New and Newer

Well its possibly been a million years since my last post, so here’s an update you most likely wont read (in a timely fashion). Got news a week ago that I was accepted into the India Journey class. I get to spend the month of September 2012 in India, learning, absorbing, observing, eating, and having a blast with 14 of my peers from Tulane. I’m super stoked about this and want to leave tomorrow. Other notes on grad school, its great, i love it, its everything I wanted it to be and more… not to say that isn’t the same things my peers would say. actually, its nothing I’ve heard any of my peers say. I agree with them on many points, but the majority of it is fine for me. Thats my disclaimer btw. from what i’ve heard from them, they almost despise school. it seems like its a waste of time and they aren’t learning “much.” Professors and the program are kind of unorganized… okay they are unorganized on a regular basis… but so what.. thats almost the beauty of it all. Learning the theories is one thing, applying it is another, but connecting them and UNDERSTANDING it all takes years i think. bc, lets face it, its a little too much right now to apply everything we are learning to our internships in a productive manner. Why do i not mind school, well it keeps me busy for one (and if you know me then you know i love having something to do, okay thats almost a lie bc i love being lazy too….humm i’ve going to have to ponder this some and get back with you)…. other then the busy side of things, i like learning about different populations i haven’t worked with, might want to work with, or had no clue existed. additionally, i’m involved in a research project that so far has blown me out of the water. I created a survey, (which hopefully we can train some people so they can take the damn thing) so we can evaluate some psychological perceptions! whooot whoot! never thought i would ever have such positive, excited, nerve raking, butterfly, happiness related feeling toward research… oh how you never know what life will bring you.

speaking of the crazy turns of life, i met someone a lot of people know… not personally that is, but through the “A-lister/Celebrity” kind of way. fancy me, he was fond of me. at least for a moment that is. no I’m not mentioning who this person might be. there really is no point in it. why? bc i dont really want to. :) if i tell you, great.. you know. if i dont… then wait for it….. keep waiting….. i might tell you later……… or i might not. hell, if you really want to know, ask someone close to me and i’m sure they will spill the beans. anyways, had a great date with “said person” and possible the best date of my life. AND NOT BC THEY ARE FAMOUS! hell no, bc they asked me the simplest question EVER, in a genuine manner…WHY. love it. it seemed, at the time at least, that they were interested in me. fancy that…ME!!! “why” isn’t a really big deal, but how they posed question to get to know me made it feel real and genuine in the effort. I appreciated it. oh, did i mention “said person” has a job… that they like and seem happy with it. That aspect made me happy too, bc it didn’t seem like some dead beat was trying to hit on me… that was reassuring that there are men out there that aren’t pathetic. :) wow I’m really coming off as a positive person right now… let me reassure you that I’m not biter about my dating past… nope, I’m very happy that I’m not with anyone from my past :)

okay so i think those are the interesting aspects of my life that might be worth reading about. none the less, i miss my friends and family that i dont get to see on a regular basis. wish i was closer to y’all…. but at this time… and i’m not sure when, i will be “home” again… just a reminder: I havent forgotten you, i miss you, and most likely love you tons! this includes multiple friends that are PCVs in Togo. Texas, you have my heart, but my spirit is free and wondering the world. see ya when i see ya!

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Moving on…

Well, as most of y’all know, I am back in TEXAS! For the good, the bad, and the everything in between. Since my return, I have been confused, pissed off, bitter, relieved and happy, but more or less I have felt a lack of direction. I always knew what I wanted to do, but actually doing it is something completely different. Just like ACTUALLY getting into the Peace Corps, then arriving in my host country, going through training, living the life of a volunteer, then things going horribly wrong…. needless to say my life has been turned over multiple times in the last year. But, as of today I am happy to say my plans have not changed, and yet again I’m doing what I’ve been planning to do! I was accepted into the Social Work Masters Program at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. I am more then excited about this opportunity, and of course nervous as all get out! Same as this time last year, I’m planing to move outta Texas! this is not good bye by any means! I don’t think I will ever say c-ya Texas! So, class starts Aug 30th…. and as of right now I’m planning a trip to the Big Easy with my mom, godmother, and best friend to find a place to live and meet with an advisor!! AHHHHH things are changing so quickly! One day I’m planning to meet with an Apt Locater in the Austin area, now I’m planning my re-location to Louisiana! Life is sure keeping me on my toes!

