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12/12/03

I know I didn't quite deliver that super-long update I promised last time, so consider this part two.

 The Tuesday before Thanksgiving ended the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  For the end of their month-long period of fasting (they are not allowed to eat during the daytime in this month), my villagers celebrated with food, food, dancing, and more food.  By mid-morning, I regretted making myself a bowl of yogurt for breakfast, and by just after noon, I was eating my fourth meal.  The thing is, I could have stopped eating at any time, but it was just so good!

First, my hostmom invited me to fufu and beef sauce.  I ate heartily, which is making me begin to worry about my fufu habit.  You see, when they pound the boiled yams to give them their fluffy, sticky-mashed-potato texture, they often don't use boiled water, which makes fufu a prime culprit for transmitting parasites.  The thing is, I know this, and yet just can't stop eating it.  I was even still on medication for parasites as I scarfed down my fufu.  I suppose the good thing is that I am pretty sure African yams don't grow in the US, so I expect to break my habit as soon as I get home.

Other than the fufu, I had rice, noodles, enough beef to constitute a whole cow, and my homologue's wife's amazing BBQ sauce.  It is awesome--so spicy it burns your lips, but so good you just plaster on ChapStick and eat some more.

In a lame effort to work off some food (don't worry, not to lose weight, but rather to be able to fit more in), I took a walk dressed in my favorite African boubou, video camera in hand.  I got to watch the prayer service at the ad hoc mosque on the Elementary School lawn.  It was beautiful, but I didn't stay long, as I always feel strange filming sacred events.

I also baked some banana-oat-peanut butter cookies to give those people who brought me food.

Thanksgiving

I was frankly surpised that I would ever want to eat again after how well my village fed me on Tuesday, but Thursday was Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, so I knew I would manage.  On Wednesday, I crashed at Becky's where Alice, Becky, and I had a pre-Thanksgiving prayer service, and then Thursday I got up early for a huge bike trip.  In solidarity with my fellow Peace Corps village-dwelling Volunteers, I had decided to spend Thanksgiving with Mary and Melissa out past Bassar again.  That meant a big long bike ride, fueled by the thought of turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie on the other end.

Just for kicks, I record my conversation with Alice, a bit worried, before leaving at 6:15 AM on Thanksgiving morning:

Alice: If you get tired, just hop in a car and come back.

Phyn and Becky: Um, there aren't any cars on this road.

Alice: Oh.  Well, you just call us from a phone cabine and we'll send you a car.

Phyn and Becky: There aren't any phones on this road either!

Everything went wonderfully, though, despite a few minor setbacks.  For one, my mirror fell off.  I reattached it.  For two, I punctured my back tire.  I patched it.  And for three, four of the eggs I was transporting broke en route.  I bought more in Bassar.  I wasn't ever very worried.  I mean, even when my tire went completely flat and I thought I hadn't brought my patch kit, a taxi headed for Bafilo randomly drove up.  I found the patch kit, but would have been fine without it, because the fine villagers of Daoudè offered to melt a strip from another innertube onto mine, and even pumped my tire back up for me after making sure my patch was airtight.  Ahhhh.  I love the Togolese.  Sometimes.  I bet it would be harder to find people willing to help a foreign biker in the States.

Despite the setbacks, I made it to Bassar by noon, left Bassar at 1:00, and arrived in Mary's village at 3:00.  Not bad, considering I had planned to arrive at 2:30.  I was really excited because that was the longest trek I have made on dirt roads at any one time--85km, perhaps, if we are to believe the more conservative estimates of the locals.  Most important, I made it in time for the feast.

Friday I biked to Melissa's village with her.  Mary soon showed up as well, which made for interesting sleeping arrangements.  We were Melissa's first guests besides her mom and sister, and the only way we fit in her hut was with one (me) in the hammock, another (Mary) on the floor, and the other (Melissa) on her cot.  What a riot!

Saturday Melissa and I got a late start for Kara.  We took a route I had never gone--25 km on a rough dirt road through Bitchébé and Banjali to the paved road that goes from the border of Ghana (three miles from where we were), to Kara.  It was a tough 100 km in all, fueled by the thought of one of Celeste's mango milkshakes and a piece of carrot cake on the other end.  We busted our tails to get there before Celeste's closed, and arrived with only six minutes to spare.  I can hardly express the victory we felt at making it.

 

Alright, since the Peace Corps Lounge (I am in Lomé for the moment) is closing in five minutes, I have to wrap up with a couple of notes of sadness.  First, my wonderdog Cooter died.  I have to believe the vet's hypothesis that she got parasites over Becky's friend's hopothesis that she was poisoned if I am to function in this society.  The long and the short of it is that she wouldn't eat when I got back from Thanksgiving, and after four days of eating only the little milk I could forcefeed her and the deworming  pills the vet prescribed for her, she died on Becky's porch.  Becky found her and Dario buried her.  That was a pretty tough day.

Second note of sadness... I have to say goodbye to Becky Binns, whose stellar service is over.  This time next week, she will be happily among her family members in Rhode Island, loving life but missing the tropical climate.  I am sure her last news letter is soon to come, and I urge you to check them out on my Links page.  She has had wonderful, optimistic things to say over her two years here.  Please read up: Becky's TNLs.

Well, saying goobye to Becky is tantamount to losing a part of myself.  She has been my closest friend here, and it is a huge effort not to undertake this last stretch of my service with a feeling of apprehension.

To Becky: 

Your friend is your needs answered.

She is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.

And she is your board and your fireside.

For you come to her with your hunger, and you seek her for peace.

Without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.

When you part from your friend, you grieve not;

For that which you love most in her may be clearer in her absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.

And let your best be for your friend.

If she must know the ebb of your tide, let her know its flood also.

For what is your friend that you should seek her with hours to kill?

Seek her always with hours to live.

    The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

I love y'all.  Take care of yourselves,

Phyn