Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finishing up, Peace Corps Style

So, approximately three months before our official Close of Service date (August 22nd, calculated by Peace Corps from our swearing-in date), we have a Close of Service (COS) conference. This involves going to a hotel by the beach and learning about all the medical and administrative things we have to do before we can get on the plane.

When I heard about COS conference two years ago from the volunteers that were leaving around the time I arrived, my reaction was, "Hotel by the beach? Food? Pool? I'm totally staying for that!" I realize that's not really great motivation for two years' service, and had I been utterly miserable in Togo, the idea of Hotel Novella Star certainly wouldn't have kept me here. But, I made it. And so did all these people:

That's 14 less people than we started with (we lost 15 from the original group and gained one transfer from Kenya):

For more comparisons, here's the original group of health (CHAP) volunteers at our swearing-in:

And now:

I had a great time hanging out with everyone one last time. We ended the week by celebrating a fellow CHAP volunteer's wedding. Danielle and Jorge met in Bolivia about seven years ago and have been carrying on long-distance since then. He joined her here in Togo in January, they got officially married in Ghana, and we had a ceremony on the beach in Togo (the first of many ceremonies? I think they're planning more in the States and Bolivia). Anyway, I took most of the wedding photos and you can see them in all their un-Photoshopped glory on Facebook, here, here, and here. Yes, there are three albums, and about a hundred variations of the following photo (that I obviously didn't take).

And that's about all that's new. I have some West African travels planned for June and a ticket out of here for August 11th. So... see you soon.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What Happened in April

I know, I know - another month has passed with only one blog update. Here's a summary of April:

Easter weekend, I went to Agou Nyogbo for two volunteers' "fake wedding." They celebrated Togolese style, with heavy American influences (bridesmaids and groomsmen, shoving cake in each others' faces, etc.) Now they are recognized as married in the eyes of Agou Nyogbo, but nowhere else. You can see photos on Facebook .

That week, Togo made it into the international news (BBC) when Kpatcha Gnassingbe, the president's brother, became the victim of an assassination attempt. Actually, he was plotting a coup, and two days later, he ran to the US embassy, seeking refuge to avoid arrest. They got him anyway (read about it at the BBC ) and THEN found a bunch of weapons at his house ( article ). You would think this would all be very exciting or scary, but everyone carried on like nothing had happened. Just another day in Togo.

I finally, finally put out the second (and my last) issue of Perspectives. Here in Togo, we have many volunteer-published newsletters: Farm to Market for the Natural Resource Management and small business volunteers, the CHAP Newsletter for health volunteers, the the Griot an Onion-style satirical newsletter, and then, Perspectives. Perspectives prints volunteers' essays, poems, recipes - basically, whatever they want to submit. I became editor of the gender and development newsletter last March, and the Perspectives editor and I decided to combine our publications because neither ever had many contributions. We put out one issue in July, then procrastinated, and then she got medically separated right around the time we planned to work on the next issue (late October). Then it took me another four months to put the newsletter together, but it's finally out and it looks quite nice. If you'd like to see a copy, I'd love to send it to you, but I've had no success emailing it, because the file's too big. I'll take suggestions on what to do about that.

This week is our COS conference (Close of Service). It's from Tuesday afternoon to Friday at the Hotel Novella Star, which is outside of Lomé towards Benin. For three days, Peace Corps will tell us all about the things we have to do so we can leave Togo. This is the last time that everyone who's left from my training group will be together in one place. I think we're all having some issues realizing that our two years are almost over. I'll try to be better blogger and at least send some pictures out next week.

Finally, news from Sagbiebou: Zaratou's husband (I don't know husbands' names - my male neighbor is STILL "Alima's husband") called me on Friday to tell me that my friend Maïmouna had her baby. It's a boy, and since I've had no news since Friday, I guess everyone's still healthy.

I apologize for the lack of news and will try to do better in my last three months. I have an official COS date - August 10th. Now I just need a plane ticket.