Oh we’re half way there!
OHH HO living on a prayer!
Good song, AM I RIGHT?
This is crazy though. TWO months. I’ve never been anywhere for two months, besides home. I’m actually a bit surprised that I’ve made it this far; there was a while there where I was worried. Before I came to Togo I was super confident and like, “Ahh, no big deal. Four months in Africa? I got this.” Then I got to Africa and I was like, “OH MY DEAR LORD WHAT THE HECK HAVE I DONE.” I mean, who just goes to Africa? Especially to a country where you don’t even speak the same language? I DO. You see, I’m a talker. I’ll talk about doing things ALL the time and then when it comes time to actually doing those things, I get a nice reality check and I’m reminded of how crazy I am.
But I’m definitely doing alright. These past two months have given me plenty of time to adjust to everything: the people, language, food, climate. In fact, I now prefer eating traditional Togolese food AND I wore pants last Thursday when it was 42 C (108 F). Now, my French is still pretty bad but I am able to comprehend pretty well and speaking has gotten easier. I’m also getting preeeetty good at Éwé. Papa LOVES to teach me the language. He’s like a proud father. Whenever I respond to something correctly he gives me a firm shake of the hand, a nod, and one of those smiles where he’s trying not to smile but he just can’t help it.
Okay, I think it”s about time I talk about what exactly I’m doing in Togo. When I first got here, my job at CTM didn’t start for a few weeks because of a holiday break and an ongoing strike that shut down schools, so I spent my time at Djidjopé, the orphanage near my home (I posted a pic of the 10 kids in my last post). I really love spending time there, so I still go a couple times a week. When I’m there I pretty much just hang out with them, play soccer, let the kids mess up my hair, go on walks, and teach them how to say useful English phrases like “What’s up, dude?”. It’s great.
Now…CTM. CTM is a small NGO (non-governmental organization) that fights for children’s rights and against child trafficking. I’ve been helping out with many programs at CTM but mainly the dance program and library project. One day at work, Lisa (a French volunteer and my translator) and I were cleaning out a cockroach-infested room when we discovered hundreds and hundreds of children’s books, school books, documentaries, and magazines that were just sitting in boxes, unused. So we thought, hey, why not start a library? And we did.
First, we (and by we I mean Lisa) killed what we hope is all of the cockroaches. Then, we spent days and days organizing and alphabetizing all of the books, as well as delivering text books to a few schools. We needed a large bookshelf so we met with a carpenter, gave him the dimensions, and voila! We had ourselves a new bookshelf three days later. Last week we set it up and re-organized everything and now we just need to enter all of the books into our computer system, do some labeling, and find a system that will work to keep the library running when we’re gone.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays I take part in a traditional, African dance program at CTM, with a group of kids. It’s taught by this crazy Togolese guy named Ayi. Ayi is 28, completely muscle, and has shoulder length dreds with shells and beads in them that he ponytails on top of his head. I should probably just take a picture of him so you know he’s real.
And man, can he dance. He almost too good. Like, sometimes I can’t even watch him because he’s so good. So while he’s doing his thing and being an African dance God, I’m attempting to get at least half of the moves right.
Like, I’m really bad at this
Let’s try this again
I don’t even know how to re-cap everything from these past few weeks. There is no way. So, maybe I’ll just do a couple different posts. Yea, that’s what I’ll do. Okay, I will stop talking to myself now.
Now…where to begin…How about Ghana? Yes, Ghana it is!
So, I went to Ghana last week. Yup. I went for 5 days with one other volunteer. I love it here in Togo, but being able to spend a couple days speaking my own language was really nice.
Once we crossed the border we had to find a mean of transportation. The best and cheapest way to get to Accra is to take a tro-tro, which is pretty much just a large van. So, after being mobbed by a group of tro-tro drivers, literally our only option was to go with the one who physically grabbed me and pulled me towards his vehicle. Don’t worry…it ended up being fine. And we got to sit shot-gut! Whoo! Four hours later we arrived in Accra. And less than a day later, we left. We really didn’t like it. Now, I’m not dissing Accra or anything but it wasn’t my cup of tea. It was just so overwhelming: smelled like raw sewage, there were tons of cars and people and loud noises, and everything was expensive. It was very different from Togo.
