Sunday, May 6, 2012

RANDOM Thoughts

I've been in Togo for almost a year now and I still can't get the seasons correct.  Depending on who you ask it's rain season, dry season, hot season...etc.  All I know is that since I landed in Togo last June I have been sweating continuously.  I literally spend some days wrapped in a wet pagne (lapa/cloth) while sitting directly in front of my fan...still sweating....

Wow, I just realized I have one more year left.  It's true when volunteers describe your days as going slow but the months go by fast.  Honestly, I don't feel like I have accomplished much.  However, I am reassured by many that it is completely normal to still feel like a loser when you reach your one year mark....

I do have a few upcoming events/projects that I'm excited about.  Next week I start my vacation enterprise for girls in my village - teaching girls business skills and importance of savings so that they can make and save money to go to school.  I'm crossing my fingers hoping that everything works out well.  Also, I'm planning vacations: I'm planning on going to Spain (and maybe Paris *cross fingers*) for my birthday (woohoo!) and trying to figure out when I can visit Morocco and Liberia again...wish I had unlimited funds, but don't we all...

What I've always knew about myself:  I'm kind, giving, understanding and laid back.  I'm also short tempered, impatient, sarcastic and intolerant of bs.  What I've realized since being in Togo: When faced with intolerable heat, my negative characteristics completely take over.  On a daily basis so many people try to take advantage of me or treat me like a child (well...I do sort of speak french like a 4 year old) that I started building this armor over myself.  I actually slammed the door in the electricians face the other way when he tried to take advantage of me.  I know that wasn't the right thing to do but I'll be lying if I said it didn't feel good.  *sign*  I guess I need to start thinking about that saying "what would Jesus do?"....

I never been really religious.  I can't quote you any Bible verses, I don't speak in tongues, nor am I a great prayer (whatever that means).  However, I feel like I'm becoming more religious here.  I tend to read my Bible more (However, not everyday.  Sorry Mom).  I also been having  a lot of conversations about faith with locals.  I don't understand how you can say you're a strong believer in God and constantly be fearful of black magic/voodoo.  But anyway, another day, another topic....

Oh and before I finish my random thoughts...I still miss my family and friends SOOOO much.  It's ridiculous.  I wan't planning a trip back to the US but I may have to reconsider...

Till next time...xoxo

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Up Close and Personal...

Things are looking up!  I haven't been writing much situation had been pretty bleak and I didn't want to come off sounding miserable.  However, that's exactly how I felt.  I had written a journal entry about a month ago with the intention of posting it, but it was pretty harsh, so I decided against it.  Just to give you a little idea, I was doing a lot of reflecting.  I was thinking, I'm 28 years old and decided to join Peace Corps.  I left a decent paying job, my friends who are all seeming to be getting married and/or having babies, family, my ailing grandmother who unfortunately has Alzheimer's...what was I thinking?  A year ago I would've said I was searching for a job that makes me happy.  You know, as the old Confucian epigram advises: choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.  Who doesn't want that?  Well, after being seriously harassed by someone I trusted and having to change villages, moving into a seriously unfinished house with rodent roommates, my french STILL sucking, no potential work or reliable work partners and just seriously being homesick, I was wondering what the hell did I get myself into...this apparently wasn't the "job I love".  Maybe I should be back in Maryland, working a 9 to 5 and settling down and starting a family.  According to Togolese, I AM getting old and need to hurry and find a man before no one wants me *sign*. I was a bit frustrated as you can see ;-).
Today, however I feel much better and my outlook has changed.  I have 3 projects I'm currently working on and ideas for future projects.  I'm currently planning a vacation enterprise which is almost like a girls summer camp where I teach them business skills and help them make money during their summer vacation so that they can pay for school.  Also, since I live in a tourist town/village, I'm also creating a website that showcase Agbodrafo's culture, beaches, hotels, etc.  The 3rd project, I can't take credit for.  I'm helping a Togolese counterpart with a school project.  Will all these projects be successful?  Probably not.  The point is, I'm headed in the right direction and I'm happy about that.  When it comes to development work, I've realized that things move SLOW and success can be hard to measure.  You really have to find that happiness from within.  Or as Blandine (our training manager) puts it, "happiness is in the heart". 
Besides my projects, my house is FINALLY looking decent, lol.  I've painted, placed a lock on my screen door, bought a fridge (pricey but sooo worth it), put in a window and placed bigger light fixtures in my living room and bedroom.  It made a world of difference.  Also, and most importantly, the friends I've made in Togo have been a Godsend, both Togolese and American. I can't even put into words how blessed I am to have such wonderful people in my life.  Anyway, I'm excited for the future, whatever that may be.  Till next time...

