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Becky Binns--Togo News Letter

TNLs #1-5

The Following is the first few notes home during my first week or two in Togo. If you've got lots of time and want some background info, read on, otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to the next sectionas this one isn't the most thrilling...~b
 Togo newsletter 1
Monday, October 22, 2001
Hello all,
          You have all been put on my little newsletter list to stay posted on my next couple of years, let me know if you want off, or if anyone else wants on:)
I 'm here. 
I'm safe. 
 I'm happy.
Life is good. It's way too hot, this keyboard is all out of order, I had to get two more shots this morning...but life is good.
There are 31 of us who are training together, we met in Atlanta on the 18th.  They are an exceptional group of new friends.  We are also the very first group of all female Peace Corp Trainees during the 40 yrs that PC has been in Togo.  We spend two more days in the capital, then half of us will move to Kpalime (pal-i-may) where we will live with host families for our 11 weeks of training.  I'm looking forward to having a family, speaking French, and living in what is supposedly the most beautiful part of Togo.  Oh,  I  also got fitted for my bike yesterday...the bikes are  mucho nice, kind of exited about that.
OK, almost out of time.  I have to get used to how slooow the internet service is here.  Actually, I'm very thankful to have access to it, it looks like phone calls will be a bit impossible.  I'd love to hear from, you all at some point, I just ask that you not send forwards as it takes soooo long to download each page.  Gotta jet
Tuesday, October 23, 2001
Togo Newsletter #2
          I assure you, I won't be this regular with newsletters over the next couple years.  I'm just trying to take advantage of the cheap email while I'm still in the capital.  So, I've survived my first stomach virus in Togo!!!
It was a fabulous day, let me tell you.  We talk very openly about it here...but I'll spare you all the  details, however, I do believe I lost about 5 pounds today, if not more.  About 14 of us woke up with it at various times during the night, and were miserable all day...and today was the day of the two hour long diarrhea was a somber morning.  It was  also the day for the reception with the Ambassador. I don't think he was very impressed with us, we were a sad looking crowd.  On the bright lasted less than 24 hours (the illness, not the reception), and while I had serious doubts earlier today, I now know I can survive.
Well, with that over-share out of the way (I really do want you all to experience this with me as completely as possible), I must go.
 Blessings to you all,
October 23, 2001
TNL #3
Are you all tired of me yet? Just wanted to let you know that I'm still in Lome, not happy about it, but I'm here. There are 8 of us who stayed behind because the Peace Corps Medical officer thinks we're still too sick to travel.  I'm feeling completely recovered...but I guess we're playing it safe.  I should be northern bound by tomorrow morning.
Peace out all,
ps My Mom scolded me on my typos, I'll try to do better...but you all have no clue how crazy this keyboard is:)
TNL #3b
Hello All,
          The day after my last newsletter, I was pronounced recovered and shipped off to Kpalime.  Kpalime is really very beautiful.  I absolutely love it here.  My host family is great, extremely patient with my minimal French, and all round fun to be with.  It's a house full of women with the exception of the baby, and the 16 year old son (and I think he gets in
trouble when we hang out too much because of the social implications, men and women just aren't friends here, it's a strange thing to get used to).  Anyway, there are 6 women in the family, plus about 4 household help, all between the ages of 6 and 50, and I can't wait to be able to talk to them all freely, as they all seem like really great people. My French is
coming along quickly, but I'm frustrated that I can't communicate very well yet.  The food is fabulous.  I feel like I've found my favorite mealevery time I eat... almost every time, there was a piece of hairy goat ass that I choked down last night.  It's all  about adaptability, right? 
          I think I'm in the middle of doing the hardest thing I've ever done, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm mentally exhausted and physically drained.  I ride my bike about 20km a day, I'm constantly
Learning stuff that I HAVE TO retain, and I'm basically overwhelmed with life.  But I'm happy.  I gotta jet.
Peace and blessings to you all!

October 28, 2001
Some of you have asked about the basics of my life here, so I decided to
give you all "a day in the life of a peace corps trainee in Togo", here it is;
4am-6am~lay in bed and listen to the roosters.  I'm not too into eating meat here in Togo, but I could feast on the roosters. 
6am~go to bathroom and pour pitchers of cold water over my head until completely clean and awake (side note on bathroom; yes I do get to use toilet paper, yes, I do have to throw it in the garbage instead of the toilet)
630~eat yummy breakfast of warm vanilla milk, fried dough, eggs, bread etc
7am~sit on bike as it takes me down the hill into town where I meet up
with others to ride to schooltogether.
730-12~classes, fieldtrips to schools, bike maintenance classes, culture classes, language, language, and more language classes, Togolese school
system lectures, health stuff....
12-230~ ride home, eat more yummy food, take nap, pour pitchers of water over head until awake and clean, return to school
230-530~more classes, ride home
6-9 eat more fabulous (but sometimes scary) food, do homework.
Homework is a family event; 6 yr old Cherita reads me my flashcards, _8 year old Dobera makes me read stuff from her French book, the women
keep me in constant French conversation, and Koffi (17yr old brother) plays cards with me, and we speak only in French, he also corrects my written homework  for me and makes me read it out loud five times.
Sometimes I get sick of homework and de-shell beans or peal potatoes or some other brain relaxing task.
9~go to my room to read and sleep
That's it in a nutshell.  There are of course variations, and the weekends are a bit more relaxing.  I like the routine of life here, I'm starting to feel
at home.  You are all in my thought.  Thanks for the messages, and for the mail.  It's slow in getting here, but much appreciated.  Leila Gilly wins the prize for being the first letter received in Lomé, followed closely by my mom; Thanks guys!
peace out!!!
TNL #5
Nov.6, 2001
It's a good thing that I didn't have access to email during the past 48 hrs.  If I had written you all would have come to the conclusion that I was all done with this gig~it was a rough 48 hours, but I'm doing
better now.  At some point Sunday night I reached H.A.L.T point (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired).  I'm hungry for ice coffee, sushi, and home.  I'm angry about Yovo (read below).  I'm lonely for those people
in my life who really know me.  I'm tired (big understatement).
The Yovo Thing;
~  The racial slur for westerners here is Yovo.  I get called Yovo at least 50 times a day.  The little kids sing a yovo song, the men do this really creepy kissing noise when they say Yovo, and others just chase us on our bikes yelling Yovo repeatedly until we out ride them. I realized that I was starting to reach breaking point when I had an honest to goodness urge to run over an adorable 5 year old Yovoer with my bike Sunday afternoon.  I'm learning to Cope.
 Ok, that's it.  I needed to vent. I've been told that there will be many ups and downs, and I think I was momentarily caught off guard by the reality of that when it hit.  I'm heading back up and feeling pretty good about life at the moment.  Always, no matter how I feel; I'm overwhelmed at how lucky I am to be here.
Blessings to you all,