Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fine Cooking in Togo

Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Garlic Bread!

First, you start off making the cheese, the closest thing to ricotta.  Lome is the only reliable place to buy cheese and since that is 8 hours away on a good day, homemade cheese is the way to go. Boil up some powdered milk, add some vinegar, and watch the curds separate from the whey.  

Make some sauce from a can of tomato paste, water, chopped up onions and tomatoes, and mushrooms from a can.

Make homemade ravioli pasta.  We also use the same recipe for making lasagna noodles.  Some flour, eggs, and water. Let it sit for 30 minutes before you start molding it around.

Stuff each of the ravioli shells with the ricotta cheese and your spinach.  But spinach doesn't exist in Togo so you gotta use gboma, the closest thing to spinach but a little more bitter.

 Pinch it all up!

Cook your raviolis in some boiling water until you think it's done (we totes guessed).

Garlic bread.  If you're lucky like me and you live next to Bouba, a Germany bakery in Togo, you can get some yummy breads.  Bouba is actually in Sokode, 34k out of Tchamba, but some lady always comes to my village with a giant box full of bread probably weighing 50 pounds. She walks all around my town with that huge box on her head selling bread. Pretty unbelievable. Anyways, we got some plain old bread, drizzled some olive oil on it, garlic, and italian herbs.

And then you eat delicious food!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unlimited Amounts of Internet!!

I now have unlimited internet, which really knocks out any excuse I had about never updating this blog.  I’ve had an usb modem that allows me to connect to the internet, but it was pay as you go.  But, I’ve decided it is worth it to splurge some of my money and to try out this unlimited internet.  So for about $30 a month I can use the internet anytime a want for as long as I want. Ridiculous!

Being that it’s October now, one can assume I’ve survived the maelstrom of summer camps.  I participated in 5 different summer camps and loved every single one of them.  Besides from Camp UNITE, which I already wrote about, I participated in:


Camp Informatique is the computer camp that Katy and I put on at the beginning of this summer.  The top boy and girl in seconde (the equivalent to a sophomore in college) from each high school in the Centrale region were invited to attend this camp.  The boys followed by the girls had a 4 day long computer camp in the regional capital, Sokode.  During the 4 days they learned the names of different computer parts, why one uses computers, how to use a mouse, how to type, how to open programs, how to type letters on Word and how to explore the internet.  While they weren’t learning something new about computers, they were playing games, singing, playing soccer or going to sessions on the importance of gender equity, self-confidence, or HIV/AIDS.

It was incredibly inspirational to see how quickly someone who had never even seen a computer to learn in 4 days how to surf the internet and write word documents.  The girls who participated in the camp received valuable training that they would have been very likely to never receive elsewhere.  Camp Informatique provided these students with the basic knowledge of computers that would allow them to confidently walk into their nearest computer cafĂ©.  Thank you for everyone who donated to this project, it was a huge success!


Camp Espoir is a week long summer camp for children who are affected by HIV/AIDS.  This could mean that they themselves are infected with the disease, or the disease has significantly influenced their lives, such as losing a parent to it.  The kids participating range from 6 years old to 18 years old.  Camp Espoir aims to provide these kids with the best week of their lives (ie actually being allowed to be a kid), providing an environment where they are not marginalized or teased for being affected by HIV/AIDS, and providing them with useful sessions that will help them make healthy life decisions. 

The camp was filled with fun, traditionally American activities such as a camp fire where they roasted marshmellows, a scavenger hunt, and a carnival.  There were also educational sessions like human rights, nutrition, income generating activities, hygiene, etc.  I was super lucky to have the youngest girls, so I got some nail polish and lipstick and we all went to town.  Needless to say, this was the saddest and hardest camp to leave.


Camp ScientiFille (a blend between the French words for scientist and girl) was a week-long camp that brought together 11 villages throughout Togo.  Each village brought the Peace Corps volunteer, a science teacher, and 3 female students.  Getting girls to go to school in Togo is a challenging task, but even more so is getting girls to pursue a science track in school.  Students have to choose at a very young age what “track” they’d like to do, whether it’s the arts or sciences.  Girls that do want to follow the science track are often discouraged by their teachers and parents.  Camp ScientiFille aimed to encourage the girls to follow a science track, show the teachers that girls can and should be scientists, and showed how to make science fun through experiments. 

AMENONS NOS FILLES AU TRAVAIL (Take our daughters to work)

This was a week-long camp for a little over 20 girls in the Centrale region.  Every region had their own version of take our daughters to work, but I obviously helped out with the best region.  Heh.  Anyways, during this camp, girls from rural villages came to Sotouboua, the 2nd largest town in Centrale and spent the week learning about different career paths.  The week’s activities included touring a radio station, being a part of a radio show, listening to panels of women speaks about their jobs, and sessions on various life skills, such as self-confidence or planning for a future.
Teaching about computers.


After all of this I finally took a vacation! Family came to visit so Justin and I hopped over to Accra to spend a few days there before we picked them up from the airport. Basically, Accra is just like America to a Togo PCV.  There is everything there.  Paved roads, ice cream, iced coffee, KFC, A SHOPPING MALL, a movie theater; the list is pretty endless… We ate about 5 meals a day plus snacks, caught two movies, hung out in air conditioning, took hot showers, and used the fastest internet I’ve used in over a year.  Overall, it made me super happy but also incredibly sad.  It seems silly that all this is a short 4 hour drive away from Togo, but Togo can’t even begin to compete. Even in Lome, Togo’s capital, there are few paved roads, internet is abysmal, and all the delicious food we have in lome is thanks to the Lebanese immigrants.  Oh, Togo.

With my family, we traveled throughout Ghana.  We visited about 3 slave castles, two national parks, and one of the biggest markets in West Africa.  It was pretty stressful.  Despite English being Ghana’s official language, I only understood/could communicate a few things.  Once we crossed over to the Togo border, I was relieved.  Not only because I could easily communicate with everyone but because I knew 100% what I was doing.  In Togo, we visited the tambermas in Kante, hung out in my village and got to know all my neighbors, ate a bunch in Kpalime, and saw the few tourist attractions there are to see in Lome. 
Cape Coast castle

Mole National Park

The Tambermas (tatas)

And now, I’m back in village. Finally.  But, I’ve been having to travel in and out for various meetings and getting paper work finalized for my next project.  I received funding for a project that I picked up from previous volunteers, “Loro de Alafia”, or reproductive health in English.  It is a 4 days conference for 20 rural, muslim women to come in and learn about the reproductive system, family planning, and how to talk to their husbands about gender equity and family planning.  It will be all in local language since for the most part, these women have not been to school or they have been to very little.  Luckily, I have some great counter parts and partner organizations that are essentially planning and putting this project into action while I handle to paperwork and budget side of it all.  It’s happening in about a month, so I’ll let everyone know how it goes!
School has started back up and so have my science clubs.  My two science clubs have been the most sustainable projects I’ve worked with.  I’ve been super lucky to find counter-parts who are motivated and willing to work with me.  I’ll be starting my third club in the near future, as soon as school starts to stabilize a bit more. 

And finally, Leve-Toi Jeune Fille, the magazine I’m working on with two other volunteers has put out the first issue with the new editors.  Plus, I’m about to wrap up all the articles for the next issue, Community Action.  So exciting!