Training Up

After spending a week away from my post at In Service Training (IST), I came back with lots of knowledge and was inspired by the work of other PCVs. The nine-week training prior to being placed in our villages focused mainly on language skills and the overview of our PCV life/work. IST provided a supplement to this with more specific, and in sometimes step-by-step examples and templates for project designs. Being at post for almost three months also helped to better contextualize the information and come prepared with questions. My stages' IST also happens to coincide with the post-visit week of current PC trainees.

Each year, two sets of trainees (stages) come to Togo. After the first stage (which arrives in early June), the second comes in a few weeks later, around September. The work sectors for the second stage are Girls Education Empowerment or Environmental Action and Food Security. Two people from this group will be posted near me so I wanted to pay them a welcome visit before I left for IST. I only had enough time to visit one personally, but I made and delivered brownies to both of their sites. They will be swearing-in to become official Volunteers in mid-November.

During IST I was reminded of what life during stage was like. Our schedule was carefully planned but this time coffee/tea breaks were scheduled in, which made us all feel fancy. 

Rather than staying with host families though, IST was a college-type atmosphere. We found ourselves staying in dorm rooms and a small cafeteria-like dining area for meals. Though I cook a lot for myself at post, it was great to have someone do the cooking and wash the dishes for me. This was compounded by the fact that they treated us with mostly American/Togolese meal mixes and used some of the yummy, though hard to find ingredients in Togo, like shredded cheese. A lot of the meals were similar to what we were given during our first week in country but now—five months later—they tasted so much better.

I personally came to IST hoping to learn more about working with artisans and how exactly PCVs plan for and conduct meetings here. By the end of the week, I learned these things and so much more. A lot of our sessions were led by PCVs themselves, who explained not only the successes, but things that didn't work, and how to avoid the same problems. We were also given a lot of digital resources which include the specifics of projects including lesson plans, budgets, and hand-outs for participants. 

I will be putting these things to practice almost immediately too. I entered a group of weavers here into the PC trade show, which will be held during the same time as the new stages' swearing-in ceremony. Until then, I will be working with the weavers to determine what selection of products,colors and designs to bring. I also signed up to teach an ICT course for the artisans, so I'll be working on that too with another PCV. 

Outside of work related things, I recently decided to make a garden at my house. When I hired some help to “cut” the weeds growing in my yard, they informed me that there were already several tomato and Gboma (local leafy green used in sauces) plants, mango seedlings, a lemon tree, peanut and s cashew plant there as well. I use the word “cut” loosely, because this actually turned out to be using a shovel to literally reverse the ground. Absolutely no cutting involved. 

Since then, I have also planted a few onions and flowers with the help of a child that randomly comes to visit me. However, all these plants are strewn throughout in my lawn space, so I started working on a garden to keep them more centrally located.

My idea was originally to use a small 6' x 5' area, now that has grown to a space about 20' x 10'. So far, I've only cleared the space and created the borders for the garden. Soon, I will begin making the rows and start planting the seeds (some of which I will have to create a small nursery for first). I will be adding carrots, potatoes, lettuce, bell peppers, cucumbers, corn, beans, and maybe strawberries to the mix as well. 

We will see how it all works out though because dry season just started. I will definitely be doing some consulting with the new Environmental Action and Food Security Volunteer near me for tips and advice. Next on my at-home project list will be a small, straw gazebo!