Tuesday, April 28, 2009

One more thing...

"Things That Can Kill You Around the House"
Nathan has been keeping a tally on the poisonous animals he's been killing.  Check it out!

Cobras - 3
Scorpians - 12

Hmm...I'll keep you updated...Here's hoping for the best!

Cool Rains

Hi Everyone!
Per usual, Nathan and I find ourselves back in Kara at the end of the month. We've already done some banking and grocery shopping and are staying the night (hot showers and AC!).  April has seemed to have flown by and in only 3 short weeks our first visitor arrives...Brandon!  Brandon and I first met as freshman roommates at Duke and remain great friends still today.  She'll be in Fance on vacation and is "hopping" down to Togo for a week. We're looking forward to sharing the country and its people with her...and I need to give her payback for making me eat weird seafood and cold soba noodles in Japan for a week ;-)  I'm hoping she'll take lots of pictures and do a guest blog post (hint hint) to give you all a fresh perspective. Sometimes I think things become so "ordinary" to me that I forget how unusual or interesting it might be to you.  So stay tuned!
School is ending in May and the rains are beginning to arrive.  Everyone in village is heading to the fields. Nathan has a few gardening projects underway and I am going to do "Summer Vacation Enterprise" with girls at the middle school. School fees are $5/year but that is extremely hard to come by for many girls, in addition to notebooks, pens and uniforms.  I am working with a local micro-finance institution to loan the girls $10 to start a small business.  They will pay back the loan in addition to saving money for school fees and supplies.  They would usually not have access to the money because one usually has to save with an institution before taking a loan. In this case, I will be their insurance.  The employees are being very helpful and are very excited to be a part of the program. I am grateful for their resources and energy. The first meeting with the girls is May 13th, so look for an update next month...how many girls, what small businesses, etc.
Other exciting news...Rachel had her baby!  Benoit Jose, a boy, was born at 3am on April 16th.  He has a head full of hair and is quite adorable. I visit him everyday and have taken multiple pictures of him for her.  She is back to being a full-time mom so there isn't much time for a lot of fuss, so Nathan andI enjoy being the ones to remind her how special he is :-)
Nathan led a wonderful information session at the local elementary school about the importance of planting tees. He spoke energetically in French using lots of visuals while his counterpart translated it into Kabye.  The 100 kids were enthralled!  They also planted 8 mango trees.  I took lots of pictures so hopefully they'll be posted next month when I go to Lome with Brandon.
One great story to leave you with...One Friday night Nathan and I had just finished eating dinner when we heard some kids outside.  We called out to them and asked what they were doing in the dark. They replied they were catching insects.  I thought, "Cool...like fireflies in a  jar."  I opened the door to see and asked what kind of bugs.  They showed me little ant-like bodies with large wings...not fireflies.  I was confused..."Why?"  "Well to eat of course!"  "OHHH!' I squealed!  I thought this was the best thing ever and went outside to follow. I could not stop laughing and squealing as they caught them.  The kids thought my enthusiasm was amusing ;-) And the next day...A kid knocks on the door with a bowl of fried termites!  Nathan dug right in...I had one.  Not much taste.  He wanted to give us more but we politely refused.  What a great experience!
I biked 30 miles on Sunday...Monday I was wiped!  That's enough cardio for me for a while!  This week I am making fried bean cakes with a woman in village and taking my best friend, Jesslyn, for her first ever COKE!  Thanks for all the wonderful birthday wishes!  We had nice birthdays and are thankful for all your love and support!
A couple more things...
1) Cell phone
We have 1980s Nokias..no lie.  Be patient if you call.  There is no call waiting or voice mail. If it rings and we don't answer, we just didn't hear.  Try again. If you hear a French recording, it means the phone is off. Try another time. People have had lots of luck with Skype. We don't have a Skype account but put our number in and it's only 17cents/min.  Less than $1 for a 5 min phone call!  We can also receive texts from Skype but not from most phones. We cannot text to Skype. Let me know if you'd like our number!
2) My fabulous Sister Sarah is raising money to send soccer balls to kids in our village. Check her out on Facebook to find out more!  Thanks Sis!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Leaving Lome

Just a quick note as I head out of Lome this morning.  Yesterday, I sucessfully bought dog food for Asher as well as birthday treats for Nathan including hot sauce and Oreos!  It was amazing to see yesterday all of the things you can buy in Lome...If I was an ex-pat here (ie making LOTS of money) I could truly live a quasi-American life.  I went to three different grocery stores yesterday and saw Special K cereal, Uncle Ben's Rice, Ritz crackers, and Nestle chocolate chips.  Crazy!  While I was looking at everything, and realizing we don't have money to buy American food three times the price as it is sold for in the US, I was kind of glad to have chosen a simpler life here.  Special K is just not part of my Togolese life...hello, milk?!!  Where am I getting that?!  Not to mention no refridgerator.  And I am happy about that.  Life for the moment seems better simplier.  I don't need so much choice and temptation!  So I am back to village to enjoy beans and rice...and solitude and stars.  I'm looking forward to it!
But before I let myself off that easily, I should confess to an amazing dinner last night.  I went out for the bachelorette party which was lots of fun.  Twelve girls went and we had a nice time talking and relaxing.  We went to a restaurant owned by a very nice French couple who have a home set in a beautiful garden setting.  They also happen to have a restaurant that is pricey for me, but had wonderful food.  I had a glass of red wine and the most amazing pizza.  It was on thin, crunchy crust cooked in a wood stove...and had tons of cheese and hunks of fresh pineapple.  It was SO GOOD!  I don't know if it is because I've been out of the States for awhile or if it really was that good...but it was a perfect way to start my birthday!
So I am signing off...Hope everyone has a good rest of the week.  Thanks again for all the emails and bday wishes!  And Happy Easter! XO

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

And to leave...

