Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from your third grade friends in snowy Ohio! Can you believe that we have already had a snow day? On this Christmas eve, we are covered in a light blanket of snow and the weather is in the 20s. Lights twinkle everywhere and people are full of good cheer as they bustle about. We are wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year in Togo!  We liked your story about the elephants and lions. It is nice that you are helping others to stay healthy. We will learn more about folktales and their countries of origin when we return to school in January. We will make a map of Togo! Our secretary has a friend from your neighbor Ghana who shared some clothes with us. We took some pictures to show you! We got to see kente cloth! It is made with small strips that are sewn together. The colors are bright, like the season of fall is here. What do people in Togo wear? We will be studying soil, rocks, and minerals in January. What color is the soil in Togo? What kind of plants grow there? What kind of minerals could you find there? Thank you, our friend, for helping us learn from you!

Monday, December 13, 2010


We just started the Harmatan season here in Togo. Harmatan is the season from December just until March or April. During Harmatan there is a very hot and dry wind that comes down from the north through the Sahel Desert. Even though the wind is hot and dry, it is very cold in the mornings and at night. It hasn’t rained here since October, and it will not rain (or snow!) for a long time. I think that it is so hot here because there are no clouds to trap the heat when it gets dark. What do you think? During the day it gets really, really hot because there are no louds to block the heat. Luckily, I am in a tropical climate, so there is always a mango or papaya tree to sit under when the sun gets too hot. Do you like to eat mangoes and papaya? I like to eat all types of fruits, but right now there are some many papayas sitting on all the trees, that I could eat 2 or 3 big papayas every day and there would still be enough to share with my friends!

I have not heard any stories here about Anansi. What kind of stories are they? The Togolese like to tell stories about the origins of their village. For example, Notsé, the big city near me used to be called Ŋoin-tsi, meaning “an evil king stays here”. When the people finally ran away from the city, the Bé tribe left last and used millet grains to cover their footprints. Later, a flock of pigeons came to eat the millet and messed up the trail of footprints. Now the people from the Bé tribe will not eat pigeon meat even if it is the only food available. Another village near me is called Kpedome which means “the people of the rock”. A long time ago they would go out into the rural areas to find good farm land. Every year they would go out farther and farther to farm their crops until one year they decided that it was too far to travel back and forth everyday so they named the new village Tsi-deka , which means “stay there indefinitely”. Over the years, the name has morphed into Tsinigan, which is the village that I now call home!!

Here is an example of one of the games that I like to play with the kids’ club. Our club is called Club Espoir which means Club Hope in French.

The Elephants and Lions Game

This game is used to help discuss the role of the immune system in HIV infection. You start with one volunteer who is the baby elephant and then you get 5 or 6 more people to be the Mama elephants. The Mamas have to protect the baby against a third group of 7 or 8 people who represent the lions. The lions want to eat the baby elephant so the Mamas have to get in the way and stop the lions from getting to the baby. Everyone plays for a while and the baby elephant gets tagged by the lions a couple of times, but never gets fully “eaten”. In the game, the baby elephant represents the human body, the lions are diseases that want to harm the body, and the mama elephants are the immunity system that protects the body against all the germs. For the second part a hunter comes in and hunts some of the mama elephants. In the game, the hunter is HIV because he kills the immunity system, which makes it easier for the lions to eat the baby elephant. This game is important because everyone gets to have fun exercising, but also because it is a good way to teach about HIV and staying healthy.

