There have been a lot of high highs and low lows since the last update. I'll start with the bad news so that I can finish with the good; that always leaves a sweeter taste in my mouth.
I was so glad to return to my village after my trip down Togo. I couldn't wait for them to light up as they welcomed me back and talked about how forte I was to have biked all that way. My excitement was quickly crushed, however. As soon as I arrived, my landlady and nearest neighbor Azétou informed me that my homologues (counterparts) nine-year-old son had died during my absence.
Peace Corps system is to pair each volunteer with a Togolese counterpart from the village. Yarabé is my Kotokoli teacher, translator, liaison to the community, and dearest village friend. Needless to say, it hurts to hear that he lost a child. I know that child deaths are real, especially here in the land of No Emergency Medicine and Poor Medicine When Available. Some of the problem here is always ignorance. Parents dont realize that their children's lives are in danger until it's too late, or even worse, they don't inoculate their kids against preventable diseases even when the vaccinations are cheap or even free. But Yarabé is not like that.
For starters, he volunteers to walk out to remote villages to vaccinate kids against polio. He is also the president of several committees at Břrnefonden, the NGO in the village committed to the health of children. Finally, he cares about his four kids (which constitutes a small, i.e. responsible, family according to Togolese standards). He makes sure they eat well and go to school. Basically, he is a model father. I tell Togolese men that if they'd imitate Yarabé, they wouldn't feel the need to have 8 or 9 kids in order to support them in their old age; three or four healthy, educated kids could do a better job.
All the Togolese men laugh at me when I tell them that they could give better nutrition to two or three kids and then the kids wouldn't die. They say that the kids would die anyway, and I didn't believe them until now. Yarabé is a wonderful father, and his kid died anyway.
So it took me a good four hours to pull myself together enough to present my condolences even in cases like funerals, Togolese people rarely cry, so I didn't want them to see me doing it. I didn't stay dry-eyed long, though, because on my way back from chez Yarabé, I learned that my neighbor to the North, sister to my landlady, had also lost a child during my absence. She said that her three-month-old wouldn't drink milk or water, and thus probably died of dehydration.
To put all that in perspective, there are four families in the village I bought Christmas presents for, and two of those lost children during my little voyage. That made for several really dark days out in my village.
And for the good news I am pretty sure that I am going to be able to attend my oldest French sister's wedding this August. I have been squirreling away money and stressing like crazy to pay for the flight (which is why I threw a tantrum at the Post Office when I had to pay two days wages for a package that contained no M&Ms), but my parents have offered to help, so I think it might actually become a reality.
I also got my very first package containing M&Ms! It was from Greers mom. Mrs. Gurganus, you rock! I cant wait to meet you.
And there are other high highs, but some of those are going into letters or letter-like e-mails (so I can squirrel away the cost of postage and thus eat while I am in France). Youll have to e-mail or write me to get that news!