Yet another journal entry from training.
Yesterday I killed a turkey. I decided that if i wanted to eat meat I needed to know what it felt like to kill. There was something about the 'out of site, out of mind idea' with meat that just didn’t seem right.
I was in French class at a fellow PCT's house. We had classes in an outdoor circular piot (not sure the exact spelling. A piot is a round structure, sometimes with a thatched roof, other times tin, that can be found in most Togolese yards.) During the middle of class i watched as my friends host mother walked past our class carrying a fairly large turkey by its feat, its multicolored head swinging back and forth. My friend said, "Oh no! She's going to kill it!" Not wanting to pass up an opportunity for a new experience, I jumped off the wooden benches we were sitting on, and to the surprise of my teacher, ran out of class. I ran over to the clearing in the shade under a mango tree where the condemned turkey sat trapped in the firm hands of this experienced Togolese killer and asked if i could do the dead. My friends host mother, draped in her beautifully patterned panya clothes, looked up at me, smiled and said, "Why not." The two girls in my class stood up in the piot, hugged each other, and watched with faces of terror while I was handed a small black handled knife. I was a bit taken aback. When i first thought of killing a turkey I had the image in my head of a chopping block, a well sharpened hatchet and a final swift stroke of death. I paused for a minute second-guessing what i was about to do. But something gave way and I allowed her to show me how to step on its feet and wings, hold its throat, and with a final back and forth motion, how to cut its neck. I took the very much alive animal in my hands, put my left foot onto its two large wings, my right foot onto its sharply clawed feet and took its head in my hand. I looked up one last time at the smiling gentle hearted grandmother in front of me. With a final nod from her my gaze fell to my victim. I put the knife to its throat and cut.
It was not the swift chop of death that I had hoped. Instead the well used knife took a couple back and forth strokes to break through the skin.
I finally knew that I had succeeded when the dark red of blood began to pour from its neck, staining the while bowl below and my formally clean hands. I finally gave charge over the freshly killed animal to the people who were going to do the hard job of plucking, cleaning, and cooking. My job was done.
I walked back to my two friends with a dazed look on my face and a weird feeling in my belly. One of the girls walked over and handed a tissue to me. At first i didn't realize why she had done that. I then looked down at my blood-spattered right hand and understood. I cleaned the warm blood from my hands and sat down in our outdoor classroom to continue the lesson.
ps. Tomorrow is my birthday!
Yet another journal entry from training.
Posted by Aaron on 9/23/2005
The following is another private journal entry that i decided to post. I thought it was a fitting continuation to the underwear saga. It's really amazing the things that one needs to think about and worry about here. How life is different!
Earlier today i figured that with the extra time i had from the day off (happy 4th of July !) I would wash my underwear. In training they told us it was rude to give our underwear to your host family to wash.
I took that advice and went as long as I could without clean undies (and for anyone that knows me… that’s a long time!) I tried washing them in the shower, that didn’t work. They always came out stinky and weird dirty feeling.
I finally said forget it and asked if I could have the proper buckets and water to wash some clothes. One of the girls was sent to get me water. I handed her a shirt and asked her to show me how to wash clothes. She washed the shirt and I was ready to give it a try in “private” with my underwear. She went nowhere, watching as I fumbled around with my clothes. At one point another on of the little girls came over and started helping. By the end there were 4 of us all playing with my dirty under shorts. I finally gave up all together and stood back to watch all of them scrutinize every inch of cloth to insure the utmost cleanliness.
Now, as I sit here, 12 pairs of my holey boxers are hanging in the yard in plain view of everyone that passes. The sad part is that I found another 6 pairs in one of my bags and still have another 4 or 5 pairs I didn’t want to wash just out of pure shame of having enough underwear for 5 Togolese. Goodbye modesty!
Posted by Aaron on 9/15/2005
First, I just added two new posts. They are both entries into my paper journal that i thought would be fun to share. Scroll down to read them.
