Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Like Fufu

When I got here, I never thought the words, “I really want some fufu” would ever pass from my lips, but… it’s true. I now like fufu (for those unversed in West African cuisine, it’s pounded yam. Not sweet potato, although that would be delicious, just a big, white yam).

Now that I’ve made that confession, we can move on. My peer educator training is this weekend, and I can’t help feeling anxious. Here are some of the challenges I’ve encountered during the planning process.

1. After announcing the students selected to attend training I heard that one girl was upset because she wasn’t chosen. We based selection on their quizzes and input from guy I’m working with, Mr. Tairoo. So this girl had let her friend copy her quiz, and the friend was picked (not by me. Tairoo suggested her). Girl One came to see me, so we decided she could attend. Everyone has to pass the exam at the end of the weekend, without cheating, to officially become a peer educator. Except I have a hard time saying, “No,” so I hope they all pass.

2. Last Friday, Mr. Tairoo told me he was going to be in Dapaong for exam corrections Wednesday through Friday. He might be back on Saturday. The training is from Friday until Sunday. I need a new counterpart for student-related activities. He always does this! He would never tell me when he had to leave town on a Wednesday afternoon, so I would wait around for him to start health club. I don’t know how to replace him without offending him, though.

3. Yesterday, a student told me she was going to Mango until Sunday. I told her she couldn’t become a peer educator if she missed training. I really want her to attend - she’s the girl who brings my water, and I’m sending her to camp. I told Tairoo and he talked to her. Now she says she’s coming back Thursday morning.

That’s a glimpse of the frustrating planning process. I should also add to the list my own procrastination. Apparently I intend to plan my sessions in the two days before the training begins.

I spent the weekend in Mango. We had a goodbye party for Cliff, which gave us one last chance to enjoy his delicious curry pasta. On Sunday, Amanda and I did our nine-mile run. We ran out to the hippo reservoir, and this time we got a great look at the hippos. They were already in the water but very close to our path (not dangerously so. No worries, I’m not going to provoke hippo rage). As we ran past, they yawned and gnawed on each others’ heads. Looking at hippos took up about two minutes, at most, of a 90 minute run. I hope the marathon route includes distracting scenery, because if it’s 26.2 miles or rice fields, I’ll just quit.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

"Et les activités?"

So I thought maybe I might spend about 10 days in village after returning from my Sokodé meeting, maybe do a few day trips to Mango and Gando (if you spend the night at home, it counts as being in village. Says me). Then I ran out of cooking gas mid-meal. And since there’s a constant shortage of gas in Togo and when we get it in Dapaong, it sells out in about half a day, I took my empty tank up that weekend. So much for 10 days in village.

In Dapaong, I bought a little coal stove for about three dollars. Someone in village gave me a huge bag of coal. For my first village-style cooking session, I made hard-boiled eggs. After some fire-starting tips from my brother (the first time I got fed up and just added kerosene), I moved on to lentils and rice and pasta salad. Then I got a new gas tank. But now I’m a coal-fire genius… with a stove and a huge bag of coal that I won’t use for another nine months.

I’ve been semi-busy. Last Wednesday I gave a quiz to middle-schoolers interested in becoming peer educators. They did, oh, pretty abysmally. I was especially disappointed that no one got the family planning question, including the three girls who attended the family planning talk the week before. But we’ve selected students and hopefully I’ll be able to train them over a weekend in June.

This Tuesday and Wednesday, I was in Kara for a Camp Espoir meeting. Espoir is a camp for kids infected and effected by AIDS. Our camp is in July, and in the meeting, we went over logistics and started planning sessions with the Togolese counterparts from the different associations that send the kids. I’m really looking forward to camp.

I got back to Sagbiebou Wednesday evening. I spent Thursday doing peer educators stuff and working in the clinic, then biked out again on Friday. In Mango, I planted a small moringa nursery with the environment volunteer there. We only did 16 trees, but it’s for the AIDS groups I work with, which only has about 10 members. Everyone will get a tree. At our meeting on Sunday, I invited everyone to come help. One woman came in time to help plant, one came late. I made a coffee crumb cake the night before, so after planting, we had cake. Then, after going to the on-time-lady's house to greet her family, I biked to Barkoissi and had lunch with Amanda. I caught a car for the rest of the Dapaong trek. 40k is enough biking for one day.

Official marathon training started last week – I’m training for the Accra International Marathon at the end of September. Today was supposed to be my “long” seven-mile run, but I woke up feeling… indisposed. I’m hoping that goes away by tomorrow. Unlike my heat rash, which apparently is never going to go away, at least as long as I’m sweating in my cement house in village. I actually have started missing cold weather. Just a little.