Sunday, October 4, 2015

Lake Ruhondo

This weekend I got a chance to travel a bit and meet up with another response volunteer, Jordan, at his site by Lake Ruhondo. The north has lakes, volcanoes and gorillas. As pretty as I think my site is, it's hard to argue with that combo. Jordan has not just a lake, but an island in the lake where you can go and enjoy a drink on the water's edge. So of course we did!

Me and Jordan

Another PCV, Erica joined us! :)
The day started out a bit rainy and overcast but that didn't stop us too much!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Umuganda- Community Work

The last Saturday morning of every month is reserved for community work where everyone comes together for a project. I don't know that I really helped at all, but I showed up! 

Friday, August 28, 2015

At school

Despite the initial problems when I first moved in, things are going well. My school is really wonderful with teachers who actually show up and teach class, several female teachers-one in particular who moved to the area last year and "knows how difficult it is to be somewhere new" has taken me under her wing helping me with basic things like buying credit for my electricity meter and making sure I get the right prices at the market.

Schools runs from 7:30 am to 4:30pm with a two hour lunch. There's free lunch at school (usually beans and rice-but yay free food) and so I eat there and then stick around for clubs in the second hour or go home for a short nap/rest.

I'm running the school library (the school has a library!) Kids can come in during the day to use the books and study and just recently the dean of studies gave me the papers so the kids can take home books and study as well. I have my own little domain where I can ready, prepare for class or go on my phone (pretty decent internet here!). The library is a bit disorganized for the moment so I'll also be working on that for the coming months.

Additionally I have three 2 hour long classes once a week with the seniors, juniors and sophomores who are in the "Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili and English" track. It's kind of a supplemental class so I'm supposed to focus on conversation, listening and communication skills. It works out perfectly since I'm just here for the last term that I can sort of jump in wherever and choose topics and classes that I like. All three classes have less than 30 students and the students are pretty well behaved -a bit change from the challenges of Togo! I'm also leading the BeGlow (Boys Excellence, Girls Leading Our World) club which meets at lunch time. They've done a lot with health topics, gender balance and peer pressure with the last volunteer so I'll be trying to work on some leadership activities with them. We'll see how it goes- there's a lot of middle schoolers in the club and their English isn't very strong. I'm working with another teacher to lead the club, but there have been some miscommunications and so we haven't been entirely on the same page so far.

I'm really happy about the work I'll be doing at the school and I think it's a really good fit for the three months that I'm here. I hope to be able to leave the incoming volunteer with lots of information so they can get projects started quickly.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ryan's Visit!

My friend Ryan from PC Togo had a job interview in Kenya and so he came by to say hello :) We turned some heads given that it was my first week at post and now two white people had shown up!
proof that we are friends

always modeling

we gathered a crowd of about 30 children

who decided to walk up the hill with us

Friday, August 21, 2015

At site in Rwanda

Well, for the second time I've moved into my Peace Corps site. I'm an RPCV but that didn't make it much different from the first time. The mistake of Peace Corps is ever having expectations or thinking that things will turn out well. That way you can be pleasantly surprised when anything remotely good happens. And of course, I let my mind wander and made that mistake. My house is very small, perhaps the same square footage as my house in Togo was, but this one is long and skinny. Its only about 7 or 8 feet wide and about 30 feet long. My latrine is a squatty potty but there is a pipe so you still have to run some water down it. This is problematic as it's the end of the dry season and there isn't much water around. Instead I'm using the family's pit latrine squatter with a very shaky and unhinged door. This is a double bummer because I always have to pee in the night so it's a choice of go out or chamber pot. I'd rather not accidently pee on my floor so that means getting up and heading out. When I arrived there weren't screens on the windows nor a secure front door (a wooden door with easily broken glass and a window next to it were you could stick your hand in and open it from the inside).

They've replaced the door and put screens on some of the windows (though it's currently having the effect of trapping flies inside). Nancy, a nearby volunteer has been kind enough to lend me her hotplate/electric burner for the three months since she doesn't use it much and I'm here for such a short time. It looks like my suitcases vomited all over the house as I don't have any furniture yet, though a shelf/counter should be coming soon. And as difficult as it cane be to move somewhere new- it doesn't matter if it's across town or across the world there's always an adjustment period and then it works out. It's that simple and if two years in Togo have taught me anything it's that ça va aller.
on the plus side, these views :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Swear In

The PCRVs with the director of Peace Corps, the ambassador and our country director.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Month in America

This month has been a whirlwind trip across the USA with airplane rides and 8 hour road trips (overnights in 6 different states and a drive through 3 more). However its been fabulous- I got to see almost all my cousins, a very rare feat, my grandmothers and aunts, college friends, brothers and sister and nieces and nephews. I somehow managed to get everything done, though with significantly less pizza and vegging out on the couch with Netflix than I had predicted. But I got everything done. I could have planned or hoped for a better 30 days in America and it gave me the energy and excitement to start another (albeit far shorter) service at 100%.
But now the bags are packed and it's time to go. I live you so much, America, and I'll see you in November!