Second, I am half way through my 4th day at post. While my life here is amazing, it sometimes gets very tiring. Whats odd is that much of my time is down, not doing very much (you can judge that by the amount of reading i am doing... look right.)
With the help of my new guard (who is AWESOME!) I found someone who is going to clean my house, do my laundry, and wash my dishes three times a week (yes... sometimes i feel guilty at how spoiled i am... then i walk out my front door to 40 children screaming YOVO and chasing my bike.) He also helped me find a carpenter who is making me a couch, love seat, chair, desk, island for my kitchen, counter extension for my kitchen, two straight back chairs, and a desk all for around $140. I cant wait to get it all.
I must be off to buy a few things at the market. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks i will be able to post pictures. Until then, enjoy the journal entries. I miss you all!!!
I just finished showering. One would think that taking a bucket shower (which we were actually TAUGHT to do. The Peace Corps takes REALLY good care of us) would be interesting enough. This shower was made ever MORE interesting because I washed two pairs of underwear along with my body.
In Togo it is rude to give your underwear to someone else to wash. One can understand that piece of etiquette if one remembers that all clothes are washed by hand (NOT a fun thing to do! I hardly did laundry when the machine was across the hall from my room. Imagine me having to wash everything that hand!) One of the girls in my training group has a very funny story where she was trying to wash her underwear in the yard (everything is done outside) when her host brother came over to her, grabbed one of the buckets and proceeded to help. This meant him picking up each piece of her underwear, scrubbing it, and then scrutinizing it to make sure it was clean (at least he was thorough!)
One of the tricks they taught us while teaching us how to bathe ourselves was to wash our underwear at the end of our shower. It was actually very rewarding to walk back into my little room and hang up the two pairs of underwear that I had just washed with my bare hands. I think the experience was more rewarding than it was sanitary. But does that really matter?
I went to church with my host father. I really need to congratulate the missionaries to Togo. There are more Christian churches, and Christian religious expression here then I have ever seen. The fervor that these people show for worship is rivaled only by the Hassidim of Mysersharime (spelling?).
After fighting our way to a seat (the pews were crowded to the point of breaking) the service began. Before I describe the happening of worship I want to describe what the church looked like. (this is when Dad’s writing ability, Eric’s amazing photographic eye, or Katie’s amazing hand with a brush would come in handy). The building itself reminded me more of a large shed than anything else. It probably had 15 to 20 rows of pews with enough room to sit 6 comfortably (10 to 12 by Togolese standards). In the right side front three pews was the choir. Everything about the choir was normal. They had black robes with white linings around the collar. They all looked to be about the age of any choir you might find in small town US. The one striking difference was the mortar boards they all wore. Having just graduated myself, I at first thought that this group had just graduated and were now being honored by the church. It took me a good ten minutes to realize that this was actually the choir. I’m not sure who the first person was to give these hats (which in my opinion are odd even at a graduation) to this group of singing old Togolese ladies. It sure as heck got my attention!
In the pews on the other side of the graduating choir sat the band. There was also an organ and organist in the front. But why use an organ when you have a band? The band consisted of the same band (I think) that greeted us on our arrival in town. There was a trombone, some sort of trumpet like thing, a snare drum, bass drum, and a couple other instruments that made sounds that were eventually drowned out. The first hymn was started by the organ. After the normal intro so everyone can get the melody the band (drums and all) struck up their driving cacophonic sound. Add to this the graduating choir of grandmothers, and you have quite a sight and sound!
The service lasted three hours. This time included: a skit in Eve (local language) that I did not understand but got everyone else laughing and cheering, about 15 to 20 (I’m not kidding) songs some of which included African drums and people (including me) dancing in the isles and in the pews, a few sermons, an auction for different vegetables and food stuffs, and more dancing.
It is really amazing to be in a place that actually practices religion. It is such a contrast to the anti-religion preached by so many in the US and Europe. I sat in the church thinking about the devotion these people showed. I saw just how happy everyone was dispite the fact that probably only 1/5th of them had electricity and none of them running water. I keep asking myself how much of America I wish for them.