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.

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