Tuesday, November 11, 2008


FYI...these are courtesy of Google...I will get mine up when I can! But wanted to give you all an idea!
Here is exactly what the schools look like!

What our mud huts look like! We have five, surrounded by a cement wall. There are wooden doors that lock and screens and glass on the windows. The floors are also cement. But the house is the same. Cool, huh?!! Who's coming to visit?!! ;-)

A typical Togolese dog - ours will look something like this!

Sick Foot

Hi Everyone,
I'm stuck in Lome at the medical center with an infected foot.  No worries - all will be fine!  But I am on antibiotics and my foot is still pretty swollen.  I had a mosquito - or a spider - bite that I scratched.  Bad Ann!  So it got infected, my foot swelled and continued to swell up my leg.  There were no antibiotics within 50 miles of our training site so I was sent by car to the capital.  I'm actually a little embarrassed by my posh accomidations - AC, hot showers, soft bed, tv with a dvd player, and homecooked food.  I had cornflakes for breakfast! and spaghetti with meat sauce for lunch!  No bad, huh?  Though I am a bit bored and am reading lots while keeping my foot elevated. 
I'm anxious to get back to training though!  Today they were making soap and lotion - two different income-generating activities for women in village.  One idea that we can do in village is to teach women how to make items - food, charcoal, lotion - and sell it at the local market.  Since many women don't work outside the home, it is an easy way to bring extra income to the family.  And sense people have to pay for school, it would help get girls to school.  Often families only have a bit of money and they spend it on the boys so they can go to school.  If there is more money, then in theory, the girls can also go to school. 
I realize I haven't talked much in my posts about the work I may do here.  And really they are just giving us tons of training sessions on various ideas.  We have to get to our village and spend the first three months seeing what the villagers want us to do.  But I have tons of good ideas.  I want to continue the girls club at the middle school.  There is no school on Wed afternoons so many clubs take place then.  There is a volunteer in our village who is leaving in two weeks after two years here and she started the club.  I will continue it.  And do lots of girl empowerment lessons - income generating activities, HIV/AIDS awareness, self-confidence building.  There are also baby-weighings in the village and I'll go there to meet women and see what they want me to help with - maybe some nutrition and sanitation classes?!  BTW, baby-weighings are the village way of seeing if a baby is healthy - they chart their growth weekly.  It's preventative health care.  I can also do a savings group with women so when it's not harvest time, the family still has money.  Also I may coax Nathan into doing a couples club where we encourage monogomous couples to work together equally in the household.  The idea is that if we can get the men on board - thus Nathan's presence - then the women can more easily make changes at home.  It would be silly to tell only the wife to send her daughter to school when her husband has never heard of the idea.  Or silly to talk about birth control when the man has no idea.  Less children = more food to go around = better health = more money = girls go to school.  Deceptively simple, but we need to get the nen and women to work together! 
So I also have a bit of a cold - the rains have ended and the dry, dusty air has arrived.  I'm sniffling.  Nothing new for those of you who know me well!  I'm to have a salad tonight.  And may watch "Titanic" ;-)  Again, nothing new for those of you who know me!  Nathan is well and took good care of me - getting me to Lome quickly and safely!  We're both anxious to return to post.  Thanks for all the newsy emails.  Even if I cannot respond to each in length, know again how much I love reading them!  Love and miss - as always! 

Friday, November 7, 2008

Post Visit

Hi Everyone!

I hope this post finds everyone well.  I continue to miss you all!

Post visit went really well.  I took great notes in my journal all week, so I'll relate some of them here.

Like my mom posted earlier, our house is a compound of five huts.  It is gorgeous, clean, and has tons of space!  It was built originally by the Germans in 2001 but has been updated in the last two months for our arrival.  It has been completed cleaned, has new doors and new locks, and a new toilet.  It is a latrine but we have a toilet seat.  Since it's our own private toilet, we'll keep it clean!  The bathing area has no roof.  While it is chilly to bathe at night, it is beautiful to see all the stars.  There is absolutely NO light pollution.  (There is no electricity!)  We have an extra hut just for you all to come and visit and have your own room!  I'm already planning the décor ;-) 

The best way to describe the house is to say that it is like an American retreat center.  It is an agricultural center financially supported by the French, German, and Chinese.  The director, Pierre, is Nathan's counterpart/homologue.  He has technical trainings at the center; a kind of capacity building for Togolese farmers.  There are dorms and meeting spaces and is isolated from the rest of the village.  They do many kinds of agricultural practices – raise bees, raise rabbits, plow with cows, grow various trees, etc.  People come, stay, and learn.  Nathan will be assisting with these trainings,  hopefully offering extra support and resources.  Pierre created a website in 2004 but there is no internet, so it's never been updated.  Or all the chickens were recently killed due to the Avian flu.  So while Pierre knows what he's doing, he is always open to extra support (ie help him work on the website in the regional capital at in internet café or introduce better sanitary practices for the chickens).  Pierre did not graduate college but is super motivated and passionate.  He is from the village and finds it his calling to help his ethnic group, Kabye (the language I am learning), learn better agricultural practices.  The mission statement is basically to better the health of the villagers and thus better the village.

