Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bad Support System, BAD!

There are only a few days left in Stage (training). Wednesday we leave for Lomé and Thursday we will all officially be Volunteers. The two-year adventure is about to begin in earnest, and I am very excited about it. Just me, myself and I on the beach of Agbodrafo offering computer assistance to people without computers...or something like that.

That being said, I went ALL of Stage without a single letter or care package. I am disappointed in you all, and don't try to use the old "but I emailed you" excuse. Technology is no good reason to abandon those of us that moved our lives to Africa.

Get on the ball! Go buy a pen, and some paper, too. I want to see some snail mail! Oh, and um, sorry that sending me mail is wildly expensive. I cannot really control that. I still recommend sending the cheapest air mail padded envelope possible for sending stuff. I think that might be as cheap as ten bucks. Some families are sending Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes and the prices are $30-$50. That is just out of hand. By the time it gets here you will have sent the most expensive beef jerky (or whatever was in the box) ever!

A reminder that a letter in a normal envelope is only a dollar or so. Later, gators!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shiny Food

When I lived in Vegas there was a little diner that the people I worked with liked to eat breakfast at once in awhile. I think it was called Skinny Dugans. I didn't eat there a lot because they served shiny food.

Shiny Food - noun - food that is shiny. Okay, a bit more defining may be needed. Some restaurants serve many dishes, and every single one of them is shiny. Denny's has perfected this. Shiny eggs, shiny bread, shiny hanburgers, very very very shiny French Fries, and so forth. When people tell me they ate at a 'greasy spoon' I automatically think shiny food.

Here in Togo shiny food is king. Last night I had a plate of shiny spaghetti, with a shiny tomato sauce that was enough oil that it started to separate, with shiny yam fries on top. (A note on yam fries - if you like french fries, you would REALLY like yam fries, Superior in every way.) I am growing more accumstomed to shiny food, but the next time I am in Vegas, I will not be going to Skinny Dugans.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How well do you wash clothes?

I can tell you this: there is a country here in Africa filled with children ages 7-17 that can wash a circle around you, wash you in the circle, then wash everything else approximately three times better than you did. Now I am not saying that to discourage you, I am just saying that if you come to Togo...like I did...and you think you are going to wash your clothes, be prepared to get schooled.



Everything Americans do here is funny. I mean everything. I can walk out my door and saunter over to some kids, teenagers or adults and then proceed to do or say anything, and I can expect laughter in response. I can get a laugh climbing onto my bike or peeling a banana. I can get a laugh trying to greet someone or when I get frustrated with the red sand that is constantly staining my shoes.

Now imagine how many laughs I generated when I was hand-washing clothes in front of the hands-down World Champions of Clothes Washing. Yeah, even more than that. But I did learn how you can get out any stain or dirt with a bucket, some water and a bar of soap, and how my clothes are more resilient than I ever thought possible.

Needless to say I am happy to pay a local teen to wash my clothes. They are simply the right person for the right job. Well, that and if they see me doing it myself they are just going to come over and re-do everything I did whilst shaking their head in disbelief for no pay at all. If I pay them I can sleep at night and I don't get nearly as depressed with my dramatic lack of skills.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Beach House


Well, I've spent a week at my new post and I have to tell you it is definitely a change in the norm. You can hear the ocean all the time, the beach is under a minute away and the people were very nice. Just sitting watching the waves has not yet lost interest for me, and I did it a lot. For someone who has lived near the mountains his whole life this is a whole different altitude. I would mention it is also humid, but I think it goes without saying. It will be hard to go back to training for the next three weeks knowing what I am missing, but I am sure it will all pass quickly and I will be back before I know it.

Ziploc bags. That is the answer. I asked everyone and their brother what they were most happy they brought before I shipped out and didn't get many definitely answers. Here is mine. Ziploc bags come in handy all the time. I brought bunches, and thank goodness I did. If you are reading this and wondering what to bring...you get the picture. Oh, also bring dish towels. Very very useful in so many situations. In fact, bring all the towels you can. It just makes you feel good. Maybe this is why the towel was so important in Hitchhikers Guide...

Another Stagiare went home, but this time by choice. I really do feel that this experience is not for everyone, and when you get to your post by yourself the rubber really hits the road. I wish her the best and will miss her. On the bright side tomorrow a Stagiare returns, bring our total back up to 27.

Soccer is very big in Africa...and every of the part of the world that is not the United States. This year's World Cup was extra huge because Africa was hosting. The people of my quartier of the village gathered in the street and watched the final game together on a big projected screen. I was seated with a few notables and my counterparts in the center of it all and had a great time. On a soccer note, what a game! Wow.

My sense of direction here is still a mess, but I think I am catching on. Having the ocean by South all the time will help, too.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A few notes...

I have been pretty awful at mentioning what it's like here. I was reading the blog of another trainee, and she is doing a fantastic job. Here it is:

We have had 2 people go home already out of 29. Well, technically 3 out of 30 if you count the one person that did not show up at all. One girl got hurt playing soccer and was sent to the US for repairs. She will likely not be back this time, but can come back later and do it all again. The other trainee had his dad pass away suddenly and flew back. He is returning, I believe, but I cannot imagine how hard that must be. I suppose that life goes on while we are in Togo, and I think it is quite rude that you all are not simply putting everything on hold to wait for us. Sheesh.

This coming weekend I will get to see my post up close and personal for one week. That is awesome, and I am excited for the change. I hear that you can see the ocean from my roof. I hope that's true.

I bought a marmite (look it up, I'm not translating. I like the word marmite better)and a sauce pot, and some other things, too. I own buckets (literally...three of them) here in Togo. I am amassing a small empire. I am haggling the price of this empire with great success (read limited success) and expect that soon I will have to be taxed as a separate country.

What do we do in training:
We study language (French or local dialect) two hours at a time. We learn how to take care of ourselves past the normal 'get a band-aid' answers. We learn about Togo, it's economics and it's people. We learn cultural differences so we won't be nearly as offensive as we guaranteed to be. We learn how to fix almost anything on our bikes. We visit local shops to see if we can do simple tasks like ordering clothing at a tailor. We practice our French on the poor unsuspecting Togolese people who put up with us each day. We wash our own clothes by hand. We bathe using a bucket. We eat wonderful food in large quantities. We think about home and what might be going on there. That's not really a training thing. I assume that may happen after training as well.

The time has come for care packages. Go buy a 5x7 padded envelope, throw a few rolls of Mentos in it with a few real deal Q-Tips, then maybe pen a few words and add anything else that you might think I would need...that won't melt. : )

Okay, bye.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Baby Goat - 6 Bucks



Tiny goats are all over the place. Even full grown they are only three feet tall, so these baby goats are puppy-sized. Don't act like you don't want to buy one. I am going to have an attack goat to guard the house, and a lap goat for petting, and even a domestic goat for things like laundry and dishes. At six bucks each how can I not?!?