I should start this post by thanking everyone who has sent me mail. I especially want to thank Laura who sent me an awesome birthday package.
Mail is an interesting phenomenon for me, especially here. I never thought that I would be a big fan of getting mail. Here, though, its different.
Since I can no longer get regular, instant gratification from email, I look forward to the bi-weekly post deliveries in Kouka. At least they are supposed to be bi-weekly. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. The exact days for delivery are always a surprise too.
As near as I can tell, it takes a letter or package about 8-10 days to get from Indiana to Lome. Snowstorms really screw up this estimate. From Lome, it takes 4-5 days for packages to get up here. This is because of the road conditions. I think it takes maybe two days for stuff to get up to Kante, which is almost directly east of me, but is on the Route National.
I have an audience raptly reading this as I type it.
I've heard stories from other Volunteers about care packages, in boxes, that have arrived pre-opened and missing items. I've heard about packages that have never made it. I don't think that this has happened to me yet. Other packages get here via the Caribbean or after a European tour. Its all part of the excitement of getting mail.
I get two kinds of mail. The first kind is called EMS. I can't remember what the acronym stands for, but it is a free, internal Togolese (?) mail service that the Peace Corps uses. That's how we get, for example, medicines from Lome, or PC-Togo fliers, pay statements, official information, etc. I just used it, for example, to send one of my friends a Sports Illustrated that I was finished with.
The second type of mail I get is stuff from the States. I have to pay 1 mille CFA for each package/large envelope that I get, but its totally worth it.
Mail gives me a tangible connection to those of you back in the States. The stuff in the mail more so. Getting it is usually the highlight of my week.
Since I am talking about mail, I will unabashedly promote sending your favorite PCV all kinds of stuff. He likes the following items-- junk food- both sweet and salty- (i would kill for Lays kettle cooked chips right now), also other non-perishable food items. Magazines, like Sports Illustrated, the Economist, the New Yorker, Newsweek etc, anything that gives me an intelligent discussion about the wider world. Books. Sending me movies, TV shows, and music on thumb drives or SD cards is guaranteed to get you a personalized response if you want said devices back. Pictures. You can also write me letters too. If you ask me interesting questions, I will respond. Its part of my job.
Whatever you send me will make someone happy in some way. Magazines circulate among Volunteers. Togolese LOVE them too; its hard explaining all the advertisements sometimes though. Food gets shared. My cluster is especially good about this. Like when Laura sent me real Kraft macaroni and cheese, me and my friend Karen made some with a package of salmon she'd gotten from home. It was delicious.