Monday, March 14, 2011

3 months!

I have officially been in Tchamba 3 months now, woo! That is a pretty big landmark. So to recap what I have been doing since my last blog post:

I spent most of this month trying to figure out what was going on half the time.  Lucky for me I came in with some French….except not exactly West African French.  It took me some time to get used to some phrases like “Et les gens de la?” literally meaning “And the people of there?” I get asked this anytime I go anywhere that is not Tchamba.  Or “Tu es la?” meaning “Are you there?” when someone is looking right at me.  Or asking a specific question and getting the answer “c’est….les choses quoi”, or “it’s…the things what.”

I live in a primarily Muslim town, however, so Noel was not quite celebrated in my community.  But luckily, my girl Ellen came down for Christmas and I spent the day learning how to kill and defeather a chicken.  Then we made chicken tacos! With Rice and beans, taco seasoning and velveeta (the last two were definitely sent from America).  We spent the night eating and drinking wine with Nahid and my neighbor Salim, who was the one who gifted me the live chicken.

New Years also isn’t exactly celebrated here in Tchamba because we are a Muslim community and it’s not technically their new year.  But, we had a huge fete regardless because General Tikipina came to town.   The general is from Tchamba, so our city put on a daylong party for him which included various speakers, horses, dancing, and food!  General Tikipina even gave a shout out to Peace Corps in his thank you speech, which was pretty awesome.

I also went down to Lome for a bit to take care of some business and to see Justin back from his trip to America.  We explored Lome and took in some ‘Al Donalds’ and ‘KFG’, both surprisingly delicious.

After my trip, I came home and got the cutest kitten in the world, who I named Potato.  My neighbor had kittens so I decided to buy one.  I paid 1005 CFA.  A pretty bizarre amount because no one usually has 5 CFA.  I asked if I could just give 1025 CFA, but they insisted I give the 5 CFA piece otherwise my cat might run away.

I had training at the end of January where all the GEE volunteers from my group got together for a week and learned about new possible projects we could work on.  All the topics were super interesting; I learned how to make tofu and soy milk, so cool. Plus, it was a lot of fun to see everyone all together again since I hadn’t seen most of them for 2 months.

AND the most exciting news of all, Nahid and I started a radio show in Tchamba! It’s every Saturday evening.  We pick themes that relate to girls education or health.  We started by introducing ourselves and Peace Corps and what our program goals are.  Then we’ve moved on to topics like self confidence, behavior change, HIV/AIDS, and correct condom use.  This week we are going to be bringing in the local doctor for an interview, and hopefully in the future we’ll bring in some “femme modele”, model women in the community to interview.


This was a hectic month for sure.  There were a few volunteers who were planning on going up to Burkina Faso for FESPACO, the pan-african film festival that happens only once every two years.  So I got my visa for Burkina Faso, which was a pretty good debacle.  To get a visa into Burkina Faso, it’s 90,000 CFA, about $180. Or, you could get a 5 country tourist visa which gets you into Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Cote D’Ivoire, and Niger for 25,000 CFA, or $50. This 5 country visa isn’t exactly publicized very well, nor does it really say on the visa that it’s for 5 countries, but after a few stressful days, I got it and it ended up working.
So, at the end of February, I made my way up country and into Burkina Faso.  FESPACO, held in BF’s capital, Ouagadougou, was so much fun.  There were films from all over Africa, a few from France and a few from USA.  The films were mostly in French, or in local language with French subtitles.  Ouaga is also just a pretty awesome city to take in, especially if you’ve been living in Togo for a while.  We went swimming, ate burritos, spaghetti bolognaise, cheeseburgers and fries, and found a wine and cheese restaurant. 


Justin and me at a fancy pants restaurant.

Us with our badges!

On our way home, after our car exploded in the middle of nowhere.

And now I am home, hanging out with my cat, nursing some amoebas, and watching some Frasier.  Despite all the fun things in Burkina, I am really in love with Togo, especially Tchamba.

So in terms of what I’ve been doing in my day to day activities…

·         Tuesday and Thursday mornings I go to our hospital’s baby weighing and vaccinations.  I usually help update the vaccination records and will sometimes stand in front with the doctors to provide the anecdotal “My name is Cherifa” in local language to all the mothers who come.  Once in a while the doctors ask me and Nahid to do a causerie.  Since Nahid is the health volunteer, I usually hold the posters up and smile as she talks about what to feed your babies after six months.

·         Wednesdays I go to the Science Club at the high school. Every week I’ll translate two experiments out of a science book to give to the teacher, and he usually runs with it.  Half the club is made up of girls, which is amazing considering the low enrollment numbers for girls.

·         Wednesdays I also have an English Club for the high school kids.  The kids have to take and pass the BAC in order to successfully complete high school.  There is an English portion on the exam, which even I think is hard.  So, I go to the school with a BAC study guide and will work through examples with them.

·         Saturdays I meet up with the high school girl’s soccer team.  Each week a new girl will volunteer to come to my house at some point within the week and we’ll pick a theme to do a 10-15 minute presentation on after their practice.

·         After the girl’s soccer team, I make my way over to the English Club.  I offer it on Satuday mornings too in case Wednesday didn’t work for some of the students.

·         Saturday evening I have my radio show.  During the afternoon, I’ll usually meet with the high school kid that helps us out with the show.  We pick out the theme and write up the script.  Then he introduces the music and the theme and asks me and Nahid questions related to the theme.

·         An ongoing project is planning Camp Informatique with Katy K.  Camp Informatique is a summer camp for the top boy and top girl in seconde (like a sophomore) in their high school in the Centrale region.  They get the chance to work on computers (computers are a scarce here) and to learn how to actually work one.

·         And! I’m one of the new editors for Leve-Toi Jeune Fille, a magazine that compiles articles written by students, volunteers, and Togolese professionals all related to a certain theme.  It’s so awesome because it’s written entirely in French, which gives Togolese something to read (which there is none of here).  There are 4 editions a year; the upcoming one’s theme is Girls in Science.

…And that has been the last three months, in a nutshell.

And obligatory cute cat pics:
Justin and Potato Cakes after a bath

Me and Sweet Potato!

....Potato with Potatoes...