Greer Gurganus - Peace Corps Togo.

Environmental Protection/Extension Agent.

Undergraduate at Eastern Michigan University in Earth Science.


Greer is both a Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate student in the Loret Miller Ruppe Peace Corps Masters International Program at Michigan Tech. Find out more about this program at .

Greer at Fall Camp.

June 17 2002

We arrived yesterday at 7 pm. We were greeted by the Country Director (Louise Krumm), the P.C. drivers ( 2 or 3) and many, many others. All of our baggage was passed through their new safety device. Louise said it was to impress us with their level of security : ) We then loaded all of our baggage on an army-type truck and packed ourselves into European-type vans, and drive to Mammy's-where we are staying now. There is a large (oh-sorry it's a hostel for P.C.V.s only) living room where there are 21 chairs at the edge, a 10" TV in the corner (where we watched Senegal win their game today in the World Cup-all the cars honked along the street, people were cheering-yes, all of Africa is cheering for Senegal-we are too : ) ) We were given packets for health info and general info before dinner (a rice and meat dish, bread, and bananas). We only drink water out of bottles (Vittel) but have good cold showers and flush toilets. Our room (one of 6 or so we are staying in) has 6 beds. One of my fellow PCTs described them as similar to the scene in the opening of "The Secret Garden" with all of the beautiful 4-poster mosquito-netted beds. We also have three fans : ) Sleeping was comfortable (except for the Correctol-induced diarrhea that woke me up several times). For breakfast we had scrambled eggs, bacon, milk, and bananas/oranges. They are doing an introduction to Togolese food tomorrow so I don't think they are cooking traditional dishes for us til then. We picked out our bike sizes today [smallest - big shock : ) ] and will get fitted for helmets tomorrow. Then we had free time to "walkabout" (Oh, we are given $1.75 US per day for the first 2 weeks as supplemental allowance [ $1.75 US = 678 CFA])

So a group of us went off - actually all 21 of us do everything together-it's kind of funny-but split up as we walked along-so 5 of us (Todd, Erik, Sonja, John, and I) asked the guard at the fire station if we could go up the steps to the water tower to get a view of the city-all in my broken French (aren't you proud)-but they misunderstood and gave us a complete tour of the facilities-trucks, offices and all-culminating in a picture of the 3 of them in front of their newest truck [very nice : )]. They wouldn't let us take the picture until they pit on their fire fighting boots. It was very cool.
Came back to lunch of green beans mashed potatoes, chicken, and pineapple. I ate all of it and it was good! So we decided to take a group trip to the beach and visit the fetish market. Well to make a long story short, we were gone for 6 hours-were late for dinner and lost 2 people along the way. We were jeered at, called yevo (white man) I got called big momma in English (which is supposed to be a big compliment?). By the time we made it back we were tired, dirty, and my knee is messed up still : ( It just reaffirmed the fact that I don't like big cities and Lomé is large!

**It is really fun to see the Togolese try to pronounce Greer-the double "e"s trip them up : )

Several days later in June.

It is 5:30 AM here in Tomegbe. The bells in the city center are rung at 5 AM
every morning so that's when I get up. The first night here was very long
because I didn't get any sleep whatsoever. So I thought I'd write a bit to
tell you how things are going here.

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and were greeted by the entire village.
There was a brass band, a ceremonial ancestor greeting and about 400 kids.
It was so overwhelming. then we went (were escorted) to the school where a
welcoming reception took place and we met our families. Tomegbe is a large
village. They have 2 churches (but I think I heard 3 or 4 today), a large
primary school, a good sized market (2 times a week), and you can walk
through (of all) the town in about 20 minutes. Tomegbe is situated in a
small alcove up in the mountains but still in the southern part of the
country. (If you can't find it on a map - look close to the Ghana border and
for Kpalime the nearest town where the SBD (small business development)
volunteers are staying. [The brass band just started playing and there are
people singing very close to my door.] Everyone here over a certain age has a
goat (chevre) and a chicken (pou). They bay and cluck all the time and they
roam freely about town.

So about my family - I have a mom who sells petrol and does odd jobs about
the community, several family members who live in the states, 2 big sisters,
one, 20, who I talk the most to, 2 young sisters, 1 older brother, and 2
younger brothers. The older of the 2 sisters has a baby who goes everywhere
with her on her back. The house is pretty open air - I do all things outside
because I can't see in my room without some sort of lamp. The first night
here my mom showed me where the latrine was - there was a huge cockroach on
the "seat" so I made some sort of eew noise which startled her into laughter
followed by her removing her sandal to kill it. As I was using the
bathroom/latrine, I could hear her retell the whole thing to the family and
hear their rolling laughter. :) Great first impression! Yesterday after I
came back from the shower [concrete slab with a hole in the ground where we
take along buckets of water] there was a baby scorpion on my bed-crawling on
the outside of my mosquito net. I was able to get him into a bag and I took
him to school like show and tell :) Phanessa said it gave her nightmares ;(
We were assured to know that scorpions here cannot kill only cause lots of

Food: I've eaten spaghetti with egg and onion, sardin salad, green beans with
spaghetti sauce, bread, couscous, mango, peanut butter, rice and various
chicken dishes. I am being fed pretty well.

Tonight they let me accompany them to the river to get water. I carried a
bucket on my head half way. I hope to get the hang of it because they are
very heavy. the family has left me help sweep the compound (sweep the
dirt?!), get water, wash clothes and fix the salad. The kids that hang
around here all try to amuse me and they think it is amusing when I play with
them. (They love the Koosh ball!)

More details from staging. There are 21 of us, 12 NRM (Natural Resource
Management) and 9 SBD (small business development). So far we are all still
in - diarrhea and all. I am going on my third time to have it too! :) My two
closest friends when we were all still together are in the SBD group and they
live in Kpalime - so I feel a little disconnected from the group - but that
is pretty normal for me anyway.

We began preparing our garden beds for cultivation using machetes :)
(coup-coup) and hoes (le hoe). It was very hard work and I have a blister the
size of a dime on my hand, but it was fun! We have classes Monday through
Saturday afternoon, then Sunday off. I went to the Presbyterian church
yesterday. The choir wore graduation regalia - silly hats with tassels and
all! Very confusing but very interesting.

Also - we make $4000/week and stamps cost $500 for one letter. Exchange ratd
$1 US Dollar=$670 CFA (Central African Franc)

So my family is nice but I feel like they wait on me hand and foot. They
stare at me a lot too. It is kind of strange. I am already looking forward
to living alone at post! We should find out in 3 weeks where we are going to
be assigned. Having this many people surround me 24/7 without being able to
communicate or violate social norms is frustrating.

I don't think that ti actually set in that I was in Africa until the first
night in Tomegbe when I blew out my lantern and instantly realized I had to
use the bathroom and didn't have any matches. And since the darkness isn't
my favorite thing anyway, I stuck it out through the night.

6 July 2002

It has been a beautiful day here in Tomegbe and in Kpalime where we biked this afternoon. Because we are in the mountains - we have to trek across the mountains to get out. So some other PCT's [Ellen's note: Peace Corps Trainees] and I biked to Kpalime for a shopping/e-mail day after morning classes were done. I bought a pair of shirts [Rio de Janeiro :)], a toothbrush (to clean my water filter) and a coke - yes, big spender! But the clincher was the 800 CFA I spent on 45 minutes of Internet. I had a fabulous letter all typed and ready to go when the Internet crashed and lost everything I was working on - so looks like you are getting the real thing from now on :). It also gives me something to do at night when I've already exhausted all of my French skills for the day! :) Actually French classes are the classes I dread - I had to stand up during class today because I couldn't stop falling asleep. It was like I had ADD and couldn't sit down. And I am a dunce in class even though I can communicate with my family decently - though they aren't quite sure why I make so many face and joke around so much. (But who is really). In technical class we have prepared, planted and transplanted our own garden beds - it's hard work! :) We just this morning - started a compost pile (huge) and starting Monday we rotate chores with the chicken coop - which I think we'll be doing more of (small animal husbandry).

So something I wanted to know from PCV's [Ellen's note: Peace Corps Volunteers] before I came was what a day here is like. So here goes (just keep in mind I am in the training not actually at post yet). The bells in the city center start ringing at 5:00 AM or there abouts - so I wake up and fight the urge to scurry across the compound to the latrine until around 5:30 when more bells ring and I give in. At 6:00 the women in my family and all over Togo, I reckon, sweep (ballait) their compounds (dirt) and rooms. I helped on the first day but they have determined that I am incompetent and appreciate my looking on more than my help. At 6:30 my mother hands me 2 buckets of water (1 hot, 1 cold) so I can take a shower. At 7:00 I eat breakfast - loaf of bread or some extremely oily mass of eggs which I cannot stomach sadly. Class begins at 7:30. It is either 2 hours in the garden working on some project, or sitting in class fighting the urge to sleep [A-haa is one of our professor's favorite phrases :)] We have a half hour break (sometimes) from 9:30 - 10. At 10 till Noon we have French class. Sit in a room and go over vocab, grammar, you name it - we cook, dance, role play (depending on the teacher - they rotate). At noon we go home for lunch - generally a massive bowl of rice/couscous/spaghetti with a sauce or bread and water. Sometimes a piece of fruit. (Maggie the squeezie orange thing is alive and well in Togo too!) Class doesn't start again till 2:30 so we are supposed to nap - I think because the Togolese do - but I end up doing my laundry - no competition at the river or the water pump :) We are supposed to let our clothes dry for 3 days before wearing them - so I do small loads quite often (I would have brought more shorts had I known) So at 2:30 we generally head up to the Tech house (classroom) for instruction in cross-culture, health or diversity till 5:30 when we are free. At 5:30 we head home, hang with the family, read, discuss till around 7:00 when we eat - actually I eat and my family eats around 9:00 - lately after dinner we all meet at the Buvet (Bar) our only place to get together in Tomegbe till around 9 PM when it is completely blackout (though that is true at 7 pm also! Bottles of coke/fanta/sport actif [grapefruit juice only made in Togo :)] cost 250 CFA small and 350 CFA large (350 = 50 cents) and you have to return the bottle - yeah, recycling is alive and well (at least in some form) in Togo! Bottles are prince commodity too (plastic) - if someone sees you with a water bottle they always ask if they can have it when you are finished. So I kind of got sidetracked - sorry - But that's pretty much my day - I return from the Buvet - unlock my door - grab the toilet paper, lantern and key to the latrine - go - come back, write in my journal and go to sleep by 10 pm.

So I've made a lame discovery - ready - here goes - hurricanes start up in Togo! It's true :) Yesterday we had an open hour from 11 - Noon so Becky and I decided to go for a bike ride - it was only sprinkling off and on so by the time we'd gone half way to Kpalime to the gendarme's station we turned around - so a little sprinkle opened up into a downpour with lots of wind which has been unusual here. We slid down the mountain with full brakes until we hit town where huge gullies/rapids were forming everywhere - the thatched palm roof to one of the stands blew off as we drove past - it was so much fun - but I was completely soaked and filthy. ;)

Tomorrow we may take a bike trip to Ghana - only 7 km west of here - check out the border and turn around :)

Greer (left) with another PCV.

My family loves the pictures of snow and ice and especially the one of me on the top of the ice swell - thanks Jason :) - they ranted over that for days :) they even made me get it out the other day when someone visited them. It was too funny. With the kids and the members my age - they love to play Frisbee and koosh - handball. In fact we had around 15 kids the other day all tossing around the koosh - it was great.

Oh, we found out where we will be posted as PCV's [Ellen's note - Peace Corps Volunteers] - or tentatively - since we will have site visits in 3 weeks - [where we get to spend a week at post - alone- to meet the neighbors - introduce ourselves to the police/chiefs/counterparts - get things settled with our houses (figure out what we need, etc.) and begin to get an idea of the area and what type of project we'll be doing]. So far I've heart that Yade (sorry, I didn't say the name earlier) is north of Kara along the route nationale. I've heard it is bigger than/the same as/smaller than Tomegbe, has/doesn't have electricity, savanna, mountains in the distance, beautiful:), has not had a PCV, but other than those vague descriptions I don't know anything. Our APCD (Assistant PC Director), Jim, has not been very informative about the posts. None of us really think he took anything we said in our interviews into consideration. But I don't want to decide until I've been to Yade :) I am excited though. Where I am now is just gorgeous - a little holler up in the mountains of Togo - lush with vegetation, plentiful water, fabulous people - taking a bucket shower outside in the morning as the fog lifts off the mountains is just beyond description. I'll take pictures and send them along soon (I hope - there is a development place in Lome) You won't believe it! It rivals the U.P. :)

So I've made some very good friends here and I am having the time of my life (latrine/cockroaches/scorpions and all). I can't wait to have visitors once I am at post so you can share in the joy! It is still mind boggling to me that I now live in Africa - half way across the world! So cool. I'll send postcards soon (when I find a good one) with pictures, a map, etc.) We have a field trip coming up on Friday - Sunday where we are going to the Kara region to visit a model farm (I think) I am excited to see the region I'll be living in for 2 years! It should be very informative - we can talk all day long about soil and such, but getting out and seeing what's really going on is going to be good.

