Thanksgiving and Elephants

It has been a whirlwind two weeks.

Two weeks ago I left my village for a week long training in the Centrale region. Centrale was beautiful, more grasslands and a drier climate. It’s currently harmattan up North with winds coming down from the Sahara. It causes cold nights and hot, dusty days. You are constantly covered in a thick layer of dust all day and the air is so dry your skin cracks and your hair feels like straw.

The conference was great and I got a lot of great project ideas that I am looking forward to starting in the next few months. December 1 is world AIDS day and will be working at the Croix Rouge (Red Cross) doing HIV tests and education. I will be dedicating the month of December to HIV education and visiting all the schools in my district to encourage testing and educate safe behaviors. There are a lot of misconceptions and stigmas against HIV patients, for example that HIV is spread through Mosquitos or by sharing food. As well as the HIV work this month I will be starting to lay the groundwork for big projects that I will be starting after our counterpart training in February. More to come on those as I develop them.

Men as Partners training- educating men to be advocates for women and girls health and education. 

  
After training, I went to Kara with some friends to see elephants! We went to an animal sanctuary that had 3 beautiful elephants that we were able to feed bananas and play with. They are such gentle giants with a sense of humor, they kept taking my water bottle and put their trunks into my purse. Such an amazing experience and it’s sad to think how many elephants in Togo and around the world have been killed for their tusks. 
After the elephants we continued on to Paige’s village to spend a few days relaxing before thanksgiving. I ended up getting incredibly sick and spent most of my time there in her latrine. It is apparently pretty common to get sick in Pagala from the food, which means I will be bringing granola bars next time. 

  
Bapure is in West Kara, a very difficult part of the country to get to with wonderful, kind people. The education level there seemed much higher than in my village with everyone able to speak French and many people able to speak English. We talked to an English class one morning about thanksgiving and the kids were able to ask us questions about the U.S. They asked very insightful questions about the elections in the U.S., democracy, the rights of women, the culture, and climate. I was really impressed with their ability to speak English and articulate questions. Some of my favorites were:

What is the local language you speak in the U.S.?

Can women own land in the U.S.?

What is the education system like in the U.S.?

What is the mode of transportation in the U.S.?
Such a wonderful experience to see another part of Togo and spend time with friends.

From Bapure we went to Bassar for Thanksgiving with about 50 volunteers. We rented out a house to cook an unbelievably delicious meal. It started with 2 live turkeys and many live rabbits that had to be killed and prepared.

  
Overall, a fantastic meal and fortunately I had cipro to make eating a possibility. Before dinner we did a circle of thanks where we all said what we are thankful for and there are just so many things. I am so thankful for the endless support I get from home, from my family and from Taylor and his family. From my friends at home, as well as the other PCVs here. My Togolese friends and family that are so welcoming and kind that I feel completely at home in Togo. I am thankful for medicine in a place where my health and the health of those around me seems to be a constant struggle. I am thankful for water, something I easily took for granted in Seattle, but in dry season here is an invaluable necessity. I am thankful for my job that I love, where I am challenged every day. I am thankful for food that has become scarce in dry season. There is so much to be thankful for that I can’t even describe. I hope everyone stops to be thankful for the little things that are often taken for granted. As another volunteer put it when I told her that thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, it’s funny how a holiday that started as something horrible has turned into this beautiful holiday, where as Christmas has pretty much done the opposite. 
I arrived back in village Friday evening. I am continuously amazed by how misrealble travel is within Togo. I left Bassar at 6 am and didn’t get home until 7 pm, when it’s probably about the distance from Seattle to Vancouver. I took 2 different bush taxis, the first one got a flat tire and a moto. The moto got a flat tire about 20 km from my village so we had to walk back 5 km to the last village to get it fixed. After 2 hours of waiting for it to get fixed it was dark and we continued on the horrible road in the dark, which was pretty scary without a working head light. It is so good to be home and itfelt good that when I got to my house I instantly felt like I was home.

  C v
I went back to work Saturday for kids club in the morning. There was a Croix Rouge first response meeting that I went to observe and then met with the directors afterwards to talk about World AIDS day on Tuesday. I have had everyone in village come to my house to welcome me back after my two weeks away, which has made me feel really good about being back. It has also made me realize just how hard it will be to leave at the end of the two years.

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