Last Friday, Becky patted her dog, shouldered her pack for Mali, hugged me a nervous goodbye, and asked, "Are you sure you'll be alright here?" But that's not what she really wanted to know. What she really wanted to know was, "Will here be alright with you?" I tried to convince her that everything would be dandy. She took a long gaze around her house and at her dog Einstein, so as to remember them The Way They Were. And then she left me. In Her space. In charge.
So, Becky went to Mali and had a wonderful time (see TNL #80), and I got some great things done. I visited the Butcher Shop to report back to the Butchers' Union on how to build a state-of-the-art Togolese slaughterhouse (minus electricity, running water, and sanitation equipment, of course); I solicited the ideas of some English Teachers of the private high school as to what I should do in an English Club I am thinking of starting; I returned to village to schmooze with the civil servants at a party; and I continued translating a 30-page manuel on mushroom cultivation for one of my villagers. I was anxious for Becky to get back and discover what a good, productive, organized PCV neighbor I had been.
The reality of Becky's return wasn't quite as I had expected, though. She got back early in the morning, and I bleary-eyedly pointed her to a note on her table that I had written the night before. She asked what it was, and I explained to her that it was an account of how Togo had Won.
You see, two days before, I woke up in a tough mood, and soon encountered Becky's next-door neighbor. He is a sweet Kotokoli grandfather who weaves beautiful straw rugs and calls Becky "My Mother" because his mom's name is Mariama, Becky's village name. He came in with a gorgeous woven rug, but let the dog escape by opening the gate too widely. That majorly stressed me out because, in my reign over Becky's Space, I had only two responsibilities: man the emergency contact phone and take care of the dog. I had obviously just failed at half my tasks.
I tried to devote all my attention on Becky's neighbor, who seemed very confused when I told him that I was not Becky. Now, you have to realize that there are several million black men in Togo, and I have learned to tell at least 25 of them apart. I was annoyed that Becky's Next Door Neighbor of 18 months cannot tell two white women--the ONLY TWO white women in his whole prefecture--apart.