Saturday night I dreamt that I rode in the back of a truck to the top of Togo and it was so far north I could wade into the Arctic.
Reality suggests otherwise. They call it ‘Tiny Terrific Togo’ for a reason and the landscape surrounds me in shades of brown, red, and green. Though afternoon downpours produce impressive dumpings of rain, I have seen no bodies of water since glimpsing the Atlantic in Lomé. Before I left Oregon, I waded into the ocean once a month between November and May. Now, I must seek the rejuvenating effects of la mer elsewhere.
It feels both startling and unremarkable that I have been here a full month. Truly, since moving to a village for Pre-Service Training, time has blurred. We train on language, cross-cultural considerations, teaching technique, health, and endless other preparatory topics for upwards of ten hours a day Monday through Friday, plus four more hours on Saturday. The rest of my weekend belongs to chores (hand-washing clothes, cleaning and organizing my room, helping with meals, washing dishes, etc.), church with my host family, soccer with my host siblings, studying French, spending time with other ‘trainees,’ and, if I can manage, some elusive time to myself.
Some days depart from the routine. Last Monday, while I washed my breakfast dishes, the goats sniped my lunch off the ground and dashed to the neighboring compound, chased by my heroic host mother who saved the lunch before it was too late. Later that morning, in French class, we learned the vocabulary to discuss health and illness. I boasted that I had not yet been sick in Togo; hours later, I felt nauseous and feverish. Still, I powered through until that afternoon when the smells of the market sent me home early as the strongest downpour yet began. I lay beneath my mosquito net wondering simultaneously if the tin roof would fall in on me from the force of the rain and if my stomach would turn in on itself. Besides a few rough nights, by Friday I returned to santé.
Mostly, beyond the general feeling of being over-full of information, things are good. My host family—featuring four siblings between the ages of four and thirteen—provides endless care, support, welcome, and belonging (and the occasional reminder that my pants are dirty and I should wash them) and I am grateful for them every day, whether dancing with my sister, playing soccer ensemble, or chatting with my host dad in French. My early morning runs through the village offer the chance to greet most people I see and always almost a few goats with ‘Bonjour!’ A beer costs a dollar and my deep love for Mamma Mia! is shared among my cohort. I eat fresh mangoes and have soul-enriching conversations often.
In one week, I will know where I will be placed and therefore living for two years starting in August. In the meantime, I will continue my efforts to raise hype about the Women’s World Cup, eat more and more foods with my hands, and accept that les enfants one third my age will always school me in soccer.