I don't know what else to say - though I feel compelled to fill the page. It's 8:30 pm (I broke from writing for dinner of boiled yams and sauce - yum- and for a chat with Kara and John) and I'm headed to bed (sorry no buvet tonight) the crickets are alive and well, a procession of loudly talking men are down at the street, my family is getting ready to eat, someone is bathing (relative - I don't know?) the stars are out, there is no music but there was last night (till all hours - possible funeral).

17 and 18 July 2002

so :) we took a field trip last weekend to Kara and got to see where I'll be living for two years--it is only 5 km outside of Kara <which I am initially unhappy about but am trying to stay positive until post visit in 2 weeks>.

New news since I wrote above--I talked to our APCD (assistant Peace Corps Director) about why he put me in such a big city (10,000 residents between the 2 cities I will work in) when I requested small--he said that the community specifically requested a forestry volunteer because they want to reforest their mountain! So I am getting excited now about the community and project. We do our site visits on August 3rd for a week (week 8 of 11 for training) {It is Thursday of Week 5 now}. They [the communities] are also a new posting - so I'll be the first volunteer there. So we got to see the house they are building for me (I feel very important). It is a round mud/brick/concrete house with two rooms and an open living area [living room :)] with a high thatched roof and about 4 windows. It has electricity (though I don't know if the town does--some places are wired here without actually having the source) and they are still under construction on the latrine as we speak :)

Women (actually men too--but the women wear the crazier ones) here in Togo wear Pagnes (1 meter [stretch out both arms from tip to tip] of material). They wrap them around them as dresses/skirts/baby transportation/head wraps/etc. but also use then to make outrageous outfits. And the material is of all sorts of patterns, from your basic tie dye to chickens, clocks, cell phones, martini glasses, shower heads with water--you name it and someone is probably wearing it on their clothing. If I find one that is just too fabulous, you may be getting a package :) [There was one covered with trumpets on Tuesday--if it had been trombones, Colin may have had a new Sunday shirt]. I've had a tank/short set made out of the blue material, a dress like the reversible one made out of a dark blue with triangles and am having a mawa (pant/tunic) outfit being made out of a crazy green/purple/yellow fabric covered in eyes (geometric "art deco", not real). Though I don't think the seamstress understands the concept of hips :)

So I haven't had any more scorpions, the cockroaches and I have come to an agreement, but an ant bit me today--it's crazy :) We have 2 tests tomorrow - language (getting a bit better) and tree/crop ID (should be studying) so wish me luck, though you'll read this in a month :) I'm also going to cook for my family (10 people or so) on Sunday (rice, tortillas, beans, green peppers, onions <g>). It'll be the first time--and I'm trying pate (pronounced pot) for the first time tomorrow (mashed potato-like consistency with a sauce that generally is made with okra[very gooey). So next time I write I'll tell you how it went :)

20 July 2002

We have just finished week 5 here in Togo, and had our first tests, sadly I did better on tree ID here than at Mich Tech :) We received our posts last week and some information about them this week - so heres what I know without having been there yet: I will be living in Yadé, a village about 5 km north of Kara along the route nationale. The community requested a forestry volunteer b/c they want to reforest their mountain. I will be the first volunteer at the site, but there may have been an ET from Yadé in the 60s. SO besides housing conditions: round house, thatched roof, é rooms, possible electricity, thats all i know. Just wanted to keep you up to date - we do our site visits in 2 weeks (Week 8) after that I should know more, and I am sure have plenty of great stories to tell.

I wanted to say thank you for all of the emails, I tried to reply 2 weeks ago, had a huge letter all typed, and the internet died, so hi to all of you! Im still however waiting on those handwritten letters you have all promised :)

I have been doing well. I dont know how much French is actually sticking, but classes are good. My family and I are getting along well, though my sister has already asked if she could marry Colin so she can move to the US. I thought it was quite funny (Dont worry Colin I told her you were not available - unless you want me to tell her otherwise?) I have written letters and I dont know exactly what you all know from those, but things are good. Classes are going smoothly - we just happened to hav a free Saturday so we had a slumber party with the SBDers here in Kpalimé where I am now typing as there is no phone/electricity in Tomegbé - we watched Volunteers last night as our activity - The bike back to Tomegbé is 10 km uphill and 5 km downhill so needless to say coming is much more fun than going - I thought I was home free after leaving Houghton, who knew I would be living on a mountain in Togo!?

Week 8 of Training.

It is the end of week 8 for me here in Togo. We have all spent the week at our prospective posts - mine in Yade/Bahou (5km north of Kara along the Route Nationale). I have met all of the local authorities, the 23 groups working in the area, ordered furniture
for my house (picture the smurfs only without the blue), scared quite a few children to tears, and turned down alot of chuke (sorghum brew - think moonshine). Overall its been a crazy week, and I can't wait to hear how all the others had it.

Ill be in Tomegbe again for 2 weeks - spend 6 days in Lome then Ill be back in Yade for 2 years. The community has a strong desire to reforest the completely deforested mtn behind the village so that may be one of my projects (hopefuly) but there is also alot of animal raising, agriculture going on so I may have a variety of chores. For now I need to work on the French not to mention the Kabiye. (So I can effectively turn down marriage proposals.) :)


Training Group.

5 and 6 August 2002.

So I am writing you my first letter from post (well - post visit) :) My Homologue's (counterpart) name is Samuel. He has a wife and 4 kids. I live in their compound, though he is going to enclose my portion of the compound for privacy. I am actually very excited about it. [I'll be able to hang my clothes out to dry - which is another random tidbit to throw in - I bought clothes pins at the buvet (bar) which is further proof of its non bar-ness :)]. For this week we are one big happy family. So do you want the details of the welcoming to Yadé? Was that a yes? Hope so, because here goes:

The van (15 passenger about the size of a mini van) stopped along the route nationalé a the edge of Yadé. Pam - the 3rd of 3 to be dropped off - and I got out and there was a line of 50+ people along the side of the road. The first 2 were the chiefs of the neighboring cantons Yadé and Bahou. After shaking hands with nearly everyone, drumming started and the women began dancing and singing - so we walked down the road en masse about 150+ people to my house. Once at my house - we were seated under the gazebo with the 2 chiefs, the NGO representative, the ICAT agent and our van driver. We were each handed a gourd full of chuke - fermented sorghum beer - I had my obligatory sip (yuck) and politely held it while the ceremony continued. The president of the groupement (association) who Samuel is the secretary of was the master of ceremonies. He - well I guess the whole community - decided on a new name for me - Hesu meaning Peace in Kabiyé. After the announcement of the name - the women sang me a song - then it was my turn to talk and introduce myself - so imagine all that has happened then they ask me to stand up and say a few words! Fumbling over my baby french - I think I said excuse my poor french but thank you for the grand welcome and I am excited to be here to work with you. They cheered so I sat down so nervous I was just about at the crying point :) But that doesn't say much for me!

After that we were served spicy beef chunk [boneless :)] in sauce with slices of bread. It was actually very good. After we ate the community was served the remainder - which turned out to be enough for everyone - they made a lot(which also suddenly explains Samuel's desire to use the telephone along the way in Sokodí). The dancing and singing continued afterwards and stopped when it started to get dark, so people had to go home. The mother (Clementine) heated bathing water for me and I headed to the shower - 3 X 3 feet is not large enough for bathing :( especially when your lantern is in there with you. :). When I finished bathing, they told me I needed to eat dinner [I was already stuffed and constipated, so eating more was not the solution] but I ate - yummy spaghetti noodles with beef chunks. Then Samuel handed me a chamber pot because he said it wasn't good to go to the latrine during the night. [Though a strange gift, I was very happy to have it later on :)] After having a cockroach on my wall, I thought getting to sleep on the cot sized bed fashioned for me was going to be tricky - no problems - slept like a baby. But waking up to the same cockroach this morning on the same wall really wasn't a treat - though I am shocked how much it is getting to be normal! So this morning I bathed again and they boiled some water for me - oh another sidetrack - my stove got left of the van so Pam has it at her site which is why they are boiling water for me - I drank hot milk because it was the only option, and surprisingly tasty even without sugar. I ate some bread with peanut butter and a banana. Got dressed for church and got my Bible out and got ready to go. Samuel is Catholic so I went with him - the passage was Matthew 14:13-21 (Jesus feeds 5000. Ceremony was good and the church is huge - at the end (1:30 hours), they did announcements and I was introduced to the congregation - which meant walking up and standing in front of 400+ people - maybe more. Luckily I didn't have to talk. They have 2 services. The 7:00 AM service in French - the 8:00 AM service in Kabiyé - I thought that was pretty cool. On our way home we went a greeting and saluted 3 families - the first of which offered gourds of chuke (yes, it is huge here) so I said thank you but I don't drink alcohol - I told them it was because I was Baptist because it was the easiest explanation and they all kind of made an "oh, we're so sorry" sort of sound - it was pretty funny:)

Lunch was fermented pâte (kind of solid, hot, day old grits flavor but on purpose and without butter or salt) with a leafy sauce and pork intestines. Then we fashioned a schedule for ourselves and went to the market.

This is my first time in a thatched roof in the rain - and a hurricane is definitely on its way to the states. :) The roof is not leaking as badly as I would expect. I have 6 windows - so they are banging open/shut in the wind as I write but without them being open I'd have to use a lantern because of how dark it is in the house!

On Friday I'll leave here for Kara - spend the night in the maison de passage for PCV's, open my bank account and possibly a Post Office box. Then all of us in the Kara region are renting a taxi-bus to get back to Kpalimé/Tomegbe. Then we have 2 more weeks of classes before we go to Lomé for 6 days or so - on the final day we are sworn in as volunteers - August 30. If you want to have your own swearing in party at home:). The next morning we drive to post to begin 2 years. The presidents of the 21 groups working (local agricultural and women's groups) in Yadé/Bahou met with me this morning to arrange a gigantic mass meeting of all the members for Wednesday morning. They are each going to do a small presentation of their activities for me and I guess have me do a brief presentation of what I hope to do - I'm not sure yet.

Everyone has said that things here work in African time - may have found the village that is the exception :) (we'll see) They decided that today we would meet both chiefs and all of the presidents of the groupements before lunch. And we did! When some of the presidents were late for the meeting, the others were visibly upset and we had only waited 15 minutes.:) Then we walked to bothof the chiefs houses - both knew we were coming and were ready to chat - and of course offer us each a gourd of chuke. :) We were done by 11 AM - took 30 minutes to walk back.

If things look like they are going slowly, which I'm not expecting (prospects of jobs to follow), I may teach a class at the local school. Other volunteers have said it is a great way to get to know the community. I'm just thinking it will give me a somewhat normal addition to a haphazard schedule :). So things I may be doing - from my window you see a completely deforested mountain. Samuel has said and I'm getting my hopes up, that I'll get to do some work in reforestation. But of course, the only way to do that is to make it profitable, so other projects are bee-keeping, alley cropping and various other ways to incorporate trees into farms. But I'm the first volunteer here so there are no ongoing projects for me to pick up.

Amusing story: I stepped on a chameleon this morning because I didn't see it (blended in with the background - duh!) I was horrified - they all (Togolese) thought it was a riot. I was introduced as mademoiselle with being asked so when they asked if I had a fiancee I created a petite ami for myself - one man said that the petit ami could be for the states, but I should have a grand ami here - which followed by laughter and the comment that after 2 years I could have 2 children. So even making up a boyfriend is no escape from marriage proposals - of which I have received my share :) (2 Saturday night when I tried to call you the first time!) We got a cookbook from Peace Corps put together in 2001 by another PCV. It's title "Where there is no Whopper: A PC Togo Guide to Fine Cuisine." It's all things available in Togo - at various times and places - and almost as many recipes as you could ever want. I'll be baking in a Dutch oven - I bought the large pot already. The cookbook also has useful info like: how to kill a chicken, how to make cockroach powder, etc.

My round house is 11 steps in diameter or about 20 feet (I just paced back and forth - I must look crazy), the electricity is wired and they said it will be hooked up before I return. The water pump (well) is down the road about 5 minutes - even closer than in Tomegbé! I am astonished that they have built me a separate kitchen. I don't know what to do with all of this space to my lonesome.

Training group at Swearing-In Ceremony.

1 September 2002

I have been at post for 2 days. Our trip here was long. We left (Lomé) at 8 AM and arrived here (Yadé) at 7 PM (lots of "security" stops and our clutch/brakes nearly broke so we stopped in Sokodé for a quick repair.) It was dark when we got here so I set up my cot (with mosquito net hanging from nails in the walls ) and slept. There was a gigantic scorpion in my latrine that first night too. -PAUSE- I just returned from the market (Yadé has a market every Sunday afternoon). I bought corn (dried pieces), beans (black-eyed), a mango, 4 hot-dog sized loafs of bread and 3 eggs. All that cost 850 CFA or $1.25. (The corn and beans will last all week if not longer.) We are in the middle of a thunderstorm so instead of sitting under a piote and watching people drink Tchouk (pronounced chuke) - fermented sorghum beer - I decided to return home, pick rocks out of my beans and corn and try to arrange my new place (Imagine squared furniture all around looking very out of place in a round house - how did the Smurfs do it? )

It is 6:10 PM now - dark in my house but only getting there outside- dusk - I will be getting electricity tomorrow (or at least paying for it ).

