Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Moving out and Moving in!

**I wasn't able to write a blog post right before we left for post, so here's an edited journal entry that better captures how I was feeling, rather than me trying to think back to what it was like.

I can't stop thinking about home. Not New Jersey, or Texas, of even Michigan or France. Since leaving for college I haven't lived in one place for more than a year ( Kalamazoo could have been, but I always left, and was happy to leave in the summers.)

As we approach our move out-date in Kpalime and our move in date for our new homes, many emotions come forth.

First of all, I'm happy to finally unpack my suitcases. I've been living out of a suitcase since mid-April, and really, even since I left Texas last May.

With the excitement of course comes fear. I'm overwhelmed by the idea of having to stay in one continent country–state village for two years. But then when I actually get to buy things without analyzing the cost/benefit of owning it for just a couple months my feet stop itching for a few moments.

To be able to see a lot, you always have to have something in the works. I've been planning for Peace Corps since before I left Texas, left for Guadeloupe, and for France. It's rather natural, that while my departure is two years away, I'm already thinking about where I want to make my home afterward.

I miss my friends and family, and I'm tired of always moving away. But it feels like there's just always more to see. Could a new adventure be waiting in Denver or Georgia? What about graduate school?


Most of all, how do I stop thinking ahead and be present in the moment? How do make where I already am, my home.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cafe Kouma

Caitlin (the volunteer I'll be replacing) and Lauren, another 2nd year volunteer came up to Kpalime following the swear-in party in Lome. Lauren wanted to learn more about a nearby coffee plantation to bring back information to her village, but also because she loves coffee. Despite the fact that Togo is well suited through many parts to grow coffee, most Togolese don't drink it, those who do drink “coffee” have Nescafe Instant Coffee and the majority of the coffee is exported anyway. Coffee makes my stomach hurt, so I'm not a fan, but I figured it would be fun to go along anyway, as Cafe Kouma is up the mountain and I was happy to do something outside of training and unscheduled.


I'm really happy I went along, and the moto ride up there was great, just by itself. The roads were basically empty, and a tunnel of greenery, except for the parts where it opened up into beautiful views of the mountain side and Kpalime below. I was really nervous about having to take motos in the beginning, but after only a few rides, I've become really comfortable with them and even look forward to them.



Up in Kouma, Kodzo met us at the plantation to tell us about his farm and work. He's worked in the past with Peace Corps through Small Enterprise Development (SED) program  (currently being phased out). He had a lot to tell us about his fields, but most of all it was great to see a working organic, shade grown, small business, coffee company as work. 

Of course, we went home with coffee (and honey!) in our bags both for ourselves and as gifts. 


Even better than that, our beautiful ride home was only interrupted by the chance to stop at some amazing waterfalls! 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Officially a Peace Corp Volunteer!

All of us took a road trip down to Lome to meet up with CHAP and EAFS for some Lome shopping and swear-in!

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
Both ceremonially and officially, we took the oath and have become Peace Corps Volunteers!


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!

Peace Corps is kind of a big deal, and there's not much else to put on the news here, so a report of our ceremony was aired SEVERAL times on multiple Togolese news channels. Several volunteers gave speeches in local language- which were all amazing. 
And of course, it was also a chance for us all to celebrate a little! 


Festivities went throughout the night, as CHAPS and EAFS all headed out to their posts, while EGE packed up and head "home" to Kpalime.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Kpalime

For the EGE volunteers, we packed up and headed to our new, temporary, training site of Kpalime (Pah-lee-may). It's here in Kpalime that we have model classes and the rest of our training. What's Kpalime like? Well, we have running water first of all! Kpalime is a tourist filled city, as it's a lively town with a gorgeous mountain setting the background and a great gateway to waterfalls and hiking in the area. We've also found it to be a less aggressive city, or perhaps just more used to us Yovos and therefor we get less harassment.

Because Kpalime is a big town, there's also a good number of restaurants including an amazing restaurant called “Le Bon Vivant” which is owned by a Belgian guy, and more importantly, has a great selection of beers and the best burgers I've ever had.

Our host families are also much more accustomed to having students. While there aren't many streetlights, there's moto (motorcycle) taxis everywhere which means you never have to walk home at night. Being able to stay out until 9 (hey, it's pretty late considering we start teaching at 7am each day) is a big change compared to before, when we were racing the sun home, making it back before the 6:15 sunset.

Many of us are also happy about the change because we feel it's been the most useful part of training. You can talk about teaching theory until you turn blue in the face, but it wont mean much until you actually get to practice teach. Here we are teaching at a local middle school summer program, and then also with a micro-scholarship and English program funded by the US Embassy. The program at MLK Jr. funded through the embassy is very similar to the work I did in France, as it focuses a lot more on cultural aspects. However, I find the classes at the local middle school (CEG Kpodzi) to be the most helpful. We are teaching using the same textbooks that we will most likely use this year, and while the classes are smaller than we will have later, these are regular students- unlike the selected ones from MLK's program.

Kpalime has been wonderful, and I'm really going to miss it when I leave.


Other reasons to love Kpalime? The most beautiful walk to school I've ever had.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A good day to switch to Doxy?

Having spent the last few Sunday nights (the day I would take
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.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/30/business/fda-strengthens-warnings-on-lariam-anti-malaria-drug.html?_r=3&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1375387997-LYgCEoHpqlJo98Yj5A57fg

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.