Tomorrow, a few of us are going to Badou, which is due West of Atakpamé. It is along the Ghanaian border on the edge of a rain forest and there is a big water fall where one can swim.
[This is the town of Tomegbé near the waterfall. The hills in the background are in the neighboring country of Ghana.]
The doctor recommends not drinking from the tap without boiling the water first. There are volunteers here who drink the water without boiling it, and they say they never get sick. They may have built up a tolerance to the parasites here. But the Doc says you can't build up a tolerance to amoebas, which are everywhere. Also, there are shistosomata in most streams, so we shouldn't walk in any streams. I have a bottle of boiled water in my room to brush my teeth with.
I still have no idea where I'll end up. Sometimes I think I'd like to go up North, where it is "more African," but I haven't seen it up there. And the South has its advantages, too. I don't really know enough to make a decision. I may get to go up North for my live-in. Then I will have seen some of the North.
I think the Togolese that I've met so far have had a lot of western influence, or else people are alike all over. Probably both statements are true.
To teach without adequate vocabulary is difficult, but it will not be impossible. I've bargained for a few things in town. I got a mirror for 100 cfa, down from 125. It gets easier to understand prices. Conversation gets less one-sided but it still seems difficult. There is so much vocabulary. Think of all the words I don't know, and just one in a sentence is enough. That said, I like being around people who speak another language. I noticed at dinner last night, that I can understand people without trying. They talk, I listen, I understand. Sometimes, I think about what someone said, and I'm not sure whether it was said in French or English. There is much more to learn, though, and there will be local language to learn, too.
In some ways it is very different here, language, 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.
I got your letter today.
I also think about that delay between here and there. I've just got it set in my mind that there is a month delay between this letter to you and when I receive the response. And if I made a telephone call, it would be like talking into the future. Here's a problem. You said J's red belt test would be the 20th of July. I have to wish into the past to send a good luck thought. But, good luck anyway, J.
I haven't gotten much exercise. I walk into town almost everyday, but it's not very strenuous. This past weekend, however, some of us went to Badou to see a big waterfall. We hiked over mountains, across streams (streams with quick running water, therefore no schistosomata) and finally to the waterfall. It was beautiful, maybe 70 feet high. We swam in the pool that it emptied into and even stood underneath the falls. The walk to and from was not only up and down, but through some pretty dense forest, through cocoa groves, farmers fields. The trail was well worn so we didn't need machetes. The cocoa nuts (not coconuts) grow anywhere off the tree, off the trunk, off branches.
We stayed overnight at the house of some PC volunteers. They were vacationing, so the house was empty. We knew about where the house was. When we got to it, Kodjo, one of our professors said, "There it is. You can always tell a volunteer's house."
[It was the house I would eventually live in...]
In the morning, I had breakfast on the street: rice and beans, with a little sauce. All sauces here are loaded with hot pepper. I also had a little water, which may not sound like something that I would have to put in a letter, but have I heard stories about the water! But Kodjo, one of the professors, drank some, so I did, too. No after effects...yet.
I've seen that bean game being played on the street, the one we played when we were little. I'll have to relearn that.
There are many things musical that go on in the street. I want to learn some of these African songs and dances. All the Africans I've met so far can sing. Music must be very important here.
[Click on the picture to see and hear this woman pounding some kind of medicine. The video format is Real Video so you need a Real Player to watch it.]
That will be all for now. I have to finish my work for tomorrow. And it is clear tonight, so I want to go look at the stars.
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