Not much is new since the swear-in which was on TV dnd Radio allover Togo (My homologue said they listened to it )

This week should be pretty slack - I have a meeting with the groupements next Monday - so I'll probably walk around and talk to people this week - talk meaning fumble through my 3 Kabiye phrases then staring at them while they ramble on in Kabiye - Samuel and I are looking into garden spaces - looks like I may get a plot near the pump so water transport will be easy I bought a shovel and machete so once I get a watering can, I should be good to go.

Tidbits of Good News: Closest neighbor only 30K away by bike (have already made the voyage to switch stoves with Pam - am extremely sunburnt), no serious illnesses, short wave radio works - listened to BBC last night, I feel very comfortable here in Yadé and with my homologue so far! (and I think I found the Baptist church so I can go there next week - Catholic mass is confusing, though good).

10 September 2002

9-5-02 Thursday - sunny - clear (high 80's/low 90's)(I don't have a thermometer so its just a guess)

I thought I'd try to write a little bit as I go along starting now because I easily forget about the little things that happen - right now its 9:30 AM - we left the house at 6:30 to go walk up the mountain and on the way back saluated a few people. My homologue told me that a friend of his said I walked like a man and wasn't that such a compliment : ) I said thank you I guess? The other day - Tuesday - I was a witness to a groupement formation where at the end they all drink tchouk like shaking hands/agreeing/etc. - well they's heard that I didn't drink so they bought me a bottle of this cream soda/apple cider drink (called pom pom, I think). I thought that was very nice, and it was, but then they most boisterous of the women took my hand and said she wanted me to come meet her father so I could marry him because his wife died. I thought she was joking but no, dead serious. : ) Luckily it was late (6:30 PM) so we were able to sneak away.

Home, Part 1.

10:30 AM I'm outside shelling peanuts given to me by a groupement and I remembered a humorous story from yesterday - here goes - I am making my first loaf of bread (which actually turned out OK) in my new Dutch oven (pot with lid, 3 small cans open on both ends and an interior bowl - works great) when I smelled "something" - going to my latrine to investigate the odor, I found it wasn't that - so time passes and I continue to smell it - I'm stumped so I figure I probably stepped in something - I look at my sandal - it looks surprisingly clean, but all up my lower leg is poop - turns out the baby (who doesn't wear a diaper or cloth - and squats wherever because she's too small for the latrine - think baby stuck in toilet at 8 ft. down -Ahh) had pooped by my latrine and I had stepped in it and smeared it al up my leg : ) Thought you would enjoy! And for some reason it strikes me as a story Kurt would enjoy : ) Don't ask me why.

9-6-02 11:00 AM Friday Huge thunderstorm last night - hence didn't go to the field to work (maize) because too wet - so I spent the morning finishing putting in a new zipper in my backpack, sewing on the Ireland patch - Kyla it looks great! and washing random articles of clothing I was given an ignam (yam) as a gift so I've made a test batch of "fries" and am boiling the rest in bite size morsels : ) It is kind of a rainy/sleepy day - the family compound is pretty quiet too [well, except for the screaming babies (2), the goats and chickens : )] I'm on my way to get a bucket of water (I am trying to get my neck used to carrying it on my head, bit by bit) before lunch. Oh, it is officially 1 week at post [only 103 left:)]

Home, Part 2.

4:30 PM It has been kind of a depressing day - didn't do much of anything - which I guess I'll have to get used to though. I am going biking : ) to Kara tomorrow morning to pick up my mail at the maison de passage for the volunteers and do some small shopping (bananas, dish towels).

9-7-02 1:30 PM SaturdayJust got back from Kara to pick up EMS (PC Mail system-delivers every Thursday [supposedly : )]but the EMS doesn't go to the Maison, it goes to the post office which keeps it till the next Monday so one of the ONG (non-governmental organization) President said I could use their box in Kara. When I got back from the bike ride {10 km each way with a 2 km walk, at half way, through a miliary road block}, I noticed raised white bumps on my hand (top) and had no idea what it was - so I washed with an antibacterial bar - still there - then as I was drying it the skin just sort of peeled off - I did rub pretty hard, I guess - so I'm thinking it was just a crazy Togo sunburn - or hoping : ). I'll keep you informed - smile.

I've been using the solar reacharger for the batteries - it works well for the Panasonic but not the Energizers - don't know why though, I'll keep trying.

In the big town markets, Kpalime/Lome/Kara, etc., there is generally a big open concrete building where all types of merchants set up their wares. One of the guys started calling them J C Penney's because (and I quote) "It's all inside" so I walked through the J C Penney of Kara today - 1st floor fruits/veggies, 2nd floor pagnes/plastics/health and beauty : ) and thought of you! Random inclusion: My homologue uses a Casio calculator - thought you'd enjoy!

Greer outside her house.

Birding - I am in desperate (not really - but) need of a bird book of West Africa. There is a red-winged black bird sized, scarlet tanager look alike - it is beautiful - black wings, tail and mask with a vibrant red body - no distinct crest. In Tomegbe we had tiny birds (just larger than hummingbird) that looked ind of like house sparrows and a bird with a long double feathered tail - black, white with yellow beak. I saw a bunch of large yellow-grey birds fussing about in a tree and longed for binoculars. You would be loving it

EVENT LOG: I was just an observer/witness to the official formation of a women's groupement [Activities: grain storage and pork raising : )]. Here's how it went down: scheduled to start at 1400h - started at 15:45h when the chief showed up, 10 feet away was a chouk stand with rowdy drinkers (loud, too). As the ONG President read and translated the statutes the chief kept falling asleep and nearly nodded off on the ONG President. It started to rain. {We were sitting under a pyote(open sided gazebo with a thatched rood)}, the chouk drinkers were forced to move across the street to shelter, some chickens tried to seek shelter under the pyote - the women all picked up rocks ans threw them at the chickens till they went away, one of the drinkers across the street started singing and dancing in the street - the women tried not to laugh but really wanted to, then everyone is given a calabash of chouk as a way to seal the deal ( I am chastised for only raising the glass to my lips) and we go - ended at 1800h {4 hours long; )}

8:30 PM - I was invited to attend a party tonight - so I went - it was hilarious - there wer 10 adults and 3 kids. The women had prepared a pork "stew" with cabbage and onions (and lots of spice) which was very good but after my first bowl, they noticed that I didn't eat the skin or the bones so I was served a second bowl with lungs, liver and various other intestines - scared to know what I'd be served if I failed to eat this bowl, I ate and it was pretty good - odd - but good. : ) The people at the party were like a rowdy thanksgiving family gathering - not our house of course, but that's what I thought of. We bantered, chatted, told jokes and they decided to let me into their clan - I was deeply honored [and they didn't even make me drink chouk : )] I guess they decided that I'm rowdy too - who knew!

9-8-02 Third Catholic Mass - knees in semi-pain : ) [Ellen's note: We called Greer on Sunday 9/22 one day after we received this letter and I ask about the Mass. She said Mass is usually 2 ½ to 3 hours long. The priest only speaks French so he speaks and then it is translated into the local language. She also said that there were around 800 people at church!] In a bad mood after [could have been the mufloquin -anti-malaria drug you take once a week]. Went to marche and bought a large ceramic jar for water storage outside my house. The vendor carried it back to the house on her head : ) But I didn't stay at he marché long because I was being treated like helpless child [which can be very annoying!] IN the evening I went and saluated a family around the corner from me who are actually very nice - and funny - and have offered to have me over for TV and Coke and Kabiye lessons - another thunderstorm at bedtime.

9-9-02 Planned on taking a walk around the neighborhood this morning, but it's been rainy. [2 -3 weeks then it "should" be the dry season] This afternoon is the big meeting with all of the groupements - to say I'm back and hopefully set a schedule to meet each groupement - see what they are doing/help a little - should take at least the first two months (of the 3, we aren't supposed to start any projects - PC rule, I think?] if I meet 3 a week.

20 September 2002


Last night I had a battle with a cockroach and WON! I went to the latrine, opened the door and there he was against the wall - in a move I learned day 1 in Tomegbe (thanks to my mom there) - I whipped off my sandal and whacked it - killing it instantly - I then swept it out and stashed it under a rock. Should I not be happy to be so completely proud of myself?

Yesterday I went to visit the field of a groupement , (which I do nearly every morning) but this one was the furthest away so far - 10 minute bike ride followed by an hour hike through beautiful fields, (an orchard - out of place somehow) over the river [or through :)], along footpaths till we got to their field (rice and manioc/cassava). We left here (home) at 7:20 AM and got back at 11:30 AM [with only a brief chouc ceremony at the end :)]

It's 7:30 AM now - I am getting ready to put on my Teva's [I wear them constantly because it is so muddy, they have the best traction and are much easier to clean than my tennis shoes. : )], pack some water and to visit another groupement. I'll continue writing later. : ) {And maybe there will be more to tell?! : )}

2 PM We're in the middle of an afternoon thunderstorm - has significantly cooled off the day : ) - so I'm inside writing letters - just wrote a 2 pager to Russ and Kate in Panama [who put out a call for letters/reading materials, etc. : )]

3 PM Brief break in the thunderstorm so did dishes - try to do them everyday after lunch - uses less water if I only do them once a day - the meetings this morning went well - saw 2 rice fields (only 30 minute walk away today) and was back by 11:30. I think we may start building a compost pile this afternoon but with the rain maybe tomorrow. Yes, compost got nixed till tomorrow as it is still raining off and on (now 5 PM).

9-20 FridayMy mind is blanking on things to write you though I know there should be plenty. Got up this morning at 6 AM (normal time) made eggs and onions, got dressed [I've cut off all my pants into capris because trying to hand wash the bottoms of long pants is very difficult - and they get grease on them from the bike, etc.

School started on Monday for all of Togo - though this week for the elementary schools is the time to clean the classrooms, cut the "grass" [with machetes - not a reason to be kicked out of school - if you bring one in you are helping : ). I thought of the pocket knife expulsions! What a contrast] and pay your fees, buy notebooks, etc. And so it is "back-to-school" at the market - 2 or 3 stands with notebooks, pencils, pens, folders - it is very fun! School actually begins on Monday (23 Sept) - they begin at 7:30, go till noon - resume at 3 PM and get out at 5 PM. There are quite a few in my town - 3 or 4 elementary, 1 or 2 middle and a high I think - though not entirely positive. The middle and high schoolers wear uniforms throughout the country - khaki top and bottom so you can only advance through school if you have enough money to pay for school supplies and uniform material. Therefore, schools are dominated by the men (boys) as girls either stay home to work or are sent to work in another home - very common.

On a lighter note - when someone is having a hard time with math homework, you can tell them it is universal: Last night Samuel's son (high school - 9th gradeish) was doing his math homework - had out the compass, triangle - whole bit - he started off with his mom helping - they looked stumped but continued to work at it. I went to take a shower, came out and there were now 4 around the table (mother/son/2 older boys in the neighboring family) all looking intently at the problem at hand. By the time I'd gotten dressed two more had joined and all were looking very much confused. The son ended up picking up his paper and heading off to talk to a classmate down the road. It was classic homework confusion/frustration. I felt very much at home. : ) [It was a story problem including triangles, angles and degrees, etc.]

The other day I took a bike ride 30 km or so round to visit Sara-Kawa (which is Thursday in Kabiye) - it is a monument built around the airplane crash which involved the President who was miraculously not killed. There is a 20 foot or so tall statue of the President where he was found after the accident - unhurt, and a round "viewing" platform built around the remains of the airplane. It happened in 1974 and must have been a pretty big tourist site at the time - deserted now, except for the gendarmes (military police). We had to ask permission to go see it.

Received 19 October 2002

When I came back from Kara on Tuesday afternoon (went to the market to buy fruit and to do Internet), Clementine asked if I wanted to see what they had killed around the compound in the morning. (Clementine is the wife of my homologue, Samuel) - So of course I said yes! : ) It was a small crocodile! (A foot and a half to 2 feet long) I didn't even know we had them around here! But is was pretty neat - she was getting ready to prepare it for dinner.

- I bought a hat in the marché because the sun is fierce. So when I got back everyone said oh pretty nice hat! I said thanks - later as I was washing it the 9th grader (Timon) told me it was a hat someone (woman) would wear during a marriage ceremony at church! (Looks kind of like an Easter bonnet to me - white plastic - yellow trim) I found that very amusing but will wear it to be sure!

