Fête de Retrouvailles 2014!

So in village, we have a Fête de Retrouvailles every year. To me, I describe it like a village family reunion because everyone is basically kinda related in a village of 2500 people. This year it took place 15 August - 18 August.

Anyway, last year in 2013 I wasn’t able to really participate in the festivities because I got to site right in the middle them, so this year, I made sure to participate!

There was enough drinking, dancing, and fun having, and it was awesome! The program included an excursion to some nearby waterfalls, bar chilling, a picnic, a musical concert (we invited a group from Lome to come do a dance and drum performance, some church choirs from village performed, some youths lip synced), and a village wide community meeting.


Pictured here from left: my main homologue, ME, my homologue’s friend


Musical group that we invited from Lome


Waterfall pic


"picnic" pic … we’re really just taking a break from hiking to drink some tchouk (a local drink, that’s so sweet and yummy. To me, it tastes like lukewarm thick apple cider—more like the closest to apple cider I’ma get in Togo)



"Note to self: every time you were convinced you couldn’t go on, you did."

(107/365) by (DS)

i really, really like this.

(via godmoves)

"Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Those rewards create almost as many problems as they solve. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter so the world will be at least be a little bit different for our having passed through it."
Rabbi Harold Kushner (via gettingahealthybody)
"Will I be something?
Am I something?

And the answer comes:
You already are.
You always were.
And you still have time to be."
Anis MojganiHere Am I  (via h-o-r-n-g-r-y)

Down time in village

I don’t have the luxury of electricity in village and I’m yet to invest on useful means (battery lamps, kerosene lamps, candles) of providing myself with light after dark. I essentially just use my headlamp after it gets dark at 6pm. 


My major down time in village occurs between 6pm - until I fall asleep. For the past two weeks, I’ve been using this time to reread Harry Potter 1 - 7 on my kindle. Yo, kindle’s battery life is ON POINT! That battery lasts!


Although I should mention, about halfway through book 4, JK Rowling was really making me realize how lonely I am in village. & by book 7, with Snape’s undying love for Lily, and Ron and Hermione … jeez. Life can be lonely in village man.

I also take selfies during other down times (usually during repos 12h - 15h). Selfies to be shared soon ;)

Projet de FARN (Part I)


NOTE: Anytime I use the pronoun “we” in this post, I’m referring to the village’s women’s group: Les Femmes Lumieres de Danyi N’Digbe

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m working on a nutrition project in village called Foyer d’apprentissage et de Réhabilitation Nutritionnelle. Well, we successfully completed the first part of the project! The 12 day cooking demonstrations with the mothers of moderately malnourished children.

During the 12 days, we prepared 4 different recipes of bouille (porridge). On the first two days, we made corn porridge with bananas and peanut butter.

[Side story]
Originally, I had wanted to start with the enriched bouille, however, I had to wait until the big marché day to get access to peanuts and beans (esp peanuts). I was so worried we wouldn’t be able to start on time after having to postpone twice because of my schedule and then because of the maman lumiere’s schedule. Anyway, I realized that we could start with a different recipe and for the entire project we could just try different porridge recipes.

The other two porridge recipes we used were rice and egg porridge, and enriched soja porridge. I think my favorite one was the rice and egg porridge, but most of the moms didn’t really like it haha (we only made it for 2 of the 12 days — and although we added plenty of citron, it still had a raw egg smell to it. I think that was a main turn off point for the moms; ‘tis understandle; the smell of raw egg isn’t always the most appetizing). Most of the moms LOVED the enriched bouille though! Because the average age range of children in our project was 1.5-2.5yo, we used the last three days to prepare some regular meals in addition to bouille. Because part II of the FARN project involves gardening and producing vegetables, I figured we could do some demos incorporating vegetables we would be growing in the garden. Thus, during the last three days, we made riz-au-gras (fried rice—using bell peppers), rice and sauce tomate (using carrots, zucchini and moringa powder), and rice and sauce d’arachide (using cabbage, carrots and Moringa powder). They all turned out amazing.

