Thursday, June 23, 2005

What were we thinking?

Dear family and friends,

We have felt your presence and prayers. Thank you. Our first 10 days have not been easy and we have often referred to the prayer which sister Nada laminated for us: “Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us.”

We already have many stories to tell, but I’ll start with the worst part. Wayne and I have both been sick – but have survived. Apparently amoeba are stronger than we are. I was the first ”to go” (with diarrhea) and spent 2 days in the PC/US Embassy Infirmary in Lome. The group was traveling the day I got sick to our training site 2 hours away, so I stayed behind alone. When I joined the group 2 days later, Wayne was also ill. The first night at diner he fainted as he got up from the table. Our host “mom”, Philo, is a nurse, & after some calls were made to the PC medical staff, we were off to the hospital where we spent the next 2 days. As it turns out he had a bad case of amoebas (causing extreme diarrhea) which caused dehydration, and for an added touch they also detected a small amount of malaria. (This is probably a false positive test – but is makes the story better J, However nobody here takes malaria lightly so they over detect when looking at the slide and give you some pills to cure the malaria. We are also taking a malaria prophylaxis, but it is only 95% effective.) He was on an IV for 36 hours and is doing well now, although still gaining energy. He left the hospital on Monday and started class on Tuesday. He has now fully recovered.

The hospital is run by Baptist missionaries and we had American doctors. He had a private room and I was given a mat to sleep on the floor in the same room. The equipment was quite primitive, but he received good care & attention. We were both glad to come “home”. The staff lives in a compound on the grounds which has a guest house where meals can be purchased. I went for meals there and took food back to Wayne since the hospital itself doesn’t serve food. The Togolese nurses, mostly all young men, were very nice & capable. The equipment (like the IV metal! stand) was totally rusted and the glass bottles looked well used, but we were not worried about sanitation as this hospital is known as the best in Togo. We both gave stool samples at some point. The container they gave Wayne was an old prescription pill container and mine was a Kodak film container. Seems like everything is recycled in this place.

Our host “Mom” is a lovely woman who is a nurse/midwife. Yesterday she delivered twins girls at the hospital, but in our compound/home she also has her own clinic and today there is a woman in labor. She has invited me to “help” sometime. We learned how highly respected Philo is at the hospital. The American doctors hold her in high regard as she has delivered over 2500 babies in the area in the last 20 years. She is from Ghana and speaks English, so although our French will not get as much practice, we are learning a lot. We lucked out on our home. We are only on! e of a few (maybe the only ones) to have running water. Most are getting their water from a well with a bucket. It looks very Biblical. We also have a flush toilet (no paper allowed) but most others have bucket latrines. If I were one of the young volunteers, I might be shouting “age discrimination.”

We are enjoying the group of other volunteers with whom we are training. One has already gone back home to Vermont. We are kept very busy in classes, learning French (W and I are in a class of 3), Small Business Development and “How to Stay Healthy in Togo”. We’ve had too many immunizations to report.

We have, we THINK, already survived the “What were we thinking?” stage of being here. They told us we would experience it, and we admit being here has seemed overwhelming at times, especially with health issues. It is not going to be easy, but there already have been great moments, and we expect they will multiply as we adapt to life here.

We have a nice clean room in an above standard home for Togo. The home has cement floors and walls and a wood ceiling under a metal roof. We sleep under a mosquito net (issued to us by PC along with our bikes, helmets, medical kit, kerosene lantern, water filter and propane stove…) on a comfortable bed and take refreshing (really!) cold showers or warm bucket baths. Food will be described in another email, as I feel we may already have lost half our readers.

We miss our family and friends but feel your presence and your prayers, and it is helping us to keep strong. So keep ‘em coming. Philo, our “host mom” is a Baptist and has enthusiastically asked to learn our table prayer. We have been blessed to be placed in her home.

Now it’s my turn – Wayne typing now. Not too much to add to what Cate said. The best thing about Togo is the people and their faces. The worst thing is the humidity. I expect in a few months we will get used to it. We said we were going to embrace change – well we have done that in spades. Peace Corps kind of doles out the change with a few days preparation in Philly, a few days in Lome” and now training – but it is still overwhelming when you experience it – especially with some hospital time thrown in feeling lousy. But now that I am mostly well I am still glad we have taken this adventure. So far it has not disappointed us in that regard.

Love to you all,
Cate and Wayne

Monday, June 13, 2005

Greetings from Togo

Monday June 13, 2005 6 PM local time (7 hours ahead time of the west coast.)

This may be more information than you want to read - but for those or you who are interested, here is how we are doing.

