July 30

Dear P.:

I'm no longer in Atakpamé. I'm in Ahepé [Ah-hep'-ay] which is in the Southeast part of the country. I'm on my "live-in," living with a Togolese family for the weekend. I'm writing this by the light of a kerosene lamp. There is no electricity here. There is a couple with two children here. The man is the director of the secondary school in Ahepé. They are very friendly and fed me well this evening. Tomorrow they will show me around town.

I'm finished in Atakpamé. Monday I go to Lomé to finish my training. Wednesday is my first day of practice teaching in front of real students. I don't think I'm quite ready. My French is still in the silly stage. I can barely communicate with this family. That's not really true. I can get all my wants across to them, but that is different than teaching physics.

I left Atakpamé Friday morning with another trainee whose live-in is in Tabligbo. There are few real buses, but there are lots of taxis. A taxi can be anything from a small, four-door compact, like a Renault 4, or a Toyota Corolla, to an 11 person van, into which they sometimes stuff 13 or 14 people. In each town, there are taxi stations for each major direction. For example, in Atakpamé, there are taxi stations for Badou (West), Sokode (North), Lomé (South) and other towns off in other directions. The "station" is not an enclosed building, but an open lot with a whole bunch of taxis in it. If one wants to go to Tabligbo from Atakpamé, one would go to the Lomé station and say "Tsevie," which is en route to Lomé. They will show you the right taxi and when it is full, it leaves for the South. It usually takes about an hour between arrival at the station and departure for your destination. Then at Tsevie, one would switch to a taxi to Tabligbo. That's what I did to get to my live-in. The "taxi" we took to Tabligbo was actually a so-called bashée which is a Toyota or similar half-ton pick up. From other volunteers, I've heard that there have been as many as twenty people, two chickens and a dog piled into these wonder-vehicles. We picked up some goats, which rode on the roof of the truck. These goats were tied at the feet, then tied to the top of the truck, but I've seen trucks with the goats standing on the top. They well exceed the 1/2 ton limit, but the things still go.

Today I was sitting in the yard with the family when some young boys came by with a big basin, covered with a big cloth. One boy took the cloth off and guess what was there: A rabbit-like creature. I asked what it was. I was told it was Agouti.

The most beautiful women in the world live here. Part of it is that they smile a lot, another is their form. They start carrying water on their heads at about 2 years, is my guess. There is a common pump nearby the house where I'm staying. People, mostly female, bring buckets or basins to fill up. Sometimes it takes two to lift the bucket up to the head of the carrier. Then they walk off with 40 lbs. of water on their head, no hands on the bucket. It is nearly unbelievable. They all sing, too. That's difficult for me. I'm a slave to a good voice.

I saw my first chicken slaughtered today. There is a student working for the family here. He washes the clothes, carries water, kills chickens, etc. It wasn't too bad. I guess it's better than electrocuting 100,000 at a time like chicken factories do. Actually, I don't know how they do it. I don't know if I'd want to do it myself.

There is no running water here so I bathe from a bucket. There are cement enclosures for two out houses and two shower stalls. It's actually no worse than a shower. I could get used to it if I have no running water.

Next stop:  Lomé for practice teaching.

Take care.



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