Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mostly "home" again

In the future, I think I'll try to avoid flying to Dubai unless my final destination is east of it. Emirates is very nice, but I left Louisville at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday and got to Togo at 6 p.m. Thursday. And I still have to traverse most of Togo before I'm really home.

I did spend the night in Dubai, which I can only describe as surreal. I slept on the plane, so I wasn't completely exhausted, but I went to a mall at 10 o'clock at night. A mall with lots of jewelry, clothes and carpet shops, but no bookstores. A Cinnabon and a Starbucks, but again, no bookstores. So I just wandered around and spent some time taking pictures of the Burj Al-Arab hotel:

Then I explored more than necessary and ended up walking around the parking garage and loading bays of the mall. They looked much like parking garages and loading bays in the States. I got back into the mall through the prep area of one of its restaurants, then got a cab home. The ride took me across the city. I got to see all the tall buildings, including the Burj Dubai, which will be the tallest structure in the world when completed. I also saw every chain restaurant an American needs: Fuddruckers, Applebee's, Chili's and TGIFriday's. And the Mall of the Emirates, where I probably should have gone. It's the one with the indoor skiing.

I'm sure Dubai has much to offer besides American restaurants and malls, but when it's night and you're alone, the mall will have to do. And there are zero malls in Togo, so now I've had my fill.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

From the United States of America

There's nothing like 15 months in West Africa (not Ghana) to make you appreciate America. Parks with drinking fountains and bathrooms, coffee shops, wheat beer, bookstores, movie theaters showing new releases, cheese on everything, convenience stores, Target, pizza... last night I ate an entire pizza and a plate of cheese fries. I love visiting.

And now the camp pictures I promised:

All the campers had challenges they had to complete. This one involved getting a bucket full of water out of the circle without the use of a rope and without entering the circle... full of fire ants.

Another method.

The Butterflies getting ready for the relay race and scavenger hunt, which they won.

The Butterflies posing at their market table with the bracelets and toffee.

All the beaded jewelry.

Check out his shirt.

Co-counselor Amy and I with our Papillons on the last day of camp. I might have shed a little tear. But only because kids started first.

Now I have a few more days in the States and then it's back for lap two. But first I will eat five more pizzas.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Things Fall Apart, Part I

I’ve been traveling since Saturday and I have yet to board a plane.

On Friday my dad called to tell me Togo made international news because of flooding down south. I knew a bridge was out on the country’s only national highway, but he got me worried. So instead of leaving Dapaong on Sunday, I went up Saturday morning and got a ride with a friend to Kara that evening. I thought I might be able to get on the bus to Lomé the next morning without a reservation. They were backed up for three days.

Fortunately, another volunteer was going down Sunday morning and we caught a bush taxi together. Everyone was in the car by 6:45 a.m. We didn’t leave Kara until 7:45. We arrived at the station in Lomé at 7:30 p.m. Twelve hours for a trip that usually takes five hours. The detour on the Kpalimé road alone took nearly five hours. We would have arrived earlier if the driver hadn’t made 53 unnecessary stops – we did a lot of screaming at him. In the end, he gave us money for our taxi ride to the Peace Corps office, but probably only because he wanted us to shut up. 

It turns out nine bridges are out on the national highway, not one or two. I’m waiting for the Kpalimé road to go. It already had as many holes as a Peace Corps volunteer’s underwear after a year in Africa. Now every bus, bush taxi and 18-wheeler has to take it to get to and from Lomé. Volunteers are already speculating about evacuation. The government deregulates gas prices at the end of the month and soon travel will be next to impossible. I’m skeptical about evacuation, but everything just needs to hold on until I get back. Don’t want to miss the fun.