After barely surviving the hectic markets in Accra, we “tro-troed” to Cape Coast. Cape Coast is lovely. A much more chill city compared to Accra. It’s right on the coast (obviously) and reminded me a bit of Door County. Just in the way that the city was constructed: little shops and streets and it being right on the water. We stayed two nights at the Oasis Guesthouse in a hut room; our hut was literally on the beach…pretty nifty.
We visited two slave castles in Cape, one right next to Oasis and another in a neighboring town, Elmina. It was super interesting to learn about the history of the castles and of the conditions in which the slaves were kept. Very horrible stuff. But besides visitng the castles we pretty much did as little as possible. In fact, I spent the majority of my time sitting on a bench, staring at the ocean and listening to my ipod. It was awesome. I love doing nothing.
Kokrobite! Best place evaaaaa. This was the last stop on our little journey. We had no idea what Kokrobite was…just saw it on a map and thought we’d go for it. And I think it was an awesome decision.
We got dropped off on the side of a dirt road and started walking in the direction of what we thought was Kokrobite. After maybe 30 minutes of walking we determined that it was a lot farther away than we thought. So intstead of getting a taxi, we hopped in the back of some guys pick up truck. Now, I normally wouldn’t get in a car with a stranger but it was such a “hitch-hiker” moment that I couldn’t pass up on it. The ride was hilarious. Everyone we drove past would either smile and wave, burst out laughing, or just look completely confused. It was great.
After a bit of a literally “bumpy” ride we got to Kokrobite and checked in at Big Milly’s Backyard!! So awesome. And, once again, we stayed in a hut. Big Milly’s is a bit of a tourist haven but it makes a lot of sense because the beach was amazing. The waves were perfect and very safe compared to the beaches in Lome, where you could easily drown. So, we obviously spent all of our time on the beach; the water was so nice that we even went swimming at night.
The coolest part of being in Kokrobite was helping some fisherman pull in their boat. It was an awesome experience. They took their huge wooden boat out at around 8 pm and when it came back they kept yelling “push!” at us…which we assumed meant pull. So we did! And now, I am officially an African fisherman.
whoo hoo one week down!
just like 15 more now right?
bring it on Togo
Okay, so it’s definitely been more than one week but I wanted to post this a few days ago so, whatevs. Also, real quick, I feel like every blog has something different to make it their own so that’s why I use haikus; it gives a quick preface to how I’m feeling or what I’m writing about AND I’m a master of haikus…definitely something to brag about.
I’ve slowly been getting more comfortable here in Lomé. My room is organized and I’m getting my appetite back which is definitely good. I still haven’t started my actual project yet—not sure what’s going on with that but apparently I start next week. For the time being I am still at the orphanage near my home and I like it a lot. The 10 kids are back in school so I only go from 5-7pm on the weekdays.
So, last week I met someone really interesting that definitely deserves to be mentioned in this blog. I walked in to the orphanage and spotted a black man sitting at the table coloring w/ a few of the kids. He was wearing the top half of an old Spiderman costume, light wash jeans, the feet of the Spiderman costume with sandals, Spiderman mittens, and a bandana that I think was made from another part of the costume. He doesn’t speak and spent the entire day drawing pictures of…Spiderman. Come to find out, he is a friend of Noel, a deaf boy at the orphanage, and this man is deaf as well. I still don’t know his name so I just call him Spiderman for obvious reasons.
I didn’t know what exactly I would be doing for Easter this year, but when my host family invited me to church I gladly accepted—excited for the opportunity to see how church is done in another part of the world. My family here is Catholic but the service was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was practically just a huge party of people dancing, shouting, singing, and speaking in every language BUT English. The service lasted roughly 2 1/2 hours and I actually almost passed out from the heat and the cramped space. One of the sisters gave me a flattened out Advil box to fan myself with but I came so close to fainting on the old man next to me.