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Home Again

As some of you know, I am returning to America this weekend. I am really busy right now with meetings and paper work, and saying good bye to all my friends here in Togo. I will be sure to give everyone more information soon. I am safe, all is well, but I am sad to be leaving Togo. I have much unfinished, but I’m certain i will be able to complete my work at another time. much love, joni

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La Plage

March 6, 2011
BEACH!!! I finaly went to the beach to see … well not to see much at all. The beach here isn’t a place for fun in the sun, its more like a place to go if you want to get jacked. One of my good Togolese friends escorted me there (since it’s very dangerous). We walked along and he pointed out things to me and explained them. We hung out around some fishing boats and watched the waves. Very comfortable breeze for the late afternoon. The fishing boats are very intresting, none of the fishermen would let me take a proper picture of the boats, something about stealing souls and bad luck…blah blah blah. Well anyways, Serge (my friend) and I were leaning up against one an I took a few pictures of us, so maybe you can kinda see what the boat looks like. They are old school style, simple yet LARGE canoe style boats. While hanging out we watched children chasing crabs, trying to capture them with a Togolese style brooms (bunched up sticks) and water jugs cut in half. Very amusing to say the least.
I took a picture of the ocean, yet it was a lot more difficult to get a simple picture then one might think. I had to wait for all the men to stop pissing into the wind/ocean to get a decent shot. So although the ocean might seem normal looking, nothing to amazing, but decent all the same….it’s dirty! Dirty dirty dirty!! People pee all the time, and if they aren’t peeing then they might be pooping near the waters rime so that when the tide comes in it will wash away their poop. Serge commented on this after we saw more then 5 children doing this. He says there no stopping it, but that he hopes over time people will realize it is not good. His cousin has visited from Europe to help aide in the campaign for a cleaner Togo. Good cause, but I’m not sure how best to spread that message. I know a few other volunteers who are starting trash clean up projects, I’m very interested to see how those pan out. My village is actually pretty clean, the only place where you can really find discarded trash is at the Catholic school. I might do a trash can project there. I think it would be very helpful there and at our big market area. It only takes one or two times a week to clean out and burn the trash, I think I can handle that. ALTHOUGH….. even with taking care of my trash I usually need someone to supervise me. HAHA! My compound burns our trash right out side our gate, and it happens to be next to a dry corn/wheat field…. I have almost burnt it down a few times. Sometimes this is amusing, other times, when people are walking by and have to run and fetch a bucket of water….it can be a little embarrassing. But all in all, my village is a lot cleaner then Lome (the capital of Togo) and especially the beach.
This coming weekend I have big plans! Saturday is Club Espoir. Which is a cub for children who either have or their parents have AIDS/HIV. We play games and then teach a lesson on importance of health. After this I plan on going to the pool and hanging out with the other volunteers that are in town also participating in Club Espoir. Sunday, a bunch of volunteers will be passing through and we all plan to meet up and grab a bite to eat. It will be good to catch up with some other volunteers that I don’t get to see very often! Next Monday it will be back to a normal week. Planning stuff for English Club, playing Volleyball, having meetings to plan more work with the community, getting my water from my well so that I can shower, going to the market, and of course sweating through my clothes all day, which means going to the well more often so that I can hopefully cool off with a shower…. fun fun fun!!! I’ve just found out that there is a huge Fete in early July, so I’m going to try and postpone my trip back home till the end of July/early August. Then again I still don’t have Peace Corps schedule of events for that time, so things are still subject to change. My goals for my visit back home: go to the River and have an amazing river trip!!!! And see the last Harry Potter movie! Also to visit friends and family and enjoy air conditioning. Not much to ask for, simple needs, simple requests….. I’m easy to satisfy I think! Well, hope all is well, I’m sure shorts weather is just around the corner! I’m looking forward to my pool days, and time with friends here in country. It’s what keeps me sane! But then again, work and no play is…..bad…I forget how that little saying goes, but none the less, if I could I would play every day!!! ☺ happy trails everyone!

