The Peace Corps Song
The longing feelings for home are buried. I still feel that home is far away, but it is not painful.
I gave my first quiz today. I had to watch the students like a hawk.
I want to go home again. I have a ridiculous amount of work to do and class all Saturday morning as well. Terminale was senseless today. They have all seen the material before. It's absurd to stand up there and tell them the exact same thing that S told them, and know that they won't do well on the exams anyway!
And the frigo is stupid, too. It keeps getting crust on the burner.
Class on Saturday but I'm not prepared!
Oh, I'm feeling better already and it's only 15 minutes later. I feel better always when I conquer another physics problem or concept. I feel better about energy and power now.
Now it's Friday Oct 22 and I'm eating my dinner, a spanish omelette with cheese. I'm also preparing lessons for tomorrow. Note that this means I'm holding classes on Saturday. There is no way to cover the material without having extra classes. I prepare lessons all the time, even while sleeping. There is no way to get ahead so I'm always preparing for classes the night before the class itself. I'd like to think about the material a little before the class so I can present it coherently. This is really my practice year.
Because of the amount of material to cover, teaching is frustrating. If there were more time or less material, the students could absorb more information. I gave my first quiz last week and the students did horribly. I haven't finished grading the quizzes yet, but the average so far looks like 3 out of 10.
I'm getting to know some of the teachers at school, but it might be forever before I get to know any of them well. There is a language problem: I can get my ideas across and comprehension is up, but I can't yet have a relaxed conversation in French.
The Ewe is coming along slowly. It is a well constructed language but like any other, it has to be practiced. It's hard to find a place to store these new sounds. French and German have some common sounds and the French grammar is similar to English, but Ewe is far removed from any of the three. I don't know whether I'll ever have a "feel" for the grammar of Ewe like I'm getting for the French and had for the German. But there is an impetus to learn the language since it makes the marché women so happy. I can see the relief on their faces when I ask for the price of an onion in Ewe. Then they don't have to fish around for money to show me how much something costs.
The Peace Corps Doctor is here in town and has promised to give me my quarterly hepatitis shot tomorrow morning. It's a big shot in the butt. I've had one so far and it wasn't bad.
I had my first Saturday morning classes today. I work every night until bedtime (9:00-10:00 PM), then I'm up before 5:30 AM to work before I go to school. Classes start @ 7:00 AM. I'll do whatever is humanly possible, but it is frustrating. I knew it wasn't going to be easy but it borders on ridiculous. It is challenging when you give someone a chisel, hammer and a rock and say "create something wonderful." But to give someone a dull screwdriver and the same rock and say "create something wonderful in 20 minutes" is silly. There are national exams after every trimester (new this year) and so there is a certain amount of material that I must cover before the end of November. The material in terminale to be covered before the end of November took another volunteer last year until March to do. It is challenging and I enjoy the teaching for its own sake, even if I can't cover everything (anything) as thoroughly as I'd like.
And there is Africa. I learn a new Ewe phrase every day. Make someone laugh by just saying "One loaf of bread, please," make little children run screaming to their mother by just looking at them. It is an interesting place. I sometimes think about greener grass, that I would be "better off" in school, but what does "better off" mean? And when I look objectively, I realize that I really don't want to be back at Michigan. Maybe some day, but not now.
I'll stop here. The doctor said he would take mail to Lomé for us so I will give this to him. Thanks again for your letter. It made me want to talk to you but I can't pick up the phone.
More to come.
Thanks for the tape! Yes! That's right! I got the tape! You should have gotten my tape by now. I've written music to 1 1/2 of your songs.
Some answers to your questions. I'm not getting any French lessons but I might get some Ewe lessons. I want to learn a local language. About small deadly creatures: there are spitting cobras in the area but the chance of seeing one is about one per year. They are quite deadly but I have a snake bite kit handy just in case. There are a few mosquitoes and black flies. Black flies carry these nasty worms that bury themselves under your skin and eventually make you blind, but they say one has to be in a black fly area for 10 years before you have enough worms in you to worry. The bites itch like crazy, though. I've started wearing socks in the evenings to keep them off since they only bite on the ankles.
I like your tape very much. It makes me want to sing all those songs too. and maybe I will! I like to hear your voice, too. The most frustrating thing about being here is that home is so far away. The distance I can handle, but the time between letters is painful.
