Friday, December 3, 2010

im here!

HEY! So it’s pretty obvs I haven’t written in…ever. But internet here isn’t the easiest thing to find, and when I do find it, I get pretty distracted. So Il try to sum up what I have been up to the past 2 months, sans pics, but ill edit them in soon enough.

I had staging in Philadelphia where I met everyone who I was going to be spending the next 2 months with in stage (training). There are two groups of us, Girls Empowerment and Education (GEE—me!) and Natural Resource Management (NRM). We all flew out of Philly together, then had our layover in France, then headed off to Lome, Togo.
After we landed in Lome, we spent a few days there just getting acclimated and going to different medical meetings. Then, we were off to our perspective cities to do our training. GEE and NRM were in different cities for training, but only about 5K away. So, during training, we each stayed with a different host family. Turns out, mine ruled so much (and in my opinion was the best family…just saying).

My Papa is an anesthesiologist whose life motto is ‘Vouloir C’est Pouvoir’, meaning, where there’s a will there’s a way. I got a pretty good philosophic discussion every now and then from him. My Mama always sat down with me and talked to me about Mama things, like the importance of getting a good job before settling down to get married. She also made popsicles, so everyday was a good day while living with my host family. My host brother, Koffi, was visiting from Cote d’Ivoire. He ruled and would cook me meals because I would tease him about letting all the girls do all the work. He made the best peanut sauce I’ve had yet. Yawa, my host sister, but not really because she was an apprentice living with us, was super sassy and would tease me all the time. But of course we were best girlfriends. Holla (not at all sure if that’s how you spell her name) also lived with me. She was the nicest person ever, and would always stop whatever she was doing to help me with something. That actually worked out pretty well, I learned how to wash laundry by hand super efficiently with her. Francis is 12 and went to school everyday, so I didn’t see him too much but he loooved playing uno and connect four with me and Koffi.

So, for two months I had training Monday through Saturday, from 7:30-5:00, with a lunch break from 12-2:30. Luckily, Saturdays were half days. I got a lot of good naps in during the time. During training we took French class or local language class every day, technical training (things about GEE and doing GEE projects), or bike repair class. Bike repair class RULED so much. We learned how to fix anything and everything with our sweet Trek mountain bikes Peace Corps issued us.

After training, we were offish sworn in as volunteers on November 18th in Lome at the Ambassador’s house. So, now I’m at my post. I’m east in the Centrale region. It’s pretty perfect here, I absolutely love my village. It’s gorgeous and I live close to a cashew factory (!). My village is predominately Muslim, so there are mosques everywhere, including right next to my house. My house rules beyond belief. First of all, it’s huge with running water and electricity (what!-this isn’t normal). I have a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, and a bathroom with an overhead shower (!) and a western toilet (!)…before moving here I was using a latrine and bucket showering. I’m replacing another volunteer who went back to the US so it came furnished. Now all I’m going to do is touch up, like paint and reupholster the couch. I’ll take pictures when 1) I remember to and 2) when the house is repainted.
Typically, I wake up at about 6:30 or 7. If I don’t get woken up by the call to prayer, the rooster outside my bedroom window does a pretty good job of it. Then I debate on whether I should take a shower, but I usually veto that since its pretty cold in the mornings (and by that I mean like 75 degrees). Then I hop on my bike and ride to the ladies down the street that sell watchi, rice and beans boiled together. I sit there for a while, eating breakfast and trying to explain to people stopping by that my local name is Cherifa, not anasara (white). Then, I’ll either head to hospital where I’ve been tagging along with my site mate, Nahid, in helping fill the vaccination forms out for all the bebes getting their shots that day, or I head to the high school where I’ll sit in on an English class or help out with the Science club. Nahid is a health volunteer, and she’s been in village since August. Every other Wednesday, Nahid has a health club at one of the middle schools, so I’ll go over there and help out.

I’m about to start a few other projects like an English club to help the high school students study for the BAC, the test they have to take to get their diploma and go to university. Next week I’ll be starting a club for apprentices to discuss subjects like life skills, sex education, planning for the future, etc. Also, there is already a girls club at one the middle schools run by women in the community, so I’ll be tagging along and trying to help them out in any way with the resources I have. And when I get a more concrete schedule, I hope to start working more the Red Cross, especially with the mother’s clubs.
Somewhere along the day, I eat lunch. I typically go out to eat for lunch. My choices include spaghetti with an omelet on top (surprisingly delicious), an egg sandwich, or a salad, which is noodles with a few pieces of lettuce, some tomatoes, onions, and lots of mayonnaise. That’s not all I can choose from, but just what I generally eat since I’m not too sick of it yet.

If I have nothing to do in the mornings or afternoons, I’ll ride my bike around town and say hi to people that I recognize. Usually I hop from boutique to boutique, order a soda and sit and talk to whoever owns the store. I actually really enjoy doing that and look forward to it every day.

At night, if I don’t come home too late, my neighbor will swing by to check on me and we’ll chat for a while. Otherwise, I come home, make some dinner, read or watch something on my computer, then go to bed around 9:30. My dinner though is pretty abysmal, usually either pasta with tomato sauce or peanut sauce or a sandwich of laughing cow cheese and cut up tomatoes and some oregano…I had to bring the oregano from the states though.

