't have internet access in my town, or reception for my internet key. Letters are the best way to reach me, but sometimes they do get lost, so please shoot me an email if you haven't heard from me in a while. It still may take me a while to respond, but I'll get to it eventually.

Again, my address is:

Anna Williams, PCV
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 3194
Lome, Togo
West Africa  

(it's also listed on the side bar to the right) 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Language and Technical Presentations

A large part of training here in Togo is language based. Most people don't come in with very much French, but even coming in with French skills doesn't preclude you from language class! Those of us with a high enough level of French just get to enjoy local language classes instead! So, whether it's French or local language (Ewe for me), you're head is swimming either way.

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

Happy Independence Day!

Even all the way over here in Togo, we have to celebrate the fourth of July. While it wasn't burgers and cookout type fair for food, we still made do with some street meat hot dogs, avocado and egg sandwiches and drinks.
The patriotically dressed of the group

Me and Amelia