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Phynessa's Peace Corps Site
5/3/03

In Memory
auntconnie.jpg
Aunt Connie and Shellie at my going-away party.

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of my aunt, Connie Worley McCurry.
 
Connie and my parents have been neighbors since I was 4, and her oldest daughter Gay is a month and two days younger than I am.  Since Gay and I were inseparable as kids, I spent easily a third of my childhood summers under Connie's roof.  She attended every softball game, swimming lesson, school play, and birthday party I can remember.
 
Everyone in my town recognizes Connie as one of the patient souls on Earth.  She devoted 110% of herself to the constant care of Shellie, her youngest daughter.  She was more selfless toward Shellie than anyone can ask even a parent to be.  It was certainly not by chance that Shellie was given to such a special person.
 
Besides her daughters Tonya Gay and Shellie Lee, Connie leaves behind two lovely grandsons, Blake and Trevor, and a granddaughter Tracey who missed meeting her grandmother by only a matter of days.
 
Connie will always be sorely missed.
 

 * * * * *
Easter
I hope everyone had a wonderful Passover/Easter.  This may have been one of my favorite Easters ever.  Celebrating Lent and Easter in a Third World country made a lot of sense to me.
 
One of my colleagues was mentioning today that, in Togo, we are always subject to emotional extremes.  The situations we face here don't normally arise in the life we knew before, which means we have to find a way to understand this experience using emotions that have not ever been stretched to such limits.  I mean, I had never before been so embarrassed as when a crowd of strangers mocked my voice.  I can't ever remember an anger that burned as it did when someone cheated when I came here to help.  And I also don't ever remember a stranger coming up to say, "You are beautiful; I want to look like you."  Those three things can happen in a single hour in Togo, which compresses a state-side week's worth of lows and highs into an afternoon.
 
Since our emotions are amplified here, so are our reactions.  That made Lent more of a challenge than it had been in years past.  I suppose that an underpinning of my theology has long had to do with the way people treat each other, so it is no surprise that I would choose interactions with my neighbors as a topic for reflection during this Lent.  I think my spirit benefitted from having the difficulty of Togo to highlight areas that needed work, and I think my Peace Corps service benefitted from my taking a hard look at the way I treat the people around me.  As I said, celebrating Lent and Easter in a Third World Country made a lot of sense to me.
 
As for what I did to celebrate, I spent Good Friday with a sign on my gate that announced my few hours of silence to my neighbors, lest anyone should wonder why I wasn't coming outside.  I realized how much time I must spend not saying a word to anyone because keeping silent was hardly a challenge at all.
 
I joined five other girls at Becky's on the night before Easter.  We enjoyed each others' company and read the Passion in the midst of an oh-so-common Bafilo blackout.
 
Five of us had a sunrise service the next morning, and we were having such a good time singing that we continued throughout the lunch preparations.  I must admit that I stopped singing for my Big Moment, which was the killing of our Easter turkey.  I had never actually killed an animal before, and without the expert assistance of Ariana, I'm not sure I would have cleaned it properly afterwards.  Becky deep-fried the turkey, which we had named Ethel.
 
I always seem to be out of my village for holidays, so I decided to extend the holiday to Monday night.  I bought a chicken (which I killed as well) and some yams for my host family to prepare a holiday meal in village.  The family loved it, especially because they were getting a meal with meat in it.  (Actually, that day they had also killed three birds in the field, so everyone got more meat than expected.)  The family never asked what the holiday was about, which was convenient since PCVs are not allowed to try to convert their neighbors.  After eating, Azétou, my host mother said, "It's a holiday; we should dance!"  I thought about telling her that it wasn't that kind of holiday, but then I remembered the church congregation I'd seen the previous day dancing, and decided to broaden my view of how Easter can be celebrated.
 
A Time to Reap and a Time To Sow
As far as work goes these days, it is time to plant my field.  I had no idea how to clear the land, so I went out with some of my neighbors to work in their field.  They were very happy to have me there, even though they had to redo the everything I did for the first half of the day, since I hadn't caught on to precisely what we were doing.  Even if I didn't help too much, I don't really think I hurt too much either.
 
While we were out there, the men killed a snake and a fieldmouse.  They gracefully offered the mouse to me, then were shocked to find out that we don't really eat mouse where I come from.  I'm really not so opposed to the idea anymore, but they would definitely enjoy it more than I would, and I wasn't thrilled about dealing with the fleas I could see on its belly, so I insisted that someone else take the little critter home.  I also got to see a 6" chamelion, which was beautiful.  I thought about taking him home as a little pest exterminator, considering that my dear Maya didn't turn up before All-Vol, but I didn't have a great way to transport him home.  Finally, a guy killed a scorpion, which he kept shaking closer and closer to me in an attempt to scare me.  I was kind of freaked out, but refused to show any emotion, just as I had when I smacked my ankle with my weed whacker, in hopes of giving white people a little respectability.
 
Finally, Becky, Dario, and I are taking the 8 girls in our prefecture to the 3 area middle schools so they can pass on the information they learned in the Take Our Daughters to Work workshop.  We have only visited my middle school so far, but it was a great success.  I hope work continues to be this rewarding!
 
I must run.  I wish you all many blessings.
Phynessa