jumping sacred crocodiles and other pics

the architecture is a little different

a portrait of the artist as a young man


these are ubiquitous. and usually share the roads with massive lorries going 110kph . . .

sacred crocodile says "hi!"

another sacred crocodile munches on a less-sacred chicken

I felt like a meal. Seriously

a jumping sacred crocodile!

happy christmas

Happy Christmas from Togo

I found out on the 23rd that one of my best friends had to leave Togo for medical reasons. If you read this Sangbo, take care. We miss you.

I spent Christmas munching on Cipro and being curled up on a cot in between running to the toilet. Luckily I was in Bassar, at Jacqui’s house. She has a flush toilet. I was feeling a little better by the time they made Christmas dinner, so I ate a little. And then barfed all over the bathroom. Ho ho ho.

Early this morning the wind started gusting. Doors and shutters were banging for a couple hours. The wind died down by daybreak—such as daybreak was anyway. I woke up this morning and visibility was about 5 kilometers.

The weather was interesting coming back from Burkina a couple weeks ago. Visibility was about 2k, if that. It was like a thick white fog covering everything. Except that the air was hot and dusty. The wind picks up sand from the deserts north of here and blankets the landscape in a cloud of dust mingled with ash from the thousands of bush fires that are constantly burning this time of year.

Bush fires are interesting. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been sitting somewhere and seen random bits of ash floating down out a clear sky. I see pillars of brown smoke smudging the sky on any given day. At night, distant fires light up sections of the sky with a brooding orange glow like the crevasse of some deep inferno. The one of the mountains around Bassar was burning on the night of Christmas Eve. Rings of fire circled around a couple of the peaks for about 6 hours; it looked like a volcano gazing out of the darkness.

Cat Update for Karen: Nighan is good. She jumps up on the counter, although not as much since one night when she jumped up and straddled my lit candle . . . She and Nigarmi growl at each other on sight. Mullet is terrified of her. Nighan bats at him when he looks at her so he hides under the bed. The kittens, Stubbs and McFats, bounce around oblivious to all the cat drama around them.

My garden was spewing out all manner of green things 2 months ago. I couldn’t even walk in it without tripping over vines. Now it looks like a desert wasteland. Seriously. Dust devils starve in it. Goats, however, apparently do not.

The bad thing about internet is that you can look and see that 2 of your favorite bands have released new albums that you cannot listen to . . . .

Ouga from our hotel

D at the cafe

New Year´s Purposes and Wishes

Every year, when it is ending, most of us think about the next year and start formulating wishes which turn into purposes. Some people want to give up smoking, others, like myself want to do more exercise or start a healthy diet. Use the future tenses and write four sentences with each of the futures expressing your purposes, wishes and predictions for the next year. I will give you a grammar tip to help you, it is on http://www.preuniversitaria.com, go to "secretaría virtual", then to "materiales para los alumnos", "Ingles I" and in "Unit 4" there is a table with future tenses.

I´m feeling blue...

Yes, some of you will be leaving in June, sadly, others in September, and the rest, the rest of students who are in 1º the next year, and I don´t know what you are going to study, why or where.
Can you write 200 words telling me about it?


Ouga is the first city I've been in since I arrived in Africa that actually feels like a city. There are digital billboards flashing the virtues of 150 years of Coca-Cola. There are on-ramps and overpasses. Granted, most of these run onto roads that dwindle to 2 lanes outside of the city, but still.

Lome is a city of 2.5 million or so. It has big buildings and nice stuff, but its still fairly poor. Ouga on the other hand has an actual downtown and a lot more money. I walked around a new Jaguar S-type this morning on the way to this cafe. There is a lot more wealth in Ouga, but that makes the poverty that much more obvious.

There are billboards here that advertise desktop and Toshiba laptop computers. One can buy all kinds of ornamental paving stones along the roads. At night, there are lines of sidewalk vendors grilling piles of chicken over charcoal. There are stop lights that people obey-- big ones for cars and small ones for motos. The bigger roads even have separate moto lanes for the hordes of scooters in the city.

This morning I was standing on the balcony of our budget hotel that's in the city center. I watched a gang of 5-6 homeless boys huff glue out of empty water sachets. When not high to the point of oblivion, these boys beg with empty tomato tins. Yesterday D and I watched a 3-way fight between a cord wielding corner vendor and 2 gangs kids from our balcony. The kids were arguing over something and the vendor was whipping the lot of them to run them off the corner. Its a sight we hadn't seen in Togo.

