Monday, August 26, 2013

The Typo

Recently, I had an interview for the Community Liaison Officer (CLO) position at the embassy. While it wasn't what I was expecting to do while I was here in Togo, it seemed to be a fun job, it would look better on my resume than my current job, and since it was part-time, it would allow me the flexibility to take short-term contract jobs with an international organization here in Lome (more on that later-- cross your fingers for me!). I dressed up fancy for the day, donning slacks and a button-down shirt, a slight deviation from the khakis I wear to move stuff around in the mailroom, and feigned ignorance when grilled by my co-workers about my "professional" appearance. Me? Never!

After the interview, which went quite well, I returned to my desk, where I got busy designing an invitation for a surprise going-away party for one of our friends. I got busy cutting and pasting and eventually sent out a pretty invitation to inform people that we were gonna get our party on!!

Moments after hitting the send button, Mr. Kate called me. There was a big, fat typo right in the middle of my invitation! I had misspelled surprise, a fourth grade spelling word, in the invitation. The invitation that had gone out to multiple members of the international expat community, including people who interviewed me, just hours after I had met with them to prove that I was good with community outreach and came across as professional. NAILED IT! 

A few days later, we had the party and it was great. During the party my supervisor came over to me, complimented me on my mustache and informed me that he was so impressed by my ability to make lip and word-bubble cut-outs, that he was going to hire me again, this time as the CLO. He must not have seen the typo.

We celebrated into the wee hours. By Monday morning, word had gotten out about my new job and as I walked past the CLO office I found this taped to the door:

2 things:
1) I'm really happy that someone else is as excited as I am!
2) Do I need to be self conscious about my jowls?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Festival du Sinkaring

I was going through my pictures the other day and came across some that we took at a festival shortly after we arrived in the Togo that I never got the chance to blog about!

The week we arrived in Togo we were invited to the Festival du Sinkaring in the north of the country. It was a 8-9 hour drive so we set out early one Friday and stayed the night in Kara. At the festival, which began the following morning, we were introduced to the community leaders and invited for breakfast chez eux. When we arrived, around 8 am, we were astonished to find what breakfast consisted of:
Bean beignets, champagne & scotch.
Breakfast of champions.
After eating (and, ahem, drinking), we toured the nearby village, notably meeting the 12 (!) mothers of our host, and visiting the animal sacrifice corner.
When you wish upon a skull...
From there we went towards the festival grounds where we prepared to watch the big event. The festival takes place every year right as the local harvest begins. Each village brings their local specialties to share with the other villages, and the warriors of the village dance and perform, often surrounded or followed by the women and the children.

Notice the line of stuff laid across the field to be sacrificed.

Our gourds of millet beer, coupled with more bean beignets, kept us full and happy!
At the end of the day, we went for a late lunch with a few of the local leaders and organizers, but everyone had been through so many beignets and gourds of millet beer that lunch didn't last long. It was a wonderful experience and I wish I hadn't forgotten to blog about it until now, because I know I'm not doing it justice! We'll just have to go again next year...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Mask

Like every normal couple, every few months Mr. Kate and I engage in a full-on Prank War. Our goal is to scare or prank the other so badly that the offended partner will call a truce for fear of additional retribution. Often these tricks include buckets of water being dumped on each other, Saran wrap over door frames or toilet bowls and scaring each other in the shower.
A normal, healthy relationship. 
After a good job scaring Mr. Kate in the gym several weeks ago, I knew I was doomed and needed to start planning for an appropriate scare comeback. But it was time to up the ante...

Enter, where a girl can get almost anything her little, living-in-Africa heart desires. Even a scary old man face. With a few short clicks, and a refundable payment of 14.99, my pre-emptive revenge plot was underway. 
Slightly more scary than my face.
In anticipation of the big scare, I wrapped the mask in a towel and packed it at the bottom of our suitcase for our trip to Ghana the following weekend. And while he still hadn't retaliated against my scare, I knew I had to act quickly, even if it meant making an early strike. So I plotted. We would meet our friends in Accra and I would plan my attack a few days later, at just the right time, leading Mr. Kate to embarrass himself in front of our friends with his girlish shrieks.

A few days into our trip, I woke up early and took a warm shower before our drive to the next destination. As I exited one of the shared shower-rooms, the corner of my eye caught something (or someone) huddled in the door frame next to mine. I looked down and screamed, waking the entire hotel. Mr. Kate had found the mask hidden in the suitcase and decided to beat me at my own game. 