So one of the dorm areas has now become our home.  Pierre also lives at the center, with a house of the same floor plan.  Pierre's wife is named Rachel and they have five children – Reine, Kevine, Maggie, Arnold, and Joel.  They are all super sweet but a little scared of Nathan and I – who are these white people now living with us?!!!  I know they'll warm up to me ;-) 

We ate dinner with Pierre's family every night and it was my first time eating with my hands.  It is much different than my host family at the training site.  At the training site, the families are trained to transition us slowly – here at village, "Welcome to the real Togo!"  The first night the adults all ate out of the same bowl with our right hand.  I think I did pretty well!  The children sat on the floor around us using flashlights to do their homework.  They ate after we were done – different bowl, and there was plenty of food.  Not a lot of meat, maybe two small bites per person, but lots of sauce, greens, and rice/couscous/corn. 

The village is very excited for us to be here and gave us a party – "fete" – yesterday.  There was much dancing, drumming, and drinking alcohol.  As Nathan says, the Christians make up for all the non-drinking Muslims in Africa.  Our village is Christian though it seems most of the families are polygamous.  I will do more research upon my return!  All I know is that I drank the local alcohol "tchouk" – sans fermentation- everyday.  I laughed the first day when they offered me the "real" stuff at 7am in the morning.  I seriously thought it was a joke, realized I offended them, and am now relegated to the non-alcoholic drink.  It is made from millet and tastes a bit like apple cider and is very sweet.  Back to the fete – they gave us our local names.  Nathan and I are twins now – yes, twins, because we were born into the village at the same time.  Thus, we are twins.  This does not translate to an American understanding of twins.  So my name is "girl twin" and Nathan is "boy twin."  In this ethnic group, all the twins have the same name.  So I am Naca (like the a's in papa) and Nathan is Toy – whatever, I think!  Haha  I'm still figuring out how they pronounce it.  But I will definitely use that name in village and will hopefully help with my integration!

We also went to visit the middle school and met the three teachers.  There are five elementary schools in our area, one middle school, and no high schools.  The students must travel approximately 10 miles to the closest high school.  If I had to walk 20 miles every day to school, I might quit too L  There was a parent/teacher meeting and many parents came.  Nathan and I were introduced to everyone and I felt honored that they all came to meet us.  Of course they served tchouk – that might be why they came as well!

Nathan did laundry twice while we were there.  It was nice to do our own laundry.  We wash it in buckets with powder soap.  You rub the clothing against itself to wash it.  In the training site, my host mother helps me and sets the day and time.  I look forward to coming up with my own schedule at post!

The closest neighbor to our house is a five minute bike ride.  I biked a lot this week.  I think I did pretty well – Nathan got frustrated with me some, especially because I am still rather slow – due to a lack confidence – and have the desire to walk more than ride.  Plus, it is hard to pedal on dirt and rocks – at least in my opinion!  But it is one of my goals to become a more confident and fit bike rider.  I biked five miles one day – felt like a far distance to me!!  I will keep you updated!

We are going to get a dog, in fact one might be waiting for us upon our arrival back at post in December.  We are somewhat isolated and would feel safer with one.  When one of us is away, the other will sleep with Pierre's family.  I've never had a dog, but am excited.  We want a male and will get him vaccinated.  We are going to buy a food and water bowl, as well as a flea collar.  I'm beginning to think of names!

The cows are also still in the picture.  A bit pricier than we first thought - $300 for a female, age 3, ready to work.  But it is one of Nathan's goals!  I'll keep you updated!

The weather continues to be hot, but the cold season is arriving.  Still not exactly sure what "cold" means but the nights are starting to cool off nicely.  The hot season comes in March.  Again, not sure what "hot" means, but I'm sure I'll let you know that as well!

Yay Obama!  We listened to the election on our shortwave radio on the BBC channel.  Everyone here is very excited – and can't believe a black man like them is now president of America!  We are very excited!  Send me news clippings – and I need pics of all the inauguration dresses ;-)

Ok, so no pictures today. I will try again soon!  I have taken lots!  Many of you requested them and I promise I am trying.  Thanks for your patience! 

Thanks for all the letters and mail.  I cried today when reading all the emails.  I really appreciate it all.  Please continue to send me updates.  I promise after December, my updates will become more frequent.  Love and miss!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


hi everyone!!!
this is my first chance to post...so sorry for my tardiness!  i am so thankful to have spoken to my parents often by phone and am so glad they are keeping you updated.  know that i think of you all the time and miss keeping up with everyone.  nathan and i are spending the night in the "big city" and go to our post tomorrow.  i am very eager and excited.  my counterpart is very nice and is excited for my impending work - it will be great to work with someone who is so enthusiastic!!  our house is suppossedly gorgeous and the typical african house - i'll let you know later what that means!  i have begun local language lessons am enjoying it.  i still have far to go in french but am making daily improvementstonight we'll go out for pizza and fuseball with the other volunteers - definitely not a typical night for me.  today i woke at 4:45 and drove north in a packed taxi for 8 hours.  we had a one hour layover while a hundred men dug an eighteen wheeler out of the mud in the middle of the road.  the dry season has begun up north and there is a dust haze everywhere.  i'll be looking for a scarf for my face tomorrow.  know that i love and miss everyone tons!  i will hopefully back at email next weekend so send me email updates!!  i want to know what is happpening with everyone! if you have ques, let me know and i'll answr them next time!
know that i am well, though somewhat skinny and sick of dried fish and mosquito bites, and feel blessed to have this amazing opportunity.  please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers.  until next time...