Next Year in Jerusalem, This Year in Togo

Why is this night different from all other nights? 

When I think of my favorite family memories, my mind goes almost instantly to Passover. 

My Uncle Rob deftly and brilliantly leading us through the Haggadah. My Aunt Susie’s phenomenal spinach pie and decadent spinach gratin. The hunt for the afikoman (hidden matzah). The second hunt for the afikoman after I cried when I didn’t find the first one. Watching my dad and my Uncle Freddy play pool together after dinner. Beating my cousins at N64 Donkey Kong Racing only to find out years later that my controller was never plugged in. My grandma’s hilarious jokes and pink Zinfandel. My mom and aunt laughing so hard they cry, every single year. 

My Jewish faith guides me in every aspect of my life. I try so hard to give back, to help others, to treat everyone with kindness. I know that I fall short sometimes, but I’m never going to stop trying. Anyway, I could talk ad nauseaum about my beliefs (literally–one time I puked while having a discussion about religion). 

So it’s easy to understand why I was apprehensive about spending my first Passover in Togo, thousands of miles away from my family. Honestly, every holiday away from home is hard.

But so far, my Peace Corps service has so auspiciously given me the chance to celebrate every holiday with the people I love. 

Independence Day with my entire intake group;

My birthday with my best village friend, who coincidentally has the same birthday; 

Halloween at home with the Meades, my second family; 

Thanksgiving with our intake group again; 

Chanukah with some of my closest friends in Togo; 

and Valentine’s Day with some guy that smiled at me on an airplane en route to Morocco. 

How YOU doin’? …I just had surgery

Luckily, Passover was no exception! Eleven of the people from my stage (what we call our intake group–it rhymes with dodge) were in Lomé, the Baltimore of West Africa, for a Training of Trainers. Unbelievably, in only a month, there will be an entirely new group of Peace Corps Trainees in country! 

Our country’s Peace Corps Director of Management and Operations incredibly generously invited us all to his house for a Seder while we were in town, and we so eagerly took him up on his incredibly kind offer. 

Having only very recently graduated from the kids’ table, helping to prepare the entire dinner was overwhelming. Armed with my aunt’s famous spinach gratin recipe and a packet of matza ball mix, I braved the kitchen and gave it my best Peace Corps try. In the end, the food was AMAZING.

Matza balls!
In the words of Rachael Ray, “Yummo!”

And the Seder was phenomenal, too! My good friend Sam wrote the Haggadah, filled with Peace Corps jokes and inspiring stories. I even teared up at one point!

Sam’s take on the Togo ten plagues. I have experienced… many of these
Sam also made the macaroons. Basically we all would have been very hungry without her

At the end of the dinner was my favorite tradition: the hunt for the afikoman, the hidden piece of matzah! I usually add my own twist on this tradition by throwing a tantrum every year after I don’t find the afikoman, but this year I refrained. 

What an awesome group!
Something that made this Seder extra meaningful was the fact that seated among us were many non-Jews and non-Peace Corps members. Getting to share two of the most important parts of my life was incredibly rewarding. 

The third most important part of my life: this outfit
Always awkward when you show up wearing the same outfit as a box of shapes
At the end of the Seder every year, we say, “Next year in Jerusalem.” It reminds us that we can always be striving for something better and to never forget our homeland. 
But for me? I never thought I’d be able to say “This year in Togo.” My heart is full. 🇹🇬❤


3 thoughts on “Next Year in Jerusalem, This Year in Togo

  1. I’ve really enjoyed your blog! Thanks for memorializing our Seders. We really missed you this year but you managed to experience a truly meaningful Passover! I’m sure somewhere in our domain there’s an afikomen with your name on it. Love- Uncle Rob


    1. Thank you, Uncle Rob, for your kind comment and for being the best Seder leader I know. We can celebrate together soon! Ps my favorite hiding spot is the basement microwave


  2. Love this entry!! Missed you at Seder but glad you could share Seder with your new friends and share the lessons of ending slavery amongst all peoples. Love you!!


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