-Just started reading the "Count of Monte Cristo" by Dumas - good so far

Friday, October 4, 2002

Visited a women's groupement this morning who raise pigs. They also have a rice field which I visited last month. We talked about problems, processes and what they want to do in the future. It was a good meeting. Had to cross a flooded river on the way back. Almost fell - the groupement found it very amusing (and of course, I was laughing so that helped)

Have finished laundry and have just made no-bake cookies. Recipe came out of "Where there is no Whopper: A Togo Guide to Fine Dining," which we were "issued" before coming to post. Try it - they are good (probably even better with a fridge):

Mix together and bring to a boil : 2 cups of sugar, 3 tablespoons cocoa (I used Alltime drinking chocolate), ½ cup milk, and 1/4 cup margarine. Hard boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and ad 1 ½ cups peanut butter and oats, 1 cup at a time until mixture is sold. Pour into pan and cut or (what I did) make into spoon sized cookies! EAT!

4 November 2002

I spent half of the week at Phynessa's and then she came back to my post to help me do construction on my house. Everything went well, and we have a really fun time (Picture the two of us with 2 hammers, a machete, and a bag of nails completely dismantling a Food Locker ("hope chest") and turning it into a kitchen counter with a shelf that curves with the contour of my round house. - You would have been proud!) :)

So I am now rid of the hideousness of my food locker which did not protect anything from animals, and took up alot of space, and have a highly functional (if not pretty) piece of furniture :) I am very excited to use it. (We are all in Kara meeting the new trainees who are on their field trip this weekend.) I have one more week left in my schedule of groupement meetings so I'll have more free time after that, and hopefully a minute or two to relax! I definitely did not expect to come here and be busier than in the states, but I guess it is a different sort of busy.

When Phynessa and I showed up in Yadé I was informed that our water pump broke while I was gone!! So now the walk to the water pump is twice as long, conserving water will be even more important now.

Thought you might enjoy a taste of what I did today, here goes:
*Helped Phynessa finish prom dress she made out of pagnes (completely sewn by
hand)for Halloween party that got canceled.
*Did dishes.
*Got taxi to Kara - got dropped off at bank (150 CFA)
*Got out money at the bank - man in front of me getting out money in small
coinage for chouc drinking.
*Went to lunch - Had cheeseburger and onion soup :)
*Went to the maison, did laundry (Because of broken pump in Yade)
*Went to Marché, bought: Teapot, tuna, ketchup, flip flops, a satchel,
margarine, a hammer, and had a really good time - I will include stories in a
letter currently under construction.
*Went to dinner with new PCTs (Has Pizza Margarite)

13 December 2002 - Excerpts from December quarterly report.

Since the last report I have been at post, Yade´-Bohov for 3 months. I have had over 30 meetings and met most of the groupements working together in the two cantons. I used the meetings to assess what is being done in the community now, and what aspirations are for the future. Each meeting took place either in the field of the group, in the case of agriculture workers, near the animals being raised or at the president's (of the groupement) house in the case of commerce. I have also met repeatedly with the local NGO to asses their resources and "work."

Many of the groupements are interested in, and some have started, beekeeping, B?rnfonden, probably spelled wrong, has been very successful in a nearby village and I have visited their operation and taken a brief tourne´ of the hives. (but African Killer Bees are not to be messed with so we kept our distance.)

My big plan through is to be able to go to my market and not hear Anasai (Christian in Islam, White in Kabiye) from the visiting vendors. I have started implementing the "No I am not Anasai-my name is Hezou" method, we'll see how it works. :-)

The women in my compound don't know what to think of me. I carry all my own water, and want to, do my dishes, laundry, clean the house, do carpentry, sew, do crafty things for the house yet go out and do the "male jobs" in the field too. They seem perplexed yet impressed. Hopefully they later will turn into empowerment, eh?

17 December 2002 - The Post Office.

Not only does the post office charge for the box, but for the transportation north, and for the number of days they have to let it sit in their office. Today the situation at the post office came about because they put the letter, telling me that there was a package and how much it would cost, in my box between Tuesday and Saturday when I picked it up. Then they tried to charge us for them having to store it since the 29 of November! So the argument was over why I (or Kara since it was her package) should have to pay for extra days when it was not placed in my box until Saturday. Then they tried to say that I had picked it up and taken it back to Yadé before giving it to Kara to pick up, even though the post office guy was there on Saturday when I picked it up and I tried to get it then but was informed, by him, that the package pickup service is not open on saturdays so I would have to come back on Monday. So I gave Kara the slip of paper and she went in yesterday and spent 2 hours trying to get the package. So we spent a total of 3 and a half hours at the post office and after all the near violence on our part it is very fortunate that we are not in jail :) I will not bore you with the rest of the details of the argument, and there are plenty more!, but I can say that my french gets better when I am angry!

27 January 2003 - a compilation of extracts from various letters and email.

Letter dated jan 5 & 6.

On December 12 PC Togo celebrated it's 40 year anniversary in Togo. So we all 100 or so PCV's and guests converged on the Ambassador's (US Ambassador to Togo) house for a combination 40th anniversary fete and swearing in ceremony for the new training group. The next morning at 7 or 7:30 the Lomé Limo (PC provided *free* shuttle from Lomé to Dapaong 2 times a month) was scheduled to leave to take people back up country. They had changed the day to one day earlier after we all arrived. So without taking care of anything I needed to do in Lomé (shopping, film developing, talking to people I hadn't seen in a long time) I and 4 others easily slid into the 15 passenger and took off at 9 AM [hour and ½ late:)] I and 4 others were the only ones who could drag themselves out of bed, or needed to leave early. And it turns out that they sent up another one the next day. Taking the Lomé Limo is much better than a bush taxi. Let me explain: bush taxi's come in 5 placers (regular car - but in Togo seats 7), 9 placers (mini van size with 2 back bench seats - 4 in far back, 4 on front bench, 3 facing the back of car and 3 in front seat - so 14 total) and 15 placers (4 benches + front seats, 4 on each bench and 3 up front = 19). But when you think van don't think Ellen's Ford van (USA 15 passenger), think mini-bus from England. :) A 9 placer is as wide as a car and a 15 placer more like your mini van (USA 7 passenger). So anytime you can get a free ride in an unpacked car you take it. :) I say free because the bush taxi ride from Lomé to Kara costs 3900 CFA (only roughly $6 but a lot in Togo terms)

Then on Monday the 30th we went to the Hotel SaraKawa for brunch (Greg - also our stage- won a gift certificate for brunch for 2 at the 40th anniversary party (money went to girls scholarships) but with the hitch that it expired on the 31th. So he give it to us :) We had heard that you get the best selection if you go before 7 AM so we got there at just after 6 when we were greeted so nicely and well with no questions whatsoever about the gift certificate - just told that the brunch ended at 10 AM - and we should expand our stomachs. After thanking the maitre d profusely and looking at the selection like we may cry - we proceeded to eat for 3 hours. At 9 AM or 9:30 there was no possible way to eat anymore - though we tired :) so we took a walk around the grounds and took naps pool side (huge pool!) on their chairs, then left and made the rash decision to go back to Kara. So we biked out to the taxi station (huge with lots of cars) and got our bikes loaded on top of the van along with what looked like another car on top. So we left Kara by full 15 placer 1st stop - Atakpamé where Phynessa got out to visit a friend and there was a 20 minute prayer break (for the muslims in the car - including the driver). On the road again - 2 women in my seat taking up more than their allotted space so the other man and I are squished against the windows in one seat. 2nd stop Sokode - 20 more minutes of prayer and on the road again. Finally get to Kara exhausted, so I get to the maison de passage in Kara and crash. Go back to Yade next morning to celebrate new years. Nothing really happening on New Years Eve - no count down, parties, etc. So went to bed. But on the 1st, Mass was at 8 AM and about 2 PM we started going to visit people and at every house you are offered food - all very good! (I think I ate 4 plates of rice/pasta with various sauces and a plate of salad/coleslaw that was yummy) And the chouc/sodabé/wine is free flowing as well. The whole village also turns out for a dance next to the church. Lots of drumming, flutes and dancing in a circle. And we are still in the wishing everyone a bonne année stage of New Years. And the well wishings so far have included: good health, happiness, lots of money (CFA), prosperity, success, and one man wished for me to have 6 children before leaving Togo. :)

Letter dated Jan. 25.

I am still weaving my cot outside at post and it is going slowly. Especially considering I took the week off to paint the inside of the house. I've been killing cockroaches, interior decorating, cooking new dishes, and playing with the children next door. (Bum in Kabye means pick me up, and they love for me to cart them around and hang them upside down and all.) I have also started Kabye lessons. I have 2 a week and have already had 7(should be 8 but lesson 8 will be Sunday night because of coming here for the meeting). Lesson 6 was my first test. I got a 77.5 percent!! I knew you would be so poud. It consisted of 20 sentences in French that I had to translate into Kabye. It was hard, but I like to think that I did very well :) (Ellen killed a pig on Christmas Day.: Ellen coh afa Noel Weai.) Yeah! Thought you would like that one :)

Email dated Jan. 26

I am headed back to Yade this morning. Our marche is on Sundays and I would like to get some veggies, say hi to the marche ladies, and get some eggs (pretty much only source of protein that will last without refrigeration, and they are good) but last week for the first time I found the butcher in the marche and bought beef! I got a quarter kilo, so about a half pound, for 300 francs which totals 50 cents! and they cut it right off the cow for me, ok the cow was dead and only a leg piece, but still right off the cow! And it was SO good :) I made fahitas :) (Tortillas are easy to make especially with the non-stick pan :) Ok too many smiley faces,

We have all been in kind of a slump lately because we don't have anything to do. Yes I get water, do laundry, dishes, clean the house, but there is no 'work' to do. We (and I say we because it is a bunch of us) are of the opinion that the Togolese requested that we live in their village so they obviously want us here so they should come to us with interests and desires in order for the project to be sustainable and participated in. But as of yet, and after 4 more days I will have lived in Yade for 5 months (only one year and 7 months left, time is flying), no one has come by saying they are interested in doing anything. Hopefully by just being there they will at least feel comfortable enough with me to stop by and maybe that will lead to something. Or at least I hope. And in the mean time I am learning Kabye so that I can communicate with the people who dont speak french which is allot of the men and the vast majority of the women. And the lessons are going well, so far. :)

29 January 2003

I am actually having a good week for once :) Went to the post office today and didnt even have the desire to kill anyone, but did get 2 marriage proposals, same old men as always just more persistent today!

5 February 2003

The other day I took Daniel (5 years old and doesnt want to go to school, but hangs out with me gets water and plays with his sister so I am not worried that he wont want to go next year - though the other day a guy my age or older came by and taunted Daniel for not going to school by saying that he would castrate him, not the kind of positive reinforcement you might expect, eh?) out with me to go get some seeds ff of a cassia tree that has dry pods ready for picking. So I took the mosquito net pole from my bed, and a bag and we went trudging out into the fields. I would knock them off the tree and then we would both scurry around and get the pods before they blew away too far (It is harmattan and the winds are fierce :).). It was fun. And I was not intimidated by the constant onlookers, maybe the tides are a changin. So then we bought them back to the house and opened all of the pods to get the seeds. Most of the seeds look bad, so I think Ill go on another seed hunting expedition, saluate a few farmers and tell them what Im up to and hopefully get their permission to knock around their trees, take their seeds and maybe drum up some interest or motivation in what Im doing or anything at all :)

A fun thought in Kabye for you: 395 cfa in Kabye is: alfa naduzu ne chanta naduzu ne piyay ne nanza. (that was part of my lesson this week, we are working on money so I can buy things in the marche from people who dont speak French.)

28 February 2003

Greer getting water at a Fulani well.

Bits and pieces which arrived on 27 May 2003.

Friday, April 25, 2003 near 40 C at hottest part of the day

I've just arrived home and a procession just passed. Silently a group ~ 30 or so ~ of men were walking down the road by my house - 2 of the men were carrying the body of a young man killed this morning (motorcycle accident) on their heads. Every now and then the men would switch off and others would be the carriers. The group of women followed, not closely, behind - also walking silently. His body was tightly wrapped in cloth and resting (though strapped down) on 4 long tree branches. I was told that in the same household, the grandfather died yesterday.

On that depressing note, I wanted to tell you about my great meetings on Wednesday. I'd made an appointment - quoi - to visit with the two groupements of Bohou-haut - the part of Yade - Bohou where they live up in the mountains. I'd not been there before and was excited about going. So at 7:15 AM with a very vague (and it turns out wrong) map of how to get to the meeting place, I set off. Not far into the walk, I realized I'd already missed one of my landmarks' so started asking people along the way. One farmer pointed up the mountain to a path that went pretty much straight up. So trusting that he knew the way better than I, I started climbing. {Oh, I forgot to mention that I was alone as my homologue managed to scrape off two of his toenails the other day and is finding walking a tad difficult.} Thirty minutes later, I arrived in Bohou-haut and walked down their main road till I spotted someone I knew. We talked for four hours or so. One groupement is doing elevage de pintad et poule et l'autre is women who make foyer ameliores and want to start stockage. It was such a refreshing meeting to talk to them. It really makes me want to move up there! They made lunch for us - rice, peanut sauce and they even killed a chicken! I was given a tour of the women's foyer ameliores, a cadeau of arachides (peanuts) from the chef du village and a bunch of mangos from the men's groupement. Then one of the men who had a meeting with the new priest in Yade showed me the path I should have taken and we walked back. He showed me the place in one of the rocks where there are footprints' and evidence of ancestors - where they ground corn, made sauces, slept - it was very neat. Then 7 ½ hours (2:45) later, I returned home just in time to get a headpan of water so I could bathe and drink the next day. (our pump closes at 1500h) It was an awesome day.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Last night we had a thunderstorm that brought lots of winds and rain. Many people are without shelter today as their roofs blew off. Only part of the thatch on my cuisine was deranged so I fared pretty well. Though everyone kind of crept outside to check on their holdings warily this morning.

