Saturday, April 30, 2011

Happy Togolese Independence Day!

Yesterday (April 27) was Togolese Independence Day. It was a big deal in Guerin-Kouka. Probably half the population, in various groups, paraded through the highschool soccer field while the other half, including me, Karen, her brother Steven, and his girlfriend, Jodie, watched. My favorite group was this kung-fu/karate outfit who demonstrated their skills to the delight of the onlookers. This one guy channeled his inner Jean-Claude Van Damme on another guy with a machete. A group of boys in uniform, complete with wooden rifles, stopped by Karen’s house that afternoon and demonstrated their marching/formation- I cant think of the word I’m looking for- stuff in her yard.

Karen’s brother and his girlfriend visited this past week. They are really cool. He works for a volunteer organization called CrossCultural Solutions that sounds a lot like Peace Corps only without a 2 year commitment. They biked out here to Nampoch for a day. It was really fun to get to show my village off a little bit.

I am sitting here munching on these peanut butter cracker sandwich things that I got from Letha. So good.

Last Friday I got back from a 2 week trip to Lomé and Pagala. Lomé was a lot of fun, despite all the work I had to do. One night Alisha and I went to this Lebanese restaurant, had a really good meal, and then smoked sheesha for awhile. I had Egypt flashbacks, but it was really relaxing.

In Pagala, at the Peace Corps complex, we had PDM/IST. This was a joint GEE/NRM conference with our homologues. The first part of the week, PDM (Project Design and Management- I think), focused on planning, budgeting, and executing a project. The second part of the week, IST, was more technical training. It was a tiring week, but it was really good to see everyone, especially the GEE people that I hadn’t seen since swear-in. The best thing about PDM/IST, though, was the fact that our homologues had an awesome time.

Its hard for many Togolese, especially those in rural villages, to travel a lot. PDM/IST was, for the homologues, essentially a paid, working vacation where they got a lot of good food and could hang out with their colleagues. Kodjo is an extrovert. He spent the past month talking about going down to Pagala and he enjoyed himself immensely when he got there. It was good watching him interact with all the other homologues.

I’ve been reading this magazine that Maria sent me, the Central Asia Institute’s “Journey of Hope,” about relief work in that region. One thing that really gets me, that I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind around, is how much further money goes in relief and development work. Take this pump project that I’ve been trying to get going for example. The budget for that comes in at just under 10,000 USD. Ten grand will ensure that a community of about 500 people will have ready access to clean water for the foreseeable future. That means a decrease in infant mortality, an increase in over-all health and sanitation, and countless other benefits. For example, if the new pump gets built, we will have enough water to start a community perma-garden project. My host sisters will be able to study in the evenings instead of standing in line to get water from the current, dilapidated pump. All for the price of used car in the US.

I was reading that, in Pakistan, the Central Asia Institute gave out 250 USD to families whose houses had been wiped out in the flooding last years. This money enabled them to rebuild their lives. I think I once spent 250 dollars on a PlayStation 2. That seems really pointless now.

My host dad’s big sister (same father, same mother) died last week. Her burial was in her village, which is about a mile from Nampoch, but the funeral/wake was at my house.

I just spent a night in air conditioning. Heat rash free for 24 hours!

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