My Response

I would like to start this entry by saying thank you to everyone in the School 54 Room 29, 5th grade class from Indianapolis, Indiana. Your letters were wonderful! Thank you also for all of your birthday wishes. Maybe sometime soon we can celebrate together.

You all asked so many great questions. I have gone through all of your letters and picked a few questions that I will answer. I'm sorry I can't answer each one individually.

Traci asks, 'What clothes do people there wear?'
Everything about Africa, including the clothes, is bright and filled with wonderful colors. Most clothing is made from a long piece of cloth called a 'pagne.' Pagnes are usually filled with very brightly colored designs; vibrant greens, oranges, blues and many others like you cant't find in America. Women usually wear dresses made from the clothe and often times wrap their hair in another piece. Men have button down short sleeve shirts and pants made. When i got here I thought all the men were wearing pajamas! Imagine walking down the street surrounded by people wrapped in all the colors of the rainbow. It's very beautiful.

Denisha writes, 'I bet you are between the ages of 20 and 50.'
You are exactly right! I actually just turned 23.

Annie says, 'One thing I still don't know is what a circular piot the class was sitting in.'
I'm sorry I didn't explain that more fully. A piot (I am not sure I am spelling that correctly) is something that you find in most people's front yards here. Imagine a round hut with no walls and a roof made of long dried grass. They are wonderful in letting in a nice breeze when it is very hot outside.

Justin Evans asks, 'Was it easy to kill an animal ?'
In response to many of your questions and comments, no, it was not easy to kill the Turkey. I did not do it for the pleasure of killing. I did it to help better understand the people I live around. Every day I go out and try to expierence the life that the Togolese live. I try to never pass up an oportunity, no matter how difficult it might be, to understand this culture a little bit better. While I am glad I did what I did, I hope to never have to do it again.

Neechelle James asks two questions, 'Do you stay there all day and night.' And, 'What is a PCT.'
First, yes, I live in Togo where I stay all day and all night. My job requires me to be here for a little over 2 years. I have a very nice house with a wonderful cat named Oliver. I work during the day and then go home to garden, read and sleep at night. Second, PCT stands for 'Peace Corps Trainee.' While I was in training for my job I was a PCT. Now that I have completed the training and started working I am a PCV, Peace Corps Volunteer.

Malik write, 'Are there a lot of animals there ?'
Sadly Malik, most animals have been killed from over hunting and loss of places to live. The only animals I see are lizards (TONS of them in my yard!), bugs (more ants than you could EVER count. If I leave a tiny piece of food on my kitchen counter I will have a swarm of ants all over my kitchen within 15 mintues.), few birds, the three egg laying chickens I have, and my cat. There is a nature reserve about an hour away from me where there are monkeys, a few elephants, and a couple other types of animals. I am hoping with the next month or so to camp across the park with some friends. I will make sure to let you know how that goes. But overall, no, there are not a lot of animals here.

And finally, Brandy asks, 'Why do you like to go around the world so much?'
Oh Brandy, what a wonderful question! There is so much to see in this world. I can not sit in one place for long knowing that I am missing so many beautiful sites and not meeting so many interesting people. Every night I sit on my roof watching the giant red and orange African sun set behind the many palm trees in my yard. If you could look up and see the colors shooting across the sky, playing in and out of the full white clouds with the giant ocean of blue behind it, you would understand why I do what I do. My breath is taken away every night and I say to myself, 'This is amazing.'

Thank you all so much for your letters. They made me smile in the middle of a very difficult day. Please feel free to write any time.


The Village

I just got back from spending the weekend with a fellow volunteer who lives in a village about 40k from me. Our time together was amazing.

When I joined the Peace Corps I really wanted to live in a small village: no electricity, no running water, the works. This is how my friend lives. It is awesome!

We made dinner by lantern light. I sat and jotted in my notebook by the light from a candle stuck in an old bottle of Baileys with mounds of wax stuck to the sides. I stood on her front porch watching the sun set to my right and the harvest moon rise through the trees to my left. It was beautiful!

Her village is perfect! During the day we wandered on dirt paths through tall grasses and fields, passing beneath trees ten feet around, with giant knobs that have to be hundreds of years old. We wandered along paths, our feet getting dirtier with each step, until we came into clearings where women, wearing only brightly colored pagnes around their waists, their large pendulous breasts swinging freely, would be grinding corn to make dinner. Their families would be sitting in circles around them talking. There was somthing wonderful about the family and group dynamic that I sometimes find missing in my culture.

The second day we went into a large town about 18k away. The first thing we did there was have egg sandwiches. It is amazing how wonderful protein is, and how much I crave it after a diet of carbs and tons of veggies. We sat in a small plywood shack around a low counter piled high with empty Nescafe cans, and watched the omelet guy take eggs from a two foot tall stack of flats, crack them, and perfectly fry these wonderful protein filled snacks.

Later we went to a bar and drank cold beer. Simply put, a cold drink is an amazing treat. I cannot even begin to express the pure joy of pressing a frosty glass of freshly poured beer to my lips, then feeling it run into my mouth and onto my tongue, and on down my parched throat. Heaven! What I usually drink, day after day, is warm water tasting of bleach (2 drops for every liter of water kills everything in the water). My friend and I let out the same expression of ecstasy after our first taste. Something that in the past could have given me nothing more than a slight rise or invoked only a small response, now brings to a head all the joy and happiness inside me.

