Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mothers' Day!

Happy Mothers' Day Mama! I wish I could celebrate it with you and the family, but I'll see you in less than 1 month and we can make up for all lost celebrations with a frappe and kukubeenya! Have a wonderful day and I love you! And Happy Muthas Day to all my other lovely mothers. Kisses.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chocolate and Farewells!

I am getting ready to go to my COS conference. I got my visa to India and my tickets to Greece and India. I have 3 more weeks in village. I saw Slumdog Millionaire in a movie theater in Accra and it was so cold in the theater that my feet were frozen by the end of the movie. I made chocolate. I finished reading Audacity of Hope. I think this will be my last blog entry...I will see you all very soon, so I leave you with some pictures and a chocolate sauce recipe.

1. Ferment the cocoa beans.

2. Roast the beans until they balloon up and begin to pop.

3. Shuck the outside shelling of the beans.

4. Take your shucked beans to the mill...mine was mixed with corn flour.

5. Take the powder back home and create a double boiler. I did this with my closest neighbor, Chrissy. Isn't she pretty?

6. Add un-sweetened condenesed milk and sweetened condensed milk (depending on taste, add more sugar) to the double boiler and then once the milk is boiling add the chocolate powder.

7. Stir until the chocolate melts.

I made brownies with some of the remaining powder and it tasted delicious. I think the more you process the chocolate the less green it tastes. I plan on showing my women's group how to make this because there are so many coffee/cocoa farmers who sell the beans, but don't know how to transform them. I'll be bringing some of this back home for shizzle.

And here are some pictures from the weekly baby-weighing/vaccination appointments in my village.

See you soon!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

So I just officially found out my Close of Service (COS) date. It's June 4. I will be off to Greece and then India (hopefully if my visa works out b/c I just got back from Accra and left my passport at the Indian Embassy and will pick it up again in May) with Charlotte until July 3. And then home. So, I just want to put out an official APB that sending letters and packages should be put to an end. I'm not sure they will get here in time. I love you all (well those I know who are reading this because they know me) and I will be back in Lome in 3 weeks for my COS conference. And I want to send out a huge shout-out to Leah and Ashley on their wedding in t-minus 4 days. I wish I could be there. I am sending you 10,000 kisses.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


I just got a note that my blog was black as night and had only its past entries. Please let me know if this continues.
Anyhoo, what have I been up to? I celebrated an awesome New Years in village. Marthilde and Bienvenu made a vegan salad (they don't eat eggs, so she made a vegan mayonnaise using vinegar, oil, salt n'pepa, and mashed taters...delish) and fufu. I made a spice cake and bread. God bless my Dutch Oven.
In January, I went on a grand tour of the West African coast with 2 other volunteers, Natasha ("Nacho") and Ashley ("Block"). We started off in Accra, Ghana and then headed off to Cape Coast to see the slave castle (the dungeons where slaves were kept before they were shipped off). I didn't feel so great about humanity after that, so we decided to relax at the "resort" (nice but food and drinks and service lame) and shake off the day. It was also Nacho's birthday. Block stepped on a snail and created an avalanche from the sound of the crunch of the shell. The next day we went to Kakum National Park and walked the canopy walk (350 meters long 30 meters above the ground of the forest floor). It was kind of scary, but really gorgeous (see pic of me with sweat-soaked long sleeve shirt posing with a skinny tree). Et puis, we went to Abidjan. I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the trip, which made my day. I knew it would be a doozer of a trip, especially at the border, so the sandwich gave me "la force" (a term many Togolese use, which I think means strength, power and maybe sometimes sexual prowess). I was silent for about 12 hours after we crossed the border because it was so stressful. I think we had about 10 dudes on us who wanted to "help" us cross into Cote d'Ivoire, speaking in both French and English. And we had no idea where we were staying, but we figured it out, made some mistakes, but all in all, I just love traveling because what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and makes for some pretty awesome stories. Sorry for the run-on sentence. I am used to writing texts or journal entries where I don't concern myself with grammar. Abidjan was like baby Manhattan and we ate attieke (couscous made from cassava) and aloko (fried plaintains) and drank Ivorian beer from Denmark. We, then, stayed at Green Turtle Lodge in Dixcove, Ghana. Beautiful and all environmentally friendly (solar panel powered and composting latrnies). See beach pictures. I lost the top and bottom of my bathing suit several times from the harsh waves of the Atlantic. My bathing suit has a chunk of sand in it still and I found a grain of sand in my ear last week. And now I'm just continuing my work in village and realizing that this journey here is almost over. I think my village respects me more now because they know I'm a bad ass for sticking it out for 2 years. So, I'm at a point in my service where I am absorbing as much as I can because I know it's coming to an end. I feel more at ease. There are 6 Belgian volunteers in my village now working at the primary school and pre-school. I am planning on collaborating with them on some small projects in village because 2 of them will be there until May.
This past week, I made enriched cereal to teach the women at the dispensary about proper nutrition for their babies and themselves. It's made from black-eyed peas, peanuts and corn. I roasted the beans and peanuts (peanuts are alway sold unroasted in the market by really sweet market women, I'm actually going to miss Togo a lot) myself and then took all the ingredients to my friendly village miller. Some kids then helped me cart it all home so I could put it into little bags for the ladies. Pictures below.