All in all, I am completely in love with my life here. Togo is absolutely beautiful, and people are unbelievably nice and welcoming. Plus I’m totally safe here--y’all really don’t have to tell me to be safe . There are people all around me that are willing to help me out in any way in a moments notice; even strangers in taxis usually keep a pretty good eye out for me.
OK miss everyone beaucoup beaucoup. I hope everyone is doing well! Feel free to write me letters (notice the address change to the right), I promise I’ll write back. Besides, I’m probably better at writing letters than updating blogs, I think.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I went a few days early to staging to hang out with my mom, Curtis, Liz, and Moose.

We went to Amish country and ate an Amish feast:

We spent a day in NYC and ate at Kat'z Delicatessen (where When Harry Met Sally was filmed--my fave movie)

We also spent some time doing some taste tasting for Pat's and Geno's cheese steaks (Pat's FTW!)

And of course, I hung out with Moose.

Yesterday marked the first day in the Peace Corps.  I went to staging where we spent the day in a conference room, talking about what is to come. Today we woke up super early to go get our yellow fever shots.  I already got mine when I went to Bolivia, so I just walked over to eat an egg and cheese sandwich in a federal cafeteria (woah).

We leave the hotel today for our flight this evening.  I'm pretty pumped.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

So it's really happening

Here is the start of my packing.  Pretty daunting. My most exciting items are my solar powered/crank powered/battery powered shortwave radio, head lamp, and travel connect 4.

I'm leaving this Saturday for Philly, 1 week before orientation.  My brother lives in Philly, so that's pretty convenient.  I'm kind of freaking out now about leaving. When I first started the application process (which took 1 year!), 2 years didn't seem that long.  Now that I'm packing and saying good-byes, 2 years seems like forever :(

Things I'm looking forward to:
1. Living in Africa!
What! That's kind of crazy, admit it.

2. Working in Girls Education and Empowerment.
If it's anything like GENaustin, I know I'm going to be really happy. There are already a ton of projects already started in the GEE program, so I'm ready to jump on any of them, or start my own.

3. Meeting about a bajillion interesting people.
Judging from the few I've become facebook acquaintances with, it looks like we're coming from all over the place, with all sorts of majors. Some of the best people I've met were while studying abroad.  So here's to the 30 or so people I'll be spending the next 2 years.

4. Speaking French.
So, J'adore french, beaucoup. I've missed being in France and speaking it tout les temps.  Now's my chance to relearn it and speak it toujour. 

5. Being part of a small-ish community.
Well, this is just an assumption at this point.  I won't know exactly where I am going until my 3 months of training is up, but either way, I'm totally pumped to find out where I'm going. 

Things I'm Totes Nervous About:
1. Being bit by a snake.
Ok, so I'm bringing rain boots.  Yes, there is a rainy season in Togo, but I'm bringing them more for the fact that I don't want a snake to bite my ankles.

2. Finding out I'm just crazy.
Why am I leaving my 100% comfortable life for this again? Oh that's right, to challenge myself and to help out in any way possible. But still, I have a really comfortable bed at home, all sorts of yummy foods at my fingertips, a super loving family, and some really great friends. Regardless if I realize I'm crazy or not, I'm gonna be sticking to this.

3. Missing people way too much.
I'm really in love with so many people here in Texas. It's going to be really hard.

Things I'm Pretty Sure I'm Going to Miss:
1. Casey Jones
My best bud for over 5 years and the only person who knows me 110%. It's going to be rough without him.

2. Cheeseburgers/Pizza/Beer
My staple diet here in the USA. I don't think I'll be getting very much of these items the next 2 years.

3. ATX
Austin, Texas! I super love this city! There are so many things to do at any given moment; so many places that serve really good cheeseburgers/pizza/beer.  I'm going to miss going to concerts all the time, hanging out at Crown and Anchor, eating at Austin's Pizza, seeing really pretty views of the capitol, and going to UT (ok, that ended anyways, but still).

4. Swimming
I'm not a runner, at all.  In fact, I'm pretty terrible at it. I'm pretty sure there are not going to be any indoor lap pools where I'm going.  Time for me to learn how to run.

5. Ice Water
That's pretty self-explanatory.

Orientation starts on the 16th in Philly.  At orientation I'm going to get a ton of shots and attend meetings. Then I fly to Lome (capitol of Togo), with a layover in Paris (wahoo, too bad its only for like 5 hours). I'll keep this blogging thing up, hopefully!

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's offish, I'm off!

Bonjour tout le monde!

I have officially received my invitation to serve in the Peace Corps.  I will leave on September 16th for Philadelphia for a two day orientation.  On September 18th, I'll leave for TOGO!

Once in Togo, I'll have 3 months of training before I'm off to the location where I'll live for the next 24 months. I am assigned to the Girls' Education and Empowerment (GEE) program and I'll be working as a Girls' Education Extension Agent.

Other than that, I'm kind of up in the air about details still.  I am now in the process of applying for my visa and passport, packing up everything I don't think I can live without for the next 2 years, eating as many tex-mex meals possible,  trying to find enough concentration and time to study to take the GRE before I leave, and coming to terms with all the things I'm totes going to miss (primarily all the wonderful people in my life).

Until next time!

P.S. Pardon my Togo to-go know me and puns :) Also if you google image search Togo, you'd be surprised how many fast food to-go pictures that pop up.