Remember wherever you go, there you are.

Before I left, Taylor made a book for me that all my friends and family wrote letters in for me to read when I got to Togo. I saved them, trying to only read them on my worst days. I read it almost every night in the beginning, thinking of all my friends and family and wondering what I was missing out on. I loved when I got a chance to be on Facebook and see pictures of my friends at restaurants and Taylor hiking with our dogs. Now it’s Fall and it’s honestly a little confusing to see pictures of friends wrapped up in scarves, drinking pumpkin spice lattes, when it’s over 100 degrees here at 7am, but something has changed. It no longer feels like the life I’m missing out on, because my life is here. After 5 months, I feel like I’m really here, work is getting going and my house feels like home with the latrine, the lizards, and the cooking by candles shoved into used wine bottles. It’s hard to relate to daily life of friends and family at home and see people complain on Facebook about the traffic or the rain. It just feels so different from the complaining I do here about the lack of resources for projects and the cobra in my latrine. It’s difficult because I know it will only feel more foreign as we move into the holidays and I watch holiday consumerism from such a different perspective. For the last few years my family has chosen to do something fun together instead of taking part in consumerism, which I love because going to the mall after November 1 was my worst nightmare. From here though the holidays seem like a completely alien idea. (Or at least the shopping part does, I would love the chance to sit with family and friends and eat a ton of food.) There is so little consumerism in my little village because of a lack of means, but even for the few packaged things you can buy, there is the issue of waste. There are no proper waste receptacles or ways to dispose of packaging unless it can be burnt. Things that can’t be burnt are given other uses like the gas stations that sell gas out of used liquor bottles or all the kids toys are made out of washed out tomato cans. American consumerism would be ridiculous here and is not something I think should spread. It’s rather that these are things we should think about when buying a new iPhone, car, computer or pair of shoes on Black Friday. Where are these things coming from? Where do they end up? It’s a joke between Peace Corps Volunteers that a bush taxi here is a skeleton of a van that could be 40 years old with holes in the floor and has to be pushed by all the passengers to get it started. The mechanics here are going to keep it running for another 40 years, but if you had that thing in the U.S. a mechanic would tell you to buy a new car. The clothing I buy here, other than pagne, is bought from the market. It’s clothing shipped over from Goodwill and other used clothing stores in the U.S. and Europe. It’s then bought by the palate in the shipping yards without knowing what’s inside. Then brought to village on a bush taxi to be sold in piles at the market. These stalls are called ‘dead yovo’ because Togolese don’t know why you would get rid of perfectly good clothing unless the person had died. I honestly can’t even bring myself to tell people that in reality these are just clothes that are a few years out of date and therefore given away to ‘charity’. When in reality most of it is sold to people like Rachida who sell them in places like the Goudévé market for about $0.30 a shirt.

A net is cast and then three days later  the fishermen come back to drag it out of the water. There is a man also swimming in the water making sure fish don’t escape the net while the other fishermen drag it in. 
There are some things I can still relate to at home. One is my education from UW, I miss learning in a formal context, and so many things my Professors said are relatable to everything I do here (I studied a lot of global health so not a big surprise). Then there are a few things written in that book Taylor gave me that run through my head every day here. One was written by my sister, “even though the world is different where you are, we are still under the same moon and sun”. It’s the mantra I repeat every day to feel a little closer to the life I lived in Seattle. The other is from Emma, “and no matter how weird things get, there will always be tea, chocolate, and dogs”. I think this after work everyday as I reflect on what I’m doing and the frustrations I face, while I enjoy a cup of tea and chocolate under my grass covered porch with my dog.

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2 thoughts on “Remember wherever you go, there you are.

  1. Hi, Aimee! I’m am Kendra Davis’ mother and an RPCV. It’s amazing how little the PC experience in West Africa has changed over 40 years! I could have written about so many of the same experiences, thoughts and emotions. In the last few days before she departed, when I gave Kendra words of wisdom and parting instructions on keeping safe from snakes (which she claims there are none of in her area) and disease and the importance of covering your legs and blending, always blending…never standing out as an American, there were a few things I held back. And one of them was, that she would never be the same, in a way so profound, that she might never feel truly at home again. I think all PCVs/RPCVs have a foot in at least two nations, and never truly feel at home in any. For me, and probably most others, that’s not a bad thing. Just how it is. And you are right about how difficult or impossible it is to explain Africa to Americans. Loved Poisonwood Bible. But there is no road along the coast of West Africa. And soldier/army ants move in columns, not overtaking villages. Keep up the great work –love your blog posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is so good to hear from you! I have heard so much about you! Kendra was my room mate in Philly and Lomé and we had all our language training together! I couldn’t agree more with what you said it feels like a constant struggle to fit in here and to try and fully convey everything that happens here to friends and family at home. I hope to meet you when you visit!

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