Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Goodbye Post

I’m writing this post from the Swiss Alps, which are not like Togo. Due to a baggage mishap, I arrived in Switzerland two days early. Morocco will have to wait until I have more time and maybe more money.

I can’t remember if I promised photos or not, but here they are anyway, some photos from all my Togo goodbyes, as well as a list I started about nine months before I could seriously begin thinking about leaving.

Things I Will Miss About Togo:

Entering Sagbiebou ("Gando Carrefour") from the south

1. My village - visiting and staying in my house after eight months of Lomé living brought out the nostalgia. I had to remind myself of heat rash, waiting for hours for meetings to start and sweaty hot season nights. Still, I had a good cement house (compared to some volunteers' village homes, it was big), a decent landlord, friendly neighbors and a beautiful night sky under which to take bucket baths.

Maimouna and Abdou-Razak in my compound yard.

Alima, Djibou, Izaifot and Hanatou

2. Friends - both in village and among the volunteer community. Maimouna and Zaratou randomly befriended me, and besides my neighbor, they are the women I loved most in Sagbiebou. When Maimouna was pregnant, she told me when she went into labor, she was going to make me come to the hospital with her. Then I moved away and could only get a phone call after from Zaratou's husband. But here is Abdou-Razak, and he is just a cute little monster. Also, my neighbors, Alima, Djibou and the girls, Izaifot and Hanatou, shared the strangeness of a Togolese village with me (they’re from Niger), took me to prayer on feast days and provided intelligent conversation about current events. But they cannot pronounce “Kentucky.”

Zaratou cutting up fresh wagash (cheese made by the nomadic Fulani people from cow's milk)

Zaratou and Maimouna with the fried wagash I was supposed to take to America for my family but ate in the car to Lomé instead

3. Street food - I will not miss the day-long trips up and down Togo, but I will miss the smorgasbord of random food pushed into the car window at stops along the highway. Boiled egg with hot pepper? Why, yes, I believe I will. Fried plantain chips? I’ll take two bags.

4. Cheap, fresh fruit - I know we get fresh fruit in the US. But where can I get a pineapple for 50 cents? And if this place exists, will the pineapple lady cut it up for me there and put it in a black plastic bag, “to go”? What about 50 cent mangoes the size of my head (ok, not my head, it’s bigger than average. The size of someone else’s head)? And cheap, huge avocadoes?

George, my host brother, Fridoline and Christine (neighbors) in Agou Nyogbo

5. Kids waving as you pass on your bike - make that kids in general, but especially the reaction of a group of children as you wave from your bike - all nine or however many hands shoot up and wave back. I'll also miss little neighborhood children running up and throwing themselves at my legs, shouting, "Liiinda! Liiinda!" or "Madame Awa!"

6. Ice cold soda on a hot savannah day - Beer's good too, but if I was having a freezing drink, I'd probably have biked to Mango, and there is nothing like a cold, cold Sprite after a 27 kilometer bike ride. And while we're on it, I'm going to miss my bike, and especially biking in the savannah.

7. Beach bar - Open-air bars line the first kilometer of road from the Ghanaian border leading to Lomé. A beer at a beach bar is a great way to re-enter Togo from Ghana or to spend a Sunday afternoon. Granted, vendors of all sorts of crap from sunglasses to stuffed animals will try to sell you said junk, but with the vendors comes the buffet of street food. And trash-filled though it may be, I will miss looking at the ocean over my beer.

Maimouna and Abdou Razak again, just because they're cute

So. There's my final, sentimental post for your enjoyment. I think it's better to leave the list of things I won't miss. When and if I get a new internet space, I'll send out that address, but at the risk of forever posting here things that will become totally unrelated to Togo, I'll try my best to make this my last post. Thanks to everyone who wrote me letters and emails, and thanks for reading.

Friday, August 14, 2009

All These Things I've Done (and didn't tell)

Now that I'm safely in Switzerland and out of Africa, I feel like I can share some of these close calls without jinxing myself or causing my parents sleepless nights. So here are four fun things that happened that I decided not to share until after leaving Togo:

1. Once in village, I fainted on my front porch. My neighbors had to lead me to the latrine and in my severely dehydrated state, I was convinced I had malaria and was going to die. But, I was just really dehydrated.

2. Shortly before I left village, I was walking around my house barefoot at dusk, about to leave for the market. As I stepped toward the door, I felt something under my foot and recoiled, thinking it was a very big cockroach. Instead, my flash light revealed a scorpion, which, after much hesitation and pep-talking, I killed with a running shoe.

3. My second night in Lomé, which was the first night I spent in the house after Christmas in Ghana, JT and two friends got held up at gunpoint at our gate at 3 a.m. No one was hurt, but they lost phones, an iPod and a camera. After that, we replaced the light above the door and had no more problems.

4. I got hit by a motorcycle biking home from work in February. He side-swiped me as I crossed into the left lane and I lost my balance and fell into the bushes planted on the median. I had one tiny scratch to show for it, unlike JT, who got hit by a car a few days later and had some nasty bruises.

And after all that and so many bush taxi rides up and down the country, I still made it. Whew.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Last post from Togo

Aaaand…. I thought about updating during the last two weeks, but I procrastinated and now it’s my last day in Togo as a Peace Corps volunteer. Actually, I’m not a volunteer anymore. I finished my close of service procedures and now I’m just an unemployed former volunteer (officially, a “returned Peace Corps volunteer”, or RPCV, but I haven’t returned yet).

Had I updated regularly, I would have given you better accounts of my farewell trips to Sagbiebou and Agou Nygobo, but now I’ll just say I went to both and said goodbye to my friends in village and my host family in Agou. I finished work at PSI on July 31st so that I could have ten days to travel and run around Lomé. I finished the traveling Wednesday night and have to finish the running around today.

This Saturday, we had a small goodbye party at the house. I decided to make samosas for the first time ever. They turned out really well, but they take a long time to prepare, so I spent half the party in the kitchen. A volunteer friend offered to roll sushi for me when I mentioned that I was going to serve sushi (veggie). He did sushi prep in a restaurant for a year, so the rolls were beautiful and much more professional than anything I would have served.

I feel like my last update in Togo should be more reflective than what I’m going to post today, but I’m exhausted from stress, dancing and my emotional roller coaster ride (from “Yay! I’m leaving! Cheese! And margaritas! Friends and family! No more ‘yovo, yovo’” to “I can’t believe I’m leaving. No more plantains and peanut sauce and street food. No more ‘yovo, yovo.’”). I’d like to write a few more updates, and there’s one I’ve been thinking of for a while that I can’t write until I leave. For now, fingers crossed for a safe flight. I’m spending three days in Morocco, then two weeks in Switzerland and then, finally, back to the States.

In my blogging (yeah, yeah, I know I don’t update enough to call myself a blogger) absence, here are some links to distract you from your work: a site for the Dapaong weavers that I created (in French only for the moment – please don’t click Google translate, it’s so bad. Just look at the pretty pictures).
Also, I posted the first Obama post at This Is Diversity. Someone from their site asked me to share my experiences in Togo there, but I only got around to contributing one article. Anyway, check it out, they have all kinds of interesting tid-bits there.