Semaine Culturelle

2/24

A few months ago I would have torn up a letter about chocolate covered doughnuts or even corn muffins, but now, I don't find I miss many material things from the States. I miss people. It's getting to be like Ann Arbor here, not that there are Pizza places opening up or electronic game arcades, but that it is beginning to feel like a home. It has taken many months and I don't think I will ever let it feel too much like home. I'd have to give up too much. It's enough like home to make me comfortable.
To date I've only had two Ewe lessons, but most of my students know I'm trying to learn it so when they see me on the street, the say "Woezo, fee-ka-leh-ee-o." That's fo-net-ik, it means: "Welcome, where are you going?" and I can say, "Meh-yee-a-ho-meh"..."I'm going home." It helps to have the whole town helping me.

I got a Christmas tree and flowers from Mom. I also got some grapefruit straws from J. all of which I ate today. He said to eat them up. He also sent a picture of all the family. I opened the letters while proctoring so all the students could see that I got a photo, and many wanted to see it after the test. The male students wanted the sisters for wives, and asked me if I would give them to them. They want addresses to write to.

Africans like to give their sisters away as gifts. There were two new trainees in Badou yesterday visiting the waterfall; both women. S and I went with them. There was an African there who said, "Your sisters please me. I would like to have them. Will you give them to me?" First, buddy, they're not my sisters, and second, they can decide on their own if they want you or not. What I told him was that it wasn't our custom to give people to other people. How can I make sense of it all?

Next week is Cultural Week, then one more week of classes, then Spring break. I'm writing letters to my friends, telling them to come and visit. People in the hot, dry North would enjoy the waterfall. A month ago was butterfly season, and there were clouds of them on the path to the waterfall. It is still very green there. The rest of Togo is brown; even my front yard. That will change soon with the rains. We've had two good downpours this month.

2/27
Yesterday I was very sick; a fever and what a headache! I stayed in bed all day yesterday and took aspirin. Naturally, since I'm in Africa, I thought I had all sorts of fatal jungle fevers, but since I feel much better today, I will assume it was just a 24 hour virus.

2/28
There are still days when I feel like I don't belong. Today at the teacher's meeting, jokes were made that didn't understand. Or the other night while waiting for practice to start (and there was some doubt in my mind whether it would ever start) all the students and musicians were conversing and laughing in their language. One reason that I feel particularly alone now is because S and B are out of town; I am the only American here. What would two years of that be like? I like S and the interaction we have. Next year will be different.

Wednesday is Soireé Cabaret and I and the Badou Band will perform in Semaine Culturelle! Dig that reggae beat.

2:00 PM
And I want to go home again. I miss everyone. Again I'm short on water. The cistern is empty. Water can have such an effect! And I just got rid of that fever and headache. That could be part of it.

4:40 PM
I'm feeling good now. I think the fever is gone for good. More important, I got some students over to put water in the cistern. I have water and I'm happy. That shows how I'm affected by my surroundings. The same happens with kerosene. When the kerosene runs low or runs out, I get depressed. Then I get happy again when I have a couple of jerry cans of kerosene in my house. That is something I never felt in M'town. Water was always there. Energy was always there. Is this a caveman feeling? To have water is good. To have an energy source is good. Uhgg. Soon I'll be pulling women along by their hair, back to my cave.

3/1
It looks like the band is going to be called off. That's too bad, especially for the students. I liked those tunes and it would have been fun to play them for a live audience. And why? The people at the prefecture say we ruined the instruments last night, which is not true, since they worked last night. I think the truth is they were either wrecked since or they work fine and they don't want us to use them.
Lately I've been yearning for people to whom I can easily talk.

3/2
Too much inactivity. I don't feel pressured to prepare lessons though I should. S and B are still out of town. Nothing here but Shogun. And tonight? The band? WHO KNOWS? And tomorrow the President is to come to town. Everything is so cloudy. Things were better defined in the States.

3/3
Today, the President of Togo, Eyadema came to Badou. It was an exciting day. All that animation. And the raising of the hands EEEEEEEEEHHHHHHHHH. Au pouvoir! It was like Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. The helicopter coming in from the East. All the people, all the singing.

Yesterday was soiree traditionnelle. I like the Akebou-Akposso dancing. And I danced with the Kpalime and Akebou dancers. It is so easy to entertain. The people all smiled and laughed when I danced with them.
But I don't like being at the center of attention all the time. Sometimes it seems like a big show.

