Greetings from Ahépé!

Bonjour, family! Bonjour, friends! Bonjour, other trainees’ moms! I hope you are all enjoying your air conditioning and fish that isn’t smoked sardines! FREAKING SARDINES! I miss home, but I am having an amazing time in Ahépé, the Duluth of West Africa, a small village in the Maritime Region in Togo! Because I get about 8 minutes of wifi every two weeks, I am going to cram as much into this post as I can. Pretty soon, I’ll be buying a data plan and will able to update you more! But for now…

Some things about my house!

  • My bathroom is a hole in the ground! On a related note, my quads are super strong now.
  • My shower routine consists of filling a bucket with cold water and pouring it on my head twice a day. I do the ice bucket challenge 14 times a week!
  • We do not have running water. 
  • We have a teensy bit of electricity! No outlets in my room, but that’s okay. 
  • I have an AMAZING host family! I have four host “sisters” aged 3-13 and a very large extended family who lives with me.
  • We also have a host dog who just gave birth to PUPPIESSSSS!!!

Some things I’ve learned about Togo!

  • We are one of two countries to ever be kicked out of the United Nations. (Genius point for whoever knows the second country!) Because of the expulsion, resources and development halted here, which puts Togo pretty far behind the rest of the developing world.
  • Togo is considered a Peace Corps “Hardship Post,” which basically means that we’re extra brave for coming here. Some people actually chose to volunteer in Togo because it’s an “authentic Peace Corps experience.” But I think that all service is tough,and PC isn’t a competition!
  • There are two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. One of the dry seasons is known as “Dust Season.” Yikes. 
  • There’s a huge farmers’ market every Tuesday in Ahépé. You can buy food, some electronics, clothes, soap, you name it! And price-haggling is expected here. Diminuez le prix, s’il vous plaît! 
  • For a lot of reasons, I do not blend in here. Anytime I walk anywhere, a million kids sing a silly “Yovo” song at me to say hello. It’s not rude, but it can be a little tiring to feel like I’m always being watched.
  • The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life was a mother carrying a huge bowl on her head and a baby on her back. WOW. 

Some things that have unsuccessfully tried to kill me this week!

  • A LIZARD
  • GOATS
  • A BEETLE
  • MOTHS
  • A SPIDER ON MY WALL
  • FREAKING SARDINES

Some things the humidity has killed this week!

  • My envelopes. They are now all sealed together. Patience, people waiting for letters! And Facebook me your addresses please!
  • My computer. I think it is down for the count, but I am not giving up hope. I am pretty bummed though. 

Some things I regularly eat!

  • La pâte: Togolese grits. I like it!
  • Couscous: YES!
  • Beef: good, with the caveat that Togolese people eat the gristle and small bones as well. I’m getting used to it!
  • Igname: fried yams! Delicious. Almost like chicken nuggets. 
  • Maca: short for macaroni. Aka spaghetti. 
  • FREAKING SARDINES
  • Omelettes: delicious! But oily
  • Hot chocolate: YUMMO! (This country is turning me into Rachael Ray)

Some things I do every day!

  • 6h: wake up. I do not like this.
  • 6h30: shower and eat breakfast. I like this.
  • 7h15: walk to Peace Corps training
  • 7h16: hear the Yovo song for the first time. Laugh.
  • 7h46: hear the Yovo song for the 1937th time. Sigh. 
  • 7h55: admire everyone’s Togolese clothes. Brag about my new Snake high score. (Our togocel phones come with Snake and I am currently the champion!)
  • 8h: start training. We are learning so much!
  • 12h30: lunch! I love this. 
  • 13h30: back to training! This usually includes a few hours of French practice. J’aime faire du jogging!
  • 17h30: walk home
  • 18h: second shower
  • 18h30: psych myself up for using the latrine 
  • 18h45: use the latrine
  • 18h55: say “wow that wasn’t so bad. Why doesn’t everyone use latrines!”
  • 18h59: remember the time I didn’t use a rest stop bathroom because it was too dirty. Laugh. 
  • 19h: dinner time. Yay!
  • 19h30: dance party with my sisters
  • 20h: get into bed and read. Oh, I read now!
  • 21h30: try to sleep
  • 22h: say “holy cow it’s so hot in here” for an hour 
  • 23h: fall asleep and have crazy malaria medication-induced dreams!

Some things my host family asked me on my first day and my responses, translated from French (annotated)!

  • What state are you from? Pennsylvania
  • Did Osama bin Laden fly a plane into that state? WOW. Um. Yes. 
  • Do you like Michael Jackson, who died? Yes
  • Do you know the American Whitney Houston, who is dead? Yes
  • Is your dad dead? Um. Yes. (HOW DID THEY KNOW!?)
  • Which president started the Peace Corps? John F Kennedy in 1961 (I think I was being quizzed on this one)
  • What religion are you? Um! They don’t have my religion here, but I would love to go church with you if that’s okay. 
  • Do you have a girlfriend in the States? Hahaha! No. I did, but I’m here to work now. (This is not technically untrue. Also I call it “The States” now.)
  • Americans are very wasteful. Yes. (This was not a question)
  • What is your name? Daniel
  • Juniel? Daniel 
  • Juniel Juniel! Okay
  • Thank you for coming. Thank you!!!!!! I love it here!!!!!!!!!

Well, that’s all for now! Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment with the day of the week you were born and I will give you your Togolese name! (Mine is Kodjo because I was born on a Monday.) Did the pens really win the Cup? And the cavs? Give my mom a hug if you see her! Au revoir!!!

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14 thoughts on “Greetings from Ahépé!

  1. Hi Daniel! I am loving your posts, can’t wait for the book when you return – call me if you need an editor. I was born on a Wednesday. Love you!! (Kissy face emoji)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 😄😶😑😞 max
    I love reading your blog. I am in awe. You are so brave. I don’t think I would survive a week in those conditions. Take care and keep on adventuring!

    Like

  3. you’re amazing. I like the humble brag about Togo being the toughest country. I miss you.
    and you should remember what day of the week I was born on, it was only the best day of your life.
    I love you.

    Like

  4. Daniel, I love your writing! I was born on a Thursday. And I will go give your mom a sweaty hug for you right now (I am at work, hence the sweat). Time for lunch, wishing I had some sardines.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Daniel your blog is wonderful and it sounds like you’re having an incredible experience! You are so smart and kind and caring and I’m very lucky to know you. Xo

    Like

  6. Terrific read! I’m sure this life experience will truly change your life and your future experiences. You are an awesome writer! I feel like I’m there with you…and I would say glad I don’t have a latrine, but rather a toilet. Keep it up! Like Marcy said, can’t wait to read the book-and see the movie!! I believe I was born on a Sunday.

    Like

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