Monday, July 9, 2012


        Seven months pass by as I soar over indigo clouds obscuring the heartland. Days spent biking around a Mid-western metropolis and exploring a vibrant urban culture. Others engulfed by work in a renowned co – op with an amazing crew. I remember the nights I spent in, diligently studying or gorging myself on French cinema with a roommate, and those out, partying with friends and enjoying casual romance. For the many things that proved trying and stressful in that time, none of it matters now. Any rough edges of my Minneapolis have been glossed over, leaving nostalgia for an existence I’ll never know again. It came and went quickly, another place hurtling by at the speed of life. There’s no going back to then and there, only forward into the unknown.
        I knew scarcely a thing about Togo three months ago. Now, though far from encyclopedic, my knowledge has expanded greatly. It’s a relatively small West African nation, roughly fifty miles in width and two hundred in length, narrowly wedged between Benin to the East and Ghana to the West. Togo has a slight Atlantic coast known for its beauty and dangerous riptides, along which the capital Lome is located. Over six million people live in the country, encompassing more than forty ethnic groups, and the average life expectancy of a Togolese man is sixty. French is their official language, though many indigenous languages, such as Ewe and Kabiye, are commonly spoken. Economically, subsistence agriculture mixed with cash crops accounts for 42% of their gross domestic product.  Increasing development has allowed Togo to compete on the global market, but has also lead to food security issues within the country. Hopefully, that’s where I can help.
        The Peace Corps Togo Environmental Action and Food Security program aims to work with “individuals, organizations, and communities on agroforestry techniques, strategic planning, and environmental education.” Through these means, the project will ideally stem the depletion of forest reserve and ease the overuse of limited farmland, while still allowing farmers and communities to meet their needs. It seems like a daunting task, but one I’m thrilled to soon be involved with. I don’t know where I’ll fit into the EAFS program, just that my educational background and experience gave the Peace Corps hope that I could. And, with fifty years of working in Togo, I trust their judgment. 

        My father’s Kentucky home is adjacent to a huge lot featuring open, rolling hills and small patches of forest. Walking the dog there, with the countryside bathed in golden light, I struggle to imagine my life after boarding another plane tomorrow. Will Africa be anything like where I’ve been? Can I connect with another culture halfway across the world? What will I miss, as my family and friends continue in my absence? The answers are elusive as thunderclouds chase away our sunshine and the dog becomes anxious. Apparently impatient with my musings, she begins heading back to the house. I follow her through the woods as booming thunder and the wind between branches mark where we've been, the ghosts of a summer day that ended too soon.