Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The 30th Edition of The Hillard Herald

Christmas greetings and blessings

to you,

our family and friends.

As you go about in the hustle and bustle of Christmas in a consumer - driven society, perhaps trying to concentrate on the Reason for the Season, consider us. We are trying to muster up the Christmas Spirit in Togo, a country that hardly recognizes the religious significance of Christmas, and on top of that doesn’t have the economy or consumers to support any commercialism. Although we don’t miss the shopping or Santa Claus, we do miss the lights, the music and concerts, the church services, the cold weather…they all help mark the rhythm of the year. Not that we’re noticing time going by or anything, but we are now 70% done with our Peace Corps service and have about seven months remaining before we return home.

We look out each morning now and if we squint our eyes, we can imagine a light snowfall. The effect is caused by the Harmattan winds which come from the North and bring the Sahara sand and dust with them. Folks here refer to the winds as cool (many locals are wearing heavy jackets) but to us the slight drop in temperature means maybe wearing a T-shirt instead of a tank top. The low humidity does make the same temperature feel a little cooler. The winds bring so much dust that we are finding it harder to breathe, and thus exercise. Lucky for us we don’t have all those holiday goodies and extra calories YOU might be encountering on the party circuit! The winds could last into March. It’s a long dry season. You get winter. We get the Harmattan.

You might be asking, “What are Wayne and Cate doing for Christmas?” We are staying home in Atakpamé for our last Christmas in Togo. We’re planning our own Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve as there are no church services to be found here. Assuming we will have electricity (it goes out regularly now in an 8 hour on - 8 hour off pattern), we plan to listen to Handel’s Messiah, some Christmas carols and maybe watch It’s a Wonderful Life and/or A Christmas Carol on our laptop. Perhaps we’ll try making Swedish meatballs out of our soy-based meat substitute, which we find preferable to the REAL meat we see being butchered (and hovered over by a colony of vultures) in our local market. We’ve also invited local volunteers not lucky enough to go to home to the states to join us for brunch on Christmas morning and we’ll celebrate together. It’s not an easy time of year for anyone to be so far away from home. Next year…Sammamish!

Things we look back on in 2006:

  • Family visits: Karsten, Dustin and Julianna came in August and Nada and Nelius came in November - times we thoroughly enjoyed and treasure. You can see a few photos of them (as well as accounts of other experiences) on our blog at
  • Vacations: Doesn’t get much better than Morocco and Egypt in the same year.
  • Living and working in West Africa: you already know the details if you’ve been reading our emails or blog

Things to look forward to in 2007:

  • Claire’s visit in late January, our 30th wedding anniversary, our 60th birthdays, a bit more travel?
  • Returning home and taking stock of the last two years. How will we be changed? We don’t know, except for the obvious: a few more pounds (so many carbs!), a few more wrinkles (could it be the sun?), more gray (for Wayne), challenges overcome and the experience of an incredible adventure together.

We happily welcome any email Christmas greetings at (our airmail address is Corps de la Paix, B.P. 3194 Lomé, Togo, West Africa.) We’d love to hear from you and hope all is well with you and yours.

We wish you good health, joy, peace, love, laughter, and a Joyeux Noël.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Family Visits

We have already been blessed with two visits from family and our daughter Claire is coming in January. Karsten, Cate's brother, and Dustin & Julianna, our son and daughter-in-law, came in August. Karsten and Dustin hauling in fishing boats with the locals in Ghana.

Together in West Africa.
Another celebrity couple?
A happy Karsten!
Then Nada and Nelius, Cate's sister and brother-in-law, came in November.

Getting a feel for village life with Gabriel, a fellow PCV.

Nelius volunteering at our neighbor's bakery.

Nada passing out condoms during a World AIDS Day event.