After sending our friends back to their rooms and reassuring the hotel staff that Mr. Kate was not trying to kill me, we finally got back to our room, where I scolded Mr. Kate profusely and proposed a truce. Now that he had the mask, I was never going to win.

After the truce we had a scary mask and nothing to do with it, so naturally, we found a few good ways to put it to good use.
We left a surprise for people who came into our hotel room during the day.

We drove around wearing the mask.

...and photographed people's reactions.
When we arrived in small villages and our car was surrounded by children, we made sure someone wearing the mask exited first:
I've never seen babies run so fast or mommas laugh so hard.

Definitely the best 14.99 I've ever spent.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Oppan Ghana Style!

Last week, we met up with our friends Jake, Corey, and Celina, who had flown in from Uganda and the US to have an awesome week filled with adventures and wine! Our poor friend Gavin was supposed to join us, but his dog literally ate his passport. I'm sorry I made your wife take that dog home.

We drove across the border and met up with our friends in Ghana. Ghana proved to be a bizarre country in which every cab was emblazoned with words of "enlightenment" (The Lord is my Sherperd [sic], My body is covered with the blood of Christ, I come with Jesus); every store had been named by a not-too-witty zealot (God is Great All The Time Fashion Shop, The Dependable God Plumbing Shop, God-Power Fridge Doctors); and random conversations stared with "Hi. I'm a good Christian. Give me 10 cedi." Um, no.

During our trip we visited the coffin makers, who will make you a custom coffin (fish, okra, car, hammer, blow dryer, etc.) when it's your time:
They quickly ushered us out when I tried to get into the one shaped like a giant Hershey's bar.
We visited Cape Coast, where we saw the old castle built by the British for the slave trade:
We visited several National Parks, where we did canopy walks, saw birds & mammals, angrily tore down snares and animal traps put up by poachers, and tirelessly sought out the last of a critically endangered monkey species known as the White-naped Mangabey (which, sadly, we never saw).

We stayed in hotels that neighbored Pentecostal Churches that woke you up at 5 am with the screams of women and the strange sounds of men speaking in tongues, yet still offered banana-flavored condoms "Anytime! Day or Night!" We stayed in a hotel that used to be a boat. And we stayed in a small residence/hotel/cocoa farm called Frenchman's Farm on the the border of Cote D'Ivoire, which was absolutely delightful.

We had an awesome trip and I am ecstatic to know that I, too, can one day be buried in a custom coffin shaped as a wine bottle, surrounded by banana condoms, and bid farewell by people speaking in tongues. What more could a girl want?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Gained in Translation

Although there may be other upcoming (and awesome!) things on the horizon job-wise, I am currently still working with my good friends Fofo and Kossi in the mailroom-- and we are having a great time!
Us, having a great time.
Recently, an email was sent out offering classes for anyone who would like to improve their English skills, which is very useful for anyone who wants to get ahead in the embassy. Since there were only 10 spots available, and they are super-motivated, both guys jumped on the opportunity and immediately signed up. We're talking 30 seconds-- the HR guy called me, impressed.

Since then, the mailroom has been a center of English learning-- much to the chagrin of it's only non-fluent, trying-to-improve-her-French speaker. Lessons such as "what you are saying is not a word" and "shit is not the same as sheet" are all too common.

In order to make it even more fun, I've been introducing sayings, rhymes and songs. When Fofo was having a hard time remembering the word "roof" I taught him the words to "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire." Don't judge, it's catchy. It worked well! Although I did have a hard time explaining why to avoid the words after the chorus, and coming up with a logical response to why no one wanted to put the "roof fire" out. 

When I was nervous before an interview the other day I mentioned that I had butterflies in my belly. After getting past the word belly, they asked me if I was still a vegetarian, since it didn't seem too vegetarian-like to be eating butterflies. How else would they get in there?

And my favorite additions to the mailroom repertoire so far have been: "See you later, Alligator!" & "After a while, Crocodile!" When I first introduced this saying I had to reiterate a few times that you can't just yell these phrases at everybody, all the time. This was in response to the several times I came across Kossi yelling: "After a while, Crocodile!" to everyone he passed in the hallway.

After that, we were good for a few days, until one day Fofo came to me with a very poignant question. "Madame, I know this response means I will see you in a little while, but who is Croco, and why does he die every time someone leaves?

Dashing every hope I ever had of being an English teacher (none) and potentially losing all credibility I had as a Public Health worker (not much), I told him Croco ate too much dog and got a horrible disease...