Cross-Culture

July 9

I learn more French. I understand more.

I think A. likes me. I like M.

I went dancing with a bunch of trainees on Tuesday night. I had one big BB. The dancing was a lot of fun. I felt no inhibitions. I just moved to the music. It was great. Another creative outlet.

I got a cholera and gamma globulin shot on July 3. I took my Aralen Sunday, July 4, in the early evening. I didn't sleep well because of a lot of dreams. I should take it earlier in the day.

Yesterday I had to wear a sweat shirt, because it was so cool.

On July 2, the trainees went to Lomé for a July 4 celebration. We watched "Shane," a western. The food was good: American, including cup cakes! I stood under the Monument of Freedom in Lomé. I had seen pictures of it well before I ever got here.

It's not that strange being in Africa. It's another part of the world but so is Pennsauken. And are the people really that different? Maybe. I'm an American, but maybe I will be part Togolese when I leave? I will be, whether I like it or not.

There were two sheep tied up in front of Notre Dame this morning. Some of us walked over to see them, petted them.  C. came by and said, "Don't play with your food!"  I watched two guys slaughter the sheep later in the day. One guy held the head of the sheep back while the other cut its throat. They had cut one already and had thrown it aside. It was still kicking when they killed the second one. I guess it lived for at least a minute. There was a lot of blood. I could still eat mutton for dinner, though.

July 15

Hello again,

Things are going fairly smoothly. The schedule is set. We learn French for two more weeks in Atakpamé, then practice teach for 4 weeks in Lomé.

I made a special trip to Lomé yesterday. I lost a filling in a tooth on Saturday. But there is a good dentist in Lomé, so I went down when he could see me and he filled it. There was no Novocain, but I don't take that anyway.

Some of us went to see a small waterfall near a little village to the west of Atakpamé. It was quite beautiful. The forest it was in was more overgrown than West Virginia forests. There are vines everywhere, trees and flowers growing out of rocks. Some children from the village followed us, acted as our guides. They broke open a nut from a cocoa plant for us and showed us how to suck on the seeds inside. The seeds sit in a slimy gel which is sweet. I bit one of the seeds. It was quite bitter. The kids also showed us some coffee beans from a nearby plant.

Nothing is wasted here. It started pouring down rain in the waterfall village and one of the kids took us into his house for shelter. On the wall, for decoration, were some vases with flowers in them. The "vases" were inverted light bulbs with ends removed.

I went out dancing again on Friday night. It's not like dancing in discos in the States. Everyone just dances. One doesn't need a partner, though plenty of people are paired off. The guys dance with each other. I've been asked a couple times already. It seems like the social games played in the US are not played here. I'm sure there are other games, the rules of which I'm not yet aware.

Men hold each others hands as do women. Some of the teachers, for example, will hold my hand while they are talking to me. It's something they do and when in Rome...etc. Come to think about it, I haven't seen many men holding women's hands. Perhaps there is a conservation law regarding the number of hands held per capita.

One of the women trainees goes out fairly frequently and is often asked for her hand in marriage. Usually they ask her before they ask for her name. Others say that the men try to convince them by saying, "Write to your parents and tell them. Then everything will be fine. They will understand." I wonder if they just ask everyone?

Another topic: in French class, we were to describe our house in the US. I drew a little map and showed the field across the street. My teacher asked what grew in the field and I told him nothing. He just looked at me with a very puzzled expression on his face. And why not?

I've had corn on the cob a few times and it has always been very chewy, and another volunteer says it's the kind of corn we at home feed cattle. That would be difficult to explain also. They don't feed corn to their animals. And why should they? Food is for people. It really is not hard to understand what goes on here.

[Chewy, hot, grilled corn on the street.  The seller turns the hot corn by hand, moves the hot coals around by hand, too.]

In some ways this is like old America. I hear the forger/blacksmith hammering out blades for the short handled hoe that the farmers use. There are carpenters and saw mills in town. And there are people whose trade is the cutting of broom, green broom. The market is hard to understand. Everyone sells something. At one stand, you can get soap, mirrors, bullion cubes, aspirin, canned fish, oranges, bananas, tetracycline(!), Bic pens, etc. Some people specialize. Some just sell cloth, for example, others just grain or beans.

In some ways it is very different here, vegetation, animal life, weather, but I don't feel a lot of culture shock. This must be because I'm still in school-like surroundings: classes everyday, homework every night, etc. Maybe when I'm alone in a village, things will be different.

Perhaps I will send a roll of film to be developed. I don't like to carry my camera around, however; it marks me as a tourist.

Enough for now. Keep those cards and letters coming.

Love,

Bill


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