December 17, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Jen's Peace Corps Adventures in Togo

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By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 10:07 am: Edit Post

Jen's Peace Corps Adventures in Togo

Jen's Peace Corps Adventures in Togo

Jen's Peace Corps Adventures in Togo

Jen's Stories
Sign My Guestbook!!
Weather Report for Togo
Photo Album
Links to my friends websites (add yours!)
Jen's Address & Care Package Wish-List

I'm in New York!! Day 1 of a 3 week vacation here and in Paris. Already I'm exhausted, ou bien, that could be jetlag.... I can't wait to see everyone and am about to call some folks up to set up some details. I can't believe I've been gone from the US for 16 months. Time passes in strange ways. I am getting film developed while here and hope to *finally* get some pics posted on this site. Better late than never, eh? I'll have a cell phone by tomorrow to use for the next 2 wks in NY that you can call me on through November 1st.

Here's a not-so-subtle plea for snail mail! I miss you guys and want to know what's going on in your lives. Here's my current address for packages and letters. Letters (not packages) can also still come to my village's Mini-Poste (see the link on the left on How to Contact Jen).
Jennifer Samnick
Corps de la Paix
BP 98
Badou, Togo
West Africa

If you mailed me a package and don't know if I got it, leave a note in my guestbook. I've been emailing or writing letters to let folks know when I receive things and have replied to all letters received so far, so if you haven't heard back from me, it's possible your letter or package is still en route.

Jen's Stories

How could I possibly leave you all for over 2 years without any Jen-stories? Check back often for updates!

(FYI, I've switched over to handwriting these updates in a notebook in village and then typing them up when I get into a town with internet, so the dates you see are the date it was written down, not the day I was in a 'hi-tech' town!)

Stories from 'Stage' (Training)

Etude de Milieu (first 3 months at post in Kougnohou)

Wednesday, October 15, 2003 It's been so long since I had a good connection at the same moment as some free time to spend online. Sorry for the lack of new stories, but check to see if you read the one I added after the fact for June about a typical day at work. I've been occupied as many of you know with my travel planning for a trip back home to NY. Well, I made it!! I have to give a special thank you right here to Kathy and Lloyd for picking me up at the airport and taking care of my jetlagged/culture shocked self this first day back in the States. I hope I don't drive them crazy with too many Jen Stories in person! I realized just now that besides my parents they are the first of my friends' voices that I've heard in the past 16 months . Have I really been gone that long? Kougnohou really feels like home to me right now, but NY will always be the home I came from and can go to visit. The next 3 wks are jam-packed and I am about to get on a marathon phone call to everyone I've been emailing these past few months to set up details of who/where/when. Here's a short summary of my adventure away from Togo so far: got on the airplane in Lome last night with Michelle, a PCV friend who just finished her service. It was nice to fly to Paris with her and not be alone at the Lome airport before taking off. Flight was good - maybe it's me but the airplane food on Air France was great! Mmmm, Camembert :) I had a quick connection to NY and Kathy picked me up and took me to their apt in Queens. I unpacked a little after calling my folks to tell them I got in. After a long hot shower (ahhh, the wonders of hot running water!) we headed over a few blocks away for mushroom pizza slices,garlic knots, and Arizona peach iced tea and rounded off the meal with a Hagen Daas waffle cone. I better not eat like this every day of my vacation! But Day 1 is special, right? I know that it's not likely that a PCV is reading this who's in Togo now, but thanks so much to all you guys who hooked me up with last minute warm clothing to borrow, and my folks for mailing the rest from Vegas after digging through boxes and bags of my stuff that I left at your house. It's a brisk windy crispy day maybe about mid-50s (much better than the 39 degrees I feared) and I'm cold and loving every minute of it! I know it'll be hot season very soon after getting back to Togo, so I won't complain about the cold weather for just a few wks. I'll be trying to get some film scanned in and photos posted finally while I'm here in NY. Just about to get 5 new rolls of film developed and I've completely forgotten what's on them.

Saturday, August 30, 2003 I just sent out a big email message to everyone so I know some of you will be reading this pretty soon and I figured I should add something. I said most of what's new in my email and it's on my homepage about my trip coming up in October and being here at post now for a whole year. It's gone fast. I have some old stories from June that were never typed up that I'm going to add now, so scroll down to June and see if you've read them or not yet....

Sunday, July 27, 2003 Ahhhh, I am just getting back from a relaxing long weekend vacation to a beach hotel in Benin. No, I don't really need any more exposure to the sun, but I did have a fabulous time sitting on the beach and eating at a great restaurant for two days while not being harrassed and not thinking about anything related to my work or my village. I went with Valerie, her bday was the 25th and I turned 28 yesterday. She'd lived with the same host family as me for her training the year before I got here.

