Friday, May 16, 2008

So, this week I managed to stay in village for about four days. I'm in Sokode for a Gender and Development Committe tomorrow (I'm the communications coordinator or chair or whatever - that just means I edit a newsletter), then back to village on Sunday.

But in those four days, I planted 52 moringa trees by the clinic and gave two family planning talks to a total of about 56 women. One of them even got a Depo shot. And before you go thinking planting 52 trees is hard work, let me tell you that it's not. Bila hacked holes into the ground with my machete (yes. I have a machete and it's very useful for digging holes) and I dropped two seeds into each hole. Then we watered the mounds in the evening. The plan is... well, I'm not sure what the plan is, but it has something to do with getting women to start feeding their kids moringa leaves or powder made from the leaves. For those who don't know, the moringa tree is basically a miracle tree. You can use all its parts for something - the leaves are super nutritious, you can eat the flowers, the pods, the seeds (or use the seeds to grow more trees), the roots... it's great. And it's really hardy - a tree near my house got crushed by something. There was nothing but a stick left, and now a new tree is growing in the same spot. Google it. So I'm planting with the hopes of starting a trend.

That's about all I have to report for now. Rainy season moved in this week - I got to use a blanket a few nights and I even wore jeans and a long-sleeved shirt one day! But I still have heat rash. One thing at a time.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Grass is Always Greener

After four days in Benin, three of which were largely spent in a hotel conference room, I’ve decided that Benin is a more advanced version of Togo. Then again, the Benin volunteers heard Togo was a better version of Benin, but I bet none of them ever tried to get from the south to the north of Togo in one day. And we did that almost effortlessly in their country.

The conference was interesting, and I’d like to incorporate some of what I learned in my work. One afternoon we prepared recipes we created, which had to contain a certain amount of calories and protein. My group made mango porridge, which is less delicious than it sounds, but better than I expected.

The evening the conference ended, some Benin volunteers took us to see hippos. One of the volunteers, Holley, works with a guide there who does these tours. For about $2.00 (not including the roundtrip moto ride), the guide leads you down a path to a lake, then escorts you around in a large canoe for as long as you want. It’s so peaceful and beautiful, especially in the evening, that I didn’t care if we saw the hippos. We did, but again, I have no pictures, as it’s unwise to get close enough for pictures (at least with the zoom on my camera). At the end of the tour, the guide gives everyone a shot of sodabi (local liquor that feels like it’s burning holes in your esophagus) and the chance to sign the “livre d’or” – the Book of Gold, which is a school notebook.

On Friday morning, we left Lokossa around 8:00 a.m. in a bush taxi organized by two Benin PCVs. We arrived in Bohicon just in time to catch a bus north to Natitingou, where we took another taxi to the Togolese border. The whole trip was amazingly easy, with minimal harassment and only one long wait for a taxi in Natitingou, which we spent at an internet café.

So that was a fun and educational little trip. Coming back to Savanes was amazing, because it rained a few times, and it looks like spring, all green everywhere. It still feels like summer, though, and my heat rash came back in all its prickly redness the first night in Togo. I just keep telling myself it’s going to cool down soon. I’ll let you know how that works out.