Friday, October 30, 2009


Become an Expat
By Bob Shacochis

Adapted for my blog ;-)

When are you going to get out of school?

And I don't mean finish the degree, get a job, a life. I mean turn
your life upside down, expose it, raw, to the muddle. "Put out," as
the New Testament (Luke 5:4) would have it, "into deep water." A
headline in the New York Times on gardening delivers the same marching
orders: IF A PLANT'S ROOTS ARE TOO TIGHT, REPOT. Go amongst strangers
in strange lands. Learn to say clearly in an unpronounceable
language, "Please, I very much need a toilet. A doctor. Change for a
500,000 note. I very much need a friend."

If you want to know a man, the proverb goes, travel with him. If you
want to know yourself, travel alone. If you want to know your own
home, your own country, go make a home in another country (not Canada,
England, or most of Western Europe). Stop at a crossroads where the
light is surreal, nothing is familiar, the air smells like a nameless
spice, and the vibes are just plain alien, and stay long enough to
truly be there. Become an expat, a victim of self-inflicted exile for
a year or two.

Sink into an otherness that reflects a reverse image of yourself,
wherein lies your identity or lack of one. Teach English in Japan,
aquaculture in the South Pacific, accounting in Brazil. Join the
Peace Corps, work in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, set up a fishing
camp on the beach of Uruguay, become a foreign correspondent, study
architecture in Istanbul.

And here's the point: Amid the fun, the risk, the discomfort, the
seduction in a fog of miscommunication, the servants and thieves, the
food, the disease, your new friends and enemies, the grand dance
between romance and disillusionment, you'll find out a few things you
thought you knew but didn't.

You'll learn to engage the world, not fear it, or at least not to be
paralyzed by your fear of it. You'll find out to your surprise, how
American you are – 100 percent, and you can never be anything but –
and that is worth knowing. You'll discover that going native is
self-deluding, a type of perversion. Whatever gender or race you are,
you'll find out how much you are eternally hated and conditionally
loved and thoroughly envied, based on the evidence of your passport.

You'll find out what you need to know to be an honest citizen of your
own country, patriotic or not, partisan or nonpartisan, active or
passive. And you'll understand in your survivor's heart that it's
best not to worry too much about making the world better. Worry about
not making it worse.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

And of course...

Asher! Here's his latest glamour shot ;-)

Soccer Balls

Sarah and Brad brought with them soccer balls and pumps for the Pessare schools. When classes started last week, I went and distributed the balls. The kids were soooo excited! Thank you so much Sarah and Brad and everyone who contributed to the purchase. They will be well used and appreciated. And as the elementary school principal said "We're going to the finals this year!" Go Togo!

Here is the elementary boys team captain along with the girls captain. Don't they look excited? hehe
Here are the elementary kids lining up for announcements. They need to stay equal spaced or someone might bother someone else ;-)

Here is the middle school director with two teachers holding up the new balls for the students.

Here are all the middle school students listening to announcements and seeing the balls!


Hi All!
Nathan and I are in Lome after finishing a week at the training site in Tsevie (a town in the southern part of Togo about an hour north of Lome). It is a different site than where we trained last year with the main difference being that it is large, with a long busy street full of motos and vendors. I think I would be overwhelmed as a new trainee by the size, but as I told them, enjoy the electricity and plentiful ice cream while you can! Village life awaits!

There are 20 new GEE volunteers and it was great to meet them all. This week we discussed teaching English in schools – something I know a little about ;-) Nathan was with 14 new NRM volunteers and they discussed gardening – something I’m learning a little about! As for training, we visited two schools and had several information/teaching sessions on the realities of schools in Togo and the problems that face schools. Everyone was really attentive and seemed excited about GEE. It was exciting to be around fresh enthusiasm! I am excited to see them again when they come to our village in late November. Nathan and I are hosting them for a day during their three-day field trip. They’ll get to see everything we’re doing. Plus I know they village will be pleased to host them. Stay tuned.

As for back in village, Nathan and I have started composting and began our “urban” garden. “Urban” in this case means in a dirt patch outside our front door and not out in the fields. I am planting two moringa saplings, hot peppers, carrots, dill, and parsley. Plus, later this month I am beginning my big garden. I had definitely romantized how easy gardening would be, but am busy reading the book How to Grow More Vegetables and am learning how much work awaits me. I have to actually build soil mounds? And measure spacing between seeds? Draw water from a well? Water the plants evenly with a heavy metal watering can? And water twice a day?! Yikes. But I’m sticking with it. And I plan to plant cantaloupe, watermelon, yellow squash, and cucumbers. Maybe our parents will get to taste some when they come in December?

All of this is in addition to Nathan’s gardening plans with village school girls…but I’ll let him keep you updated on that! I’ll tell him to put something on his blog soon ;-)

The other update for me is that Togolese schools are back in session. I attended several times two weeks ago (before training) to help organize students into classrooms and go over textbook and notebook requirements. I am not teaching my own class this year due to being out of village several times this fall for training in Tsevie. Plus I would like to concentrate more on doing “girls” related activities. That being said, I’m sure I’ll be a substitute teacher often enough and plan on doing group review sessions before big tests.

After two nights in Lome we are going to the PC retreat/training center in Pagala (mid-country). We’ll be there for three days for mid-service training. We are to come with one accomplishment and one challenge we’ve had to share with the group. I am secretly hoping they’ll throw us a big party for making it a year! ;-)

Thanks to my father’s encouragement, I now have a list of what I’ve learned and accomplished this past year…thanks Dad for the motivation!

To ride a motorcycle
To confidently ride my bike
To eat with my hands (politely)
To cook new meals using mostly ingredients from scratch
To teach in a formal school setting
To be ok without the internet (you really won’t die!)
Made new friends – Togolese and American
Having a dog (and loving it!)
To work in and with a new culture
To spend 24/7 with my husband (and yes, loving it!)
To appreciate cold drinks and AC
Gained lots of time to read, think, and dream
To live without running water and electricity (again, you won’t die)
To appreciate my friends and family back home!

Check out the pictures I've already posted...more to come! Tonight we’re planning on trying a new Chinese restaurant by the PC office…I’m hoping they’ll be something tasty on the menu I recognize. As always, thanks for all your love and support. Hugs to everyone!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Gender Equity

The first day of school in Pessare entailed cleaning! Here is a video of boys and girls sweeping the school yard. Notice the boys who are sweeping...this is a great example of gender equity!

Baby Goats

Here are the newest additions to our household ;-)

This is Judith, a girl who lives in our compound. Look how small the goats are compared to her!

Mexican Night

Nathan and I hosted a Mexican food night at our house a couple of weeks ago. I made homemade tortillas, beans, rice, and even cheese sauce! We invited neighbors to come and they actually ended up loving it. Several mentioned that they were nervous to come and eat, but were glad they did! We had fun!