Later taters!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Inyams, Nanners and Christmas wounds

I have been taking random pictures of fruits and tubers in village lately and I wanted to share them. This is the real Togo, l-l-l-live! Inyams and nanners. They were Christmas gifts from my lovely peeps in village. I also have some interesting skin wound (contact dermatitis) and I had some professional pictures made with it. I spent Christmas in Notse and had a wonderful one-on-one time with its volunteer, Ashley. We drank tchouk, locally made millet beer that tastes like apple cider with a kick, with 2 of her friends in village Christmas Eve. Christmas day, we ate fufu with her homologue and family and Christmas was almost ruined (according to her homologue, not us) when Ashley, trying to help pound the fufu and then take it out of the wooden mortar, received a large splinter shoved up her pinky nail as a Christmas surprise. I took it out with her leatherman pliers and Christmas was saved until I noticed the beginning of my contact dermatitis. Some say it's from a blister beetle (dragging its ass across my arm?). I think it's from a caustic inyam peel that somehow found its way on my right wrist even though I NEVER touched an inyam that day until it was transformed into fufu.
Ashley and I watched a horrible film cleverly named, Noel, with an all-star cast and guest surprise actor Robin Williams! later that afternoon. Never watch this film on Christmas or ever. We also watched the DVD's of "The Soup" that Andrea had burned for me. Somewhat disturbing actually. Reality TV makes me feel odd about Americans. We saw some clips from "The 2 Coreys" and Feldman sang to his wife, extremely close to her face and very loudly with a microphone, "na na na na na na na i love you, on and on and owhun..." Terrible.
But, I am ready for 2009. I feel really good about 2008 and have no regrets from last year because I learned a lot. My new resolution for 2009 is...drum roll, ta ta ta dah! Living in the moment.
I made some enriched cereal and did a formation on nutrition at my dispensaire for the women. It was fun making it because I got to go to the mill and grind corn, roasted peanuts roasted by moi-meme, and roasted black eyed peas ( it was actually delicious, especially with a sliced banana in it). So, I took a picture of the sacks of enriched cereal that I gave to the women after the talk. Oh and my carrots are ready finally and I ate one and it was super sweet. I gave some to my friend, Marthilde, and when looking at them, she told me that everyone is not the same because these carrots are all carrots, but totally different. I loved that, so I decided to send the picture of her with my carrot garden and the carrots I gave her that inspired her comment. Okay so here are some pictures to enjoy. Love to you all. Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I am stubborn.