Now I'm hanging out in Lome for a standard midservice medical exam. Yeah, midservice - that means I'm halfway done. Wow. Time flies. The next year is already packed with trips and work and I can practically see how I'll spend my days through New Year's. My training group is having a one year anniversary trip in early September to Ghana involving a beach resort, rainforest canopy walk, and then I'll continue on to visit Anthony's family in western Ghana, he's a Ghanaian friend who was at UW last year with me. Then in October I'll be in NYC and LI and Newark for about 2 1/2 wks for a wedding and visiting family and friends and I'll stop in Paris to also see friends on the way back to Togo in November. Thanksgiving will involve some kind of PCV gathering and big cooking and then it's the season for fetes here. Dry season will be in full force, the Harmattan winds and dusty roads and cold nights and gatherings in village for Christmas and New Year's. I have rough ideas for a case study to do for my degree project for UW, so by then I'll have to start seriously working on it. Before I know it I'll have less than 6 months left and my replacement will be in training in Kpalime while I wrap up loose ends on my projects. I just went last week to the current group of trainees to help with their session on nutrition and cooking and got to meet everyone coming in. It's a nice group and a few will be in the Plateau region so I'll have a chance to see them every so often in Atakpame or Kpalime when I head in to town for banking and shopping.

Work in Koughnohou is suddenly moving along. I just hooked up the Kougnohou carpenters with the wood depot project with a guy from Lome who wants to buy wood from them. Another guy is researching snail raising and mushroom farming and I'm helping him work on a feasibility study and business plan to see if it'll work out. The pineapple organization *finally* seems to have realized what I've been trying to work on with them and will soon sit down with me to put together a draft proposal/business plan/budget for their group. And I'm helping the local Social Services agent revise a couple of proposals for helping a soap making group and a family with AIDS who runs a chicken/egg farm. Other PCVs are still sending me ideas for recipes to add to our cookbook, but if any of you out there reading this have a favorite recipe for anything you can send a photocopy of it my way, too! Overall, things are good, I feel healthy and happy and can't wait to be in NY in October!! Hope to see you or talk to you on the phone then! (My folks just moved from LI to Vegas so I don't have a phone number to be reached at in NY anymore, but I'll post a number of a friend you can reach me through as soon as I have an idea where I'll be staying while in town.)

Friday, 4th of July, 2003 I left my notebook with stories from June in Kougnohou by accident and will have to add them later on. I'm getting ready to change my approach to work a little to more one-on-one projects rather than groupwork as a result of the difficulties and delays I've had. Some of my fellow PCVs have reached the same conclusions. I'm also busy getting info from folks to update our PC cookbook which is a fun side project. And, I'm hectically planning a trip back home in October to the NY/NJ area. I'll let you know when I fix the dates. My veggie garden is doing fabulously and I'm happily crunching away on green beans, cucumbers, radishes and expect to have tomatoes and zucchini and peas soon, too. Lettuce and cabbage and pumpkins and carrots are taking a little longer. And watermelon are in season up north so I'm going to get some seeds and plant some at my house, too. Milo is good, hopefully not tearing up my yard this week. He's home alone being fed by a friend for the first time while I'm here in Lome for meetings. I'm also planning a birthday vacation to a beach resort in Benin for a long wkend at the end of this month with Valerie, a PCV who's bday is the day before mine. I can't wait to go! My first official use of vacation days and I can sure use a work-free trip out of village! Miss you guys, so send me snail mail!