On day 12, we weighed the participating children to see if they gained weight, and most of them gained a little! We’ll see how the behavior change looks when we weigh them again in 1 and 2 months. The moms really appreciated the project and the two Femmes Lumieres I primarily worked with as maman lumieres were incredible!! There was a point when my main homologue was telling me it’s impossible to find moringa powder in village, but one of the maman lumieres was like she has Moringa powder at home! ‘twas great! But they did note the problem that it’s difficult to find Moringa in village and we’ve been planning to add some Moringa trees to our garden anyway.

As for the garden,
We received funding! We’ve started creating nurseries for the plants that need them. So far this week, we’ve completed the nursery for the cabbages and will be working on the other nurseries during the month (tomatoes, bell peppers, egg plant, etc).

"You’re going to find that this journey means as much to you as it will mean to the people and the communities that you’re going to serve. It goes both ways. That’s the beauty of it."
Secretary of State John Kerry, April 4, 2014, Peace Corps Swearing in Ceremony (Morocco)

Earthworks and Gardening: Training of Trainers (Thies, Senegal)

I had the opportunity to attend a training event in Senegal on bio intensive gardening. The training was wonderful. Coming in without much knowledge on gardening techniques—this training was so beneficial.

In village, I’m currently working on a project with the women’s care group in village—Les Femmes Lumières de Danyi N’Digbé. The project is a two-tiered project. The first tier is a FARN project (Foyer d’Apprentissage et Réhabilitation Nutritionnelle). In English I believe it translates to the hearth nutrition model project. Our implantation of the FARN project has also been divided into parts and before I get into further explanation of our project in village, I’m going to explain the basic idea of a FARN project.

A FARN project aims to aid the caregivers of malnourished children less than five years old to learn how to properly provide for their children and promote their growth. What the FARN model does is it uses a positive deviant within the community to be the role model for the other caregivers. What this means is that where these malnourished children live, there are other families experiencing similar living standards to those of the families with malnourished however the children of these other families are healthy and growing well. The FARN model uses these “positive deviants” in food preparation trainings to show the caregivers of malnourished children how it is possible (despite their living standards) to provide their children with nutritious meals.

The set-up of the FARN project wants us to work mainly with moderately malnourished children, but in village, ours might agree to include the three severely malnourished children we identified (severe as identified on WHO growth chart) mainly because our FARN project is in two parts. The first part involves the food preparations with the Maman Lumière (the role model/positive deviant). That part will last 12 days, and the parents will be providing the ingredients and cooking utensils. The second part of the FARN project will involve creating a sort of demonstration garden where the caregivers will be allowed to work in (gaining knowledge in bio intensive gardening methods) and be able to take the produce with them home. Since this second part stretches the project for a longer period of time, I think it should be okay to include the severely malnourished children so their caregivers can benefit from the produce. I was speaking to the infirmière at the local clinic and he described to me a program implanted in the northern part of the country where families of malnourished children get provided sort of food boxes with vegetables, eggs, fish, etc. However, such a program is not found in our area of the country (the rate of malnutrition is highest in the more northern regions of Togo); however, if we can implement a similar program in our village using produce from this demonstration garden and the labor of the caregivers, I think it’s best to include the severely malnourished children. We’ll see how it pans out. I also don’t think this part of the project (the gardening part with the caregivers) will be indefinite; however, from the training in Senegal I think we’ll be able to also show the caregivers how they can have container gardens at home. In that way, the gardening part of the project can be further sustainable.

The second tier of the project will be to sell the produce from the garden and use this as an income generating activity for the Femmes Lumières.

We are starting our cooking demonstrations this week, and as soon as we get the funding for the gardening, we are going to start on that soon as well. 

"My mother used to say to me, ‘You can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you.’ And these words played and bothered me, I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume. It was something that I just had to be. And what my mother meant by saying that you can’t eat beauty is that you can’t rely on beauty to sustain you. What actually sustains us, what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and those around you. That kind of beauty inflames the heart and enchants the soul."
Lupita Nyong’o (via voguememoirs)