Being white here brings a different type of notoriety than in Togo. There, I am more of an oddity first and a source of money second. Here, I am someone who might buy whatever it is you are selling if you push it in my face and follow me long enough. And there are a Lot more people here selling stuff.

This only happens in the city center though. Out in the "suburbs" where Kadar's family lives the streets are dirt and rocks and people are more interested in staring at white people rather than hassling them.

the view from a cafe in Ougadougou

ok, so its an expat cafe but i like it cause it has free, and fast, wifi and because street vendors aren't allowed to come up on the veranda and shove stuff in my face.

Danielle just successfully ordered a Bloody Mary. I love it here.

I hate visas and borders. Crossing a border is one of the most stressful things I can think of. When I was in Lome a couple weeks ago, I went to the passport place to buy Burkina visas. In Lome they are 35 mille as opposed to 90 mille on the border-- so I heard. Anyway, I get to the place, and the guy is like "c'est fini." He told me to come back in a week. I said I couldn't do it, and he was like, "buy a visa at the border. 25 mille." Right.

I left Kouka on thursday with Kader. We met up with D in Kabou, spent the night in Kara, and then left early friday for Burkina. We got to Cinkasse, on the border, at about 1300. Kadar is friends with the one of the customs officials there who was going to get us across. then we found out that visas at the border cost 94 mille a person. After much deliberation we decided to head back which sucked cause one of the reasons we were going up to Burkina, besides for a vacation, was because Kadar was going to visit family. We were walking back to the station when we found a little bank. D was able to withdraw enough cash on her card to cover our visas. So about 1800 we got into Burkina.

We spent the night in Cinkasse, then took a bush taxi to Ouga. The taxi had a functioning speedometer. The driver kept it pegged at 100-110kph. That's the fastest I've gone in Africa. That says something about the condition of burkinabe bush taxis and roads . . .

Ouga is pretty cool. Its more developed then lome and it seems like everyone has a scooter. There are a lot more foreigners here too. D and I walked around a supermarket yesterday just to remember what it was like. I saw a yellow Lamborghini and got soft serve ice cream.

I am more tired of traveling now than I am when I last posted. 7 hours from Kara to Cinkasse, then another 5 up to Ouga the next day. Stuffed in a van with 20 other people. The car up to Ouga had a moto on top of it. This is not unusual. However, the genius owner didn't shut off the fuel line before he had his moto mounted, so gas ran all over the roof of the car. I've scrubbed my backpack 3 times and still cant get the smell out. Oh well. that's what cologne is for.

Otherwise, i love vacation.

I´m late!

Sorry! Sorry!I´m a bit late for this post! Can you tell me that special time when you got late?

Besse Cooper

Besse Berry Brown-Cooper is a supercentenarian who was born on 26 August 1896 and who currently resides in Monroe, Georgia, United States. At age 115 years, 100 days, she is the 22nd oldest recorded person in history, eight days behind Susie Gibson (31 October 1890 - 16 February 2006), who died aged 115 years, 108 days. She is currently the last living link to the year 1896, following the death of Chiyono Hasegawa (20 November 1896 - 2 December 2011) at age 115 years, 12 days.
Cooper is presently the world's oldest person, a title that she has been recognised with twice to date. The first time was on 31 January 2011, when Eunice Sanborn of Texas, United States died at the age of 114 years, 195 days. Sanborn, who was born on 20 July 1896, died after what was recognised as a 88-day reign that began on 4 November 2010 upon the death of Eugénie Blanchard from Saint Barthélemy, France.
At that time, the title was then handed to Cooper, who was aged 114 years, 158 days at the time, then considered the highest age that any world's oldest person had taken the title at in the previous year and half.
Cooper, seen here at her 113th birthday party on 26 August 2009.
At the time, she was recognised as the world's twelfth-oldest living person.
On 18 May 2011, Guinness World Records released an official statement that Maria Gomes Valentim of Brazil, born 9 July 1896, had been recognised as the world's oldest person, in a move unprecedented since 9 December 2005, when Maria Capovilla (14 September 1889 - 27 August 2006, aged 116 years 347 days) of Ecuador had displaced Elizabeth Bolden (15 August 1890 - 11 December 2006, aged 116 years 118 days) of the United States as the world's oldest person. Cooper was then moved back to the position of world's second-oldest at age 114 years, 265 days, after being recognised as the world's oldest for 107 days.
Valentim died 34 days later, on 21 June 2011, aged 114 years, 347 days, and the title was handed back to Cooper, a honour she has held ever since, for a total of 166 days as of 4 December 2011. Cooper was aged 114 years 299 days at the time of Valentim's death, which makes her the oldest person ever to take the "world's oldest person" title out of all those who took it at age 114 and the seventh-oldest "new" titleholder since 1955.
Cooper in August 2004, aged 108.
On 26 August 2011, Cooper celebrated her 115th birthday as the first person to do so for almost two and a half years, since Gertrude Baines of Los Angeles, California, turned 115 on 6 April 2009. There were no living validated 115-year-olds from Baines' death on 11 September 2009 to the eve of Cooper's 115th birthday, for a total duration of 1 year, 348 days. Media coverage was kept to one press photographer, who took the first photograph at the top of this post of Cooper on her 115th birthday.
Cooper is the oldest person to date ever born in the year 1896, a distinction she earned on 9 August 2011, aged 114 years, 348 days, having surpassed Maria Gomes Valentim's age. On 19 August 2011, she also became the oldest person ever to date to have lived in the 2010s decade, having surpassed Kama Chinen (10 May 1895 - 2 May 2010), who died aged 114 years, 357 days.
Cooper, who graduated from East Tennessee State University in 1916 aged 20, had parents who were step-siblings; Richard Brown (1861-1932), her father, was the son of Cooper's grandmother, with her husband being the father of Cooper's mother, Angeline Berry (1866-1927). Both Cooper's parents were borne through her grandparents' previous marriages, with the opposite spouse predeceasing them in both cases. Her married name is derived from her husband, Luther Cooper (1895-1963). As of her 115th birthday, she had four living children, with the eldest being born when she was 33 and the youngest when she was 48; as a former schoolteacher, Cooper was not permitted to have children during her teaching term.

