I really don't remember what happened in week nine. Nadia and I decided to make a piñata for a going away party with our family next weekend. Our prototype molded over because the paper mache doesn't really dry in this climate. Hopefully our second attempt works a little better. We're also going to give a short presentation in French on how to make a piñata next week for the other trainees. The trainers call this activity "Free University", and I'm really looking forward to some of the other trainees' presentations, particularly the one on how to "drop it like it's hot".
Language classes are coming along, though I don't feel like I've learned anything new since post visit. I hope I'm improving. Technique classes are going well. We're learning about how to help youth with income generating activities. We talked about the Junior Achievement program this week, too. It sounds like it could be fun to work with. Nadia and I don't have any immediate plans to work with students, but we've talked about it and have some ideas about classes we could teach or interest groups we could form.
Stage is almost over! We don't have a lot of classroom learning planned for this week. On Tuesday, we took a field trip to Cafe Kuma, a coffee-growing cooperative outside of Kpalime. It's a well-organized business, and they sell to vendors throughout Togo and, I believe, in the neighboring countries. Lydia, the current SED volunteer in Kpalime, helps them with their marketing and
management, and Nadia will probably continue working with them after Lydia finishes her service.
On Tuesday afternoon, one of the formateurs showed us how to convert soybeans to soymilk and wagash soja, a soy version the local cheese. We took the soybeans to a mill to grind it into a paste; then we boiled it and separated the soymilk from the left over goop. Finally, we curdled the milk into a cheese. I'm sure I misunderstood some steps in there, but that was the general gist. We fried up the cheese and ate it with ketchup. Mmmmm.
The "Free University" activity was fun. Someone taught some yoga stretches. Several people taught various dances. I can now drop it like it's hot and do the "sexy walk". I think the high point was kickboxing demonstration. We decided to use a box for our piñata presentation, since paper mache doesn't seem to work with the paper available and the humid climate. We cut slits in the box to make it a little weaker, and we use little pieces of colored paper to decorate it. It actually looks a real piñata back home. We're dumping in six bags of candy on Saturday night; then we'll let our host family bust it open on Sunday.
This week definitely feels like we're winding down. Everyone, including the formateurs, is really opening up and having a great time. Everyone is excited about swear in, though I think a few people are really sad about leaving behind their host families and their friends in stage. I'll miss stage, but I'm really glad to start my actual work as a volunteer.
Well, I improved a little on my final French test. I got a rating of Intermediate Mid, right below the required minimum of Intermediate High. I'm a little bummed that people who were initially graded with lower proficiencies met the minimum requirements, but I'm trying not to be too hard on myself. Nadia's French has improved a lot. She understands just about everything, but she still has trouble speaking in fully conjugated sentences. I can't really speak well, and I don't understand anything people say unless they speak verrrrry slowly. Nadia is going to stay in Lome for a week to continue working on her French. I'll be heading to Kpalime on Monday, since I did well enough on the test to go to post. Honestly, I'm really nervous about that first week at post away from Nadia. She usually translates for me, and now I'll be on my own.
The party on Sunday went over better than we hoped. About twenty people showed up to the party, including our host family, some cousins, and a few of the neighbors. Our host mom made fufu and this awesome crème sauce dessert. Nadia cooked up pasta with tomato sauce, peas with onions and carrots, salad, and some no-bake cookies. We started with the fufu, which was excellent, and then moved on to the American dishes. I think most people liked it, though, they thought our sauce and cookies were a little too sweet. I do love my sugar...
About thirty minutes after we finished dessert, I brought out the piñata and it from a tree in the yard. We explained the rules, blindfolded the smallest kid, and commenced with the whacking. Koffi, our neighbor, was the first to send a bit of candy flying. There was about a two second delay; then all the kids dove headfirst into the pile of goodies. After that, all rules were completely disregarded. Children jumped into the way of blindfolded men swinging sticks wildly. Teenagers wrestled each other for sticks of gum. Eventually, Nadia just grabbed the piñata and shook out all the candy. I knew it was a success when I saw my host mom roll out of frenzied crowd on her back clutching a fistful of butterscotch sweets. I think this was my favorite moment in Togo so far. No one could stop laughing for over an hour.
We said goodbye to our host family early Tuesday morning. No one was over-emotional when we gave our final hugs and handshakes, since Kpalime is so close to Agou Akoumawou. Our host family was never all that emotional, anyway, though. Several other trainees had some pretty tearful farewells. One trainee's little sister packed her bags and said she'd feed and bathe herself if she was allowed to come along.
Now we're in Lome. We administratively swore-in yesterday, so I'm officially a full-fledged volunteer. The fancy televised swear-in ceremony at the country director's house is in an hour and a half. I'm going to be on Togolese TV! We are all sitting around practicing our speeches in local languages. Nkonyenye Tristan McInnis. Metso Texas le Amerika. Mawodo kple asitsalawo le Kpalime. I have no idea how to spell Ewe words. Nadia just walked out with her new Togolese outfit, and she looks absolutely breathtaking. I'm going to go get dressed now. W00t!