I have a meeting tomorrow with my groupements (only President and Secretaries) to talk about why I'm here (for real). I am kind of nervous as it will be my first time to lead a meeting and I hope to raise some interesting questions like: Why did they want me to come in the first place if no one is interested in trying new ideas. Of course, I have to reword that, but we'll see how it goes. So I'm biking to Kara to get flip chart paper so I can write things out in French so hopefully, they will understand some of what I want to say.

I have written to you about transport - yes? (Traveling in bush taxi's, etc.) Well, on Easter Sunday we were traveling back form Bafilo. There were eight of us. So six got in the first care - 4 in back, 2 in the passenger seat plus driver so 7 total and 2 followed in a later car. I was in the first car. We were almost to Kara when the police had set up a sort of road block and were stopping cars. They motioned to our driver to stop. He slowed down as if to stop, then sped up and took off. The police (2) hopped on a moto and started after us. As he neared the maison, we were telling him to stop, slow down, we want to get out, etc. He said to wait, the police were following - then passed our house and turned off the main road onto a dirt road. He kept going - the police still in hot pursuit. They finally caught us, he stopped and we got out quickly. The two police officers grabbed the keys and kind of body slammed him to the car, demanding why he had seven people in the car, hadn't stopped at the road block, didn't stop at our house, etc. He began telling the police that someone in the car was sick and he had to get us to the hospital. Not only was it a huge lie, but we were in the wrong part of town for the hospital and the dirt road we were on certainly didn't go there. So we volunteers quickly paid for the trip and walked away as the police were still yelling at the driver and presumably trying to get him to a pay a "fine." {From time to time the police crack down on the number of people in a 5 placer bush taxi, though 7 is the common carrying capacity ~ and I've been in cars with 10 and people on the roof ~ the 'rules' keep the number at 4 passengers and one driver~}

Another bush taxi story. I was going to Kara a while back by taxi. I flagged down a car on the road with only 6 - so I got in front. Once there was space in the back - a few of the passengers got out before the marche - I moved back there. The women I had crammed into the front seat with said, "Oh, we were a bit squished because you are big (fat, etc)" to which I kindly - I thought - replied, NO! cars are not made to sit three in the front - especially stick shift which they all are - so even if I was skinny, you'd be uncomfortable.' She looked at me, thinking for a while, then said, "Ah bon?" like, really, huh!' I had to laugh - what a great way to start your day, eh?

Sunday, April 27, 2003

I promised one of the chouc vendors, I would drink chouc sucree (non-alcoholic) in her stand today. So I finally found her and sat. It was a lot of fun and I did drink a calabash, wasn't made 'properly' and besides tasting awful, it was slightly fermented so I spent the rest of the marche with a headache and on the verge of being sick. Though as over half of the people in the marche are drunk by 3 PM (when I arrived), I fit right in.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

I have a big meeting tomorrow - the first where I am the 'lead speaker' - so I thought getting flip chart paper from Kara to write out all I wanted to say in advance would be a good idea. At the same time I profited by paying the electric bill and going to the post office. So I left, by bike, at 7:30 AM. By 11 AM I was ready to bike home. But it was hot, so I stopped and drank a cold 'Sport Actif' (grapefruit juice) before heading on. So biking back I thought everything was fine. I stopped to salve un homme presque la maison des soeurs, felt a little light headed ~ but that's normal, so I dismissed it ~ and headed on. At the turn off the Route Nationale to my house, my mind went blank/vision blurred and I almost blacked out. So I was wobbling down the road when I had the very sudden urge to vomit. So right in front of the house of the elementary school principal, and indeed the principal, I basically fell off my bike and threw up Sport Actif and stomach acid - oh FUN! (I had eaten a couple of eggs at 6 AM and nothing since, so empty stomach) The principal comes running over to grab the bike and make sure I'm not dying. I stumbled back to the house and slept for the rest of the day (drinking oral rehydration salts thinking that dehydration was probably one of the causes - and pedialyte tastes good compared to ORS!) So the whole reason for going to Kara to prepare for the meeting fell through and I ended up winging it, which went just fine anyway .

Thursday, May 1, 2003

Laborers' day in Togo So people are partying all over - a big celebration is going on next door with one of the women's groupements. The grandma in my family compound asked me to go salveting with her, so we headed out about 4 PM. She is having knee problems, so we sauntered down the road stopping every 20 steps or so to talk. We ended up visiting with two families. Both had killed pigs for the celebration, so we were offered plates of meat. (When you think meat - think every part of the animal, the whole thing is cut up and stewed together.) I can tell I've been here a while, for many reasons, but when originally here and offered a sauce full of skin, fat, bones, organs of various animals, I'd eat the meat only - of the meat (pork) offered today, I ate fat, organ, meat and sucked out the marrow. I'm not yet to chewing on skin but I guess that's next.

We walked back in the dark - 7 PM - and the big party next door was winding down, so we didn't go. But the groupement had brought me a plate of caffa (cold corn pate) with sauce and meat. (I'm still not sure of what or I'd tell you.)

Friday, May 2, 2003

So this morning Clementine and I went next door to thank them for sending us food (they sent a plate to Samuel too). As a way of accepting our thanks/saying thank you, we were offered large calabashes of chouc - non-fermented for me. So breakfast this morning (6:30 AM?) was the equivalent of 2 calabashes of chouc. After getting water and doing laundry - which had severely piled up! - the son of one of the groupement members came by with a pitcher of chouc sucree for me. So besides the fact that no one else really drinks it, I'll have had more chouc in one day than in my whole time in Togo. (Maybe someone (or a few people) will pop by and want a drink ?!)

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

On the taxi (15 placer) back to Kara from Guerin-Kouka, there was a woman who was physically ill. (exhaust, heat, upset stomach - your guess as good as mine) So one quarter of the way into the ride, she shoves at the man sitting next to the window till he finally switches with her. She get to the window just in time to vomit for the first time, but the man (apprenti) on the other side of the window would not open her portion of the window anymore so she could barely get her head out of the window. She continued to spit out the window for the remaining two hours.

Thursday, May 8, 2003

Have I mentioned the heat rash? It is rampantly threatening to take over my whole body, and itching like event though, the heat hasn't seemed to me to be too bad...I decided to buy a fan in hopes that the rash would quiet itself. I asked other PCV's and they said they should cost 10,000 CFA. So I walked by some stores asking prices, looking at brands when I saw the one I wanted. (It had a timer so it would turn itself off and therefore save electricity.) So the lady in the shop (who incidently was 12 years old) asked what I was willing to pay. I said 10 mille. After what appeared to be some inward reflection, she said, OK - amens d'argent' (spelling?) I said OK, I'd be back with the money. So I walked back tot he maison, got my stuff to head home and went back to the store. She was still there and all alone. The fan was still in the same place and she got up when I came in and asked if I was ready. I said, yes. She got up and started looking for a pen to fill out the receipt. She writes my name, the date, the object to be purchased and then asks me to sign. I asked here to write down the price before I signed. She said, What you don't trust me, we already discussed the price.' Yes, but I'd like you to write it down before I sign! She - Huh...OK' (That actually took 5 minutes of back and forth arguing to get the angry OK point). So she begins writing 20,000 in the cost box. I say Whoa, that's not what we discussed.' She Yes, but other vendors can't know you only paid 10 mille, so I'll just write 20 no 22 mille here on the receipt.' I tried to ask what her father would say in the morning when he found out she'd sold the fan for 10 mille and not 22 mille, but she misunderstood and thought I was threatening her father - so I quickly retracted that statement. So then I said, no, we needed to change the 22 she had written into 10. So I did, she looked resigned to it and so I signed the receipt. She made a paid mark on the receipt and then started making a copy of it, assumably because of the lack of carbon paper. She even forged my signature on the bottom of the copy. Then she takes the first receipt and rips it out of the book and rips it into lots of tiny pieces and throws them out of the window behind her. So I finally come to my senses - yes, ti took me a long time - and realize she is crazy. So I tell her no thank you - I'm leaving. She says things like why'd you make me make out the receipt then, you are not my friend, etc. I picked up my stuff and left. So then I stopped at another store, asked their prices - they said 10 mille but the electricity had been cut (so you couldn't test it) because of an impending storm, so I am home again itchy/rashy and hot and with no fan.

19 May 2003

Had a roller coaster day I thought you might find entertaining: I woke up at 5:15 AM (about 72 ) and decided to go straight to my newly acquired ‘field.' It is maybe an acre of land which starts out a gentle slope that quickly steepens and continues up the mountain. It may be more rock than ‘farmable' land but should be interesting to experiment (terracing, etc.) with. So today I just went out to figure out the boundaries, see what's there now, and try to decide what to do to start tomorrow [sounds like a fun birthday activity, no? :)] So I was back to the house by 8 AM. So I ate some cereal, did a crossword puzzle and decided t paint my latrine and shower (douche). So cleaned out the two and mixed the paint. Once everything was white I got the grand idea to spray bug down the latrine to kill some of the cockroaches. Well the bug spray doesn't actually kill them, it just kind of stuns and annoys, so as they came stumbling up and out of the hole, I killed them with a flip flop. Then - and here is the satisfying part - I threw their (many still twitching) bodies to the ground where the chickens came and fought over eating them. I'd been at it for longer than it seemed - 1 PM - and slightly sun burned, so I went inside to make lunch and repose.

After repo I did the normal - dishes, play with the kids, chat with Timon about school. But about 6 PM I decided to go thank a family for bringing me bread yesterday - the sky was looking ominous but not too serious yet. So I saluated, chatted a little with the female CEG (middle school age) daughter about the TODTW ( Take Our Daughters to Work) formation we just had on Saturday.

And just before they passed by, I looked up and saw that type of cloud that looks like lots of little balls coming down out of the sky. I can't think of the name exactly - knuckle clouds? - but we are now in a huge thunderstorm. So am I right in remembering they are an indication of impending storm action?

What else happened today...oh, I was getting water at the pump, actually waiting to get water - as I heard the conversation between 2 teenagers next to me "mumble, mumble Hezou mumble mumble Hezou...Hezou" [note: Hezou is the name the local people gave her. Thye have trouble saying Greer. Hezou means peace] accompanied by stares and glances, so I said I didn't think it was polite to speak about me in Kabye when I knew they both spoke French and they know I don't understand Kabye. The older woman also nearby waiting said the girl was trying to figure out if she could jump ahead of me in line. I told her no (though I still haven't quite figured out how the 'line' works!) and then as I was pumping, another woman lifted up my basin to pour the water into my neighbor's basin when she cracked the plastic near the handle. I had done the same thing a month ago and told her not to worry about it - it still held water! But as my neighbor and I were walking back she said the woman thought I was mad at her. I did my best to explain, cheerfully, that it was not her fault, not a problem and that I was not upset, but I don't' know that she believes me :( After that episode - I walked in the house and was going to shower so I grabbed my shampoo, etc,. that I'd had to bring in because of painting and dropped my (plastic) shampoo bottle which decided it was brittle from sitting in the sun all day every day and broke spilling gooey shampoo all over the floor.

And throughout the day there were fun things like: burned my finger cooking, got paint burn on my legs and arms, sliced open my thumb cutting a mango, jammed the prong end of the hammer into my big toe drawing blood, continuously stubbed the other big toe which is tender and swollen from too vigorously cleaning under the nail edges yesterday and cutting open a finger on the metal roofing kick plate on my screen door!

Yes, that is one day and there is probably something I forgot. :)

From a letter written in late July 2003.

Evala: The Kabye wrestling fete - boys coming of age ceremony. They started on Saturday with small family groups' wrestling matches near the different family homes. About 300 of us were at the school at 6 AM to watch 30 or so young men (18-25?) wrestle. After watching for 2 hours, I still couldn't figure out who the winners' were or how you could tell them apart form the 'losers.' The boys wrestling were dressed in shorts and some greased themselves so their partners would have a poor grip. Some also shaved their hair in patterns for the occasion. Wrestling just as in the states, only no boundaries and you don't have to pin your partner for a count or anything, only get their back on the ground or lift them in the air on purpose.

