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Becky Binns--Togo News Letter

TNLs #6-9
TNLs #1-5
TNLs #6-9
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Brief Synopsis
#6 I find out where I'll live for the next two years, and I learn of the death of a good friend. It was an intense time in training for me.
#7 My 24th birthday
#8 I got hit by a motorcycle and broke my tail bone(good one)
#9 Learn how to kill a chicken and make peanut sauce, yum.
November 15
Hello All,
  First of all, before I begin, I have to tell you that my life as a Peace Corps trainee has been put on hold (or at least thrown for a terrible loop), for the past week.  Last Thursday, I was taken to a private room to be told about the death of a close friend, Dena Reinstein.  I could write you a book about how amazing Dena was, about how much she touched my life; but instead I will just ask that you keep her friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.  I have been very well cared for and supported here.  I couldn't ask for a better support system so far from home. 
            Regarding my last TNL, many of you offered wonderful words of wisdom and support; and I thank you for that. Looking back, my complaints seem miniscule, and I've adapted pretty well to being a yovo.  I'm starting to realize that they mostly do mean well.  And I can't help but love the littlest kids who muster up the courage to say "bon soir madam yovo" Gotta love  it, right?
           MY POST: I found out where I'll be living and working for the next two years yesterday!  I got my first choice, which was a huge surprise.  I wanted Bafilo because it's in the mountains, near a huge waterfall, and the house has a big front porch.  But, it also has running water, electricity, 3 bedrooms, a phone across the street,  and many other EVERYONE wanted it.  I put in my preferences and basically said I'd be happy where ever they put me.  They knew the sites better than I did,  and probably had a better grasp on where I'd work well. Turns out that all the decision makers had the same idea: Becky in Bafilo!  So Bafilo will be my home. They tell me I'll be running a girls soccer league (started by the business volunteer who is my predecessor),
starting some girls clubs in schools, and working with the women's rights group (I'll have an office in their building).  I'll also be raising awareness regarding  child trafficking, AIDS, sexual harassment in the schools (ie; girls sleeping with teachers for grades-very common), and health issues.  It looks like I'll be able to do a lot of this work through theater and art groups.  Also, there are a bunch of Non-Prof organizations who would like to collaborate with PC  (well...with me).  The possibilities are overwhelmingly endless.  I get to go for a week long visit in two weeks , at which point I'll send you more details. 
          So life is good and hard and overwhelming and exciting, and I miss Dena, but I feel very blessed by life, by the people and the experiences. 
Thanks for reading, peace out all!
November 18
Hello All,
          It's my birthday, And many of you know how much I love birthdays.  My birthdays at home are always so good, so I was a bit worried that my first birthday away from you all may be a little disappointing.  But, it's been fabulous (not as fabulous as it would have been had you all decided to join me here, but none-the-less very good).
          Last night about 20 of us went out for dinner at a restaurant for the first time since arrival.  I had a delicious meal of chicken in peanut sauce, spaghetti, mashed potatoes, salad, and some Togalese food that I can't really explain.  After three hours in the restaurant, we walked about 4km to an outdoor club where we danced under the stars until midnight, at which point everyone wished me a happy birthday and I headed home with a couple of friends who were sleeping at my place (trainees from another town who came down  for my birthday).
          When we got home it was about 1am and the family had locked the gate and gone to bed, so my friend Meg boosted me over the 7ft wall, in my skirt, so I could unlock the gate from the inside.  Jumping down on the inside, I made a bit of a racket, and Mama Nicole came out in her nightgown, wondering how I had gotten in.  It was all a bit confusing, and everyone involved was either buzzed or half asleep, but eventually we all  got ourselves inside, in bed, and asleep.  Just as I started to doze off, the roosters started to do their thing, three hours early, in honor of my birthday I'm sure.  Have I mentioned before how much I hate the
          I woke up at 5:30 and found a present from my host family outside my door.  It was a leather change purse in the shape of two mini flip
flops, very cool.  They also wrote me a card on the back of a ceramics
postcard, and had someone translate the message into English.  I was very touched and went out to thank them, only to receive a hug and four kisses from each  of them... I live with 9 people, that's 36 kisses before 6am, what more could you ask for on your about mucho gifts from Meaghan?  I received my birthday package from Meg yesterday and obediently, and impatiently waited until this morning to open them. 
          After the gifts and cards etc, I did my laundry, ate breakfast, sent my friends to the taxi stand and headed to the pool.  By 9am I was sitting by the pool having a soda with some French lady whose been stranded in Togo for a  week because the airline that she took here for vacation, Sabena, closed due to Sept 11. She's stuck here until December, and was happy to talk to another Yovo. 
          I spent the day at the pool, went home put on my new birthday clothes (thanks Meg) and came here to email.  After this, I'll go to the Catholic cathedral for church, and then home for dinner.  Mama Nicole's making me crepes for my birthday dinner.  I had crepes for lunch at the pool too. I almost felt like I was at home (I generally have crepes 1-3 times on my birthday in  Providence). 
          So that's it, it's a good day.  Thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes, you're all in my heart, thoughts, prayers, and thanksgivings.  peace out!
November 22
Happy Thanksgiving all!!!