That evening, I got a little taste of America at the Palm Beach Hotel. I went with two other volunteers to this very nice place where you pay 3000 fca (about $6) for a whole day of swimming and laying in the sun. We swam in a beautiful roof-top pool on one of the few large buildings in Lomé. It had a view of the ocean, only a few people, and AMERICAN MUSIC…and by American music I mean Pitbull…but that’s close enough for me. And yes, that is where I got my legendary sunburn. It never crossed my mind, but apparently the UV rays here are super duper strong—stronger than the strongest tanning bed I believe.
While I’m on the subject of burns I should just make an injury list:
Class 5 sunburn (it’s now a thing)
A burn on my leg from a moto-taxi’s engine
Huge mosquito bites
3 Blisters that are now scarring over
I think that’s enough for now :)
It is hot as balls
My feet hurt so fricken bad
But Togo is cool
Okay hi guys…I have 26 minutes left on my time here at Las Vegas Cyber Café. And I’m typing on a French keyboard so this is going to be a really bad post.
I’m just gonna give a run down of what happened these past few days…
So, the flights were sooo long and I sat by a major creep who said he would find me in Togo…he was from Kenya but lived in Minneapolis but was Somali, so…also he only had one leg.
When I got to the airport in Togo, customs went surprisingly smooth. I was picked up by Delphine and Koffi from PA. Then the car was stopped by Togolese police who were carrying AK-47s and searched the whole car. It was terrifying and I don’t even know what the problem was.
I met my host family that night—they are so nice. Cooked me a huge meal (i wasnt hungry at all from all the flying and heat) but I ate it anyway to be polite. It was a ginormous salad, some weird fish noodles and a bottle of beer the size of a bottle of wine…and yes I drank the whole thing because they bough it just for me. Also no one else was eating. They just stared at me the whole time lol.
That night was so far the hardest—trying to adjust to a new room and all. I didn’t sleep a wink: major rain storm, some cat meowing outside my door, and the loudest rooster I have ever heard in my entire life lives right outside my back window. Good times.
On Thursday Delpine and this very attractive British man who works for PA Ghana took me all throught the city. I rode the moto-taxi 6 times, drank so much bagged water (it’s the best), visited the beach and market, ate one bite of food, because I kind of lost my appetite from the major changes here, and met my project supervisor at CTM.
One problem: CTM is closed for a week for Easter; so right now I am spending my days at an orphanage near my house. The kids are great and just want to hold my hand and play soccer. I also ate the most disgusting lunch yesterday at the orphanage…it was a gooey bread that you grab w/ your hand and dip in to gooey fish sauce. It took a higher power to get me throught that meal.
Also, has anyone actually ever eaten a papaya? Because it just tastes like Bath and Body Works…like the smell when you walk in? Yea, that’s what it tastes like.
Anyway I know I missed stuff but I have to go back to the orphange now!
Thank you for all the lovely messages and I can’t wait to write a good blog soon.
These would be the almost 300 toothbrushes my dentist gave me to bring over. Pretty cool, huh?
S/O to Dr. Lasslo and the nice ladies at W-town dental!
Oh em gee Tuesday
I can’t even…oh my gosh
I can do this, right?
Alright, alright. This is it. I leave in 2 days…nbd, right?
Well, kind of a big deal. I may or may not be freaking out just a little bit. It’s funny; this entire year I was not nervous at all, but once I booked the plane ticket a few weeks ago I was like, “OMG WHAT AM I GETTING MYSELF IN TO.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited…but also a bit anxious…and slightly terrified…and maybe nauseous…and extremely nervous. BUT I’M TOTALLY FINE. I just have no idea what to expect. Which is to be expected, I suppose.
Yesterday, I finished up my shopping and checked everything off my list: a pretty sweet rain coat, peppermint tea (my fav), meds on meds on meds, and a kick-ass head lamp, just to name a few. So, I’m pretty much prepared for anything. Like, if the Queen falls down a dark hole during monsoon season…no problem, I got it.
I guess the only thing I have to do before I leave on Tuesday is strategically pack everything into my large green backpack. Now, this isn’t just some regular backpack. This backpack accompanied my sister all throughout Europe, specifically Prague, and went with my cousin Jackie to Italy—It’s got history. And it’s about to get some more.
For now, I’m just going to enjoy all of my favorite things: family, friends, Diet Coke, and my dog.
Peace out homies.