This may go without saying, but Mark's visit has gotten steadily better over the past 12 days. (He has put all the photos he has taken so far on his website, but has not yet organized them.) We were too paranoid to enjoy Lomé much, but the Northern Togolese have proved to be nothing other than the wonderful hosts I knew they would be. For the record, they too are outraged when they hear what happened to us. When I was still bandaged up, everybody asked me whether I had fallen off my bike, so I told them the story. The first thing they would sigh was, "Oh, no, your brother will have bad memories of Togo." After I told a lady in the taxi on our way up from Lomé, she said with partial disbelief and total sorrow, "he (the thief) did it on purpose." She then translated my story into Mina for all the other passengers. We could tell when she got to the punch because there was a chorus of, "Ohhhh!"s. And people telling us to take heart/courage. One of my strategies for long bushtaxi rides is to convince one of the motherly looking ladies to adopt me--if a Marché Maman is looking after you, she'll make sure you don't get cheated on the route. Well that day, the whole car adopted us and kept checking to be sure we were OK.
We didn't do much in the week that we have been back upcountry because of the daily downpours. I discovered that my garden failed for the third-and-a-half time. C'est la vie. I am beginning (and only beginning) to question my effectiveness as a Natural Resourses Management Volunteer if I can't even manage the resources that are supposed to yield food. Well, I am being a little hard on myself; there are some tomatoes growing. And I loooovvee tomatoes.
We also discovered that another 6-foot section of my shower wall fell down because of the rain. The shower is not private from my backyard anymore, but nobody goes back there but me. It's kind of funny, actually, to have to hide behind a four-foot-wide chunk of mud in order to bathe. Ah, yet another reason to shower at night when you can stargaze at the same time.
We also started an English club when some middle- and highschool students approached us with the idea. On our first day, I just wanted to get a feel for what the students already knew and what they found difficult. They let me know that they needed help with "idiomatic expressions, irregular verbs, translation into French, and mastering the grammar." Ah, bon. It turns out that I have committed myself to something a little more challenging than I had expected, but I am really impressed with their aspirations and hope I can help them out. So far we have had three club meetings and have planned to keep up a schedule when school starts in two weeks.
Along that vein, I would like to send a shout out to the good people of Deutsche Welle Radio, the German international station. I was listening to their English program back in June and heard an offer for free German-language books. So I wrote them and explained that I am a development worker in Togo who would like to start a German club in my village for those kids who are going into ninth grade (those students who choose the Bac Série A track have to learn German), and they sent me TEN COPIES of language guides One through Four! Forty books, plus the audiocassettes to accompany them. Wow, DW radio, and all the fine German taxpayers who support it, rock.
Now, you may point out that I only know, like, three terms in German. Kate just taught me one [Schadenfreude] that means "spiteful laughter at someone else's expense" (it disturbs me that I haven't forgotten that one yet), one [Wissenschaft] that means science (which is what German theologians are always trying to prove theology is) and "Baden Verboten!" which I ignore as I run past the sign and canonball into the pool at the bottom of Bafilo's waterfall. You might point out that I am, all things considered, NOT qualified to start a German club, but I would contest that I am not really qualified to start any sort of club, and yet I do anyway. I mean, after speaking slow, deliberate English for an hour on Friday, I actually said the word "good-er." Oops. Thankfully, I was not around any of the students. Really, if my job were to impart my knowledge to the village, I could finish in a week or so. Since they stick me here for a full two years, I figure my job is to bring resources to the village. And I've got a tape player and forty brand-spankin' new German manuals. Wish me luck. (But don't expect too much--I've been learning French for almost ten years and still haven't figured it out. Don't go thinking I'll learn German before I get back to the States!)
One of the things Mark helped me do is relocate a cat from a former PCV's house to my house. Stephanie recently left Togo for the States, and since I have a huge mouse problem (actually, small mice, but lots of them), I inherited her cat Adadi. I first thougth the cat's name was "Oddity," but it actually means "cat" in Ewé. My family was convinced that "Adadi" meant "dog" in Ewé, but, then again, they don't speak much Ewé.
Unfortunately, just a couple of days after typing an update about my new cat, Adadi passed away. It's too bad, because he was a sweet cat. I am not really sure what happened, but it was something internal--no part of his body seemed to hurt, but he was obviously uncomfortable for a couple of days.
The good news is that I hadn't really gotten attached to the cat. After losing the feline love of my life Maya, I promised myself I wouldn't get too attached again. Plus, Adadi and I didn't really hit it off extremely well. I feel guilty for saying that, but I can cite irreconcilable differences. Mainly, I am--what did Greer call me?--compulsive about cleaning my floor; Adadi was compulsive about peeing on my floor. Plus, I was highly allergic to the cat and spent a couple of days sneezing violently and clawing at my itchy eyes. It was miserable.
So, two cats and a lizard have not panned out too well. On the way back from Bafilo, I saw a chameleon on the road. I wrapped him in Mark's rainjacket and brought him home. I thought it would be a little inhumane to keep him in my house, since he is a wild animal, but anyone will attest that the Rustic is hardly a house that keeps out the outdoors outdoors. I asked one neighbor whether the chameleon would live if I kept him in my house. He said that, so long as he finds enough bugs to eat, he would live. Well, I assure you that there are enough bugs in my house to feed forty or fifty chameleons. That's actually why I wanted him: mosquito and fly control. My two or three bats just aren't keeping the insects in line.
I really couldn't leave the chameleon inside anyway, given that I then had a cat. My compromise was to stick him on the outside of my wall. I hope he will climb under my roof and live a long, well-fed life there. If that isn't pleasing to him, though, he can head out to the fields. Either way, I want to give him a name. The only thing I have come up with so far is Karma, but I realize that that is cheezy. If you come up with anything better, e-mail me.
My training group will be celebrating our One Year Left in Togo with (drumroll, please) a short exodus from Togo. We are planning to meet in the beach resort of Anamabou, Ghana around September 2nd. Our main goals are to hang out and reminisce about the past 15 months, toast those three trainees who ditched us to return to the Better Life, figure out how on Earth we are going to make it through another year here, and maybe visit the Cape Coast slave castles so we can call it a cultural outing.
I want to be back in the Kara Region by the night of the 5th in order to catch the Igname Festival in Bassar. I have my dad's videocamera on loan as long as Mark is here, and I don't want to miss the opportunity to get Fire Dancing and Kotokoli Stick Dancing on film. It is supposed to be a riot, but I have never seen it.
After that, time will fly all too fast, as Mark will be leaving the 12th. It has been great having him here. Not only does he ward off would-be suitors (Christine, I promise that I tell everybody he's my brother so they won't assume he's my husband. Maybe they just leave me alone because they assume they'll have to pay a dowry for me if they hit on me in front of a brother!), I have him convinced that, in Kotokoli villages, it is taboo for women to remove dead mice from their houses. Thus I have gotten out of the removal of two such vermin. Really, it will be very difficult to say goodbye. Luckily, I might have convinced a couple of other friends to visit me. I have to remember not to tell them about the mice.
Thanks for reading,