Took a week off and traveled with a friend to the interior of Togo. We saw lots of interesting facets of Togos and Africas culture! The Tamberma people, perserved in ancient clay homes, were amazing. They are integrated with normal culture when they travel to the city, but they prefer to spin their own thread, work their own fields, and create their own clothes and clay ware. Also, the Grotto of Nok was incredible - a cliffside refuge only accessible through roots that hang off the side of the mountain. We used their modern day iron ladder. The city of Dapaong was live, sitting in front of the mock statue of liberty listening to the DJ eating some spicy grilled chicken definately capped off the visit to the town! Coming back to teaching is excellent and I am glad I decided to work another aspect of society in Togo. I started officially in a private school with a charming and bright bunch of 5-14 year olds. Ill be doing English every day, the younger group MWF and older TTh. The older kids werent too happy but I told them well maximize it. Also, I loved the feeling I had when I visited the Artisan Center in Kpallime with a friend...the life of communal art production is definately my style. I saw the most interesting workshops for wood sculpture and cloth painting. I want to go back and stay for a month or two someday. Also, I got closer to god with the Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Ascension within the cool, tropical forest high in the Plateau of Danyi. Lunch with the brothers and a special prayer session for my friend and I was the highlight. Its good for now, until next time!
I only have a few minutes but as my mother pointed out to me, it has been an awfully long time since my last blog entry! I have been very busy lately: in the mornings I go to the orphanage for about four hours, then to the office to prepare my lessons, then off to teach English to a group of high school age kids... Then back home to collapse and try to stay awake until a reasonable hour!
Teaching is going well, even if I feel like I am completely winging it - I have never taught before but it is proving to be very rewarding and challenging. My students are awesome! There are normally about 8-10 on any given day, but as they are so enthusiastic and talkative I don't think I could handle very many more. It also gives me a great chance to improve my French, as I told the students they don't need to hesitate to correct me, since we are all learning. Yesterday a student brought me a whole bunch of bananas, which I find infinitely more endearing than the traditional apple.
My parents sent me money for school supplies a couple weeks ago, so I decided to buy my class french-english dictionaries, since they are expensive and hard to come buy as there is exactly one bookstore in Lomé. They were SO excited. I had them all write thank you letters to my parents (keep your eyes open for some mail soon Mom and Dad), and they all talked about how they want to "speak well the English" and how much the gift would help them. They also insist I am the best teacher ever, which I find highly doubtful as I am unable to explain grammar very well at all. We have awesome class discussions though - I thought up a bunch of non-controversial topics but they are completely uninterested in them. Instead we talk about the police and government here, polygamy vs monogamy, apartheid and racial segregation.... And of course they always want to know my opinion too! It is great to have a bunch of Togolese people that I can ask just about anything to and discover what they think about their country. One day I asked them what they would do if they had a lot of money, and each and every one of them said they would help their families, build roads and hospitals and orphanages, and help their country in any way they can. It was really touching - there are many generous people in Togo, despite the heartbreaking poverty that is literally everywhere you turn. I was awfully nervous but now I am very glad I took on this extra assignment, even if it leaves me very little time to blog!
Last weekend my host father took my German housemate and I to see his birth village, which is nestled on the slope of Mt. Aigu, the tallest peak in Togo. We didn't go all the way to the top but the view was nonetheless incredible - miles and miles of mountains and forests, the landscape dotted with tiny villages just like the one we stayed in. We watched the sun turn into a fiery red ball and disappear into the hills, before going to a concert at the church to hear a group playing animal horns - which was very interesting even if it did sound a bit like musical ambulances.
Anyways it is about time to go to my lesson. Will try to write more frequently :) I think of you all at home, please send me news of yourselves as well - talking about myself all the time gets a little old!