So Saturday and Sunday were preliminaries. Today we have had semi-finals. I was told they were to start at noon. Knowing that noon really means "we may start setting up at noon," I left my house at 11:15 to walk to the elementary school so I could watch the whole process (set-up, assembly, start) and get a good seat. By good seat, I mean place to sit where I was out of the way enough not to be noticed but still see. :) So I sat and watched:

The organizers made a semi-circle of school benches for 'notable/respected' community members and the Croix Rouge (Red Cross) set up a 'work-station,' Other than those preparations, it was basically just waiting for people to arrive. And when they did, it was spectacular! From 3 directions, 3 different groups came running, singing/chanting, playing the castanets, shouting, and dancing. They kind of reminded me of the dinosaurs running in the field in Jurassic Park (where they hide under the tree trunk). Then they all kind of converged in the middle of the open field in a massive mass.

As they were dancing, the wrestlers 'snuck' in on the side and all crouched down in the tall grasses. They people dissipated into a huge ring around the field. Then suddenly 4 or 5 pairs of wrestlers were on the field going for it - no ceremony or start signal that I saw, just started. As one would win, women would come out from the crowd (at a run because there were 'organizers' keeping people back) and shower the winner - or loser - sometimes - with talc powder. Then it looked like the winners all sat together and the losers went back to try again or joined the crowd. There were easily over 100 boys so it was hard to tell. Those that were hurt (a lot of cut eyebrows, split lips, rock related scratches - one serious eye wound)(I was sitting right behind their station) were taken to the red cross station and patched up/cleaned/etc. After one round it looked like the winners from round 1 took on each other and started the process again. After 5 hours I decided to come home but they are still going over there (now 7 hours later).

The crowd? Easily over 2,000, maybe 3+. The chouc started early and I would venture to say that most people arrived well into their 2nd calabash at least. And we have people visiting from all over the country so stages of dress from really fancy (pagne or European style) to those that came to dance (old, dirty, holey shorts, men wearing skirts, etc.) and the girls who are dressed in a bra - underwear with a scarf wrapped around their waists (the girls coming of age ceremony is in 2 weeks or so and they run through the streets naked to go up the mountain to the sacred forest, so they are getting ready for it by wearing 'scandalous' outfits now. I don't know if they get less and less or what. I tried to convince them to let the girls do the wrestling and the boys run up the mountain naked, but it didn't go over well. So crowd watching was fun. Imagine all standing around watching a civil war re-enactment- kind of- but completely ringing the battlefield. And throughout the whole thing groups of people are running around the outside of the 'audience' singing/chanting and ringing bells/castanets. It just looked like a mad house. And people are all covered in mud, baby powder, running around drunk. There are those in the crowd actually watching and into the event but most appear to come to see and be seen.

One of my favorite pairs of wrestlers: They each got some dirt in their hands (like gymnastics chalk) and started the match. They fought back and forth for a good 5 minutes - neither really getting anywhere. Then broke apart. Instead of going at each other immediately, they each began to dance to the beat of the castanets for a minute while they caught their breath and then danced back into the match. It was hilarious.

So at 4:15 I left, bought a Fanchoco and a loaf of bread (2 things never found in Yade on a Monday - and in the case of the Fan Milk NEVER!) :) And came home for a shower. I was filthy. Tomorrow are the finals and as everyone noticed I wasn't dancing today, I may join the dance/run tomorrow which will lead to a very interesting point of view, I'm thinking. Mosquitos are starting to come out so I'm going inside for the night.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Yesterday were the Evala finals for Yade. I got there when it was scheduled to start (2 PM) which for any normal event would be early, but because the President was scheduled to be there, I was late. Over half the population was already there! (It was at the big church I took you to.) They had freshly painted and roofed the seating/viewing aread for the President. There were maybe 100 chairs set up for the dignitaries and a central chair with fans placed on each side for the President. 1 ½ hours later, the President rolls in with so many escorts my view was obstructed by a line of cars with no place to park. After ceremonial hand shaking, the wrestling began.

All of the boys (participating) were given new shorts, but only a select few wrestled. Half an hour later the 'party' was over because the President left. Instead of continuing the wrestling, they just stopped. And the best part about it were the signs by Eyadema (the President) supporters saying, 'Glory and Honor to Eyadema.,' 'Thank you for keeping our traditions,' etc. Once he left the dancing and chouc drinking continued with a vengeance - took over the whole field and continued into the night. I may try to volunteer with Croix Rouge next year so I can say I was there (to my community) but not constantly be asked why I'm not dancing, if it is good, what is the boys ceremony like in France (because of my excellent French):) and not to be taken for a tourist by all the visitors. (All those questions are find, but they were all coming from people who started their questions with Anasai and came here from Lome/Sokode/etc for the event - the people I know and see daily were organizing/selling chouc/dancing/wrestling.

I found out that little mouse (who incidently was killed today next door) got in through the crack in my door and was too small to set off the trap!

Greer cleans a chicken.

A long letter received on 24 August.

I had a great day (a day worth being a Peace Corps Volunteer) and thought I needed to share it. :)

I told Essohanam yesterday I would stop by her house in the morning today to drop off the leve-toi Jeune Fille Magazine (a girl's empowerment, upbeat magazine). Essohanam is one of the two girls from Yade I took to 'Take Our Daughters to Work' (TODTW) week. So I got up with the sun as normal, did around the house for an hour then set off. I ate bean beignets with my favorite lady for breakfast and continued on. She was home with four of her sisters when I arrived. After salutations I gave her the magazine and they all perused it. We chatted for about 30 minutes about school, family, etc. She said she was getting ready to make soy cheese as we learned to do at the TODTW week. By 'getting ready to' she meant in 6 hours or so, so I walked back home chatting with various people along the way. My sinuses were sufficiently causing pain so I took Benedryl and slept the rest of the morning away. Then we had a huge thunderstorm this afternoon so I finished the 5th Harry Potter book.

At 5:30 or so Essohanam's three sisters come to my house with soy cheese for me to try. It was delicious! But I asked why Essohanam hadn't come by herself. "Oh - she's selling the cheese at the small market by the house." What? She hadn't mentioned doing that and I see her at least once a week! So I walked to the market with them and pelted her with questions. Apparently she's been selling at least two nights a week since TODTW. It is so exciting to see her exerting herself (she is very shy) and doing so well. And she said she sells all of it each time. So from the Peace Corps perspective all four fields of PC Togo are covered: Girls Education and Empowerment - making money to continue at school; Small Business Development - setting up own business; Environment - soy good for the land; Health - soy it a protein source :) And it is just exciting to see someone trying something new and succeeding!

Then on my way back from seeing her stand in the petite marche, I met with a young girl (22?) who just got the news that she passed 3 eme (10th grade) so she will start lycee (high school) next year. As she already has a young son - just over a year - it is wonderful that she is continuing with school. And such a low percentage of girls even go to high school - for her to be going is awesome!

Next person I came across on the way back is a Ghanan (speaks English) who I've seen a couple of times over the past few months. Apparently he fathered a child with a woman in Pya (next town north) and is trying to go get his son. Two days ago he stopped me and told me the whole story accompanied by letters to the gendarmes and all. Then ended his story by telling me after he got his son he wished to give him to me. Kind of surprised by that ending - I told him I thought it best for him to speak with the family and the gendarmes as planned but I could not accept his son. So when I saw him this evening I didn't know what to expect. He just greeted me and said he had an appointment with the gendarmes. So the talk with the family must have gone better than expected. (And no more mention of giving me the son!) I say my goodbyes and continue on the way.

When I got back to the house everyone had to know where I'd been, of course, and we got into a discussion about soy and soy milk/cheese. They all liked it too. One may even be interested in learning how to make it.

And now I'm listening to the new Dixie Chicks 'Home' album (It is excellent) while I get dinner made and get ready for bed.

Great Day!

Clementine had her baby on July 27th (Chaney's birthday) and named her Natalie. She is home now and appearing to do well. She was born with an extra little finger on the left hand but has been tied off. Otherwise crying and carrying on like normal. Ingrid doesn't seem to know what to think about it but the other three 'big' kids seem excited. Abel turns one on the 3rd of August (Marilyn's birthday)! He is walking now, has one tooth coming in and chattering more than ever.

Spent the past hour sitting on my little stool while all the girls did my hair. I ended up with a very 80's side part and low pony tail and promise to do more tomorrow :)

Tuesday, August 5

Saw Stephanie off today. Kara came over and we went to Akpeme (sp? Girls coming of age ceremony) and I'd love to tell you about it but first I need to write to you about after Kara left:

I came back to the house and talked with Daniel's dad a little than came inside to make some dinner. Then a big ruckus was going on next door and I recognized Samuel voice. So I went out - he was yelling, shoving - getting ready to beat up that Ghanan guy (mentioned before) who apparently had come twice today while we were at the fete. I forgot to write you about how he came over the other day telling me he was starving and asked for money while telling me he traveled to Lome and bought clothes for the son he wants custody of...(I told him he needed to talk to his family before a complete stranger) so he came by after dark - which is completely inappropriate - and asked if I was here whereupon Samuel and Clementine and Daniel's dad and others called him a thief and shooed him with lots of shoving - Samuel grabbed a club and tried to beat him though the others held him back. Then the others walked him out. I am still upset and really wish someone were here with me though I know the family is there.

Then we had a discussion about thievery. They said there are thieves, here apparently, who break into your house, ask you where you hide you money while you are asleep. You show them, they take it and get away. And it is not until they are far away that you wake up. While I do not believe in sorcery, the breaking-in while asleep part makes me nervous and I probably won't sleep well tonight. I have gotten lax about locking my door during the day when I'm around village - looks like I will have to get more strict about it. You (meaning me, Ellen who is typing out this letter) got to experience the being targeted feeling because of being white and I guess after a year, I was feeling very comfortable with Yade. Unfortunately looks like I no longer have a safe haven. :( (My stomach is upset - this was a horrible ending to an otherwise good day.)


Today the story of the guy coming last night has been the topic of conversation at the chouc stand. By tomorrow (or end of the week) I expect all the groupements and well pretty much everyone in Yade to have heard about it.

Timon and I colored this evening till he got sent on a mission/errand. It was great. Charles played with the Blue's Clues stampers and Saalim and Ingrid ate peanuts. Once all of the visitors are gone, I'll pull out the crayons and other coloring books (did Barbie with Timon) with the 4 little ones. So - Akpema was fascinating! Odette (girl with 6 toes, Yele's daughter), Abire and 2 other girls (16-17 years old) and Kara and I walked around together. They took us to the house of one of their camarades who did it this year. So in their own individual houses the family - female relatives - prepare the girl (who has been wearing a bra and scarf around her waist to prepare for the event.) They shave her head, put a red 'paint' on her head, tie a string around her head (like a headband), 2 leather sacks adorned with shells go over each shoulder criss-crossed across the chest with a sack hanging on each side/hip, and she has a lot of tan colored belly beads. While she takes the walk to the mountain, she has to close her eye, look serious, carry a long ornamented reed-like stick in front of her and with the bottom touching her lips. She is not allowed to talk. Then her family leads - oh wait, they also wore an anklet of some sort of yellow fur and different bracelets - her on the path to the path to the mountain. The girl we kind of followed left the house with underwear on. They stopped a ways from the house where I wasn't close enough to see what happened but when we moved on again she sans (without) undies. So then up the mountain. Once up there they go to a special place in the forest. The girls sit on scared rocks while the family is dancing all around them. The elders are then to arrive, proclaim them of age (I guess) and the ceremony is complete.

There were 'bouncers' that didn't want us to go to the sacred place and almost didn't let us until I promised not to take pictures and gave my bag to Abire. And as we were walking back down - the elders had not arrived yet but we wanted to get down the mountain before dark. We saw the elders on their way. They were all dressed in leather underwear and playing flutes, etc. One was mad at us for being where we were seeing them before they put on their shorts and he threw rocks at us till we were far enough away. (Not just because we were white - there were others too.)

I'm sure I have forgotten something but when you get the pictures I will explain more. I think you would have enjoyed the experience (more interesting than Evala).

This letter spanned 2 weeks and a range of emotions and experiences that probably make me ready for the padded room - so I'll stop here for now. :) Such in the life of PC Togo - ah ~

Making a call at the local phone booth.

Pumping water.

Carrying water.

Greer (2nd from right) with her mother (3rd from right) and community leaders.

Greer and Becky at the waterfall near Bafilo.

14 September 2003 (parts of the September Quarterly Report)

Helped fell a Eucalyptus tree growing into/over the telephone line. Equipment: machete, long rubber rope.

Volunteered for a week with the Guinea Worm Eradication project. Spent the week biking around to small villages in an endemic area explaining how you get GW, how to treat your water, filter, proper care of the filter, etc.

In a meeting just the other day we, myself, and 30 members of the community (groupement representatives) were sitting in a pyote -round structure. We were evenly numbered women and men and though I was saying a lot none of the other women were speaking. So I asked for the women's opinions. After giggling and looking shy, hands went up and their ideas were excellent. The men were respectful and the discussion continued with input from both genders.. Later in the meeting while discussing a formation for canning and confiture, where I was primarily focused on the women, a man tentatively put up his hand and asked if the men could come too. I said yes, if they really wanted to. So then when I asked how many would like to come and participate, ten of the men put up their hands along with the majority of the women. It was an unexpected but delightful shift in gender rolls.