We have arrived from Philly without any problems and are in "Stage" training in Lome, as opposed to Pre-Stage training in Philadelphia. It rained pretty hard as we drove in from the airport, but stopped by the time we got to our "hotel". Actually we are staying in the American School residence where teachers stay and there are a few rooms to spare. The humidity is very high (92%) and the temperature in the upper 80s in the afternoon. Our mosquito net looks like 5 fine lace table clothes stitched together hanging from the ceiling by 4 corners. Our upstairs room is pretty nice with a private bath, but (as expected) without hot water. The windows are screened and of the horizontal slat type on opposing sides of the room. But without a fan to create much airflow, we are plenty warm. After getting settled in our rooms and an official greeting from the PC Director in Togo, we went to a nearby PC favorite bar "La Regent" for beers with the director and some PC staff. Other volunteers had come to town and were there to greet us and welcome us into the "PC family".

This morning we woke up to roosters crowing at a very early hour. This evening we are listening to sounds of a 3-on-3 soccer game being played by young men on a side street closed off for the game. The side streets, here by the coast in rainy season, are not paved but made of wet sand with some rocks thrown in for texture. First impressions include women walking balancing loads on their head (like a large platter of new flip-flops), looking down at he street and finding chicken tracks as well as footprints in the sand, and noticing quite a few large old satellite dishes on roof tops of the 2 and 3 story buildings. It seems to me that Lome is less developed than Guayaquil, Ecuador based on the number of paved streets and the small number of tall buildings. But the poverty level seems about the same. There are about 1 million people who live in the city and outskirts.

We got more shots and medical training today as well as a tour of the American medical facility for embassy personnel (of which there are 12 with 5 Marines to guard them) and Peace Corps (which numbers about 100 volunteers in total). We also got a language assessment test so they can group us according to our ability when we start language training on Thursday, 2 ½ hours north of Lome. Our test was short as we couldn’t say too much J. We continue to get to know the volunteers in our group better as well as the 4 experienced volunteers that are here to answer questions and help out during Stage training with cross cultural training. On Thursday we will be placed with a host family in Abade and the intensive French begins.

We walked about 8 blocks to the same bar again as last night. Played hearts and drank beer. Met some more PCVs from previous "stages".

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 11:15 am

Slept pretty well again last night. It was 83 F in our room when we went to bed and 79 F when we woke up. It’s not comfortable, but we sleep well anyway. More medical training today as well as more shots. Today covered how to use our water filter as well as how to use the stool sample preservation kit. This afternoon is cross cultural training from the experienced volunteers.

So we are doing fine and are using the internet café for the first time. Not sure what the access will be to internet cafes during training. We may have to resort to snail mail. More later

We are well and having fun.

Love to you all,

Wayne & Cate

We've arrived!

I'm sure they'll have plenty of stories about their travel and first days in Togo, but for now I'm (Dustin) just posting to pass on the message from the Peace Corps that they have safely arrived and will now begin training. Here's the email from Peace Corps:



This e-mail is to let you know that Peace Corps Togo Trainees: Wayne and Catherine Hillard arrived safely in Lomé, Togo last night (Sunday June 12th), and have begun their three month training to prepare for their service in Togo.

All Trainees will be staying in Lomé through Thursday morning (June 16th). On Thursday afternoon they will be traveling to their training sites in Adéta and Govié, which are located approximately 2 1/2 hours northwest of Lomé.


George Monagan
Country Director
Peace Corps/Togo

Robert K. Dedzi
Executive Assistant
Peace Corps

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

We begin the adventure

Where do we begin? The last month has been a wonderful whirlwind. Our house lease started on May 15th so we were slowly moving out for the month before that. Of course we had a flourish of activity at the end, cleaning until 3 am on May 15th. Then we were off to CA in a U-Haul truck loaded with a couple of couches & pulling the 4 Runner on a trailer for Claire & Tyler. The first stop was to visit Wayne’s dad Sacramento and spend a day at the cabin in Kyburz. Then we were on to Thousand Oaks for Claire & Tyler’s wedding on May 29th. They had things well planned and it was a great event that will be long remembered by all who were involved. We could not be more pleased with them and their celebration.
Then after a couple days of packing we were off to Claire & Tyler’s new apartment in Phoenix with another U-Haul. And then back to Seattle to Dustin & Julianna’s for a few days before going off to Philadelphia for 3 days of Peace Corps Staging. We depart from Philly to Paris on a June 11 red-eye and arrive in Lome late on the evening of June 12. We'll try to sneak into Paris on our six hour layover!

You can email us at: CateWayneAfrica @

Don't expect an instant reply as we will probably only have access to email on the weekends during training.

The Happy Couple