You on a good note...CARAMEL POPCORN...I've come quite good at making it, if you ask me ;-) Here's a pic of it! As well as a picture of one of Nathan's "tapas"...this is cheese with roasted red peppers and mangoes...It was quite good as well!

Also, thanks for all the food magazines people have sent. I get sad because I can't make it all but I've found surprisingly many recipes that I can use here (ie Easter lunch!)...I'll keep taking pics and will keep you updated!

Nathan's Post...

For some reason can't seem to get this on his blog...I will keep trying but in the meantime this is what he says:

Well, March has come and gone and April finds me sweating out the lovely days of hot season's final push. We had our "Mango Rains" and everyday kids are off to some distant field to "acquire" buckets full of the yellow gold...

Our dog Asher is doing well, still getting bigger, but a bit of a wimp when it comes to going out to pee in the dark.

Work has been an up and down experience as of late: 1) We have lost a large portion of the rabbits at the center due to a small infection outbreak 2) built several new mudstoves 3) Met with two garden groups; one male and one female...I'm hoping to establish a positive and productive working relationship with both groups 4) Kabiye language lessons are still running over me like a bulldozer, but it does give a good excuse to drink Tchouk and laugh with Albert my teacher 5) I was named to VAC (Volunteer Advisory Committee), giving me the opportunity to represent my region of Togo in quarterly meetings with our Country Director and program directors. In classic Togo irony, I was made meeting secretary at the last meeting, yet we A. don't have a computer here B. don't have electricity but need to have typed notes out to everyone in a week! 6) built solar dyers for fruit/veggies...will let you know how it goes!

My wife and I will be celebrating birthdays in a few days...my 4th time getting older on the continent! Maybe as a big present, Mother Nature will make it snow!

I hope everyone is well in the States. Thanks for all the letters, emails, phone calls, and care packages, all of which brightens us up when we are having a tough day.

Current literary wish list: The Complete Works of John Muir

Local Recipe

Here is African Couscous...it looks like couscous but is made from the skin of yams...yep, tastes just as good as it sounds...hehe But I had fun making it! Here's the improved cook stove where we made it!

New Roof

We have a new roof on our bedroom hut. The other was old, so Pierre decided to change the straw. Luckily, I missed the whole production but Nathan had 40 men over and it took them 2 hours to remove the old one and replace it. We served them local beer and they were more than glad to help! Nothing like community ;-)

ME! - Just because you asked!

Here I am in a garden in Meg's village. I'm planting my own lettuce!

Having a girls night with my friend Brittany...nothing like a head lamp, two camping mugs, and boxed wine! Makes for a relaxing and fun evening ;-)

Nathan's New HAIR

Yes, he shaved it! And I really like it ;-) (Plus Asher is growing!)

Solar Dryer

Nathan's newest contribution to village. He's constructed two and has been drying mangoes, tomatoes, and okra. The women so far love it!


Hi Everyone! I am in Lome for the day...here for a meeting that starts in a couple of hours. It is amazing how my inner clock has changed so much since being here...I'm exhausted by 8pm (well, that's not new!) but am up by 5:30am ready to go. It's 6:15 here and I'm already on the computer at the Lome Peace Corps Office. We'll see if I need an afternoon nap - again, nothing new! Today I am planning on going to the grocery store to buy Asher dog food. We're going to try to get some more vitamins into him...and just to give him a little variety from local village food. Also, I am planning on a couple of good meals and tonight, believe it or not, is a bachelorette party for a volunteer. She is leaving the country soon, but lots of girls are here and we're going to celebrate. Not sure what the plans are, but I think I'll tag along ;-) I leave Lome tomorrow morning and go to my friend Meg's village. I'll spend two nights there and leave back for village on Saturday (my birthday!). Her village is having a big party so I'm going to celebrate with them - Ironically, Meg has no idea why there is a party, but hey - that's life when you don't comprehend the language! We just go with the flow. And we're dying Easter eggs ;-) Nathan and I are planning on going to the Catholic church in village for Easter on Sunday. And I'm making Easter lunch...mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, pan-fried Spam (we found a chicken version), and deviled eggs. I'm actually really excited...so I hope to find all the ingredients in Kara on Saturday. It'll just be the two of us, but I hope to make it nice. And I'm trying to figure out a birthday present for Nathan...maybe a soccer jersey?! No real plans for my bday...maybe I'll treat myself to something in Lome this afternoon! Ok, so I'm going to post pictures now to give you all a few more updates on our life. Again, thanks for all the love and support...and birthday wishes and cards and packages! It means so much to us! THANK YOU! All our love.