Jut finished the night shift and slept an hour. I dont know why but I feel like texting the Surgeon, maybe today is the day. Score. We are meet in a few hours at the clinic and then off to the operatory. Ughh, I need sleep. Guess I have time for an quick hour and then I have to get down there and meet the surgeon...SLEEP...Im up and out the door. That moto ride was fast. Ah, hes late, ah ha. Still reviewing the medical student exams. Wait, talk. Enter the Cameroonese surgeon with excellent English. We exchange our repective trajectories of medical studies from our home countries. We joke. Ah, theres the surgeon. You want me to meet you at the operatory? Sure. I need scrubs from the superintendent? Okay. You have to consult first? Fine. Im go eat some sandwhich and coffee. Its starting to rain - hope this doesnt stop the operation. Whatever, Im going over there. Hi superintendant, thanks for the mask and hair net. Wait let me text the surgeon. Aha, hes coming. Hes here and with two French girls. Nice to meet you both,. Clemence et Juilliet. Lets find scrubs okay? We find them and change together. Quick and easy though my size is a tough match. I walk over to operation room 4. Its clean, white tile, fluorescent lights. I cant believe this is happening! Im excited and nervous. Yes its my first operation. Yes I will tell the nurse. I walk in the operatory. Patient is face down, under anestheitc, ready for the surgery to correct the spondyolisis. I think of Grace Golden, she made sure I knew what this is in Tissue Injury and Repair. The surgeon gets a marker and diagrams the vertebrae. Thats pretty handy there, just by eye and palpation, mr surgeon. Various steps of sterilization occur. Some injections to slow th bleeding happen. Abruptly, "Incision" says the surgeon. Its long cut and I am fascinated. He works. Clamps open the site. He works more. I am in the background thinking...I have to get closer! Luckily I am about a foot taller than everyone in the operatory. Score, I get the perfect birdseye view. I watch the debridement, wow that really looked like she needed that piece of spine. Really, those ligaments go too? Huh. that sacrum is pretty smooth and hard looking. Nice, the surgeon taps the sacrum with the forceps. Wow, equpiment malfunctions and rain is leaking in through the airconditioner. Non-optimal. He complains, I assent, we talk, he teaches. I see the laminectomy. Wow, are two an a half hours the site looks clear. The vertebral spine of L4 and L5 is gone. I am looking at the projections of the articular facets. CLEAN! I am looking at the spinal cord. Wow, this is my favorite part. He says its important not to cut that part. The X-Rays begin to position the holes for the screws for the fixation plates. Those will cross the vertebral body of L4 and L5 on both sides I guess. The French girls are tired they leave. I hang around for another half hour and watch frustrating positioning of the screw hole. It is so tedious! One hole one hour. The doctor says I can go. Its almost 8 PM. Dang I want to finish this. The cabs dont drive late at night. I leave without a word. Change. Im elated, it was incredible. I am greeted heartily on the way out. Oui, Je suis american. Oui, Je pars. Toi-aussi prend-soin de toi.
Wow, three weeks in already! I am so glad (for many reasons) that I am staying for awhile; if I did one month, as many people do, I would be leaving next week!
I am settling into Togolese life pretty well; I have some African clothes now, eat with my hands on a fairly regular basis, and am slowly picking up on some Ewé. The local language is very difficult; nothing at ALL like French or English, but the locals sure seem to enjoy it when I make an effort. The get a kick out of it, anyway. My family has some relatives from Paris vacationing with them and they gave them hell because the American was more interested in learning Ewé than they were!
I have been very busy this past week; I haven't even had the time to get on the internet in eight days - not that I am really missing it, after all. I went to a very loud and zealous church service, ate at a couple of restaurants, drank a fair amount of beer (Guiness and Flag are both popular here!), spent five hours at the grand marché (market), and did my orphanage work of course. The highlight of my week was, perhaps, the Christmas cantata I attended on Sunday evening. Yes, that's right - the Christmas cantata.
The South Korean-based international Gracia choir came to a huge international youth fellowship camp that one of my Togolese friends' church organised. I asked him if it was normal to celebrate Christmas in July, and he said it was an exeption, and they decided to do it because there are never big Christmas celebrations in December. The whole thing was very quirky, cheesy, and good-spirited; they were not above making fun of themselves over the absurdity of it all. The choir sang a lot of English music - even Jingle Bells! They were extremely talented and I can apparently enjoy Christmas music at any time of year.
Lastly for now, I have agreed to also take on teaching an English class in the afternoons. I will now spend 3-4 hours at the orphanage in the morning and teach 1-2 hours beginning at 3 pm. I know almost nothing about the level of my students, their age, or how big the class will be. Wish me luck!
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