My adventures serving in the Peace Corps

Saturday, February 13, 2010

No more Ghana, thanks to Togo

Yep, you read it right... vacation #2 that's been canceled! At least the first one was my choice. Here's the story: I heard a rumor that Togo's presidential elections were coming up, and that the border might be closed for a day or two around election time, so I called up Peace Corps to ask about it. After (and ONLY after) this inquiry did they tell us that the 2005 Togolese elections went badly and they fear that the same will happen again this year, possibly resulting in violence or civil unrest... so they are forbidding all travel to Togo from February 22 to March 14. (For those of you who are a bit fuzzy on the geography, Togo is a tiny country smushed in between Ghana and Benin, and one that you have to drive through for a grand total of about one hour in order to get to Ghana from here.) So, after having booked all the hotels and scheduling my visit to meet the brasscasters that I studied in college, I had to turn right back around and cancel it all. I have been feeling a bit claustrophobic in Benin lately and was really looking forward to this vacation, but c'est la vie I suppose. The good news is that we are probably able to reschedule our trip for the April school break, right around Easter. I'm still going to make the best out of this week off of school by going up north to visit Boukoumbe and the tata sombas, these cool multi-story houses that a certain ethnic group builds in the mountains. I'm also going to finally visit the palace of Abomey, which is one of the top ten west African tourist attractions and is less than two hours from my village, but for some reason I haven't visited yet. The palace was the seat of the kings of Dahomey, one of the most powerful kingdoms in west Africa for hundreds of years, and one of the kingdoms that willingly sold it's people into slavery. These kings were known for their brutality, and much of the palace is built out of the bones of people that they killed. Should be interesting!
So last Sunday Brigitte came back to post with me, and chose the striped brownish-greyish kitten to take home with her. The kittens were not at all afraid of her, so that was a good sign. It was sad putting the poor thing in a box, though, as it immediately started freaking out and crying, and it had a long journey ahead of it. I've spoken to her since, and she says that it's doing really well at her post now! I still have the second kitten, which my colleague will take in about a week. Though it's sad to give them away, I think my cats are both already in heat again, so I'm sure I'll have some more kittens before leaving Benin. The kitten that I still have has some intestinal worms (pretty normal for kittens), so I have to take care of that this week.
I guess the biggest news for the week is the continuation of these awful power outages. Sunday night, the power went off just before 7pm and didn't come back on for over 12 hours, so I slept outside with Angele the whole night. I thought that I would not feel at ease and would be uncomfortable sleeping on the cement all night, but it was really fine. Not to mention beautiful under the stars and almost a bit chilly! The same thing happened on Thursday night. The other nights the power would go off from about 7-10, but then would be on for most of the night, so I was able to sleep with a fan. For those of you reading this, don't worry! We lock the gate and my concession has a very high wall, and I feel completely safe doing it. I would never do it alone, either. Another obnoxious thing is that when they cut the electricity, the water pumps stop working too, so water is hard to come by, especially since many of the wells are dry now since it is dry season. It's also difficult to keep my phone and other electronics charged. On top of all of this fun stuff, I found another brown widow spider in my back area, joy. All in all making my life a lot more difficult than it already is and I really hope it ends soon!
Hilarious story about sleeping outside: so Thursday night, I woke up in the middle of the night to feel a warm body pressed up against me, and assumed it was Fifa or Mariam who had moved outside to sleep with us. When I reached out to put my arm around it, I discovered it was a goat! A full grown, hairy goat, literally spooning me. As cute as it was, I'm sure that these goats aren't the cleanest creatures, so I tried to shove it away, and it wouldn't budge! I was literally shaking it with all my might and smacking it hard, and it wouldn't move! I finally got it to move when I hit it over the head with a stick, poor thing. So, wake up and hour later... only to find it is there again, this time with one paw resting on my back! Shoved it away yet again. I woke up two more times during the night and it was STILL there, one time with its face nuzzled right into my shoulder! I finally gave up trying to move it and let it cuddle with me. Now THERE'S a problem that campers in America don't have...
School was fine this week, just gave the kids their grades and put them all in the gradebooks and report cards. Teachers were on strike, so I was one of the only teachers holding class, which I'm sure that my students just loved. I'm also holding class this coming week (the last one of the semester) while most other teachers are just fillng out grade books, so my students must be doubly happy :) We had a small but interesting English department meeting this week, during which the other teachers asked me many questions about American culture, including "How much does a girl cost?" (referring to a dowry), and "Since you are a woman, will you inherit your father's land one day? Surely not?" It was a good discussion, though. After all, that's why I'm here!
As I said, one more week of school, then I'll spend a few days at post before heading off on my mini vacation. Thanks for all the contributions to Camp GLOW, we only need about $1300 still! Good luck surviving the huge dumpings of snow you're getting and pray that my electricity will return to normal!


Catherine said...

Well I never thought I would beat Carly's dad to commenting! :) How come goats run away from us in the daylight then??? Too bad it wasn't a cutie patootie baby goat. that really is TOO funny though. And I can NOT believe it about Togo. Dude, with all of our online chatting my letter to you will be so old news by the time you get it. You sound good! I miss you so much! Stay cool!

Love, Cat

loehrke said...

Well played, Catherine, well played.
Here's my theory on the goat: maybe it's a handsome prince and all you need to do is kiss it!!! Or maybe it's a satyr. The mind reels.
So sad about Ghana; hope it works out in April. That will be closer to the world cup so it should be even BETTER then!!!
Be careful with that sleeping outside. I don't like it.
Stay happy and I'll try and stay QUICK!!!,
Mark Loehrke (Carly's dad)

Brenda said...

Catching up Angelina....I LOVE this goat story! How funny. More to read....