Saturday, June 21, 2003 Example of a day at work.... (yes, a *Saturday*)
I wake up at 5:52am to sounds of goats bleating, roosters crowing, and children playing around my house and the sunlight brightening my bedroom. My PCV neighbor, Sarah, spent the night at my house after yesterday's weekly market. While she sleeps I put a pot of water on my gas stove to boil and go outside to let Milo, my puppy, in the house. The hot water is for me for a cup of tea, but also b/c I need ot make Milo's food for the day. I've been feeding him a mixture of broken crumbs of dried fish and corn meal mixed with hot water. Next trip to Lome, the capital, I'm going to look for US-style dry dog food now that most of his teeth have come in. "Clap-clap, Jenny, excusez." I hear the family next door's daughter at my gate -it's not 6:10am. She's here with another young girl to fill up huge gasins of water from my cistern for their house. It hasn't rained in 2 days and their cistern is empty. Mine's usually overflowing now with the rains coming every day. I have plenty to share. Sarah's up now. I've got to get ready for a meeting. She makes tea for us both and I get my bike gear together and out onto my front porch. The meeting is a training session in a village 8km away for a new group of pineapple cultivators. I'm working with the regional organization that helps get local groups of cultivators started and thens sells their pineapples to an export company in Lome. I was told to be there to start at 8am. But, this is "African Time" and I know everyone will be later, but Murphy's Law still applies and I don't want to make a bad impression on my first visit to this village, so I lwave my house at 7:30am. I get to the village at 7:56, 4 mins to spare. Not too many hlls uor this way. In another direction I can only get 5km mostly uphill in 35 mins. Today I made 8km in 25 mins. I meet Kossi on the roadside and we walk over to the chief's house where I see a handful of young kids, a bunch of chickens, goats, and dogs, and a couple of women preparing food at their outdoor stoves. The maman greats us and places a bench in teh shade under the eves of the house for us. We need to wait for the men to arrive and are told that someone went off to tell them that we're here. 8:30am....9:03am...9:38am...still nobody else here. I'm having fun playing with their little girl who's sitting next to me. She's not scared of me. Sadly, often that's the case. A child will catch a glimpse of my white skin and run shrieking to his mother in sheer terror. Why? well, many young children have never seen white skin. Imagine a green-skinned Martian walking into a nursery school. That's the closest I can come up with to compare. This little girl is used to it I guess. Then I hear from the mom that her older sister married an Englishman and now lives in Europe. Oh, finally, the men are arriving. I heard from Kossi on the way over here that he expected 3 groups of 11. Hmmm...only 7 men are here. It's now after 10am. "The others are coming," they tell us. *sigh* I paly with the kids next to me some more. 10:25 now. Seems like nobody else can make it. Something about a death in a nearby village and they all went to pay respects to their family. Ok, so only one group of 11. We rounded them up and moved the benches under a tree out of the sun. Kossi starts by writing some info on a piece of plywood with chalk and the 3 who know how to write copy it down. The chief has someone bring a basin of oranges out. They're in season now. Oh! It's a gift for me. Thank you. More info is written up and copied, yet none is explained out loud. That part comes with the hands-on demo later. There's just one page of outlined typed info that Kossi is sharing, yet photocopies aren't in his budget, I guess. And, the closest copy machine is 36km away from where we live. It's 11:56am. Originally Kossi had told me the meeting was about 2-3hrs long. I figured I'd be home by noon. We've barely even started. Hmmm, I think I'll eat an orange now. I don't know how much longer we'll be here, but hopefully I'll be done by 2pm. I have another mtg at 3pm that I only got invited to yesterday afternoon. Don't want to be later for that one. Not that they'd actually start on time either, though. Copying of info is finally done, Kossi and I are led by the chief's wife over to where she's prepared lunch for us. Oh, please let it not be gumbo sauce! That's not like Louisiana-style gumbo. "Gumbo" here is the word for okra. I've never imagined a slimier sauce could exist. I really really can't eat it. I've tried. Just can't do it. Yeah!! Rice with red sauce, much better! (Kossi was served gumbo sauce though, but he and most Togolese love it.) While eating Kossi tells me a strange story of his father who was killed 5yrs ago by a corcerer who was sent by people in his village who were angry with his father. I've heard things like this before. Voudou is prevalent in Togo and animism is often a part of religious beliefs. After eating, we go back to the group and they're shown the technique of triming the tops of pineapples properly to prepare them for planting. As we're finishing up I hear women's voices singing and I see a line of women approaching the house, each carrying a huge metal basin piled with wood on her head. They deposit the wood in a pile, all the while singing which quickly turns into traditional dancing. We're done with the pineapple training so I go over to watch and a women takes my hand and pulls me into the group to dance with them. Another woman is going around with a shot glass and a bottle of sodebe (African gin/grain alcohol) and everyone takes a drink. They offer me some, but I thank them and decline. I've tried sodebe before and am not a fan - now I get laughs when I tell them it's just like "petrol" (kerosene). 3:35pm Really time to head home now. I have 8km to bike back and the daily afternoon rains are on their way so I'll have to hurry or get caught in a douwnpour. Kossie wants me to plant pineapples at my house in Seattle when I go home. He says they'll grow there - I'll give it a show, but I really don't think he has any idea what "cold" is after spending his entire life here in Togo. But, hey, wouldn't it be great if it worked?!

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Togo; Blog; PCVs in the Field - Togo



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