Monday, April 8, 2013

Going Postal

When we arrived in Togo I was excited to get to work. I imagined myself using my newly acquired degrees and working on a project that would allow me to learn more. I imagined being part of something big: malaria prevention, vaccination campaigns, HIV/AIDS sensibilisations, nutritional counseling for women in rural villages, or NTD research with a university. Or maybe I could work in science education and outreach as I had for the past several years? Maybe I could even start my own non-profit working with the Togolese Ministry of Education to better Science and Health education and comprehension within the country?

But it turns out that Togo doesn't have much in terms of NGOs. Sure, the few directors that were here would love to meet with me, but they are fully staffed and not needing anyone at the moment. It also turns out I have no idea about how to start an NGO.

So, a few weeks ago when the embassy had an urgent need for a US citizen, they called me. "Can you come work in the mail room tomorrow? Please?"
For lack of anything better to do and to be helpful, I agreed to go work.

As disappointed as I am that this is what I am doing in Togo (at least for a little while), in lieu of what I had so excitedly anticipated, I am grateful to have a job and to be having a good time.

So, here are the top reasons why working in the mail room is awesome.

4. My French is awesome. I spend all day talking in French with my co-workers, whom I have instructed to correct me every time I make a mistake. As a result, I have become more courageous and excited about French. The other day while speaking, I reflexively used the subjunctive. It just slipped out! Everyone looked at me, and in one fine moment we simultaneously raised our hands above our heads and yelled "SUBJUNCTIVE!" Then my wonderful coworkers offered to buy me lunch to celebrate, but it was fermented cows' feet that day, so I politely declined.

3. I am super popular. I'm regarded by the embassy the way most children think of Santa Claus. Everyone loves me. People seek me out in the lunch room to ask me how I am and how my weekend was, in the hopes that I'll stop mid-sentence and say- "Oh, hey! By the way, you have a big package of presents just waiting for you in the mail room!" Every day I get multiple people who send me little messages or come down to my little window just hoping that they got lucky and received something. When they do, they love me! And if they have nothing I offer a laugh or a bon-bon to soften the blow (if I haven't already eaten them all).

Hey. You. I know you read People. I know you know what's going on with Britney. And Brangelina. And Honey Boo Boo. Share the wealth.
Hey. You. I know how you voted in the last election. The political fliers you receive tell all. I'll try to look past it.
Hey. You. I see that big box of cake mix and taco kits you just received. If you want me to keep my mouth shut so no one else knows you have it, I expect a dinner invitation, stat.
Hey. You. Sure I'll mail this stool sample, please tell me you wrapped it really tight. And let's never talk of it again.

1. My posse.
I work with two awesome guys. We practice French and have our own little cultural-exchange meetings everyday. I answer questions such as: "Why do Americans here only use the vous (formal) tense," Because that's what they teach us at FSI. "How come American women don't take their husbands' last names?," Because we're awesome.  "Why don't you have children?" Because I'm awesome."Are you sure you don't want fermented cows' feet?" Yes. "Dog is delicious." What.
I have also introduced them to fabulous things such as the Saved by the Bell round-house high five, high-fructose corn syrup, and the macarena. Things I'm sure they ask themselves how they've lived without for so long.

And the best part about working in the mail room?
I get to have lunch with Mr. Kate every day.