Life and American Independence Day in Togo

Today will be my first U.S. holiday in Togo. Happy 4th of July everyone! 

In observance of the holiday, we have the day off from classes. To celebrate, my fellow trainees and I have been planning an Independence Day party.  We are having a potluck type set up, with mostly American foods, though there will also be Mexican, Asian and Togolese influences. That is a great thing about coming from a country that is called the melting pot, right? The main dish will be roasted pig and bean burgers for the vegetarians. We will also be making guacamole, salsa, tortillas, popcorn, stir fry, and others I am probably forgetting. I may try to make fried bananas, which my host family makes here and I love! During the party, we are going to play lots of American music, including the national anthem of course.

Afterward, we spend our next few days getting ready for our post visit week (which begins on Saturday). We have so many other things in our schedule that we will not actually have formal language classes this week. I am a little disappointed by this because we had our mid-training language evaluation two days ago and I want to find out what my new French class will be like (assuming that I have gotten better). 

Let me remind you though, I am in a French speaking country; so I will definitely have plenty of opportunities to speak French, with or without it being scheduled.

I may not get to post anything else this week, so I will try to make this serve as a good update. There are a few important things that I have not talked about previously that I will take the opportunity to do now: the weather, food, and culture in Togo.

            Right now we are in the rainy season. This does not mean it rains 24/7, but rather it comes and goes in spurts every couple of days. When it does rain, it usually lasts an hour or less, but it can get pretty intense and windy. I like it because the rain keeps it cool. I know I will definitely prefer this to hot season. Fortunately for me; it stays a little cooler and less humid in the northern regions of the country, in comparison to the south (where we are now).

            Pretty much everything I have eaten here has been great. All of the fruits and vegetables are super fresh, and GMO free. :) Therefore, most things are significantly smaller than they would be in the US. The only exceptions I have seen so far are the mangoes and yams, which are bigger because the climate is just ripe for them (pun intended). Overall, I actually eat better here than I did in the states.

            My daily breakfast here includes: bread, lemongrass tea, and fresh squeezed orange juice. I am usually always served peanut butter and laughing cow cheese for the bread; sugar and powdered milk for the tea and Lipton tea bags as well in case I want black tea. Did I mention the fresh squeezed orange juice? When I say fresh squeezed, I mean from real, non-genetically modified oranges, squeezed just a few minutes before it is given to me. The best part is that breakfast is served to me on a platter with images of President Obama and his family on it. If you did not already know, the Africans love Obama. You can buy almost anything you want with his name or face on it.

            Other than breakfast, my lunches and dinners vary from day to day but always include some carb for the main dish. Usually, rice, couscous, pasta, or other noodles. In addition; I always get fresh vegetables like black eyed peas, green peas, tomatoes, onions; carrots, avocados, bell peppers, or some combination thereof in an awesome Togolese sauce. My favorite dish so far has been the fried bananas. When I first had them, I asked my family if they eat fried okra too, which is another abundant vegetable here. To my surprise, they had never heard of such a thing, so I made it for them Saturday, and they loved it. Now, I am in charge of making an American meal every Saturday for them (and I am definitely open to suggestions).

Culture (I am running short on time, now so sorry if this section reflects that. However; it will definitely be continued!)

I have not really gotten to experience a whole lot of Togolese culture outside of observations and with my host family. From what I have seen, the Togolese are very nice, quiet, and super clean. Every day as I walk to the Peace Corps office here, I am greeted by pretty much everyone I pass by. In addition, you can always find them cleaning, sweeping, or washing something constantly. After I get to my site, I will probably have much more to say. 

Until then, à bientôt!