I miss the piano. I hear there is an organ here in town somewhere. There is cultural week called Semaine Culturelle held early in the new year, and one of the more musical teachers has suggested that I play the organ for some of the songs that would be performed during that week. Why not? I often take the attitude: "I'm in Africa...why not?" It is still sometimes hard to believe. When I go visit S, a volunteer that lives up on a hill, I look down at Badou and see Africans doing their daily things and think, "Oh, look at this. I'm in Africa.
[This picture was taken near S's house. The air is dusty with harmattan.]
I'm going to stop here. I will start a tape.
Sunday, October 24, 1982, 10:30 AM
I wrote, last night and this morning, four letters. To: B, D, M and P. I got a lot of letters from home yesterday. T brought them from Lomé. Some were addressed by PC to Lyceé de Badou, so they know I'm up here. None of the letters were initially addressed to Badou. I got a tape from P with some C-A tunes on it. One from TT. I felt a touch of jealousy because he's at MIT/Harvard taking fluid dynamics, etc. It's his personal gain I'm jealous of, but that's a problem of perspective. Look at my personal gain!
Thanks for letter #12. I haven't numbered my letters. I have no idea how many I've sent. I have been keeping a journal lately but I don't document my letters in it. My journal is not very extensive. I write too much in the letters I send to feel like I have anything left to say for the journal. That's a little too bad because I would like to be able to go back and read a complete journal.
I got a tape from P. During the tape, P's father says hello, his mother too, comes on and says, "Hi Bill, this is Mother A, we're all so proud of you here in M'town..." It was just like the movies. I got a letter from D, too, and two from R.
Thanks for the information on millet. I'll try cooking it with oatmeal. I get plenty of protein. There's a man that sells brochettes on the road to school; I eat one or two about every other day. One piece of the meat in the brochettes is liver, so I get some vitamin A there. There are no green leafy vegetables to speak of (the liver is green sometimes...) but there is eggplant and okra. On the street, there are kolikos, or fried ignams. I don't like them plain but would rather eat them with a meal, like I would eat french fries with a meal. Sometimes, I eat standing up by the vendor, sometimes, I eat in a little sheltered area where I can sit down, and sometimes I sit in an enclosed room with a table, water, and a basin to wash hands. It depends on which person I buy from.
I don't like to eat brochettes on the street, because I don't like the way people look at me. They would look at me no matter what I was eating because I'm a Yovo, but when I'm eating meat as well, this expression looks different. When I'm eating beans and rice, I know I'm eating something that everyone eats. Of course, it's not just Yovos that eat brochettes, but I still feel funny eating them on the street.
It is difficult for you to imagine a street scene in Badou, I guess. I can't really describe it well. There is one paved road through town which branches off in two places, one to go to the Lyceé and one to go to Tomégbé. In the middle of town is the market and the taxi station. The market is a bunch of shelters, under which one finds everything in the world on Thursday and a few things the rest of the week. The taxi station is a big open area filled with taxis and drivers saying "Lomé, Lomé, moins cher!!" Lomé, Lomé, cheap!! (It's not cheap when you have to ask him how much). There is one gas station (BP) that has gas some of the time. The station also sells kerosene for my frigo. There are a few bars, the Forever Bar, the Toyota Bar and Bar Le Reve (The Dream) are the ones that come to mind. They actually have cold drinks when there is kerosene in town.
[Photo: Here are the shelters in the Badou market. The road to the right goes to the Lycee. Just to the right, out of view, is the BP station.]
I've got to get back to work so I'll stop now. I'll write again soon.
I've had a long weekend. There was a Halloween party in Lama-Kara and I decided to take the time to go. Lama-Kara is up North and I've wanted to see the North. I wanted to see my friends there, too, and I wanted a break from school.
Friday afternoon, after my first Devoir for my Première students, I went to the taxi station with B to get a taxi to Atakpamé. After some anxious moments, we got the two front seats of a Peugeot 504, a big station wagon, and were off to Atakpamé at around 6:00. When we got into town, we ate dinner at a restaurant that I frequented during training. Then we found a volunteer's house, without volunteer (she was in Lomé seeing the doctor - nothing serious, Mom), and went to bed.
Saturday morning I went to the taxi station for Lama-Kara, and B went to the Lomé station since he had some work to do for Peace Corps. The L-K station had one car half full to go to Lama-Kara, so I put my bag in the front seat to save a space, then had a piece of bread on the street. After about a half-hour wait, there were enough people to go up to Kara, so we got started.
