Sometimes PC training feels like the Dauntless faction training from Divergent. Some days it feels like you’re being pushed to the edge to determine if you will stick it out for the next two years in Togo.
It’s rainy season in the Maritime region of Togo and this week I got to experience infrastructure challenges in Togo that affect access. For many people this could be access to health care, access to the market to sell or buy goods, or access to education for children. It is not uncommon for schools to be cancelled on days with heavy rain, much like we have snow days in he US. The roads can become completely impassable; riding my bike in a downpour is incredibly difficult because the mud gets so thick that I can’t turn the wheels easily and cars get stuck in the thick mud. There are also huge potholes that fill with water and could be detrimental to pass through.
On Thursday, we had class in the neighboring town with all the Peace Corps Trainees and it began to downpour. I had of course chosen to bike to the PC training that day and really needed my bike to get to school the next day since I live about a 30 minute bike ride away. It wasn’t going to be possible for me to bike home in the heavy rain so I asked to put my bike on top of the van. We finished up our language class and were getting ready to go home when the PC van got stuck in the mud outside the Peace Corps Training house. Everyone went down to push the van out of the hole and it was a success. The van loaded up with the Education Volunteers and brought them home. It was starting to get dark at this point and when the van returned to get us (the Health Volunteers), who live in a different town, it was already 7pm, long after the time I usually get home. We loaded up the van and put my bike on top and head home. About half way there we got stuck in a pothole. We all got out of the van and began to push, fortunately the rain had lightened up, but it was completely dark at this point. We pushed the van and the axel broke. We stood there laughing at how unfortunate this moment was, and discussed how this would be a pretty scary moment if we weren’t all together and were instead travelling alone in a bush taxi. This is definitely why Peace Corps Volunteers aren’t allowed to travel at night.
Fortunately, there are 2 Peace Corps drivers so we called Alphonse (seriously this guy is so amazing) and he came to pick us up. All 9 of us loaded into the Land Rover and I put my bike on top of the car. Alphonse went out of his way to drop each one of us at our doorstep. For Ashiana and I, this is pretty challenging because we live pretty far away from everyone and there is construction on the road by our house, but Alphonse was determined to take us to our homes. It was quite the adventure and the next morning there was a couple feet of standing water in the lower areas, but I had to bike to school so I got on my bike and went on my way. It wasn’t too bad, but by the time I got to class I was covered in mud.
Saturday was Fourth of July and since we work for the US Government the Peace Corps gave us the day off, helped us plan a party, and told us we could all sleep at the PC Training house. We were all so excited; the PC Staff had even found American snacks for us from Lomé. Saturday rolls around and I woke up with a stomachache. I pretty much never get stomach bugs and when I travel I often eat many things that should make me sick, but I never do, so I figured I would be fine to go to the party anyway. Stomach problems is an inherent part of being a PCV and I figured I should just go enjoy the party and I could always come home if I didn’t want to spend the night. I biked over to my friend Paige’s house and we made Sangria with fresh fruit and wine we found at the Marché. Then we biked over to the PC house, which is in total about an hour bike ride from my house. We had a great time, but my stomach was really hurting so I decided to only drink water and a couple hours in I knew I needed to go home for the night. I called Alphonse and he came to pick me up. He drove me to my house with my bike again. I got out of the car and puked all over the doorstep, not my finest moment, but I was really happy it wasn’t in the car. A crowd of kids gathered shouting “Regardez le Yovo!”, look at the white person. Alphonse asked me if I wanted to go to the doctor in Lomé and I said I would be fine. I went to bed, but it was a long night. Alphonse came back this morning to ask me if I was doing ok. I told him I couldn’t keep water down and he said he would bring me to Lomé tonight if I can’t keep water down still. Fortunately, I am starting to feel better, but it is so great having so much support from the Peace Corps.
My host Mom has also been amazing. She was so afraid that I would want to go back to the US because I got sick. I had to keep telling her that she had done nothing wrong and I wasn’t going to go back to the US just because I was sick. She demanded to sleep outside my room in case I needed her. She is really wonderful and continuously goes out of her way to make life here a little easier for me.
This is how one uses an oven in Togo, not sure if the picture uploaded