Tuesday, November 2, 2010


This afternoon I woke up to find a goat in my house. the goat wasn't doing anything-not looking for food or looking for a way out- just watching me sleep. Creepy. After promptly asking the goat what he was doing in my house and then checking myself for talking to a goat ( in English nonetheless), I promptly put on clothes and escorted the goat out of my house. My commune, seeing me walk out of my house with the goat, tried to figure out the nature of the situation (nobody speaks French). This ended up with about 20 women and kids giggling while slapping the goat in punishment and asking me what I was doing with the goat in my house. I finally learned how to say " the goat came in while I was sleeping" in Ife ( local language) which I hope I will never have to say again. It now makes sense how volunteers say they learn the important things in local language like " hello," " goodbye," " beignets," and, " I didn't let the goat in my house." That pretty much sums up my 1st week at post.

Goats aside, my 1st week at post was surprisingly busy. I was planning on taking the week to unpack,clean, and nest a bit but I ended up meeting with several of my homologues to brainstorm and spending a lot of time at the dispensaire ( this is the village health center that i work with). If I had apprehensions on spending the next two years in a rural village in Africa, this last week helped immensely in eradicating them. The midwife I will primarily be working with has a plethora of ideas on how to improve the community but is so incredibly overworked she has no time to council people. For those of you wondering what I am actually doing here work-wise, I am involved in all matter of health education and promotion. This means interventions for malnourished kids, teaching moms how to treat illnesses like diarrhea and malaria, family sessions, etc. Each village is different though, and it will take several months of integration time before I can start any significant projects here. Until then, I will be spending most of my time getting to know the community and familiarizing myself with the dispensaire.

At home, Im starting to feel more comfortable with the commune lifestlye. My neighbor bought me a yam which I ended up turning into coliko- a kind of Togolese french fry for the whole compound. This, much to my surprise, was a huge hit and I spent the next several days being force fed pate ( typical Togolese dish) by the whole commune. Dancing and hand claps have also become a nightly activity and I know that even if I have a difficult day, its hard not to feel better after eating and dancing with everyone under our grapefruit tree.

Let me know if anyone has any questions! Also, on a completely different note, for all my science nerd friends: I found a copy of The Cell ( what it is doing in Togo I have no idea) and plan on lugging it back on a moto for those lonely Togolese nights


hey everyone!

I am incredibly sorry this post has taken so long to put up but internet ( and electricity for that matter) is a luxury and,well, everything in Togo takes a bit longer...

I am currently in Lome to swear in as a real Peace Corps Volunteer and have been super pumped about eating meat that is not pig organ and using something as glorious as wireless internet! My computer is actually working ( this never happens), I'm hanging out with my brand new PCV's on a beautiful balcony ( for Togo), it's a beauitful day ( for Togo), and I was all ready to indulge in my guilty intenet pleasures. Unfortunately, Togo would have none of this. So, instead of facebooking right now, I decided to pour myself a gin and tonic and write this post in hopes that maybe, maybe one day I'll be able to post it.

My main update is that I have now successfully completed 9 weeks of training and homestay with a Togolese family. Major highlights of this included teaching my super cool host brothers that Celine Dion is, in fact, not cool, and that they should be listening to David Bowie instead. Initially, this was met with some apprehension but after 9 weeks of intense dance party music training, my brothers now enjoy listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and hood internet mixes so...if I accomplish nothing else in Togo...that's something. I also sort of learned how to cook. Well, that statement is debatable. I freguently watched my host mom cook and might be able to imitate this- I'll keep everyone posted on how this plays out. I did, however, buy a disgusting amount of peanut butter, nutella, and ramen for post just in case.

Yesterday was our official administrative swearing-in so as of right now I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer! This is exciting for a variety of reasons, but mainly because we now get to leave for post and live off more than ten dollars a week. I will be in Lome for one more night and then I am off to village. My post is a village called Moretan and it is actually pretty big by village standards- about 3,000 opeople- but still incredibly poor and kind of off the beaten path. In case Togo wasn't off the beaten path enough. I am living the epitome of a Togolese lifestyle which can be annoying at times ( I have no privacy, shower out of a bucket, have a hole in the ground as a latrine) but that's kind of the point of Peace Corps, right? I live in a compound of about 8/9 other families. The whole concept of a compound here is a bit difficult to explain but I'll give it my best shot. Basically, there is a square mud/cement house with a courtyard in the midde where everyone hangs out. There are doors to the " houses" around the courtyard so everyone is connected to eachother. In the United States it would kind of be like a one story motel where each door is a different house. All of the houses are one room except for mine which has two rooms- one for sleeping and one for eating/entertaining/everything else. Togolese do everythng outside in the courtyard- cooking,eating,sleeping,hanging out, etc. This is a bit unnerving for me right now as I don't want everyone watching me wash my clothes and burn trash but I want to be perceived as part of the community.

My village is pretty isolated from everyone/everything and my closest volunteer neighbor is 28 K away but I have a great community so I don't think the distance will be an issue. My compound, which I refer to affectionately as " the commune," is exactly that. All the women hang out all day and cook meals for everyone and take care of eachothers kids. My landlord, who is the matriarch of the commune family, is also the president of the catholic church and makes moonshine called sodobe. So, this should be fun. Most people in my village do not speak French so one of my first priorieties is to learn how to speak local language-Ife. So far, I know the important things like salutations, thank yous, and cake.

I might be saying something completely different in 2 years but right now I feel incredibly lucky with my post. My village has a plethora of problems including malnutrition, HIV/AIDS taboos, sketchy tribal medicine, myths on family planning and malaria ( you can get malria from eating mangos), but there are a lot of motivated people in Moretan. Also, after spending a week at post dancing with my kids ( because I live in the commune, these children are mine also), and cooking with the women, I feel like I have a family and belong to a place. After living out of a suitcase for 9 weeks, going back in forth between African cities, and having names and clothes and homes changed, I can not begin to explain how wonderful this feels. I also can't imagine if I feel this way now, how much village will become my home in the future.

I am safe and happy and, while sometimes I can not begin to wrap my head around the crazy things that happen in togo ( ie cows on motos), I think this is going to be an amazing and productive two years. I miss everyone and thanks for reading and for the calls and packages!