Culture shock has worn off. Not much to report. Nadia's grandmother was in pretty bad shape when we first arrived, but she's improved a bit. Now she can have coherent conversations and recognizes Nadia. I spent some time this week helping to fix the fence at my in-laws' house and doing other various home repairs. I'm also starting to read The Eye of the World, the first book in the Wheel of Time series. It's pretty good so far.
I decided to go visit my family in Louisiana this week. Nadia stayed with her folks in south Texas so she could help take care of her grandmother. I took a bus up to San Antonio and flew to Shreveport from there. The San Antonio airport cracks me up. It's decorated in a very Texan style, reprite with rocking chairs and staff with cowboy hats and large belt buckles. Parts of it almost feel more like a Cracker Barrel than an airport.
I got to visit my brother at his new job at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. Actually, I randomly ran into him at the Dallas airport during a layover on my way to Shreveport. He saw me sitting at my gate and just plopped down next to me. Caught me by surprise. I also got to visit my sister who is a student at NSU in Natchitoches, LA.
My mom and I drove down to Houston and then over to Kerrville, TX to visit my grandmother. That was a nice change of scenery. Also, this trip back to the US allowed me to attend my cousin's wedding in Baton Rouge. Her husband works for the State Department in Turkey, so the family will have a few more folks living abroad. We're just spreading out all over the place.
I headed back down to south Texas again to regroup with Nadia. We did some last minute shopping to bring some American stuff like canned tuna back to Togo. I'm really excited about a washboard we found. We looked all over town, and finally found one at a small five-and-dime-type hardware store. No one uses washboards to wash clothes in Togo. Everyone just uses their hands or uses big rocks. I'm not sure why washboards never caught on there. Anyhoo, we're set to head back to Togo this weekend. I'm a little nervous about going back, but I'm glad to be getting back to the projects we left behind.
Sadly, Nadia's grandmother passed away a few hours after we left Edinburg on our way back to Togo. We were boarding our plane from JFK airport to West Africa when I was called back to the terminal for an emergency phone call about the news. In the ten minutes before the plane left the runway, we talked about going back to attend the funeral. One flight attendant was particularly nice and lent Nadia her cell phone to call her mom. We decided to go ahead and go back to Togo. Nadia had already said her goodbyes and knew that she wouldn't see her grandmother again. I wish things had been timed a little differently, but it's all in God's hands.
The flight was decent enough. We had an absolutely miserable time getting from the airport back to Kpalime. We sat at one car station for four or five hours and got into a fight with one taxi driver who ended up getting violent and hitting other passengers. When we finally got to the house in Kpalime, though, all our fears and worries just melted away. It was good to get back home. This really is home...
My homologue left for a vacation a few days after we got back to Kpalime, so we won't be starting up any new projects for a few weeks. I'm not really sure what we'd work on, anyway. I'm going to focus most of my efforts on Cafe Kuma and the microfinance institution ICEC. I'm actually kind of taking a step back on my computerization project at the microfinance institution. I was building an Access database system with some really nice front end forms for rapid data entry and access to fancy reports. Unfortunately, it's too complicated for the staff to maintain on their own. I'm torn. I'm doing training to try to bring the staff up to speed on a lot of computer technology, but they really won't be able to maintain anything more complicated than a series of spreadsheets. Spreadsheets really can't handle all the financial transaction information that the organization tracks, though. I keep having to back off and simplify this information system solution. It's tricky trying to implement a sustainable system that meets their technical needs.
The staff at ICEC are fantastic, though. They are very motivated about the work their doing with Nadia and about my computerization project. They are also setting up some new business and computer classes for us to teach, so that should keep us busy for a few months.