A lot of things about PC surprised me even though I thought I had listened to all the stories. The first being how wealthy we are as PCV's in comparison to those we live with. I never expected to be more wealthy as a PCV in Togo than living in the states. I also expected to live more like the people around me. Partially my fault I do admit. But I don't cook over charcoal, eat pate with sauce at every meal, hit children constantly, hit the animals (dogs esp.). And I do things women don't do like kill my own chickens, go places by bike, fix things around the house, paint, read, etc.

8 November 2003: Excerpts from various letters.

As our weather is changing here from rainy season to dry, my 'work' is picking up. And my kitchen tumbling down.

Weather: Has not rained in the past few day, the humidity is dropping and the temperature increasing. In fact one day this week half of my laundry actually dried before nightfall.

Work: Working through the SPA proposal process with the groupements of Boho-haut (mountain) and the community has been very rewarding. The community itself put together this demand, filled out the paper work, organized the work and chose motivators within each quarter to keep up the 'energy level.' I'm headed to Lome next week for one day [one day down, one day in Lome frantically getting work done, one day to come back up, so three days total]. So I want to turn in the application at the same time. Tomorrow morning is the day to break down the old, unuseable structures. I'm planning on leaving my house at 6AM to arrive at the school at 7 AM, take pictures then return home. Then our next meeting will be after November 5 when the PC committee decides to approve or not our proposal. If approved, we move ahead as planned. If not...we start looking for other funding options(?) :) [But keep in mind that because SPA limits funded projects to less than $2000, we are building bricks of mud and covering them with cementage (like my house). There will be no windows or door - only the holes. By doing this the school can be built with three rooms and have a tin roof.]

The work with the groupements is going well, too. I think I wrote you about the meeting where we had elections and elected the members of the board for the forming Association of Groupements of Yade-Bohou. So we have had two meetings since with just the board to put together the Self-Help proposal for the US Embassy in Lome This proposal requires signatures from the Chief and Prefect, so we were supposed to go around and do that today by Mr. Yele, the President of the Association, is having medical tests done in Kara. They took longer than expected so we are going to fill out more paper work tonight then go around to the responsibles tomorrow after I get down from the mountain.

And I e-mailed you after the canning/confiture formation - yes? It went very well. I was surprised and pleased. [They now want to see the soap making formation happen. But that will have to be put off till at least the end of harvest.} And now knowing how easy it is, I made a huge pot of sauce on Sunday - canned it and have sauce for maybe two weeks. When you eat sauce at every meal with pasta, pate, rice..., it goes quickly. :)]

Kitchen: My round kitchen building is now severely leaning towards my house. (I duck under the thatch roof on the way to the latrine.) We keep the door shut so the animals won't go in there as it could collapse at any time. Every time it rains it tilts a little more. If it doesn't fall on its own soon, there were plans to help it along, but I don't know if those have changed or not. Then they'll rebuild during the dry season - maybe. Since I don't use it and they do only occasionally, I think it'd be a better idea to hold off or just put up a pyote with walls like my fencing (palm). I'll be sure to keep you up to date.

What else have I been up to? Had another war with the cockroaches and my latrine. Stood over the latrine and killed for an hour as they crawled out. I put the legs back on my bed (so I am no longer on the floor) and switched mattresses as the other one is very dented. :) It is weird to sleep so high up. I didn't sleep well the first night because it was so odd. And no weird bites yet, so I think the ticks are gone from the mattress.

Yesterday I took two floor sacks to the tailor and explained this skirt of Phynessa's that she lives in and swears is comfortable. I didn't think I'd explained it well but had to get to a meeting (where everyone showed up within 15 minutes of start time for once!), so I figured they would set it aside and we'd talk about it some more when the meeting was over. Two hours later I go back and she is just finishing up the hem. And to my delight, it is actually exactly what I described. And when I asked how much it cost - she said 300F (50¢). I have to go back and pay today because I didn't have money on me thinking they might be able to be done in a week - wow!

I'm just back from the tailor. She is located behind the church. So it takes about ten minutes to walk there. It took me an hour and a half to go and come. On the way back I stopped at a chouc stand to greet a woman I know (she is in a groupement and sells porc at the market each week.) Her husband was also there. I have only met him once before a long time ago.

The stage (training group) that comes to replace Becky's group should have arrived this weekend past. When they swear in as PCVs, my stage are the elders (anciens). Weird to think that I'll be one of the people who's been here the longest (not counting those crazy PCVs who extend for longer.) and, oh, what a difference a year makes. I feel like I wouldn't even recognize myself if arriving now. I read through my journal the other day and was amazed at how much I've forgotten or how much has just become normal or default.

~night~(made garlic sauce to go over rice) ~ We didn't fill out any of the paper work. No one came by, but Timon, Abide and I colored. It was fun. The little ones have coloring conditions - if they go to school tomorrow and Monday, we will color Monday evening. (They haven't gone regularly yet and their mothers don't stick to consequences (like you have to stay inside all day if you don't go to school, etc.) so the kids just don't go if they don't want to.

Friday October 3 {Day of School Destruction and Night in Bafilo}

Tuesday October 14 I've been to Lome and back, biked from Bafilo to Bassar, gotten sick, gotten my thesis idea approved by the Country Director, destroyed the portion of the school that is "hopefully" getting funding approval, lost half my toenail to a fungus, bought cell phone pagne and gotten a roll of film developed here (Lome) since I wrote the first half of this letter. :) {I forgot where I put it!}

Bike ride: Excellent, scenic back road with very few cars and only two villages for 50 km. Very good day but drank some unfiltered pump water that could have lead to the sickness (vomiting, weakness, diarrhea ever since).

Thesis: Went to Lome (free ride there and back!) to drop off the SPA, get more info on the Self-Help fund, and have a meeting with our Country Director Louse Krumm for her 'Approval' of my thesis idea.

School: Hiked up to Bohou-haut - we destroyed the two classrooms that cannot be used this school year anyway. Great turnout and work went well!

Toe: Yes, same toe of ingrown fame - the top half is now gone due to a fungus. Medical officer says it'll clear up on it's own. :)

It was raining when I woke up this morning. Such a pleasant noise on the thatch. :) But there was a puddle on the couch, floor and counter, along with some wet paper work which wasn't so much fun.

October 16 2003

Yesterday was Abire's birthday. She asked me a month ago how much it would cost to make a chocolate cake. So she gave me money for flour, sugar and eggs and I made the cake and a magic shell like frosting while she was at school. She was so excited to see that I hadn't forgotten. And she even brought me a piece. :)

I am having a big fly-mosquito problem now in the latrine. The whole bottom of the pit is filled with water so I think they're breeding. I should go buy some oil to pour down there. They fly out by the hundreds when I lift the lid. (Then I'm in there and leaving the door open to get rid of them when Abel tottles over to see what's going on. So I shut the door, he bangs on it for two more minutes, the mosquitoes swarm - oh, the fun of latrines.) :)

If I go to Kara this weekend, I need to buy a chain and collar for Pig. He needs to not be in the house, but not chasing their chickens. (I'm pretty sure the ranting tirade by Grandma today was about how my dog chased her chickens. I'd go on but it would just be a bitter tirade on my part.:) about chickens, Kabye, families - pretty much everything.)

Sunday, December 7

New this morning - our pump is broken - surprise-surprise - but Mr. Yele has a well so we headed over there. He also has a spigot which he allowed us (Clementine and me) to use. So we made 3 trips filling up everything. It does not shock me that the pump is broken because there are not that many alternate water sources and the only one once the wells have dried up is the pump by the road that you have to pay to use.

Harmattan is in full swing. It is dry, dusty and windy. And I'm going through the benedryl like water. Just like winter, your skin cracks open and bleeds - can't escape it. :)

Perdu - the cat that adopted our house - was eating a lizard yesterday. I watched the whole process - very interesting - tail last!

I told you about the collapsing kitchen, yes? They were going to destroy and rebuild it. Now the idea is to build a square with tin roof to be a future home for Timon. So soon we'll remove the thatch then break down the walls to build the new one in pretty much the same location, but bigger and well, square, instead of round. :)

- just back from the marche -
As I was chatting with my fish/oil sandwich lady (just because it sounds disgusting doesn't mean it is!), a fou (crazy man) who was on his way to the market fell to the ground and started moaning and gurgling. It was in the middle of the road, which on any other day of the week would not be a problem, but on market day, cars come and go all the time. Then the first car that pulled up 5 minutes later to go by had the woman with sacks of charcoal/corn move their sacks as he could go around the fou instead of picking him up or helping. When I left the marche 10 minutes later, he was still on the ground though apparently no longer moaning. As far as I can see, no one touched him. It was a very awkward experience.

Monday December 8

had a discussion with my neighbor who works with the croix rouge about doing AIDS sensibilizations around the community. So when they get their next meeting organized, I'm going to tag along and see what's up.

Tuesday December 9

I was sitting here picking ticks off Pig when Perdu, the cat, chased down and caught a salamander. She killed it and has almost finished eating it. When she bit off the head, the body and tail thrashed around for a good 30 seconds. though Perdu is not much bigger than some of the mice/rats, she devoured that lizard!

Did laundry this morning. With the pump broken, I saved up all my laundry to do all at once to use less water. Took 2 hours. And since it is the dry season, everything should be dry by nightfall. :)

December 31, 2003

Yesterday I was invited to a groupement meeting. I was supposed to have received the invitation the night before, but they came by at 9 PM so Samuel was given the note to pass on to me in the morning. When he remembered, it was 6:35AM. I read the note. Yes, an invitation to attend their meeting for very important work, at 6:30 AM, so important, in fact, that they forgot to tell me where the reunion was to be. So I stayed at the house assuming someone would find me or they'd stop by afterwards.

It was then at 7:30 AM that they called Yele's cabine to tell me they were waiting for me at CEG I. So I hopped on my bike and headed over. After thirty minutes, they'd decided they couldn't have the meeting without Mr. Yele, who had a scheduled meeting with the Prefet that morning. So they concluded by saying they needed to reschedule for a time before the groupement fete on the 3rd, when both Yele and I could attend.

Last night then I received another invitation for this morning at 7 AM. So still not knowing what this groupement was about, I pedaled there on this chilly last day of the year. It started at 7:15 AM, pretty punctual! Not one word was spoken in French for 3 hours. And voices were elevated. I could tell Yelr was not happy, but I still had no idea what was going on.

At the 3 hour mark, when they were obviously done (they'd started serving out calabashes of chouc), the ICAT representative for the Kozah and Assoli prefectures (Kara to Bafilo) said, "Oh, our apologies. I thought you spoke Kabye. We'll translate afterwards." So in English I told him that was not necessary as the meeting was already over. He said, " I don't understand." This man had the day before recounted all of the PCVs he'd known and worked with. I can guarantee that none of those PCVs could sit through a 3 hour meeting without translation and know exactly what was said. Yet, he looked all put out that I said one sentence in English. So after they offered me a calabash and people were drinking, I left. When I got back to the house, Yele was already there. (He has a motorcycle.) He was recounting to Samuel the meeting. Once I'd put m bike away, I walked over there and he asked me if I'd followed the context of the reunion. I said, no, of course not. 3 hours of Kabye without translation! Ugh! At which Samuel, who wasn't even there, said, "What? They invited you specifically and didn't have the courtesy to speak in French or at least translate!" To which I responded, "Yeah!?"

Then Yele told me the essence of the meeting:
They were berating Yele for asking for Peace Corps for a volunteer and then hoarding my 'financial assistance' to around where I live and only the 28 groupements I've been working with the past year and a half. And these 13 groupements associated with this new ONG (NGO) in Kara feel jealous/left out.

Keep in mind that most of the people in this meeting are in one of the 28 groupements I'm already working with, but this is first time I've heard from this new ONG or these other groupements.

And Yele is being accused of using me and my resources for just Yade-bas (part of Yade where I live) or just those specific groupements. Though I've visited all the groupements and most of them are in Bohou-bas!

So these groupements, the ONG in charge of them specifically, are mad at me, Yele and, I guess, the other ONG, yet they still have not even spoken to me in French about their groupement. I'm frustrated, Yele's on his way to the ONG guy to arrange a meeting of everybody, perfectly appropriate way to end a year spent entirely in Peace Corps Togo. What will next year bring?

I've just gotten in to Kara on my way back from IST in Pagala. IST = In Service Training. We had sessions about elevage (animal husbandry), mushroom cultivation, groupement working, and transformations for soap, soy, lotion/Vaseline, and jams/jellies. It was much better than the bee keeping last year at this time. And it was good to get to hang out with my fellow stage mates and meet those one year after us.

I got to skin, gut, and clean my first rabbit. Killing it karate-chop style was a little shocking first time around, but next time I'll give it a go. I did the dirty work with Primrose, newer volunteer north near Dapaong. We saved the feet, but they are still drying and I forgot it in Pagala, hopefully she will remember and I'll have the proof :)

Other excitement...not really :) I start the questionnaires tomorrow with Samuel. We have a goal of one a day - setting the sights low - and at that rate it will take me about 4 months to get 'enough' to compile. So looks like I'll be busy.