[Here is the taxi station in Atakpame. If you were lucky, you would get the front passenger seat in 9 or 12-seater, like the van on the left. If you were unlucky, you would ride on a wooden bench, stuffed into the back of covered truck, or bashée, with chickens, goats and a dozen other passengers.]
The country is beautiful this time of year. There are teak trees all the way up to Kara and their leaves are changing color. It is like fall. As the rains go away, the leaves dry up, turn yellow and fall off the trees. It is fairly flat near Atakpamé but there are some rolling hills. The Togo Mountains are off to the left as one goes North. The mountains meet the road near Bafilo, just before Lama-Kara. The North is not as overgrown as it is between Lomé and Atakpamé or the way it is here in Badou, but it is green right now. It turns brown during the dry season.
I saw Africa clash with the West: African women, wearing colorful African clothes, carrying things on their heads, with a big, red "Buvez Coca-Cola" sign behind them, and a thatched, mud hut with a Coca-Cola sign on its wall.
The taxi stopped in Sokodé and everyone got out. It turned out that I was the only one going to Lama-Kara, so I switched to another taxi, which left soon after for L-K. The whole journey took about 4 hours.
When I got to Kara, I didn't know where to go. I asked some kids where I could find the house of the new American Math Professor. They quickly found someone who knew where to go and proceeded to take me there. I met some other new volunteers like myself on the street before I got to A's and so went with them for a Coke (Buvez Coca-Cola!). I ended up at A's and talked with him and others who were in town. We walked around Kara, I watched a game of softball played between the North volunteers vs. the South (the South lost), and ate some fufu and chicken. I took a shower at Alex's (he has running water and electricity) and went to the party. I stayed until 2:30 or so, visiting with my friends, and then went to Alex's to sleep on a cold cement floor without a blanket! In the morning I had breakfast with a bunch of volunteers at Hotel Kara, then by 10:00 AM I was at the taxi station in Kara, ready to go back home. There were seven of us going towards Lomé, so I had company on the way back to Atakpamé. A French person was sitting next to me and we conversed, in French. I can get ideas across, but my conversational French needs work. I got off at Atakpamé and had a bite to eat, bought 5 liters of kerosene, went to the Badou taxi station and waited for a taxi to fill up for Badou. I got the front seat of a 1/2 ton pick-up and they put four in the front. Nothing lasts forever, so it wasn't too bad (I'm glad the ride was only one and a half hours). It was raining when we got into Badou (the last rain we've had). Monday was All-Saints Day and there was no school, so I spent the day catching up. There is a lot of work to do. I'm always just one day ahead of the students, but I'm surviving and it's even fun sometimes.
Now it's Friday, November 5. I haven't had time to do anything but class work. Next week is going to be worse. I have to write 8 exams before next Friday!
I had a little case of the runs after my visit to Lama-Kara. I guess the organisms up there are different than here in Badou. It wasn't as bad as when I had the problem in Lomé. I guess my system is toughening up. I tried the garlic method and that seemed to work great.
It looks like the rainy season has past. We haven't had rain since the weekend and the dusty wind from the Sahara, called Harmattan, has arrived. It almost looks foggy in the hills because of the dust. It will start getting hotter during the day now, though nights will still be cool.
I've gotten lots of letters here in Badou; the postal system is working. Finding time is a real problem so you may not get as many letters as before, but I'll try and keep them coming. That's all here.
Saturday, November 6, 11:30 AM
The Peace Corps Song
Today I was happy for about an hour and 15 minutes
I wonder when that will happen again
I don't know what to do
I don't know why I'm going through this
I wonder when my Peace Corps days will end
This is just as easy as emptying the ocean
Last night I only worked until dawn
Oh, but it would be so fine
to work just till supper time
I wonder how long this is going to go on
Peace Corps, Peace Corps
I wonder what you were thinking of
Peace Corps, Peace Corps
When you said this is the toughest job I'll ever love
My charcoal is burning as the world is turning
I'm floating now a little more than I sink
And though it's no piece of cake yet
I think I'm going to make it
The time is going to go faster than I think
Now it's smooth sailing, there's no need for bailing
The days roll on by with hardly a tear
Oh why was I concerned
And just look what I have learned
I wonder if Nepal needs a volunteer
Peace Corps. Peace Corps
Now I know what you were thinking of
Peace Corps, Peace Corps
When you said this is the toughest job I'll ever love
There's another song. I'll soon have three albums done: The Best of C-A, The "Ann Arbor Years," and "Peace Corps Songs." I can make a grand master when I get home and then make albums for all my friends.
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Copyright © 2001 Bill Crozier