choses #1: 2/92

Bon Travail

You know how you'll be walking to the buvette, observe some men alongside the road cutting weeds with a machete, or a woman walking faster than you even though she's carrying half a tree on her head, and you say: "bon travail". Togo PCVs of 1991 have finally translated that delicate phrase, and it actually means: "it sucks to be you." (It can also be directed at you; then it means: "it sucks to be me.")

Amazingly enough, friends, the postal system continues to function, hence I am in receipt of Marek's newsletter idea-letter. It's Friday here, November 8, and I'm sipping a cold one at the Campement in Dapong. The challenge is to gather a few of my half-million thoughts and get this delivered to Rochester by Thanksgiving. And that means right now because in a few hours there is to be a major blowout at the Bar Mississippi for 3 COS-ing volunteers.

Tomorrow I'll be in a taxi to either Kara or Sokodé and back in suburban Pagala-Gare by Sunday. This was "live-in" week~ we trainers call it "live-in-it-up" week. I couldn't score a PC car for the trip here, though I did on Wednesday, chauffeur included, and was able to do Baga, Niamtougou, Abra's in Pagouda and the Ketao marché. Once in a great while, it pays to be senior trainer.

In Sokodé, there is now a 60 franc pression bar and it's a lot nicer city because of it. In Kara last Monday, I caught the annual brewery tour, then the dozen or so of us adjourned to the "Mini" and put down a hundred or so. In Pya, they are building a new Affaires Sociales complex, bigger than Kara's. In Niamtougou last week, the Togo airforce pilots went on strike for one day, demonstrating their displeasure by buzzing the region, dive-bombing cars and forcing the authorities to close the highway.

Up here is where it is "hot" right now and fairly tense. Since it's not happening in Lomé, I'm not sure it it has made the news on your end. It began in Barkwossi 2 Mondays ago, on their marché day, where a riot broke out between Mobas and Tchokossis, resulting in 70-80 deaths, hundreds hurt, dozens of "concessions" plus the marché itself burned to the ground. Many Mobas have moved their families back to Dapong for protection. One of the most incredibly sad things this has demonstrated is just how many people have armed weapons~guns, quoi. And that they work.

I keep telling trainees they are in for an exciting two years, that is if so much shit doesn't hit the fan between now and next summer's planned national elections that they won't be here at all.

Stage itself goes well, with only a few weeks left but it perhaps has been the most challenging of the 3 I've now done as trainer for the Animal Traction program. For one thing, I haven't had Marek, or Eric or Mark, or for that matter any second-year volunteers to help me do it. (It sucks to be me.) For another, a total of almost 70 trainees, for four programs, are in Pagala, over 100 in all including us, profs, staff et al.

AnTrac has, or soon will have taken over the south. Combined with last year's group who are still there, the next year will have 16 AnTrac PCVs in the south, all but one of those in the Plateau. (The other one is Tabligbo!) We do all the training at Pagala now, using PROPTA oxen and tools. It's never perfect but I definitely prefer it to Agbassa. The logistics alone make it much more agreeable. Of course I did take the trainees (6 women, 5 men) to the Kara Region for a field trip though and now they all want to be there, not south. And only 4 of 11 will probably have motos. What can I say to them except "bon travail".

I'll try to wrap this up. Where is that damn waiter?

The second coming, or "democracy" as they call it here, definitely has its pros and cons. I'm all for it, better sooner than later, it's sure as hell not an easy transition. There are no more gendarme stops but now there are taxi-syndicate road-blocks. There is really very little authority. Teak trees are falling faster than leaves. The "game parks" are totally open, hence there is no more "game". I am all for they deciding and we being supportive of their decisions but it is not easy to predict what exactly will happen.

Someone should write a grant proposal and score a group of us the opportunity/challenge to come over next summer as an election-observer team.

Now to get ready for tonite's f{\e^}te. Two pigs, a sheep, and half a cow have given their lives to the cause. Harmattan has also arrived this week and let me tell you, it is dusty.

I'll be in Kansas City for Christmas. This is still great beer. Bon travail.

John Elmer 11/8/91