Saturday, July 20, 2013

Six years Swizterland.

Hi friends,

It's been a long and adventure-filled, rocky 6 years since my last posts from Togo.  I've had several requests to recommence my blogging, and I've finally decided that it's time.  This blog helped me keep sane the last time around, and I'm at a point in my Summer work and travels that it seems like a good idea.  Facebook just isn't fulfilling enough.  My journal mostly sits alone pressing alpian flowers in my room.  Skype is great for personal connections.  But I urge to write, and I said that I would start again this here goes.  I will also post some photos as I go along.

I just returned from our 2 night "leisurely" vacation in between sessions here at the American School in Switzerland.  And i've got to say, I love my Appalachian Mountains and Skyline Drive, but they've got nothing next to the drive along the mountain passes, including historic Gotthard to Interlaken and Lauerbrunnen, where 16 of us and my friend Livia went for our hiking, eating, dancing adventure.  We had a "pretend" wedding and bachelorette party that got the party going at the Base jumper's pub in Lauterbrunnen....  Followed by an incredible day of alpine hiking, picnicing, local cheese tasting and waterfall adventures.  (Pictures to come).

I'm running off to a meeting, but this has been fun and I plan on keeping it up.

Much love, peace and understanding to all.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Thank you letter from Joseph for Motorcycles

To all who contributed to the motorcycle fund, please find below the letter (which I am posting with "much delay"). They were all so touched and truly thankful about the present. Thanks!

Lomé, 07th June 2007

To the attention of all the donors for the two motors’ purchase


Object: Thank you letter

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hereby come in the name of the Board of Commission of MICROFUND, its staff, and in my own name to address you my sincere congratulations for the gift of the two motors you have offered to our institution during the mission of Dalia in our structure. We are deeply and positively grateful to you. This action shows once again the special and particular interest you have always testified to MICROFUND and more, your sensibility to the painful of our field agents in their daily movements. We are very thankful and promise to use them suitably.

May God bless and cover you with all his grace.

Hoping that many other actions will follow, we would like you please to consider our perfect congratulations and satisfactions.

Joseph Kossi AKOGO



Lomé, le 07 juin 2007

A tous les donateurs pour l’achat des deux motos


Objet : Lettre de remerciement

Chers Messieurs/Mesdames,

Je viens par la présente au nom du Conseil d’Administration de MICROFUND, de son personnel et en mon nom personnel vous adresser nos sincères remerciements pour le don des deux motos que vous avez offerts à notre institution lors de la mission de Dalia dans notre structure. Ce geste nous a profondément et positivement marqué. Ceci montre l’intérêt particulier que vous manifestez à MICROFUND et surtout votre sensibilité à la pénibilité dans le déplacement de nos agents de terrain. Nous vous restons très reconnaissants et vous promettons un bon usage. Que Dieu vous le rende au centuple.

Tout en espérant que d’autres gestes lui suivront, je vous prie de croire, Messieurs/Mesdames, en l’assurance de notre parfaite considération.

Joseph Kossi AKOGO


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Till next time...

29 May 2007

So this is it. My last few hours in Togo. Last night they held a going away party for me with musicians and dancers and the gift exchange. At first I thought they weren't that excited about the 2 motorcycles, but this morning I realized that they were basically dumbfounded. They couldn't believe what had just happened. Joseph said that it was the first time that they had ever received such a gift, and couldn't even find the words to thank the people who had made it happen.

He said they will write a small letter of thank you, but it might not be ready before I leave. So I am signing out for now with pictures of last night's reception and of this morning with some of the staff around the two bikes.

Thank you so much for following my blog, and especially to those who contributed to this much appreciated present. I can guarantee that it will be put to excellent use in visiting the borrowers who are out in the small towns that no one else is reaching.

I'm not usually much of a writer, but this has been a great way to both remember what's happened here and to let others follow along. I hope you've enjoyed it.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Caught the microfund bug

wrote this the other day, but I've been so busy visiting borrowers, that i just come home and crash every night...I'm very behind on everything, but it's been a really inspiring week. i'm pretty worn out and we're going sightseeing this weekend. hopefully i'll get to bed soon....

22 May 2007

Today was when it really just hit me. This work being done by Microfund is not only important, but indispensable. As the manager of the whole Lake region said today, he doesn’t want to know where the country would be right now without microfinance (especially since the turmoil in the 90’s). Things are pretty bad as it is, how could it be worse? I met a woman today who was so beautiful, and had the biggest smile I’ve seen in Togo. She also has two beautiful young girls, the eldest of whom will be starting school next year, which is an opportunity the mother never had having lost her father when she was very young. Until she found Microfund, she was selling oil, but most of her money passed through the hands of a loan shark. At times the rates were so high that she wasn’t able to repay, so she had to disappear for some time in order to earn money to repay the loan shark (I’m not sure what she had to do while she was away from her family). Now she has a booming business and all of the people in her area come to her general goods store. She would’ve sold out of rice and beans, except that she wanted to keep the end of it to show me. Not only that, but she has built her own small one-room house out of actual cement (floors and walls), and she has windows in the house, AND it’s painted inside and out. She’s very proud of what she’s accomplished, and she should be. AND her husband is supportive and even reminds her when she needs to repay her loan (not that she needs reminding because she is a loyal and timely member). She expects all of her children to make it very far in school (including the one soon to arrive), and she dreams to one day be able to own her own land and build a home on it for her children. I saw an ad for the oil industry the other day that had Miss Togo on a large billboard supporting some brand of vegetable oil. If I were the judge, I would pick the woman I met today as the next Miss Togo.