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the sun will come out tomorrow

this will now be a short post because the one i just typed…and lost due to the computer im using signing me off because i ran out of credit on here….. well its just too much to write again.

quick notes version
-goign to the poll, hopefully not going to be too hot today
-hot season is on the rise…very difficult to sleep, i have resorted to sleeping on a cot due to waking up in the middle of the night bc im sweating and my sheets are soaked. also it is very common to be nausious at the hottest part of the day. SUCK
-putting in for vacation time soon, hopefully JULY
worek is picking up, hopefully starting an engligh club for students soon
-greg, my pup is doing good, hes more of the compound dog now since i travle a good amount.

****if you know any simple child songs like row row row your boat, twinle little star, games like simon says…. facebook me a message with the instructions or words… i will be teaching these in my engligh club!!!**
much love, and i hope the weather for yall isnt too bad!!!

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A few fun facts with a touch of my current predicament

I have heard comments saying that you can’t see the pictures I posted on my last update, so my solution for now is: if you would like to know what a bush taxi is, please GOOGLE: BUSH TAXI ☺ look for the car/van packed with as much crap/stuff as possible and that’s what I’m traveling on/with.
I just finished reading the VIN (volunteer information newsletter, I think that’s right). Well anyways, there was an interesting article titled ‘2010 Piece Corps Data’ and the fun facts that jumped out at me that I would like to share are:
• Average age of a PCV is 28, 7% of volunteers are over the age of 50, the oldest volunteer currently serving is 86, 19% of volunteers are women, and 90% hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
• In 2010, the agency received nearly 13,500 applications for volunteer positions. There are more Americans applying to serve with Peace Corps than there are positions available. Roughly one in three applicants will serve with a Peace Corps program overseas.
• Africa region: 3,168 PCV sever in 28 countries (37%)
• Inter-America and the Pacific Region: 2,772 serve in 29 countries (32%)
• Europe , the Mediterranean, and Asian Region: 2,715 serve in 20 countries (31%)
Not much going on right now, I have been sick the past few days and since I was in Lome, I stayed in the Medical Unit. Some tests were done, and turned out I had some parasite. After two days of beaucoup meds, I’m feeling much better. Now I’ve got to make my way back to village because my program director is supposed to visit me late in the week. Problem number one: there are no bus tickets available till Saturday (she is supposed to visit before that), problem number two: if I leave RIGHT NOW, I might get to village in time but I wont have any food at my house. Problem number three: I’m supposed to make lunch for us when she visits. Problem number four: even if I make it to village in time, and don’t have food, since I’ve been sick the past few days I haven’t been able to plan activities for her when she visits, (such as informing the schools that we will be stopping by to say hello). Issues related to these problems: I can get a free ride with a peace corps car this weekend, but that’s AFTER the expected visit, what do I do while I wait for this free ride? (work and plan activities of course, but that would be best done in village, or close to village). Money for taxis is always fun for my wallet…… and of course the environment of taxis after being sick… not a great way to re-enter the real world here! Now to tackle these problems/issues and see how it all plays out….. off to make some phone calls and arrangements!

