Salut! I hope everyone had a great 4th of July!
This weekend, the Peace Corps Trainees (all 48 of us! Strong Stage!) boarded small bush taxis up to Pagala, a beautiful city in the Centrale Region.
Our training site was a lovely campground, utilized by PC Togo for various camps and trainings. It had a basketball court, cabins, sketchy toilets (WHICH NOW FEEL LIKE THE BIGGEST LUXURY ITEM OK THE PLANET), and a mess hall. Luckily, there was no Blob, as I have still never recovered from the embarrassment of falling face-first onto it as all of my camp friends and kids laughed at me.
Our instructors for the permagarden and diversity workshops were current PC Volunteers, who have been in-country for slightly over a year. They’re all beautiful, smart, hilarious, best friends, captivating, tan, and surprisingly good-smelling. They are the equivalent of high school seniors to our very wide-eyed freshman class. It’s like 2008 all over again, and I’m watching the super cool USCHS seniors listening to their iPod VIDEOS and talking about Senator Barack Obama. For my older crowd (the average age of my readers is probably 92), remember when you set foot in Rydell High for the first time and saw those really cool girls wearing poodle skirts and talking about summer? Same thing.
^A picture of my new Peace Corps Togo “big!” Her name is Katie, and she is the perfect person to be my big. As luck would have it, I’ve had some VERY positive experiences with a big named Katie in the past ❤️
We learned so much awesome gardening information that I almost wish I were an Agriculture volunteer! It was a lot of hands-on work too, so we’re all a little on the dirty side. Luckily, everyone made it back in one piece, save for my friend Julia who sat on a rake by accident. C’est la vie!
Pagala is BEAUTIFUL! The altitude and the lack of light pollution make it the perfect place to look at the stars. And on the way up north, we got our first glimpse of mountains!!! Can’t find those in the States! (That’s what I call America now)
Another really nice thing about Pagala was that there was no wifi and essentially no cell service either. Old me would have panicked, but new me was ecstatic. We had no choice but to give each other undivided attention for three days. That’s why there “ain’t no girlfriends in Pagala.” In all honesty, it’s not even that important to this blog post; I just wanted a catchy title. Drama gets readers!
Speaking of the States (that’s what I call America now!), the 4th of July was extremely special for two reasons. First, we celebrated the amazing country that gave us this unbelievable experience. All of the trainees stood in a circle and said something we love about our country and our new home. After a month in West Africa, I have never appreciated America as much as I do now. Following our patriotic share session, we ate a DELICIOUS lunch of hamburgers and potato salad. It felt just like home.
The second reason July 4th was important was that it was the one monthaversary of our Stage! We all met on June 4th, and are still 48 strong one month later. We’ve all grown in ways we didn’t think possible. We’ve all pooped in ways we didn’t think possible. We’ve all formed friendships so promisingly strong. We’ve all laughed at so many different things. We’ve all been challenged in ways that we relied on each other to overcome. This has been the best month of my life.
God Bless The United States of America.
Some things that make a Togolese campground a little different than one in the States (that’s what I call America now!):
- Lights out at 10pm doesn’t mean turn off your lights, it means the generator is off
- If you don’t close your door, a goat will steal your things
- Don’t be surprised when a monkey examines your hammock at 3am
- Women will occasionally walk through the campground with a bowl of water on their heads
- If you get lost on a run, you can ask a local where to find the group of yovos. It worked!
Some things the humidity killed this week:
- My Fitbit. Not a great idea bringing it in the first place.
- A roll of toilet paper!?!?
- Five pounds! Au revoir, baby fat!
Some things that did not help my self-esteem this week!
- A button popping off my shirt right before my first home visit
- My pants ripping in half right before my first presentation
- A kid shouting “Hey, fat guy!” at me, in French (but I understood him! so that’s something!)