After two weeks in Goudévé, Saturday I will be heading back to training for another month. The last month of training is health specific and all done in French to prepare us to start working at site after we swear in.
The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. I have been working to get to know people in the community and talking with community leaders to understand the health needs of the community. I met with the Chief of the village, the Medical Assistant at the Clinic, the Village Elders, and with my work partners to discuss what they want to work on in the community. There are a few things that every person I talked to mentioned; there isn’t access to potable water, the prevalence of malaria is too high, there aren’t enough women giving birth at the clinic and the infection rate is high for women giving birth at home without assistance. What I am interested to look further into is why are women not going to the clinic? and what are the barriers to using government administered bed nets to reduce malaria prevention? Karim, one of my homologues, whom is also my host Dad, wants to start an animal husbandry project with goats to improve nutrition and as an economic opportunity for the co-operative he started that provides jobs to disabled people in the community.
Yesterday I spent the day working with my other homologue, Emmanuel, we did home visits to women with HIV to check on them and give them their next weeks ARV medications. There is a lot of discrimination towards women with HIV so it is important to be discreet when visiting them. Talking with the women was amazing and exactly the reminder I needed that I am exactly where I should be. There is so much work to be done here and I am really looking forward to coming back at the end of August to get to work.
I am a replacement so I was able to spend some time with the previous volunteer and hear about the work she did over the past two years. She rebuilt the clinic because the roof was falling in before and it was reassuring to see someone who has had a successful service. We also went down to Kpalimé to go to the larger grocery store so I could buy some necessities like coffee, honey, olive oil, and cookies. There isn’t much variety in food in my village, mostly corn, corn, or corn, so I am happy that I’m only about a 45 minute moto ride away from Kpalimé. Pretty much all of my travel in country will be by moto as cars are not often seen and gas can be expensive and sometimes completely unavailable. I am not allowed to ride a moto on the national highway that runs from Lomé to Daopong or in Lomé because it isn’t safe. Riding on a moto a first sounded like the most terrifying part of living in Togo. Since there are neither ambulances nor fully equipped hospitals near my house the idea of a possible moto accident, which is completely out of my control, sounds a lot scarier than things that I have control over like taking my prophylaxis for malaria or boiling and filtering my water. I try to go out of my way to pick a moto driver that is wearing a helmet in hopes that it means he cares a little more about his safety and therefore I will be a little safer and I of course always wear mine. I’ve really started to enjoy the moto rides though, because I can listen to music and look at the beautiful mountains, and it is one of the few moments I get to myself. Going to Kpalimé with the other volunteers is going to be a fantastic break from village life. There is an amazing Belgian restaurant with fantastic owners as well as beautiful waterfall hikes to visit.
I did my introduction to the community today where I introduced the goals of the Peace Corps and the goals of health volunteers. I did a pretty fantastic introduction of myself in Ewe, which made a great first impression with the elders. Then I described my background and where I am from. Pretty much no one knows where Seattle is so I describe the beautiful North West. If I say that I live in Washington State I get asked if I know Obama, and I have to explain that Washington State is different than Washington DC. I then had all the usual questions that I get asked, “Are you married? Why did your husband let you come here alone?” and my favorite “I have a friend named blah blah who lives in Chicago, do you know her?” After all the questions my homologue explained to the community that my name is Aimee and they cannot call me “Yovo” and the community gave me my Togolese name, which is based off the day you are born and since I was born on a Tuesday my Togolese name is Abrina. I will probably never be able to respond to it, but I am happy that I won’t get Yovo shouted at me everywhere I go; it feels like being called Mudblood. Someone asked me if they went to the US if everyone would point and shout at them “black person”, like how everyone points and shouts at me “yovo (white person)” and I said no, that would be very rude for someone to do and in many parts of the US there is so much diversity that you would go un noticed as people in the US do not greet every person they see on the street like you do here. He didn’t believe me.
After a very dusty 7 hour bush taxi ride starting at 3:30 this morning I am back at the training site to finish up my last month as a Peace Corps Trainee!
Some pictures from my village! My school and market.