Archive for September, 2007

one month at post

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

I’m still thrilled to be here in Sokode.  Shout outs to both Jamie and Forrest for sending Linux CD’s and magazines respectively.  Rest assured that I will be introducing Linux to the Togo community, and the magazine will be donated to a local school to use in English class. 

I ran out of gas for cooking last week and was told there would be no more in this region for 2 weeks.  During Ramadan – the Muslim month of fasting – this is more of a problem.  Not only do the women who sell food on the side of the road and in the market disappear during the day, but the food that is available at sunset sells out immediately. 

I bought a small coal cooker and did my best to prepare instant (2 minute!) soup from America.  I failed miserably.  In order to consume the untreated water here, it is important that I bring it to a boil for at least a minute.  With my little coal contraption I only managed to get it to lukewarm.

But don’t worry, the gas came a week early and now Im – ahem- cooking with gas. 

Football Match

Friday, September 21st, 2007

On Sunday I went to the football (soccer) match. There are two premier league teams in Sokode, and one of them was playing against a team from Lome (the captial of Togo as faithful readers already know). The stadium is close to my house, and I tend to go there about once a week to jog around the track. Today the stadium was packed – with men. I saw one other woman watching the game, and she was also the only other white person I saw.
Since Ramadam/Karim has started, most of the population of this Muslim city is fasting. There were a few women walking around with platters of oranges on their heads, selling them, but I was told there weren’t many because of the fast. Also, many of the players on the team were fasting; in the hot equatorial sun they were forgoing food and drink from sunrise to sunset. And yet, they were playing full field 90 minute soccer.
I’m including a photo. There is some stadium seating for spectators, but this is usually reserved for important people like the prefet. I liked this shot in particular because it shows the mosque in the background. Also, I’m not sure exactly what the camera man was for; the game is not televised.
In the last 5 minutes of the game, the home team scored the only goal of the game. The spectators rushed the field to congratulate the players.

view of my front porch

Friday, September 14th, 2007

We are working on the passionfruit vine thingy, but here you can get an idea of my lush garden and fancy-pants house.

electricity and fuel

Monday, September 10th, 2007

  Most of the homes I’ve been in, especially here in Sokode, have electricity.  People often have wall lights, CD players, and a television.  However, the electricity is cut often, and to lose electricity several times a day for 5 minutes to several hours is not uncommon.  This interferes with all types of businesses.  My host family ran a dance club; without electricity on Friday night there was no music and no clients.  The school I’m working with had an appointment to do a promotion with a radio station.  As we were approaching the station, the lights went out.  The station itself, due to its collaboration with VOA, had a generator, but it doesn’t help all the clients who have radios that plug into the wall.  Therefore the radio station didn’t do the program.  I’ve been at cyber cafes when the current was cut and have lost emails that were partially written.  The list of people affected by the irregular power supply can go on and on; I’m just providing examples so you can imagine how the entire economy is affected by irregular electricity. 
   The use of electricity in the home does not extend to the kitchen.  It is uncommon to have a refridgerator.  Most people here cook using charcoal made from wood.  I spent an afternoon making charcoal with my host brother.  First he chopped down 2 trees that were about 5 years old.  We piled the branches and leaves together, adding the green leaves on top to act as an umbrella against the dirt he shoveled on next.  The green wood was set on fire before the pile was completely covered with dirt, and then holes were poked into it for air.  The pile then is left for a week or so, depending on the size, until he could return to shovel it open and sort out the pieces of charcoal large enough to use or sell.  One pile of 2 trees will provide enough fuel for about 2 weeks of cooking in one house. 
   I have a gas tank and a stove, which in the long run is not only cheaper but more efficient and better for the environment.  The problem with the gas tank is that the initial purchase of the tank itself is quite expensive, and therefore the start up costs for cooking with gas is prohibitive to most Togolese.  The stove and refilling the tank are reasonably affordable, but it is hard to get the tank initially.  In Togo we will continue to see women fanning their small charcoal fires, children walking long distances with wood piles on their heads, and men chopping down trees for a long time to come.

The Food Here: part 2

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

 I realize that I made a few major omissions when describing the food here in Togo.  I will have to remedy that with a few more entries on the food here.
 There are 2 delicious concoctions here in Togo that I know I will liss when I leave.  Both are somewhat of luxury items for most Togolese.  Unlike most restaurant or street food, they are brand name items.  One is FanMilk, a delicious cold dairy or fruit product.  Each morning, bicycle vendors line up outside the FanMilk stores in the larger cities and get their supply of cold packets which are stored in coolers in front of their handlebars.  The coolers and the horns are uniform and distinct.  As the bicyclists bike to smaller villages, their horn is recognizable and anyone willing to part with 100-150 cifa can stop them for a wonderful cold sweet treat.  My personal favorite is FanYogo, a yogurt, which is less sweet than the ice cream like FanMilk or FanChoco. 
 Another deliciousness  here is a cold beverage called SportActive.  There is no sugar added to this carbonated grapefruit like drink, and the yellow logo portrays a running figure to show just how healthy you too can be when consuming this Togolese product.  This is a very refreshing drink at about 300 cifa, and in addition to being recommended for Peace Corps Volunteers to stave of dehydration from diarrhea, also goes nicely with the single sachets of gin that are available for 100 cifa everywhere SportActive is sold.