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IST the musical

Friday February 4, 2011

Today is the last day of my IST (In Service Training; a formation that each volunteer goes to three months after swearing in). Late November was the last time that I saw many of my members of my training group. After spending 9 weeks together, non-stop, all the time, we were ready for a break from one another. Coming together again at IST has been amazing though. All our stories from being at post (our new homes through out Togo), the integrations, the work, our new Togolese friends, etc….. soo much to talk about. One week hardly seemed like enough at the beginning. Now at the end of the week, we aren’t tired of one another as we were after PC training, but we are full of excitement once again to return to our villages. Some of us miss village, and are not used to being away for so long. I now have a puppy to return to at home, whom I hope will be excited to see me! Now to the exciting things, gossip and other such things….Upon arrival at post new volunteers usually get a local name (mine being Mazalo)… during IST another volunteer Emily (also known as Emm) was telling us a story about someone who was new in her neck of the woods. She was in conversation with the local chief asking is she could be given a local name (spelling in French “nom”). She went on and on about how it would be good for her integration into the community, and how other volunteers in near by villages also had names, thus she thought it proper to have one of her very own. The Chief gave her a puzzling look and asked if she would take this ‘nom’ back to America, she replied that she already had an American ‘nom’ and would most likely not. Again, the Chief gave her a confused, serious look and said he would have to think about it, but that he would get back to her about the matter soon. Close to the end of this conversation the Chiefs’’ wife interrupted and said, “the volunteer is asking for a NOM not a HOMME.” (Homme = man/husband). The Chief no longer had a confused look, but yet the volunteer now had a look of horror! This story is a classic case of misunderstanding of accents, so freaking hilarious to me. Asking for a name to be part of the community, but someone thinking your asking for a husband to be a better part of the community…. It doesn’t get much better then that on a scale of misunderstandings!!! Another funny side note about this week, my training group started off with 14 people, only 1 being in a relationship, NOW 8 people are in relationships or are dating someone else…. For me, this week has been named IST the musical. why? Because we have all been rocking out and singing along with each other to any tune that presents it’s self. For example: the lion king sound track, the song G-6, Ludicrous, and yes….. Save a horse ride a cowboy. Classic moments while we’re all stuffed into a PC bus traveling from one site to another. Not to mention every morning we start off with a ‘bonc’ or ice breaker…. Just a little game or chant to get the work and excitement a-flown’. Some activities we went over this week were MAP (men as partners), Girls in Science, cross sector work, VSL (village savings and loans programs), and other possible projects and action plans that we can use for work here in Togo. I really enjoyed MAP, which I plan on doing with some of the volunteers posted near me. We are going to put together a small training for couples, teachers, and high school students to give an introduction to the information on “MEN AS PARTNERS”. Formally this projects focus is getting men to be partners with women, how to better recognize the importance of communication, respect, and the work on both ends of men and women in relationships. Also the differences in types of relationships, how they are abused, and how they can be aided. Cross sector work, which I will be doing a lot of rearch on very soon has to do with working with the other programs Peace Corps has in Togo. There are 4 programs here, GEE (girls education and empowerment), NRM (natural resource management), CHAP (Community Health Awareness program), and SED (small enterprise development). February 5, 2011 IST is over, and I’m headed back to my petit village in a day or so. I’m sticking around the big city so I can catch a ride for free with PC when they do their monthly tour up and down the ‘road national’. Side note: there is only one “high way” in togo, and it sucks, it runs north to south, runs through the capitals of each region, the road is mostly just pot holes. Cars don’t actually have to stay on one side of the road while driving so they swerve every 5-10 feet to avoid either a pot hole, another car, moto, or goat….. traveling sucksssss to say the least. Also, to review, I will be, if I haven’t already mentioning BUSH TAXIES…. If you don’t know what this is I will be uploading a photo in this post. I could try and explain exactly th situation, but pictures speak so much louder ☺…..

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Bush-taxi.jpgwelcome to my life of traveling, comments welcome, and encouragement needed!!!

 

Other then work and traveling through Togo: vacation is on the mind!!!! Or at least traveling outside of Togo…. SEEING THE WORLD!!! I just checked my e-mail (sorted through about 500+ crap) and discovered that Egypt is currently off limits to PCVs. Bummer! I was looking forward to visiting there, but hopefully it will open soon and I can get back on track with places I want to visit while living in West Africa. Speaking of vacatins…. I’m thinking (very hard) about going to the film festival in Burkina Faso…. I will let y’all know how it all pans out….. definite plans are: pool day … I can’t wait to jump into the pool at Hotel Kara in the next few weeks… SO EXCITED!!! I just received a package from my momma, and she sent me a sarong from her trip to the Caribbean….. I’m excted to have a reason to wear it… and cool down from the heat. Which I hear is exactly the opposite from whats going on in Texas… I hear snow is happening again this year? Craziness! Also I’m very jealous! Well Texas, enjoy the snow, while your are trudging through the fluffy white stuff and slipping on the ice, I’m sweating on short strolls though inches of sand. Much love from West Africa!

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