Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sorry for the long silence!

First of all, sorry for the long absence! March was a difficult month. There were a lot of things that were just getting to me, becoming the last straw that broke the camel’s back as it were. As some point (or many) during a Peace Corps service a volunteer is likely to become negative. It’s true culture shock, not when food is spicy or that kids take baths outside, but that you realize and feel that you are valued less as a woman, or that you merit that harassment you receive daily (despite wearing local clothes and speaking the language). Overall my PC service has been a positive one and I didn’t want to be projecting that attitude to others, especially invitees who may be looking up information about Togo (or another country of service). One good thing to come it was a weekend trip to Accra with another PCV where we ate, had good internet and ate more (we went to KFC at least 3 times over the weekend. I have now traveled to another country for KFC. No regrets.)

April was a month of waiting. It kicked off with a great trip to Kpalime for pool time and good food (a repeating theme for PCVs). Amelia, Daniella, Ana and I enjoyed smoothies (!), burgers, bacon mac and cheese, excellent company and air conditioning.

Just as I got back to village I received the announcement that school would not be restarting as planned after Easter but instead on MAY 4th. I didn’t have a ton of money and so I couldn’t really take advantage of traveling with the time off so I mostly hung out in village doing things that entertained me. Most of my work has been through the school community so it was kind of difficult to all of sudden mobilize people from my geographic community. Additionally, the first round of rain had started so most everyone was out in their fields planting or preparing for the first growing season. I just read, talked to friends and ran a lot (I listed to so many audiobooks this way). Unfortunately, my foot started to bother me (still not totally resolved yet) so I was only running for about a month in March/ April. Despite an xray (showing nothing) the med unit hasn’t figured out what’s wrong yet. I’m just trying to keep off it and hope it heals on its own. At least once I’m back in America (!) I can join a pool which won’t aggravate it.

On April 25, presidential elections were held and rather unsurprisingly the incumbent, Faure, won again and will serve a third term of 5 years. To ensure PCV safety during the elections we were put on standfast which basically just meant “stay in village.”  Most PCVs I talked to agreed that staying in village was not at all difficult, it was just being told to stay in village that was. Kind of like being told to clean your room by your mom. You were going to do it anyway, but now you’re kind of resistant to the idea because someone told you to do it. Luckily, the elections passed without incident.
That brings us into May. School actually started again as planned, though not without some complications. The school year has been extended due to the month long “forced vacation.” Also, this week (after only 1 full week back at school) we are holding our 2nd trimester final exams. The poor kids haven’t been in school for nearly 8 weeks between government shut downs and strikes, so I don’t imagine many of them will do well. However, school being in session means that we will finally be able to hold our “Girls’ Week” trainings next week. We will have three days about “know your rights, “reclaiming/ protecting your rights”, and a Q&A session with local police and social services members. The trainings are largely about (sexual) assault, violence and how to navigate the police and judicial processes. Many girls don’t understand that they can say no to sex (especially from older men) and that they have legal recourse if something happens.
Another project that’s finally in motion is to build a latrine at our health clinic. We are working with Rotary International and some clubs in the USA- it was a lot to organize and had a lot of hiccups on the way but is now in motion due to the hard work of our staff member Jane (RPCV Togo and Rotarian). The money just came in at the beginning of May so it’s going to be a slightly stressful push to the end to get it built, get all the receipts in and cash me out before I leave, but Joseph has assured me that it will happen. (It better, Joseph, otherwise the money comes out of my readjustment allowance!).

I think that gets you all up to date. I don’t have much time left in Togo, and that’s really starting to hit me. I’m excited for some of the projects and plans I have in my last two months here, but it’s certainly a mixed bag of emotions- finally getting to see family and friends stateside, but also knowing that it will likely be a long time before I ever come back to Togo or get to see these amazing people again. But, you can’t stop time so I’ve just got to take it in stride. 

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