          I ate an incredible amount of turkey and mashed potatoes today, which made be both happy and homesick.  You are all on my list of thanksgivings, and I wish I could eat turkey with you.  After eating much food, I watched Monty Python and the holy Grail, and came to check my email.  Looking at my inbox is like looking at the gifts under the Christmas tree.  I can't read them right now, but can't wait until tomorrow when I can.  Now I must finish up and get home before dark...I'm walking now, no bike, so things take a bit longer.  Now, you may be asking yourself, why doesn't Becky have her bike?
          I'm going to tell you all a story, but I need you to promise something before you read it.  Promise you won't freak out or worry or anything, OK? OK.
          I got hit by a motorcycle yesterday, but I am completely fine.  My bike is in need of repair, and the road took a bit of a beating; but the people and  the motorcycle are doing great.   I was about to turn left, but then I saw the moto coming up behind me, so I changed my mind.  The moto however was already swerving around me in preparation for my bad decision  to turn left. 
        I was launched safely forward away from the danger of the crashing bikes, and landed on my derriere in the middle of the road.  I think I bruised the road.  My first thought was "now that wasn't so  bad", my second was "hello group of strangers staring at me, meet my underwear".  I pulled my skirt back into place, jumped up and was immediately surrounded by people who wanted to bring me to the hospital. One of them even knew my name (friend of my host family?).  The guy who hit me actually wanted me to get on his moto so he could take me to the hospital...right.  It was only a couple minutes before Peace Corps showed up and all was well.  I've got some superficial scrapes and bruises, and won't be able sit for a couple days.  I got checked out today, and although it's probably pretty minor, we're treating it like a fractured tail bone, which means no bike for a month.  So I've been sitting on ice and watching movies. Life is good and I'm feeling pretty blessed.
          I'm safe.  I'm well.  I've learned something about bike safety; and I will continue to wear my helmet. Somebody call my mom and tell her not to worry.  I'm shedding my invincibility mentality and taking care of myself, I promise.
Peace out all, and happy Gratitude Day,
November 30,
Hello All!
          First of all, a disclaimer.  It has come to my attention, via the parental front, that for such a wide spread newsletter, I should really work on my spelling.  It has nothing to do with the keyboard anymore, I'm now used to the French keyboard.  It's slightly more intellectual than that.  As I learn to speak, write, and understand the French language, my use of the English language is seriously land sliding.  I think it has something to do with brain capacity and information displacement.  If it won't help me to survive in Togo, it's out.  And to top it all off, I just started to learn Kotakoli, my local language.  My friend Risa hit the nail on the head the other day when she said "We're becoming multi-lingual idiots" Yup.
            Disclaimer made, I will address some topics that you have inquired about.
            During training, I get 1300cfa a day as "walk-around-allowance"  This is about $1.75.  How far does 1300cfa go? Well, here's a short list of things  you can get with 1000cfa;  an hour of internet time, 2 stamps to the US, 2 snickers bars (in Lomé only), 40 fried dough balls, 5 pictures developed, a 2 hour bush taxi ride, a live chicken, 4 bottles of orange Fanta, a wine bottle full of candied peanuts, 10 meals of street food, one meal in a restaurant, or a 15 second call home. 
 My favorite Togolese cuisine thus far is definitely peanut sauce;  Here's one recipe that I found for you to try:
1c. chopped onion
1c. peanut butter
1/4 tsp. hot pepper
1-2 tsp chopped ginger root
3c.  water
soy sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. honey
juice of one lemon
1 TBSP vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
Sauté onion, garlic, and ginger in a little oil. Add remaining stuff and simmer for 30 min.  Serve over pasta, rice, cooked veggies, or chicken. 
If you want to use a chicken and you don't want to bother going to your local super market, you could always kill your own.  Here are a few steps on how you would go about doing that (provided by the PC Togo cookbook, "Where there is no Whopper")
1. Boil a big pot of water
2. Stand on the chicken, one foot on his feet, one  foot on his wings. 
3. Pluck out the feathers on his neck where you plan  to cut.
4. Hold his beak shut if you don't want to hear him  squawk.
5. Take a deep breath and a sharp knife and start sawing.  Keep cutting until you've cut the jugular-cutting the head all the way off should do it.
6.  Keep standing on him until he stops jerking, unless you want to see how a headless chicken runs around.
7.  Dunk the bird in the boiling water and start plucking. 
8.  Pell the skin off the feet
9. Sear the bird all over with hot coals to remove little hairs.
No, I haven't done this yet.  I'll try it once I get to post.  I figure if its totally traumatizing, I should  probably look into vegetarianism.
          No Anna, I'm not down playing the pain, its really not that bad.  As long as I remember to take my pain meds, life is good.  I walk about 15- 20 km a day now, so I'm a bit impatient to return to my bike, especially since its all repaired and ready to go.  However, every time I suggest trying it out, I get a big, motherly, unanimous "NO!" from my fellow trainees.  So I've agreed to wait for at least one more week.  I'm a bit tired of being asked by Togolese people where my bike is as my response "I don't have it today" is starting to need some more explanation, and I haven't figured out a socially acceptable way to say "I broke my butt" in French.  C'est la vie!
          I spent an awesome weekend at a Benedictine monastery in the mountains north of here.  Lots of rejuvenation, refocusing, peacefulness, and rest.  I didn't realize how essential it was until I was there.
          God bless, God speed, and until next time, peace out!