Thought i would throw in another quick update with a few more pictures. The computer I am working on is going buggy and I cant arrange the pictures how i want them. I will describe them and you will need to match the description up with the picture (shouldn't be too hard...)

One picture is of me and my host family during training. For all of you that have never met me... I'm the one with red hair.

The second picture is the path that lead to my house during training. I remember walking up it the first time and thinking, 'I really am in Africa.'

As I promised for so long and have recieved countless emails requesting, here is a picture of my cat, Oliver. He's grown a little bit since then, but still is tiny and a bundle of energy.

Another picture is the front and left side of my house. My entire house is AMAZING! So much space, wonderful outside area, and i have chickens.

Finally, the picture of me holding the baby is a perfect example of localy made clothing. I bought the clothe, gave it to a tailor, and finally got that outfit (that later became known as the 'tiger suit'). The little girl I am holding is my host little sister. She was AMAZING! I think i mentioned that her fourth word was 'Aaron.' Ya, that'll make you cry. I promise. (and if that doesn't: having her pee on your leg for a second time, this time during a party while you are proudly showing off your new 'tiger suit', will.)

Until next time...

Few updates

Wanted to do a quick update as I have two longer entries that I am working on. Hopefully they will be posted in the not too distant future.

Few new things in my life...

I recently purchased three chickens to lay eggs. I asked my guard (who now has also taken on the role of game keeper) to find me three young hens who will be able to supply me with eggs. The next day he brought back three not too happy looking (you wouldnt be happy either if you were just carried upside down by your feet on a sooter!) when he came to work at 7pm. They are safely installed in one of the small rooms that are built towards the back of my yard. It's a funny thought knowing that I actually own chickens. Who'd a thunk it?

With this idea of Aaron the amazing farmer in your head...

I also dug my first garden. I can not begin to express just how satisfying it was to be working under the hot African sun, the sweat dripping from my bare back into the dirt I was turning over. Half of my garden are herbes (basil, thyme, marjoram, dill, oregano) and the other half is veggies (tomatoes, cabbage, green beans). Im very excited to watch their growth.

Oliver, my cat, is doing very well. Its so nice to come home and have something there that is excited to see me.

I have also jumped head first into work. I'm working every day at a shcool helping to develope a computer course that I will be helping teach. Everyone at the school is very excited and wonderful to work with. I am also putting in a lot of time at a local NGO doing computer work, small project advising and basic organizational development. Along with that I have a number of other small projects mostly consisting of playing an advisor role to a couple small business owners, a guy making a tour guide of my town, and another person who wants help training market women. This is really a full time job.

This morning I was up bright and early at 4:45am and tonight will probably go to bed by 8 or 8:30pm after feeding my chickens, doing a little gardening and reading. Did i just graduate college or retire?

Until later...


I finally got a chance to put pictures online. I cant begin to express just how much work it has been getting them on here. Phew!

A problem I have run into over the years in expressing stories of my travels is a lack of identification. If you have never seen or expeirenced something like what is being described, you have no basis to form an image in your mind. I hope these photos will give you a better idea of what my life here looks like. And a little help in picturing what i am going through.

The picture to the left is me and my host father during training 'making' fufu. In short fufu is either slices of cooked manioc or yam that is then 'piled' (pronounced 'pee-layed') into a ball of what looks to be dough. It always comes with a bowl of sauce with a possible few chunks of meat floating in it. You then use your hands to scoop out a handful of the fufu, dip it in the sauce, and put it in your mouth. Many PCVs hate the stuff. I love it!

The picture to the left is the house that i lived in during training. This is a very typical house in Togo (Albeit a little bit bigger and with grass... NO ONE has grass. Just dirt.) The door to my little room is on the far right. I can not count the number of hours that i spent sitting in the yard, trying as hard as i could to hide myself under the small palm tree from the evil evil sun.

Notice the beautiful blue sky, the amazingly green grass, and the perfectly african trees in the background. I love this place!

This is a picture of the fateful 'day of the washed undies.' Notice the three girls having a grand old time playing in places no one should dare tread. Also, try to see theamount of already washed underwear hanging on te lines. Modesty? Who needs modesty?

This picture also shows how clothes are washed. Notice the number of basins and buckets. While i have only washed around 3 or 4 articles of clothing myself I am no expert. What i have thus far gathered is the clothes are first put in a tub with soap and water where they are worked through the hands scrubbing the clothe against itself. It is then rinsed in much the same fashion. The entire process is repeated with article of clothing finally being hung to dry. Too much work for someone who could hardly walk across the hall, put my clothes in a machine and press start.

Alright, this has taken me close 1.5 hours to post the three pictures. Next time i will post more pictures (including one of my cat Oliver. Be excited!)

I must be off as i have work to do. One of my potential jobs is working with a school that has 10 VERY old computers. They have a basic computer program that they are hoping, with my help, to improve.

Off to save the world! :)