My living room "before"

Veronica & Lucian (Fun Fact: this used to be Lucian's house)

 "after" pic of my living rm
another "after" pic of my living rm

Friday, February 17, 2012

sweet ol' LIBERIA

Okay, the holidays have come and gone and it was WONDERFUL!  After 25 years, I finally visited the place of my origin, Liberia.  I stayed for two weeks in Caldwell, a suburb of Monrovia, with my uncle.  It was nostalgic to see where I spent the first 3 years of my life, visiting Cooper’s Clinic (where I was born, now it’s a seven day adventist hospital), Issac  A David School in Paynesville (where I went to school for a brief period),  the houses where my mother grew up in and many, many more.   I met family members and friends whom I heard so much about.  They were continuously reciting stories of my childhood to me.  I was a bit astonished at how well they remembered me and at the same time a bit skeptical about some of the stories I heard.  I wasn’t THAT troublesome, I’m sure. 
So, I already said it’s been 25 years since I last been to Liberia.  So, I sort of felt like a tourist.  And what do you do as a tourist, you go sightseeing.  I saw the Executive Mansion (where the president worked), the Judicial building, the University of Liberia.  We drove to Kakata where I got to finally taste Palm wine.  People told me to let it sit for a while next time so it taste sour/stronger.  Prochaine frois.  I can’t wait to try cane juice next.  Anyway, I also went to Robertsport to this restaurant on the beach and drank Savannah Dry and had some young boy ripe me off for a coconut.  I drove through the Firestone Plantation (and by “I”, I mean my uncle’s driver).  I can’t tell you how good it felt to not have to argue prices with taxis like I do in Togo.  Anyway, to get back on topic, the Firestone Plantation is HUGE.  It’s like its own little world over there.  They have their own schools, hospital, grocery stores and so on. 
Since this post is like two months late, my memory is a bit foggy.  But I will say this, when people ask me the difference between Togo and Liberia, there’s not much in terms of infrastructure.  Unfortunately, both countries lack what most of us take for granted: clean water, electricity, good roads, waste management and so forth.  However, Liberia is a country determined to get back on its feet.  And I admire the fact that people aren’t necessarily waiting for handouts but are being proactive in bettering their country.  I was impressed by the amount of Liberian owned businesses as well as how many Liberian Americans that are coming back home.  I mean, I felt proud to be born in Liberia.  It was awesome. 
So this trip has made me want to alter my future plans.  Initially, I wanted to move back to Liberia when I a good 37/38 years from now.  Now, I’m thinking a lot sooner…like maybe 5 years or less.  I have no idea how this is going to work or what the hell I’m going to do career wise.  But I’m determined to figure this out.  Anyway, I need to focus on the now.  I still have much work to do in Togo but that’s another post.
Yeah I know this is several months late but Merry Christmas and Happy New Year J

Friday, December 16, 2011

Voodoo everywhere

The head chief being fanned while watching the festivities
I'm on a row here.  Second post on the same day.  This is a record for me.  Anyway, same day as the photo exhibit, there was also a festival, "Festival des Divinités Noires" or Festival of Black Divinities.  It's a celebration of voodoo.  Now normally this stuff would freak me out; however, people were so excited about it that I couldn't help but be intrigued.  I decided to be an amateur photographer and take in the activities of the day. The festival was in this huge open field with stadium style seats.  As I sat down I noticed everyone bowing down to great a man dressed in white.  Wasn't sure who he was at first because the chiefs were sitting in the front row with their crowns.  But this man was sitting in a nicer chair and had two women fanning him.  So apparently he was someone of importance.  However, all I could think about was that I would hate to be one of those chicks fanning him.  I mean they were doing that for hours...must be tiring.  Nonetheless, I asked my homologue who the mystery man was.  Apparently, he's the chief of all chiefs...well he's the chief of most of the villages along Lake Togo (and there are several), so he's a big deal.  

