Now I'm a real Peace Corps Volunteer. Thursday evening, September 23, 1982, I was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer for the West African country of Togo. I've enclosed the newspaper clipping with the story.Presentation of Oath, Thursday at the American Embassy in Lomé. Thirty seven Peace Corps Volunteers were sworn in Thursday evening at the residence of the American Ambassador in Togo, Mr. Walker. He was represented at this ceremony by an aide, Mr. William Hudson.
This number is added to the twenty-one others who were sworn in three weeks ago.
The new volunteers who have come to put their knowledge to the service of their Togolese brothers are divided in the following fashion: nine professors of mathematics, physics and chemistry [me!]. One professor for the department of English at the University of Benin, six trainers for technical teaching, three agricultural instructors for primary and secondary schools and finally, ten trainers for animal traction...
September 25, 1982 10:30 PM
Day One of my Official Journal.
I'm sitting in the bar of the Hotel Ahodikpé-Eboma. The bar is empty. It looks half completed. There are wires hanging from the ceiling. A few simple, high-backed wooden chairs and some linoleum-topped, wooden tables. Much of Togo looks like it's half-completed. There are buildings with the metal supports sticking out of the sides, as if there were going to be an addition that never got put on. This hotel, I think, is many years old, yet it is not complete. And the taxi driver tonight asked if I meant the "new hotel" when I said Ahodikpé.
I'm putting cigarette ashes on the floor. The bar man, who says he is learning English, told me I could put the ashes on the floor. Everyone puts banana peels, orange peels, bits of string, pieces of paper on the ground here. But there is so little trash in Africa. Everything is used. Empty boxes are used as shopping bags. Old Toyotas are turned into charbonniers. Children use little boxes as cars or trains and they make car frames out of wire. All paper is used for wrapping merchandise. A stagiaire (trainee) bought some bread and was handed the bread unwrapped. When asked if it could be wrapped, the vender went to a nearby trash can, took a piece of paper out and wrapped the bread in it.
I want to know everything. That's one of my reasons for being here. I'm learning French. I'm learning about Africa. I'm learning about myself.
I have seen a lot of Togo in the past three months. Some of it will show up on these pages, some of it is in the letters I've written home. I can't even give highlights. Africa is subtly exciting. The experience is a collection of many, many little crazy things: a woman carrying a dozen live roosters on her head, wild cab drivers, children chanting: "Yovo, Yovo, bon soir...," lizards, goats, chickens running in the street, bargaining with the market women, Scorpio up high in the sky, the sun at zenith, rabies shots, speaking French, speaking Ewe, dancing...
C and I went to look at the port today. We wanted to see big ships. We saw the Reefer Merchant, a fish ship from Nigeria. We saw, across the water to another port, the Gearbulk, a large British freighter which was loading something, probably phosphates.
We have been given a daily allowance and most of us are staying in a no-frills hotel on the Boulevard Circulaire called Hotel Ahodikpé-Eboma (Ah-ho-deek-pay Eh-bo-ma). Try to remember that name for the taxi driver. We are waiting for some papers to be signed so we can go up to our sites. The earliest we can go up is Wednesday.
I've been eating street food while in Lomé. Hot rice and beans, with a little hot pepper, or omelets for breakfast. For dinner, beef brochettes, grilled over coals. There is a woman down the street from the hotel who sells grilled chicken. I may eat there tonight.
The papers got signed, so I'll be going up to Badou soon. I'm a little apprehensive since I'll really be teaching soon. The school year officially started on Monday the 20th, and I'm still here in Lomé. I don't really know what to expect so it is hard to prepare myself mentally or scholastically, with lecture notes, etc.
My next letter will probably come from Badou. There may be a little wait until things get settled. I think the next week will be hectic.
My head is made of some strange substance tonight. There is a lot of loud music outside. It's those crazy Americans playing The Who. I've had some beers. I held M's hand. What a doll. Are these people like this in the States? They are all singing out there, making noise, by God.
What is Badou? I talked to A, a fellow who lived there for awhile. He said there's a nice family near the house where I'll be living.
I have to pack soon. I'm going tomorrow or Thursday. I went shopping today and got buckets and hand towels.
Today is my last full day in Lomé. I should be in Badou by tomorrow evening.
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