I’ve always had kind of mixed feelings about the 4th of July. It was one of my favorite holidays as a child, but it became hard to replicate the fun and excitement as an adult. Eventually we built a tradition (if not a very loose tradition) with my family, and that tradition of course centered more around food than fireworks. I would spend July 3rd frying chicken, making two different kinds of potato salad (my moms and Mrs. DeBackers), Andrea would make her famous cookies, and I would bake home-made pie. Home-made, from scratch, Lemon Meringue Pie was the highlight of the feast (for me anyway.) The last few years we would meet at Emily and Mikes house early in the day and spend the day sitting around their pool eating and swimming. My kids and the grandkids would each go to the fireworks display of their choice in the early evening. The tradition began to take some form, and we all started to look forward to July 4th. This year the kids are going to spend the day at their Aunt Eileens with their father and his family. They are looking forward to it. I’ll miss them, and be thinking about them throughout the weekend.
I’m in Togo this 4th of July, and I’ll be in Togo for the next two 4ths of July. Yikes! Could that really be possible? This year our Peace Corps Volunteers group organized two days of activities.
Our group of twenty-four is split into two groups. There are twelve (12) SED (Small Enterprize Development) volunteers and (12) twelve CHAT (community Health) volunteers. The 12 SED volunteers live with families in Tesvie. I’m a SED volunteer. The 12 CHAT volunteers live in a town five miles away called Abatamund. At least once a week we all get together for some sort of group training…sometimes in Tesvie, and sometimes in Abatamund. We have Peace Corps Vans and a driver that totes us from one place to another, for our joint training sessions. I like it when we go to Abatamund for training because I get to enjoy about fifteen minutes in the air-conditioned van. I think it’s been determined that the SED volunteers living conditions are quite a bit better than the CHAT volunteers. Abatamund is a little bit more rural than Tesvie, and the families they are staying with are a bit more poor. For that reason it was decided to plan the 4th of July activities in Tesvie….the bigger, more urban and sophisticated of the two villages (smile).
The CHAT volunteers decided to come to Tsevie on Saturday afternoon, and spend the night at the Tech House, camping out in the gazebo where most of our training is held. We also arranged for a local bar to feed all 24 of us dinner which of course was either spaghetti or cous cous. CHAT volunteers arrived in Tesvie around 2pm. Many of them spent the afternoon at the cyber café. They don’t have an opportunity to go to the cyber cafe often since there isn’t one in Abatamund. Most of the volunteers spent the day just hanging out in the gazebo and visiting with each other. We really don’t have much time to just hang out. We have a full schedule 6-1/2 days a week. So it was nice to just relax. We had one volunteer playing the ukele, one playing a guitar, and one playing the drums, off and on all day. Some brought food/snacks. There were won-ton chips, and breaded, fried, plaintain morsels, and popcorn…etc. Ashley who is in my language group is a yoga instructor in her spare time in the States. She has been having weekly yoga classes. Some of us participated in that on Saturday afternoon. I spent a lot of time visiting with Charity and Lizzie (CHAT) volunteers, hearing the latest gossip about all the “newly committed couples,” and worry about a couple volunteers who seem “on the edge”. Around 5 we all walked down to the Albatross (restaurant/bar) they drank quite a bit of beer, and got louder and happier as the night wore on. I always get an Orange Fanta. (To me…warm Orange Fanta is infinitely better than warm beer.) We played a variety of games. I played Spades with Danny, Tony and Beau. Then we had dinner and we stayed at the Albatross until about 9pm. We all walked together back to the Tech House by the light of the moon and the stars. All but a few volunteers had decided to spend the night at the Tech House. Some of them had hammocks they hung from the trees and the rest found a place to sleep on the couches we sit on during our class time. I didn’t spend the night at the Tech House. Tony and Beau walked me home, and then returned to the Tech House. I was happy to be home, take my bucket bath and happy to sleep in my own bed.
Sunday…Each SED volunteer brought CHAT volunteer home for lunch. Danny came to lunch with me. He’s a young man who has previously been volunteering in Guatemala for three years, and now has signed up for one year here in Africa. This weekend gave us an opportunity to learn a little bit more about everyone.
We all met up again at the Tech Hosue around 2 Sundy, to go to a 4th of July party at the Tesvie Peace Corps Volunteers house. The Tesvie Peace Corps Volunteers are a married couple who have been here two years already. They are going home in August. It was pretty amazing that they could pull off this great party here in Tesvie. We had macaroni salad that had some cucumber in it, and barbecue beans with hot dogs…bread, and for dessert some no-bake chocolate brownies. It all really tasted good. There were over a hundred people at the party. A lot of PCV’s, old and new, Togolese, and there was also a French Coalition that is here in Togo, doing humanitarian work.
This fourth of July weekend was really quite nice. I thought it would be difficult and I thought maybe I would be sad, but it turned out to be a very enjoyable weekend. Not to say I didn’t miss my family and my friends back home. I did. I love the few family traditions that my little nuclear family has, but it’s also not a bad thing to try new things. Especially if you know that eventually you will be able to take up your traditions again someday in the near future. I hope my kids and my grandkids had a wonderful weekend.