Monday, November 29, 2010


We're glad that you had the opportunity to enjoy the American celebration of Thanksgiving. We've learned that most every culture has a harvest festival of some kind. We are guessing that beans and yams are crops that grow well in the tropical climate of Togo. We are preparing for the season of winter which begins in mid December. Soon we will be wearing hats, gloves, and boots. There are many holidays that take place during the winter season, the biggest being Christmas. There's lots of excitement as we get ready to celebrate holiday traditions. Some of our classmates celebrate Ramadan and some celebrate Christmas. We will be learning about holiday customs in other countries as well. What is the biggest holiday in Togo? We read a folktale from Western Africa. The main character was Anansi the spider, a very popular character in African folklore. Are there storytellers in Togo? Do they tell stories of Anansi too? We researched endangered species. We learned about elephants being killed for their ivory tusks. Laws that protect these animals against poachers are helping, but they are still at risk. Are there other endangered species in Togo? Have you seen an elephant? The feast of Knocking Down the Wall sounded like it would make a great movie! What are some of the songs and games you teach at the kids club? We love to sing and play games, too! We also hate mosquitoes but we have learned that microbats eat mosquitoes. So we're thankful for bats! And we are thankful that we get to learn many things about Africa from you!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving in Togo

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! Even though the Togolese do not celebrate Thanksgiving, I was still able to eat lots of good food and spend time with the other Peace Corps volunteers who have become my family over here. We went up to a small town called Ajengre where we ate turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and of course lots of pie! Some of my friends even had Thanksgiving decorations sent from the United States so it felt a little bit like America (except that it was 95 degrees!). I bet it’s really cold there now. I used to love bundling up and playing football the day after Thanksgiving to exercise off all of the food that I ate.

At first, my Togolese friends and people in my village did not understand Thanksgiving, but once I explained the origins of how it is to celebrate the Pilgrims first harvest with the Native Americans, they totally understood, because there are big harvest festivals all the time here. We just had the “Feast of the New Yam” and we are in the middle of the Bean Harvest Festival right now.

The weather here has just gotten really hot, and it hasn’t rained in a long time. During the rainy season, I did a lot of work to prevent and treat malaria and other diseases caused by insects, because all the bugs love the humid and wet climate. Now that it is the dry season and there isn’t a lot of food, I will change my focus to nutrition by teaching people about healthy foods and making sure that they get enough vitamins.

That’s it for now. Next week I am playing in a soccer game to promote AIDS awareness. Everyone wins when we have a fun and educational game like this, but I also hope that we win the game too!

A la prochaine (Until next time)


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ndi from Atakpame

Hi everyone!

I hope you all got lots of good candy from trick or treating! We had a small Halloween party in the regional capital of Atakpame to welcome in a new group of volunteers and we even had American candy. My costume was a police officer, but sadly, people in Togo don’t celebrate Halloween, so they all thought that we were a bit crazy. In terms of celebrations here, I recently went to a big festival in a city called Notse (see if you can find it on a map!). The festival is called Agbogboza and it means “The feast of knocking down the wall”. The feast has been going on ever since 1721 when the people of Notse knocked down the wall surrounding the city and escaped from their evil king. The festival had chiefs and villagers from all over Togo, Ghana, and Benin, so it was a really cool experience. There was traditional African dancing and music, and of course a lot of good food.

I hope you are all staying warm as winter gets closer. Here, it is about to get a lot hotter. The rainy season is ending, and sometimes, the rain and clouds are the only things that can cool down the sun. It will get progressively hotter until February when everyone says it is almost unbearable because it’s so hot and humid, but eventually the rains will return and it will cool back down. Either way, I won’t be needing jackets and sweatshirts like you guys for a long time – sometimes, I go into an air-conditioned office or car that has the temperature at 80 degrees and I think that its cold!

Well that’s all the time that I have right now. I’m about to leave to go to a kids club to play games, sing songs, and teach people how to avoid mosquito bites!

Hope to hear from you all soon!

Your friend,

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Greetings, Andrew!

We are third graders in Mrs. Shields' class in Westlake, OH. It is the season of fall here which means that Westlake is full of beautiful colors as the leaves change. The weather is getting cooler and we are now wearing jackets and long pants. We are getting ready for the celebration of Halloween. We will disguise ourselves in costumes and trick or treat for candy! What season of the year is it in Togo? Are there any holidays during this season? We hope to hear from you soon!