This past week I was in Lome with the combined stages -- EAFS, CHAP, SED, and GEE-- from 2011, with whom I have the pleasure of ending my service. We were down there for COS (close of service) conference. This is a three (ish) day event in which we learn how to prepare for life after Peace Corps, for leaving Peace Corps, for re-adjusting to the States, for finding work, etc. We had language tests (to evaluate our language acquisition) and sessions on how to write resumes. We were also, in a ceremony attended by the US Ambassador to Togo, 4 Togolese Ministers, and the representatives of 3 others, presented with certificates certifying that we have successfully completed our services.
The highlight of COS conference was that we were put up in a really nice hotel for 2 nights. Granted, a really nice hotel here-- A/C, hot water, wifi, big rooms, queen sized beds with nice mattresses-- is about like a Holiday Inn in the states. But it was a treat. We had sessions in an A/C conference room, with wifi. The hotel was on the beach, although it is close enough to Lome that swimming in in the ocean is still scary. We were well fed too. I think I gained about 10 pounds.
After COS conference was the trade fair. Artisans from across Togo came to Lome to sell their stuff as part of a SED project. I bought D a lot of nice silver jewelry. The guy selling it loved me.
For the last two days, the fair was held in La Caisse. This is the gated community in Lome were expats and embassy workers live. Very swanky. Its guarded by the military. There are a bunch of RPCVs who live there and work for the US embassy and foreign schools. They are great. A group of them hosted a bunch of us Volunteers who were involved in/helping with the trade fair. They had a BBQ for us friday night. Amazing food. The house D and I were staying at is huge. When we got there we werent sure what to do. The lady hosting us has a nanny/maid who takes care of her daughter and the house. I have no how to act around a maid. At the BBQ I sat in a corner cause I have apparently developed social anxiety when I am around Americans who I dont know. There is a big grocery store in la Caisse. D and I bought a whole grain baguette, goat cheese, and a pack of smoked salmon. It was delicious. I ate all of the salmon in one sitting.
The RPCV at whose house we were staying has a nice sound system. But I could not figure out why the music always stopped when she used her iphone. Until she told me that the music was playing from her phone via bluetooth. I thought it was magic.
La Caisse was nice, but kind of scary. I felt like I was in another world. When we left yesterday, I felt a sense of relief when we walked out of the gates into Lome proper.
Entropy is the one constant of the Togolese infrastructure. Every time I travel, a new section of the route national has developed a pox of craters. Children along the route make pocket money by filling in potholes with dirt and then trying to get tips from passing cars.
When we first got to Togo back in 2010, we all had to take a French test to figure out what level of language class we would be placed in. I tested in at novice-low. In other words, I was put in the most basic French class. At the end of stage, I tested at intermediate-mid, the lowest level I could have and still be able to go to post. Last week, I tested at advanced-low. I am pretty happy. My level of konkumba is pretty low though. I blame this on the fact that I am used to yelling at kids rather than holding conversations with people in Konkumba.
I think that leaving Togo is going to be almost as stressful as coming here was.
I find it interesting how my reading interests go through cycles since I have been here. I came in to PC fixated on fiction. I have, I think, plumbed the depths of interesting sci-fi/fantasy genres. I have explored new genres, like steampunk and magical realism. I have re-read books. And, in some cases, re-re-read them. Now I am finding myself drawn back towards non-fiction. At least until my current favorite authors produce something again. When I got to Togo, it was a tragedy when my phone died. Now, I biked 12 miles in a day to recharge my Nook.