Did I write you about the soap? I made it the other day by myself, using the underside of the stool for a mold. I think I stirred to long because it is hard! I'll try again this week and see how it goes.

We were cold down in Pagala, needed a heavy blanket - maybe 50s? - and getting back up here feels good. Though it is still harmattan and cooler than it will be in March/April.

Some Photos from late 2003.

The Guinea Worm Eradication Puppet Troupe.

Pig the dog (younger)

Greer taking peanuts off the plants.

Greer crossing the bridge in Kakum National Park, Ghana.

At Cape Castle in Ghana.

At the canning formation.

The old school being destroyed.

Greer helping to knock down the old school.

Pig the dog, somewhat older.

All from a letter which Greer's mother sent along in February.

New Years

I was invited to celebrate with the groupements on the mountain. So I let myself sleep in till 6:30 AM then got up, leisurely did around the house for a while before getting dressed for the fete. I got a pagne top {puff sleeves and all} and pagne skirt new for the year so I decided, dressed up as I was, to wear my dress sandals which don't get worn much. Then after going around to say happy new year to families around where I live, I headed out for the hike up. Once there I ate with Albert and Valentine. I attended their wedding awhile back if you remember. We had sokoro (fou-fou, boiled then pounded ignams - kind of heavy mashed potato like) with a peanut sauce and chicken. And calabashes of chouc sucree. After we went and visited the chief to wish him a bonne annee. He told me to come marry him and I would wear pretty pagne outfits all the time as he laughed showing his two remaining teeth. He's fun. Then we walked all over to visit their gardens and homes of other members, families, etc. That's where we ate 2 more times and drank 3 more. And did all the tromping through gardens, over streams - still in dress shoes. Then I hiked down. Made it half way till I slid in my shoes to the point of falling so took them off and hiked down barefoot. And I'd been given a 'thermos' full of chouc and a casserole of rice and sauce to take with me - so I was trying to balance all of it and get down without tripping and snowballing it down the mountain. And we'll just say the grippability factor is low!

Then Clementine and I'd promised to go drink at this retired school director's house at 4 PM. I got back at 4:15 - took me longer than I expected to descend :) So we took off at 5 PM, taking Charles, Ingrid and Natalie as well. When we got there, who was there but my least favorite drunk person - he's OK not drunk, but talks incessantly and very close when drunk. So when he sees me, he has to come sit next to me. We escaped into the house, where I was given a large coke and a huge salad. We sat there till he left, then a large dancing contingency from the fete at the church came through the compound so we were hanging in the house chatting for an hour or so. On the way home, as I carried a sleeping Ingrid, Clementine decided to lecture me on why I had to go the next morning to saluate as I'd promised. Good times.

So this morning when I was heading out, I asked her if she was going - she'd promised to - she said 'Oh no, I've got something to do.' So I went alone and had a good visit. Then after 45 minutes or so, I walked back home. I'd been home 15 minutes when a man came up and said they'd been waiting for me for an hour at their house. I thought I'd made plans to visit this lady in the afternoon. She took it upon herself to change the time to 10:30 and have her groupement there. So I hop on my bike and go hang with them until 3:30. The choices of beverage: chouc weak and chouc strong :) Awkward situation but we had a good conversation about how the Kabye had 6 day weeks with 10 months then added Thursday, May and, I think, July. Then we walked to visit the other ONG guy who seemed surprised that I spoke French. This is only the 3rd time I've met him in a year and a half - but you read about that in a previous letter! Frustrations!

January 7, 2004

I've gotten back from Kara's new post near Guerin-Kouka. It was good to finally see her post, but I helped her move out of village at the same time, so another of my friends is gone. I am sad and frustrated at the same time. These two (Phynessa and Kara) were unexpected - who'll be next? My family here was shocked and upset when I got home last night and told them. One of Timon's comments was, 'Well now it's just you and Pamela." {Pam's in Keteao} So here I sit. The meeting this morning to discuss the jealousy issue got canceled and moved to another day, so even my plans for the morning are changing. Guess I'll do laundry now.

Eucalyptus trees (far right) drain soil of moisture and nutrients, reducing maize yield (center).


January 12, 2004

Samuel and I sat down this morning as our first 'official' day of thesis work. We reviewed the questions, revised the French, talked through the process and scheduled work days through the end of February. Tomorrow I leave for Pagala with Adjoua Essossimma for IST (In-Service Training).. We'll be there through Sunday. Should be interesting to say the least - lots of people I won't know.

IST went pretty well. Sounds like most everyone from my stage (training group) is unhappy/dissatisfied. Odd, though, that most of us are still here when over 50% of the stage after us has left.

It was very hot and humid yesterday. It felt like it was going to rain, but it is the dry season. But rain it did. Starting at 8 PM through the night till 8 this morning. The water I collected off their roof is black from all of the soot on the roof and in the air, and everything is muddy. But it has cooled off and been very comfortable all day. But because of the rain, we put our questionnaires off till this afternoon.

As we were doing questionnaires this morning, you could hear screaming and singing in the distance. The screaming was coming from a man 'determining' the cause of death of an older man who died yesterday. Samuel's comment: 'That's satanic you know?' The singing was coming from a group of ladies. They were delivering an engagement gift (maize, etc.) to the bride's family from the groom's family.

The bed/mattress issues continue...I now have bed bugs. The sun hasn't been out - wouldn't you know that my bed bugs would pick the only 'rainy-ish' week to emerge. So once the sun comes back out, I'll put it out in the sun. Till then I'm on the couch. :)

March 2004.

A man returned home to find that about 10 branches of his trees had been lopped off without his permission. He confronted the chief of Bohou with his problem. The chief, remembering that I am the tree "expert" sent the man to my house. At promptly 6 a.m. the next, the man arrived at my house so that I could tell him what the punishment should be for this act of vandalism. I told him that I would need to see the trees in question before I could do anything, if in fact I could make such a decision. So we walked for almost an hour to where his field and the trees were, looked at the damage, and walked back. I told him that I would need to think about it overnight and for him to return the next morning. Therefore at 5:30 a.m. the next day he arrived for the decision. I told him that the issue would have to be taken to the gendarmes. He then looked down and distraught for a moment before saying that he thought that was a good decision because he thinks the same man who cut down the trees was the same person who hit his wife. He then thanked me for my advice and left. A very bizarre situation.

April 2004

The highest grade in middle was reading about the KKK as part of their American History section. So their professor asked me to come speak about the topic on Wednesday. So I did a little research and gave them some bare boned information before launching into questions that ranged from:
Are the whites in America still 'superior' to the blacks?
Was the President in on the organization and activities, too?
It is still an active group?
Why would you want to join them?
So could you marry a black? (Ah, sadly that question came when the tire bell was rung and English was over)
It was a fascinating discussion though and one I never expected to have or to have the chance to lead.

Had the second meeting in Pya-Awdina (part of the President's home town - but the part up the mountain - a half hour hike from Bohou-haut school construction place). I like it up there. It's beautiful, the people are chill - though they put any village I've ever been in to shame on how quickly they throw down a calabash! We started the tree nursery planning and set up the next organizational meeting. The work itself was to start today. This project will be what I leave for the next (replacement) PCV to pick up and continue with. [Among other things :)] So exciting to see it getting started.

April 28, 2004

I've had a packed - good and bad - day, at times bizarre, at times, regular, but I thought I'd share nonetheless. :)

For starters, I picked up a stamp (tampon in French) in Kara yesterday. I think it turned out pretty well!! I hope to get a raffle organized for the Arbor Day celebration - so will use the stamp on each raffle ticket.

The Stamp.

Back to the day...I spent last night in Kara so I could get a jump start on the day. So I leisurely woke up at 6 AM, cleaned up my bed and got on the computer. I wrote a thank you to Kyla and her students and a note to a fellow PCV about a possible gardening venture. Then I took off to the post office to mail the pen pal letters as well as a package to Kara (friend who left in January). I then stopped by the Vet to ask about a growth I noticed on Pig's chin. Then I started the trek home. Halfway there a random woman said she'd meet me at my house - she was on foot. I said alright, assuming she had confused me with one of the Catholic Sisters, and she'd never show up. So I pull up to the house and water the trees. They are looking good by the way. About 20 minutes later, the woman walks into the compound and asks after me. She did indeed think I was with the church. When I told her I wasn't, she said that was alright, she was just looking for prayer. So we went and sat under Samuel's Pyote (which was ripped up by this mad straight line wind storm we had 3 nights ago). She told me her tale of marriage, pregnancy with another man, abusiveness, white great grandfather. So after my assurances that I would keep her in prayer, she went along contented. Then I cracked the Harry Potter 5 book, read 5 pages and collapsed on the floor, where I slept for an hour. I'm blaming it on the combination of internal organism war, heat and dehydration because of the biking without water bottles. When I woke up, it was 12:30. I gobbled down some bread and drank a litre of water. Then took off on my bike to Pya-Awidina for a meeting at 3 PM. It takes about an hour to get there. The gendarmes stops I have to pass through gave me no problems at all today - didn't even make me get off the bike! So I bike...then when you get to the road up, you start pushing the bike. Kyla, remember that steep hill up to a castle that was like 12% - this is worse! The whole time climb just imaging riding down so all was good and it passed quickly.

The meeting part was fine - we saw where they've got the seedlings started and the water sources and talked about possible time schedules for if the project gets approved or not. But 2 things were wrong. (1) the crazy man was there, drunk, and asking me inane questions in the high pitched voice the whole time (2) one of the groupement members repeatedly asked for my bike and camera. I finally lost it and told him that if he asked again, I was nixing the project and not returning. When I did this my fav old lady in the groupement comes up, gives me a cadeau of acajoutier nuts (these foul not quite ripe, large peanut on black seed type things) and starts smacking the guy. I ate the nuts with a smile!

So the meeting is over and I'm excited about flying down the mountain, when my hopes are dashed. It is polite here to walk aways with your guest as they leave. They'd done it last time so I figured we were over the 'guest' stage - nope - they walked with me all the way down and out to the road. At this point the crazy guy was driving me crazy, so I said my farewells and took off.

(Fun things from our last descent that I forgot to mention: a man who used to live up the mountain moved down and built a house close to his gardening plot. He named the house South Africa (get it - south), so they all call him South African. When I greeted him by the name South African, he was very pleased. He told me things were well and the elections were going smoothly - he'd already voted. (This was the day or day after South African's vote). Then he asked if I'd voted, assuming I was also South African because I didn't live up in the village - so I told him I was from Zimbabwe (on the spot approximation of Yade vs. South Africa) and not allowed to vote. He walked with us to the chouc stand. Wherein comes the second anecdote - these guys can drink! Yeah - here you'll have 4 or 5 calabashes on a day or whatever, but you drink it slowly. These guys chug - the whole calabash in 1 gulp. Each of them had 3 in the 15 minutes we were there - I was just staring at them. :)

OK - ride back home, no problems. I get to the house and PADAKAADON is getting ready to go get water for watering the trees. So I go off with her. The pump was locked so we sat and waited while the girl came. While we were waiting, PALLA came over. (These are 2 of the 9 girls working the tree nursery) I'd been listening to a Beatles tape earlier so I was singing Hello/Goodbye - realizing that the lyrics are absolutely perfect for our culture clash explanations - and we translated it to French and were singing for a while till the girl came and we carried our water back.

Once we get back there is a groupement waiting for me at the house. Once done I go over and we discuss going to Kara to type up their groupement papers and they invite me to their first official meeting - 28 May.

Best clothes of the day:
- man on bike in a Dominoes delivery shirt
- woman selling rice and sauce in a McDonalds shirt :)


May 2, 2004

Yesterday was Fete des Travailleurs - Laborer's Day. My compound turned into party central. 2 pigs and a goat were killed! Clementine was well on her way to drunk by 10 AM. Ricardo - fellow PCV - was having a celebration at his house - 30 K or so away - but I couldn't sneak out a velo so we hung out, ate lots of rice and porc (yum) and that's about it. Around 3 PM, Abide (18 year old neighbor) said she was tired of the party - not a drinker either - and so we walked to Pya - 3-5 km or so - to visit her friend who was selling smoked fish as people left the President's celebration. We hung out for a while then walked back. The compound was in full dance party mode when we arrived. It was wild. He shut off the music at 9 or 10 and everyone left. It was a good time overall. (And Pig was more than happy to down my unrecognizable organs of pig.)

I've been cleaning this morning and organizing - or trying to. When you think organizing - really, I'm burning things that cause clutter and I don't really need. Burning is so satisfying. :)

I should wrap it up and drop this off at the post. My neighbor is playing my current favorite song:

On est fatigue
Nous sommes tous fatigue
On est fatigue
Liberer mon pagye
I am tired
We're all tired
I am tired
Liberate my country

~about Cote d'Ivoire

Togo Information:

Web Sites:

Also, Greer's web page on Solar Cooking.

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Page created 28 June 2002.

Updated: 31 October 2004.

Page created and maintained by Blair Orr.