Back to Africa

This month in America has been fabulous. A time to recharge, see friends and family and get in those many many food cravings that I've held for two years. However, in packing and printing out my plane tickets the reality hits me that although I'm going back to Africa I'm heading across the continent far far away from Togo. It's a new adventure and experience and I'm starting all over again. I won't have my house already set up, I won't have my team of kids ready to give fist bumps and hugs, I won't have my amazing host family smiling and there for me. If I need a table made, or a new dress, or to have something brought to a nearby volunteer I won't know who to call-or even the language.
There's plenty of things that I don't miss from Togo- the stifling heat, the ants attacking my house, kids shouting the yovo song or the men calling "ma cherie." But there's plenty of things I miss already-Marie's pâte and gboma sauce with lots of hot peppers, Jules slyly asking for more raisins when he comes to my house, Amenuveve's little cry of "Anna!" and huge smile when I come down the street. While I've known that I'm not going back to Togo intellectually, I haven't really processed it yet and it makes my heart ache to think that I have no clue when I'll see those people again.
I'm excited for Rwanda, for a real COS trip (Tanzania and safaris!) And to see what we in Togo affectionately call "fun Africa." But it also means facing the reality that I've said my goodbyes in Togo and I don't know when I'll get to say hello again.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Family Portraits

The last couple weeks have been spent taking photos with some of my favorite people around village. It's really hard to say goodbye and I want to make sure that their faces aren't just in my memory put also in print! 
Me and the kids- basically what my entire service looked like. 

The little ones at Paul's house

Paul, Me, Madame, and Paul's kids 

Me and my favorite moto driver

Jules and Komi playing with their tires and sticks

Joseph, his three wives, mother, myself and some of the kids

Grandma, the ever regal matriarch

The best housemates ever; Akoffa, Baby Blessing, Bocco, Marie, Leo and Akpedje


Emanuella, Boga and his wife

Me and Marie in our matching travel outfits
Joseph, Patrice, Dorcas, Ella, Annie, Maggie and the twins 
My kiddos trying to jump into the bush taxi and come with me to Lome 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Girls' Soccer Competition

 As my last activity in village we held a a girls' soccer competition to distribute 11 soccer balls that we had received last year from the Rotary Club of Madison-South, Wisconsin. They were donated to do soccer based HIV/AIDS and malaria education activities (see previous posts about Grassroot Soccer) as well as to form a girls' soccer team. There hadn't been much movement on the soccer team front, so we decided to by pass the barrier of school logistics and having an available coach to just getting the soccer balls in the girls' hands. Girls competed in 4 events (4k, 100 meter dash, shoot out, juggling) winning points in each and the top 11 went home with their own brand new soccer ball! It was a great day with tons of excitement and just a fantastic way to end my time in village.

Runners coming in on the long course

Busting it out on the 100 meter dash

Taking a shot at the shoot out

YAY for all the contestants! 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thank You Rotary of Northfield Minnesota for Our New Clinic Latrine!

Look at this beautiful latrine and hand washing station! 
I'd like to extend a HUGE thank you to the members of the Northfield, Minnesota Rotary Club for making this project possible. Truly, without their financial support this would not have been possible. 

Togo is one of the pilot countries for a Rotary International partnership and while it was a rocky start (what Peace Corps project doesn't have some bumps and troubles along the way?) all of us here in Zafi are just so proud and happy to have this new latrine at the clinic. 

The clinic serves a population of about 8,000 people and there's about 35 daily visitors in addition to weekly baby weighings and pre-natal care sessions which bring in anywhere from 25-45 new or expecting mothers.

Moms, me and babies at our hand washing training
More of the attendees with the hand washing station used in our demonstration on the left 
Fancy! no squatty potties here! 
Maggie showing off how to use the hand washing station
Thank You! Merci! Akpe Kaka! 

Sunday, June 7, 2015


After visiting the Tamberma village Amelia and I headed a bit south, with poor directions and a good sense of adventure to visit a lodge that is working on elephant conservation. I got to take a little walk around where I saw some wildebeests and then in the evening the elephants came home! 

Look at that excitement and the elephant! 
 I was whispering as we saw the elephants coming closer which proved to be very unnecessary as we were about to get a LOT closer.

even closer.. 

...and closer
This one was trying to give me a little kiss. I was freaking out the entire time and Amelia kept talking me down from the hyperventilation and slight panic attack. 

It's been a while since some one has done my hair...
.... but I don't think this is usually how you do it. 
Elephant skin is so thick and strong! I don't know what I was expecting but it was a surprise! 
Arm wrestling competition
Amelia the elephant tamer with no fear. 
Quite an experience for sure!

If your travels bring you to Togo, call them up at and the number for their excellent restaurant is