My Peace Corps experience has truly allowed me to reflect. I am stubborn as I just titled this blog. But, I am also learning that I can not be stubborn if I know I am being stubborn. And I feel like this may just be the secret to my future success. Did I just jinx myself? I also need to work on being less superstitious. But, I would just like to clarify that even though this experience has been challenging, I would never trade it for anything. I have wanted to be a Peace Corps Volunteer since I was 16. And I'm finally in it. To win it. Living in a developing country is not easy and so maybe my previous blogs reflected my frustration or misunderstanding of the culture in Togo. But, isn't this part of the process in being here, living here, eating here, sharting my pants here, crying, giggling, being bored here? So, if I came across as being unhappy or ready to leave, I was just being honest. My emotions are up and down daily, hourly, secondly. At some moments, I am so bored or frustrated that I get a little nutty. At some moments, I am so glad to be here that I can't imagine what it will be like to leave and re-enter what my life was. I am scared to come back. I am scared to stay here for the full 2 years. Will I just fall back into myself? But, I have learned to cope. I have learned to not react immediately to a situation. I have learned to try to understand why someone reacts a certain way to a situation. I am learning patience. I am learning that nothing ever turns out the way you want it to, okay, maybe occassionally it does, but to be okay with it.

As far as work is conerned right now in village, things are going well. I am starting home visit sensibilisations on latrine use (i.e. how to use the EcoSan latrine, washing hands, etc.); I just finished a health coloring book; I am working on introducing solar cooking to my village (CookIt and fruit drying) and am still working with the NGO in Kpalime. I am organizing a small event in my village for World AIDS Day. I am not coming home for Christmas. I am going to Abidjan and Ghana in January. My dream is to go to Morocco before I leave. I hope I haven't cheesed anyone out with this posting. I hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving. Later my taters!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lee Greenwood's song finally makes sense...

That's right, I am finally proud to be an American. I have had so many conversations in the last few days about Obama. Every Togolese person I know, knows Barack Obama. They are really excited about him and I am speechless. I stayed up until 5 A.M. watching the coverage in Atakpame at another volunteer's house who has satellite television. I saw both his and McCain's speeches after the results came out. Ahhh. I can't wait to come home.
I recently went up to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso for an artisanal tradeshow. I had fun. But, the most important part of my trip was the food. Togo and apparently Burkina Faso are rampant with street food and snacks. I wrote down all the scrumptious snacks and have decided to list them:
1. Egg omelette sandwhich with cafe au lait: this is served pretty much throughout the day and usually has some pieces of onion and tomato chopped into it. The cafe au lait is just nescafe but with something very magical. Sweetened condensed milk. So good.
2. Sweetened black tea shots: a man with a roll cart walks around selling this in shot glasses. I think further up north, more mint would be used. This excites me.
3. Frozen coconut milk: bought this in Burkina Faso right out of the bus. It was on a stick. It cut my tongue.
4. Minty Bissap juice: Hibiscus juice with mint in a sac. Cut a hole in the sack with your front teeth and sip away.
5. Oranges, Watermelons, Boiled peanuts, Bananas: fruit right out of the bush taxi. Always fresh, always good.
6. Beans and gari: black eyed peas and toasted grated cassava. With piment (hot pepper).
7. Alagba: frozen baobab juice in a cold sac that you suck out. Tastes like apple juice.
8. Sesame bar: found more north. I thought I could only find this in Greece. I bought a bag of heart-shaped bars once again right out of the window of my bus.
9. Soy milk: frozen and in a sack. Sweet. Right out of the bus window.
10. Yellow melon: shaped like a cucumber, but tastes like honeydew.
11. Wild peanut, "arachide sauvage": tastes like a chickpea and peanut. Found this at a station heading back to my village from Atakpame.

12. The picture that I posted is from a coffee shot stand in Ouagadougou.
I am being disturbed by another volunteer right now blocking my attention from this blog, so I cannot put any concentration into this beyond listing. I am sorry. Blame David Johnston. But, these are all things I can easily get at most stops when on a bush taxi. This is why I love Togo. I guess it's like fast food, but healthier and more spontaneous because you never know what will be offered. I love you all and I am really happy that Obama won. Really happy. Later taters.