Thursday, 3/3
Hello Everyone,
Today was a big day in Badou. More about that soon.
This in Cultural Week. The Lycee has been, or should be, putting on lots of little things. Wednesday was the first day of real activity (Tuesday was "opening ceremonies," where the Proviseur made a little speech. Wednesday was Soiree Traditionnelle. During the afternoon students did traditional African dances from their particular regions. There are students from all different parts of the country here at Badou, as at every Lycee. First the Akposso students did their dances. Those are the students from this region. They are the most enjoyable to watch. They get low to the ground and shoot their feet out, almost like a Russian folk dance. Then the students from the North came out to dance. They danced with fire and ate live FROGS! Then some other Northern students came out and did a knife dance. They would pretend to cut each other, but there was a girl with a bowl on her head containing healing liquid and she would throw some on anyone who had cut themselves. No one got hurt. Then there were students from the Akebou region. Two or three would dance in a fairly mellow manner. Then at some signal, they would all start dancing crazy.

Then, the students from Kpalime came out. There's was the biggest group. Their dance was a mellow circle dance. As each group left the center ring or center of attention, they went off and danced some more so one could go watch any group after all had finished in the center. I went over to the Kpalime dances because my Lycee teacher friends are mostly from Kpalime (most of the teachers are from Kpalime). I kept watching and wanted to dance, too, so finally some students who could see I wanted to go in, pulled me in (this was the circle dance). It was fun. It was a simple dance, just moving around the circle. Now and again, there was something fancy to do: step, step. jump back.. step, step, jump back... etc. Then the Akebou students pulled me over to do the mellow-crazy dance. And that was harder and I wouldn't say I mastered it (I completely destroyed it) but it was fun and the crowds got a good laugh out of it, too. I ate no frogs.

We got a "surprise" visit from a very important person today. The President of Togo came to the Lycee. Starting this morning, military trucks came into town. Students from nearby villages came to dance for him.

It was a big event. All of Badou came to welcome him. There were many bands that played, many dances danced, songs sung. We all waited patiently. At about 11 AM we saw a helicopter come out of the East. And yes. There he was. President Eyadema. He came out of the helicopter and walked by honor guards, by singing students to a seat of honor. He was welcomed be the Prefect of Badou. The president himself gave a speech about Togo, the need to be self-sufficient, etc. It was exciting to see him since I've heard so much about him. His picture is always in the paper, he's always being quoted. So now I've seen him for real. P showed up from Kougniohou to see the President, too. Also to see his students, because they had come to dance and sing for the president.
Cultural Week is not yet over and the band I'm in hasn't yet performed in public. There's a chance we never will since there seems to be some trouble with the instruments but we'll see. It's been worth it just for the practice sessions, which were great fun. I'm learning to play reggae style organ.
Here I am at the bottom already. I see by this letter that it is difficult to accurately and adequately relate the events of my life here. It has been an exciting, colorful week. It's hard to put it on paper.
More exciting and colorful things to come.
Love,
Bill

3/9
I liked hearing the domestic sounds on P and K's tape. It made me miss the ability to be able to converse. Letters are great but I'd like to be able to have a conversation with the family.

Thursday, 3/10
What's it all for? B said that when she was home it was like she was never here; like it was a dream. Michigan seemed like that to me when I was home and yet I spent two years there. I made friends, learned things.
I am not happy at this moment. Headache and fever maybe? And the uncertainty of tonight's events. Will there be a Soiree Cabaret tonight?
How can we speak about our feelings and ideas? Sometimes I think they should just stay inside. I can't get them out in one piece anyway. "...too fine for speech..." or whatever.
It's the isolation again. It creeps up from time to time. There are some people that easily adapt. It takes a long time for me. Maybe some people can never leave home.
I hear about others who seem to strike out on their own, and part of me is envious. Like Kpalime Janice who has been accepted to Washington State. I'd like to go back HOME. Oh, it's a blast to be here but how much time is spent on wanting to be back there with them? Not enough to go back. "I never saw my home town, till I stayed away too long."
Will I ever have convictions? I think I'm developing convictions. Is it because I'm getting older? That I say Home is where I spent my youth and that I want to go back there and that is OK for now and if I find otherwise when I go back, then that is OK, too!
How bizarre that I look at myself as not breaking away from home! I've been away for 3 years now!

I played in the band! It was great fun but the sound reproduction was bad. An average jam in the attic was better quality that the sound we put out. But I hit most of the right notes and everyone had a good laugh. Here was the set-up:

It was fun. Maybe I'll have one of my own songs to play next year.


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