Well, so that’s it. I want to do anything possible to help Microfund expand their services, especially since it seems that the larger MFI’s in the country don’t really try to reach out to the poor villages the way Microfund does (or when they do it’s to try to take away the members who have already been mobilized and formed groups to join Microfund…but it rarely works and when they do leave they tend to come back (according to Joseph and Edmond). I hope this isn’t really the case, but it’s very likely. This is such tough work that I can see how programs with lots of money and supporters wouldn’t want to bother…

I’ve written so much I won’t go into full length about the handicapped woman I was finally able to meet yesterday (after hearing her praise several times from Joseph). She was really so touching. She’s been handicapped since she was born and was left by her husband because of it after they’d had 4 children together. It still hurt so much that she didn’t want to talk about it. She used to survive solely on presents given to her by family members. Slowly she would save some of that until she could buy and sell some candy and cigarettes. With Microfund she has now gotten to the place where she has a large shop in what used to be her mother’s home where she and her family now live. She also cares for her brother’s children. She has people go to the markets for her to purchase products for the shop and she works such long hours that she was recently very ill and the nurse told her she needs to get more rest and move around (she currently has no wheelchair and is in desperate need of one…. I’m already looking into the price of one here.) Her dream is to buy land and build homes for her children so that one day they will be able to say that their mother was handicapped but she was able to leave them that inheritance.

I think that says it all.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The heat is back

May 19 2007

It’s been looking like rain the past few days, but instead of being relieved, we’ve had more sun and very humid heat since yesterday. Yesterday Joseph drove me to Tsevie, a nearby city, to visit their office and clients there. It was such a small town compared to Lome, very calm and everything close-by, so I got to meet 5 clients in just a couple of hours, if that. Also, it was hard to get the conversations going and I think it was mostly because I didn’t really know the field officer who was taking me around as much and maybe people here are also less talkative, but I don’t know. So I basically got through my questions, took pictures and moved on to the next client. Then in the afternoon I went to visit one more client before heading to the market. It was definitely the highlight of the day (although I was really dreaming of hoping in the pool at the hotel where we had a very dissatisfying lunch. It was run by a French woman and the sauce was canned tomato sauce which came with defrosted and tasteless fish.)

Going back to the market, you can see the picture here. Since it’s a smaller city the main market day is only on Fridays and so it was filled with merchants and customers from the city and the surrounding areas. There were tons of dried chilies, but we went through quickly and people were not too happy about the camera, so I didn’t get many shots in.

I did get a picture of some of Microfund’s clients (non-Kiva clients) and the picture here is of a client who sells fried fish at the market. I also really liked the house where their office is located here, and apparently the rent is less than $100 a month….

Today, since Joseph’s car is having problems, we didn’t go to the north, but rather closer by to the East to visit a phosphorous mine. The best part was the drive out there with great greenery and

small villages all along. We tried to buy palm wine on the side of the road, but after testing it decided it wasn’t very good (sometimes they mix it with water and sugar). When we got to the mine, after tracking down the guy who would give us permission to go in, we saw the impressive excavation that’s also ruining the land there. The manager of the site who took us in said they could go on mining there for another 20 years.

Just a few days left. I’m happy to be going home, but I know I’ll miss it (though not the heat). Next week I’ll be traveling some more and next weekend we are definitely going to visit the mountains in the North either in the car or in a taxi (I’m really excited).


Friday, May 18, 2007

Dancing with Marietou

Power's out so I can't write tonight...but here are some pictures from last night...dancing in the patio with Marietou.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

All of these holidays...

May 17 2007

Today is another holiday, the Ascension, so the office is closed. So I'm working from the house. I also couldn’t go out much yesterday because Edmond has unfortunately been sick for a couple of days (apparently this rarely happens) and most of the clients I wanted to visit in Lome are with him. I did, however get to visit a woman yesterday who resells computers and computer parts, but makes more of her income from phone booths and phone cards. Business is really difficult recently in Togo, and the electricity outages don’t help much either.

I’m here in the picture with her, and you can also check out my first day wearing the Togolese outfit that the mom gave me. It’s very comfortable for the weather here, and I think it looks pretty nice. I got some compliments, some of them more mocking than anything, but I was happy.

Because of the holiday today, our plans have changed and I won’t be going to Aneho until next week, staying there Monday through Wednesday. Tomorrow I will hopefully go to Tsevie, not too far away, to visit their branch there and some clients. This is not fully confirmed yet, though. Apparently they have good palm wine there, and in Aneho there are plenty of coconuts. I got to drink/eat my first one here yesterday. YUMMY (and refreshing)!

Anyway, I’m working on trying to retrieve all of the necessary funds in time to buy the bikes early next week, but there are complications with my travel changes, so it might not happen until the end of the week. I don’t have much time left to work here because there’s another holiday the Monday after next and then I leave on that Tuesday. Time really is flying by now.

That’s all for now. Please donate to the motorcycle fund if you haven’t already. And thanks for reading. Please leave comments so I know who’s reading along and don’t fell like I’m talking to myself.