Thursday, August 12, 2010

Saturday - Day Seven of Post Week

That Saturday afternoon, we all traveled some distance to our regional meetings, using various modes of transportation. That trip took three hours. During those three hours I caught a bush taxi to Tagebow. Bree and Joe live in Tagebow. They are Peace Corps Volunteers who have been here 2 years will be leaving in August. Solomon will be replacing them. Tagebow is 30 minutes east of Tchekpo (my village).
I packed up my things at my new house. Left most of it there for my return, and walked from my house to the main road with my homologue and with the man who manages my house. They helped me haul my suitcase down the rutted dirt road to the main road. I stood by the main road of Tcheckpo with my suitcase for thirty to forty-five minutes until a van filled with people finally stopped and picked me up. Once I reached Tagebow, I unloaded my suitcase and tried to follow my next directions, which was to talk with someone in French and tell them to give me and my suitcase a ride to the white peoples house. Tagebow is not a small village, but there is only one white couple in the village, and I was told that would be direction enough. That’s all the driver needed to hear, however there are scammers everywhere in the world. I was spotted as an easy mark as soon as I got out of the van in Tagibow. A Togolese man approached me very kindly and asked if he could help. I told him that I and my suitcase needed a ride to the white people’s house. He motioned for me to stay where I was, and he would find someone to drive me. He returned in a matter of minutes with an eager driver, and he loaded my suitcase in the van. I will learn something new every day. This day I learned not to get into a bush taxi BEFORE negotiating the price. I only had about six city blocks to go, but I needed a ride because of my heavy suitcase, and because I didn’t know where to go. In the van the driver told me it was going to cost 3mill, which is more than twice as much as it should cost. I was really low on money, and needed enough to get home the next day. I talked him into lowering it a little, but I really didn’t have any negotiating power at this point. We arrived at the house, and I spent the afternoon, just relaxing with the PCV’s, Bree and her husband Joe, and Solomon. Solomon really lucked out. His house is fully furnished, has electricity, running water and a refrigerator….and he calls himself a Peace Corps Volunteer!

In the late afternoon Bree and I walked into town and tried to negotiate a ride to the regional meeting at a PCV’s house 40km away. I was in awe of Bree’s French and negotiating skills. It was great training for the future. She didn’t budge, but in the end, even though she had talked them down (disquiter) several dollars, Joe still thought it was way too expensive, so we decided to take motos, which costs a lot less. This would be my first experience on a moto, that wasn’t a training exercise. There were four of us leaving from Bree and Joe’s house, so four motos came to pick us up. I told Bree how scared I was, and she chose one of the drivers for me, thinking he looked safest. She also told him I was afraid and that he needed to go slow. “aller lentamente” she said. Go slowly. HA!

I have to admit it was very fun. Fun like a roller coaster is fun, or fun like Russian rollette might be fun. Death defying. That’s what it was. These are dirt, rutted roads, and they drive like a bat out of hell. It was crazy! I did arrive intact, but I do think that I was pretty wild-eyed when I got off that moto. I paid the driver and told him he did a good job. He really did. I mean…how many people could drive that fast over a dirt rutted road and not lose their passenger.

When we arrived in the town of the regional meeting, we walked a few blocks to Cerille’s house. Cerille is a one year PCV. There were old and new PCV’s there. All the ones who are living in my region (Tchekpo). There are five different groups of PCV’s in Togo. There’s CHAP which is health and aids prevention, and SED (me) Small business and NGO development, and GEE – girls empowerment and NRM,which is for farming and horticulture and I.T.(computers), which is Solomon. So it was really nice meeting the old and the new volunteers and learning how we all interact. One thing was made perfectly clear then, and often, and that is that once we get to post we can do anything we want. They do a lot of cross program work, so I can work on health and aids prevention and I can work on programs for the empowerment of girls, or even farming and horticulture. If there’s one thing I like, it’s being told, that I can do anything I want, so my imagination was peaked and my expectations soared to learn about all the things they were doing, and all the things that I could do once I get to post.

I will go into those things in much more detail once I get to post. Cerille (host of the regional meeting) was amazing. There were about twenty of us altogether, and we all spent the night. She fixed a dinner that was the best food I’d had in two months. Spaghetti with zucchinis and tomatoe sauce, a delicious salad (first salad I’d had in two months) AND brownies, and even two cakes. In addition she had little bite size snickers for us. I was in food heaven. We all were. They even had cold beer, and they even had ICE. First time I’ve seen ice since I’ve been here as well. Ashley is in my region, so we had a lot of fun. I didn’t drink alcohol, nor did I dance, but the rest of them did, and it was just fun to experience and observe.

The next morning Cerille fixed a big breakfast of eggs, and hashbrowns and fruit, and we had our official regional meeting. There is a regional PCV director, and he went through all the programs, and possibilities. It’s all taking shape. Why I’m here, what I will be doing. These PCV’s are special, and they work really hard, and really care about what they are doing. I’m very impressed, and enthusiastic.

We all left around 10am, and this time a van picked us up right at Cerilles door. It took us many hours to get home. After seven days at my post in Tchekpo and then the Regional meeting, I was ready to be back with my host family, and to be fed, and to have a bed with sheets, and to hear all the stories of all the other PCV’s about their week at their post.

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