The magic show
Anyway, first there was a bit of a magic show where a dancer got his costume to move without him in it.  That was pretty cool.  There was so much going on at the time that I couldn't get a clear know I am an amateur.
After the magic show there was a series of performers.  A few stood out to me.  First one that stood out was this group of male dancers.  The head dancer was this older man that looked to be between 65 - 70 years old.  This man was awesome, he moved better then the rest.  I was very impressed.  

Photo Exhibit in Aneho

I got to tag along with my homologue (work counterpart) as he was aiding a french photographer in a photo exhibit in Aneho.  Besides Lomé, Aneho is the closest city to Agbodrafo.  It also is the prefecture for Agbo.  Coming from a smaller village, I had no idea stuff like this existed in Togo.  Well, at least outside of Lomé.  

Anyway, the experience was WONDERFUL.  The photos were taken last year in Agbodrafo and Aneho.  It showcases everything from the slave houses to voodoo traditions to the spectacular beaches.  I enjoyed it so much I thought I would share a few photos.  

Pierre (photograher), Claude (friend/assist), DJ, Dieudonne (my homologue)
The exhibit was held at the library in Aneho (and I might add, it was a pretty nice library).   We (the french photographer, his friend/assistant, my homologue, and two other people assisting my homologue) arrived in Aneho 10am to set up and prepare for the exhibit. The showcasing was to start at 2:30pm.  So after setting up, we headed to the local radio station to advertise a bit for the event.

Work wise I didn't do much.  However, the experience did give me a few work ideas.  I'm hoping after the holidays to create a website that showcases the attractions of Agbo to help increase tourism.  Hopefully I can get the ball rolling after the holidays.  On va voir.  Anyway, here are the photos....enjoy!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The good and bad of Agbo...

Okay, so anyone who knows me know that I'm deathly afraid of bugs.  So of course being in Africa makes sense, right?  Yeah, I know.  Anyway, I'm officially starting to go crazy.  I've been living in Agbo for about a week and have seen countless spiders, a mouse, a roach and a scorpion.  All in a week.  Every night when I get in bed (before tucking in my mosquito net) I'm shaking my sheets making sure I don't have any visitors.  It's getting pretty ridiculous, and this is just the beginning. At least in Kabou, there was spiders and the occasional frog on my porch.  Being that I love taking pictures, it sucks that I don't have any bug pics to show.  I get too freaked out.  

Anyway, on a brighter note, the street food in Agbo is GREAT.  I've never really cared for street food before, mainly because it's so unsanitary.  But you tend to get over a lot of things living in Togo.  I love my bissaps, which are made from the Hibiscus flower and normally mixed with sugar, citron, and/or sometimes ginger.  It could be served hot or cold but normally in Togo it's cold and served in a bag.  Another favorite is beans and gari.  I don't know much about gari besides its made from cassava.  However, when finished it's white and grainy.  I know...not much of a description.  I will take a pic one day.  Oh, I also love my meat man.  Normally every evening you see the meat man grilling meat on a stick and dipping it in pepper...DELICIOUS.  Oh the list goes on but I'm starting to get hungry so I'm going to stop now...

Here's me sucking the life out of a bissap drink

My friend Lucian drinking a bissap too...he loves it too, can you tell?  LOL

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Making changes...

So a lot has happened since my last post.  I had to leave my beloved Kabou.  I moved south of Togo to a town called Agbodrafo.  Peace Corps made me leave because I was being harassed by a neighbor, unfortunately.  It was definitely a bitter sweet move, I pretty much spend 2 weeks trying to convince Peace Corps to let me stay.  Didn't work.  Anyway, Agbo (Agbodrafo is just too many damn syllables) is a beautiful town, just a different environment from Kabou.  Kabou is more of a community: everyone knows everyone, you literally can't walk 5 minutes without greeting at least 10 people, and people tend to be nicer.  In Agbo, people aren't necessarily mean, they just don't go out their way to greet you.  It's different.  It's also a tourist town so it has wonderful hotels, a great beach, a lake where you can swim, canoe, or even jet ski, and a slave house where a lot of tourist come to visit.  Only problem is, I'm not sure what I can do as a volunteer to help a town that seems pretty developed.  Except, there's a great computer lab so I could possibly teach some computer courses.  I don't know.  Hopefully the work will find me.  On va voir.

frolicking on the beach

Enjoying the scenery, there's also a nice bar on the beach ;-)

Lake Togo

Just thought this was a pretty pic - it's an unfinished church , that's been unfinished since1986