Posted by: jodentz | June 20, 2011

Zig-zagging Across Togo

It has again been awhile since I posted last, but this is because ive been super busy traveling around the country for various projects. The conference that my friend set up in the northernmost region of the country went super well. We were placed in host families and I ended up spending 3 nights staying at the house of the grand Imam who is head of the Muslim community for the entire canton (Togo is divided up by region, followed by prefecture, then by canton). It was an interesting experience to be living with a host family again. Being fed until bursting, being forced to shower twice a day, and living by another family’s rules can be trying at times but it was a great experience. We had a lot of great talks and debates about religion, life, and cultural differences. The conference itself was a hit as well. I believe members from over 8 different villages were brought in where they were able to interact with volunteers who had set up booths (think science fair style) and also with sit down presentations. The first day I had a booth demonstrating simple latrines and their importance- a surprisingly tiring thing presenting the same thing over and over again for 4 hours in French- and the second day I gave an hour long presentation on the same subject. It was interesting as I had two translators to translate what I was saying into two different local languages.

Following the conference, my friend M and I went and visited another friend at his site and went hiking to these Moba caves. The caves were built over 100 yrs ago by the Mobas to escape prosecution. What makes them a amazing experience is that the caves are built directly into a cliff and you have to climb up above them and then decend downwards. They overlook the entire village below and you can see for miles. It was absolutely beautiful. In general, the entire trip up north was a pleasure. The atmosphere is completely different. Much more laid back than the South. Much of the day is spent sitting around drinking Tchakpa which is a locally brewed beer-like substance that tastes a little like apple cider and I believe is made with Sorghum. Down south we have Tchouk which I believe is made with millet. Slightly different.

After the North I traveled the entire length of the country (600km+ I believe) down to Lomé to welcome the new trainees. Two friends and I got to go the airport to see them fresh off the plane and welcome them personally to Togo. They seem like a good group and it was interesting to put perspective on what I was like when I arrived in country a year ago. This also marked my year mark in country and was an achievement in itself. However, I must admit that being an official welcome volunteer was quite tiring. Dealing with the barage of questions, making sure everyone is where they need to be, as well as sitting in on 8 hours of sessions a day takes its toll. To cap off the week, I was also invited by our country director to a ministry event to promote volunteerism in Togo. Got to listen to an hour of speeches, see a declaration signed and be interviewed by Togolese media.

I was finally able to make it back to village for a week after about 6 weeks of not being here. This proved to be a marathon in itself as I had to make sure to put in face time with EVERYONE in village so there were many very long days of just spending time with people and checking the progress of my work. Alas, a fou, or local crazy person, ate my elevage project. As there are no facilities for the mentally disadvantaged, they tend to wander around village, usually without much incidence. But this time, knowing that there were rabbits were in a room, he broke through the door of where they were being stored and ate all but one (this was no where near my house btw and it turned out to be the brother of the guy who is doing the elevage). So we will hopefully be trying again. It is just a bit frustrating. Togo Togo…

This past week I made my way up to the centrale region for the training of trainers for camp Espoir which is with the children infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDs. We planned out all of our sessions, made all the camp preparations, and sang and danced until ready to drop. Camp starts the 4th of July. It will be exhausting but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless. I’ve been also trying to plan this Income Generating Activity (AGR’s in french) Day for our work station which seems to be getting larger and larger by the minute. As it stands now, there will be all 26 trainees, their trainers, at least 14 volunteers, a girls club, 2 different field trips, 3 different AGRs prepared twice each, in french, which means we need to translate for the new trainees who don’t speak French, and organizing lunch, materials, and transport to and from the city. It’s become quite complicated, but I hope it turns out well. I’ve enlisted the help of other volunteers for helping out. That is this weekend so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Well, that’s about it for now. Off to train the new stage again next week then up to camp for 3 weeks. I’ve decided that I really enjoy travelig and helping others with their projects. I get to travel which is what I love, see friends, the country, and still do a lot of good work. It’s been very rewarding. I’ve heard that there was a tornado right by where I live in Western Mass. I hope everyone back home is safe and sound. Take care all!

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