Monday, October 17, 2005

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

This is a follow-up to an earlier email “to market, to market...”

You may be asking which “home again” we are referring to in this email. As most of you are probably aware, we have been back to the US for a 2 week visit due to the death of Wayne’s father in Sacramento, CA. He died at his home on Monday, September 19 at age 88. We left our Togo home on 2 hours notice and got a flight on Tuesday arriving in CA about 45 hours after leaving Lomé. (Peace Corps gets an A+ for making all of the travel arrangements in less than a day). On Sunday we held a graveside memorial service where he was honored (due to his service in World War II) with Taps by a dignified Air Force Color Guard burial ceremony in a flag-draped coffin. Afterwards we had a celebration of his life with family and neighbors at his house.

During our stay we were also able to make short trips to Phoenix and Seattle to visit family and friends. It was very disorienting to be “home again” in the states, and the adjustment back “home again” to Togo has been equally disorienting and admittedly difficult. We are enjoying our Peace Corps experience, but we really miss our loved ones!

You may be asking what was so disorienting about our visit and subsequent return. (And even if you weren’t asking, here is an attempt at explaining the “twilight zone”).
Death, even an expected one, is disorienting in itself. We grieve the loss and celebrate the life at the same time. Traveling long distances in a short period of time also takes its toll. We slept in places like Lomé (capital of Togo), Accra (our flight departed from the capital of Ghana), Amsterdam airport, Minneapolis airport, Sacramento, Phoenix and Mesa, AZ, Auburn and Ballard, WA. In the Amsterdam airport, where we had a 10 hour layover, it was delightful to once again realize we could drink from the fountain and brush our teeth with tap water, something we do not do in Togo. In the Minneapolis airport, the familiar Subway sandwich never tasted so good. In Sacramento (arriving at 2 am after ~ 3 days of traveling), we woke up in the house where Wayne grew up and wondered where we were. (This feeling of “where are we?” occurred countless other times on the trip).

Many people commented on our apparent loss of weight. Giardia is great weight control, but I don’t recommend it. It was absolutely heavenly gaining it all back with the delicious food available in the US. Although it won’t compare with the great restaurant food we gorged on, we did fill an extra suitcase to bring back food items such as Knorr pasta sauces, raisins, nuts, granola, energy bars and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving (now to find a turkey…and we know it will be REALLY fresh, as in alive). Other items we brought back with us which seem very valuable in our present lifestyle were PLASTIC containers, a TEFLON pan and utensils, both nearly impossible to find here. DVD’s for the long evenings (our taste in movies has gone remarkably downhill), books, comfort sandals, more lightweight clothes, our favorite toothpaste (Dr. VanderHoeven are you reading this?)

So we’re back again to walking, walking, walking around town on the infamous steep stone-filled streets of Atakpamé. As we walk, we are careful to stay to the edge of the road, close to the open gutter where garbage is thrown, as the moto(cycle) taxis have absolutely no regard for our safety. Sometimes we feel like moving targets. We are back to drinking loads of water (purified, of course) to stay hydrated in this heat. We are back to our beloved protective mosquito net. We are back to bucket showers with warm water heated on the stove. We are back to occasional lizards in the kitchen. We are back to a limited diet of locally available food. And once again we are awakened at 4:30 am by the crowing roosters and Muslim call to worship which echoes throughout the hills and into our open windows.

Last but not least, we need to mention the overwhelming sense of welcome that we have experienced from the wonderful people of Togo who have given countless sincere condolences to Wayne on the loss of his father, and who seem truly happy to have us back here “home again.” Their welcome has been heartwarming and made our return easier. Their generosity of spirit is awesome.

Speaking of generosity of spirit, thank you also to all of you who have sent condolences and messages of support. We feel so blessed with family and friends. And we miss you immensely (she said quietly).

And with revoir! We won’t wait so long to write again. And we’ll try to write individual emails but know that it is a frustrating process. Enjoy your technology!

Cate and Wayne