Re-post; reference original post

Chiyono Hasegawa, World's Second-Oldest, Dies at 115

Chiyono Hasegawa, the world's second-oldest person and Japan's second oldest person ever, passed away today, 2 December 2011, of natural causes at age 115 years, 12 days. She had been born on 20 November 1896.
Hasegawa became Japan's oldest person at age 113 years, 163 days on 2 May 2010, following the death of Kama Chinen of Okinawa, who died aged 114 years, 357 days. Her death today ends her reign as Japan's oldest person at 1 year and 214 days.
Hasegawa has been recognised as the world's second-oldest person twice, the first time on 14 April 2011, upon the death of Walter Breuning of Montana, United States, and the second time on 21 June 2011, when Maria Gomes Valentim of Brazil died. Valentim's validation on 18 May 2011 was what moved Hasegawa back to third place then.
Hasegawa surpassed Kama Chinen as Japan's second-oldest known and undisputed person on record on 13 November 2011, aged 114 years, 358 days.
Hasegawa died as the 26th-oldest person ever, between Marie Brémont (25 April 1886 - 6 June 2001, aged 115 years, 42 days) and Annie Jennings (12 November 1884 - 20 November 1999, aged 115 years, 8 days).
Hasegawa is, to date, the only known and undisputed Japanese to have died at the age of 115.
Hasegawa's death also means that Japan's oldest person is, for the first time in more than twelve years, a man.
This man is Jiroemon Kimura of Kyoto, who was born on 19 April 1897. At age 114 years, 227 days at the time of Hasegawa's death, he is also the world's oldest man from 14 April 2011, and the sixth-oldest Japanese ever.
Kimura is also the first supercentenarian to become Japan's oldest living person at age 114 since Mitoyo Kawate (15 May 1889 - 13 November 2003, aged 114 years 182 days) did so on 31 October 2003, following the death of the age-questionable Kamato Hongo (16 September 1887? - 31 October 2003, aged 116 years 45 days?).
Hasegawa's death also means that Besse Cooper of Georgia, United States, born 26 August 1896, who is the world's oldest person at age 115 years, 98 days as of 2 December 2011, is now the last validated living supercentenarian born in the year 1896.
Click this link for confirmation in Japanese.

English translation: (Abstract, translated from Japanese)
Wednesday, December 2 - A 115-year-old woman, the oldest in the country and living in Saga Prefecture, died today of natural causes.
The deceased, Chiyono Hasegawa, was born 115 years ago on 20 November 1896, and is the oldest person in the country since May of last year.
According to officials in Saga, health facility staff were informed of Mrs Hasegawa's death from natural causes at around 8.30am on 2 December. With the death of Ms. Hasegawa, Japan's oldest person is Jiroemon Kimura of Kyoto. Mr. Kimura is a 114-year-old man who was born on 19 April 1897.

Update (6 December 2011) - It has been reported that Japan's oldest living woman is currently an anonymous woman from Kanagawa Prefecture. As she is stated to be 113 years old and born in 1897, her birthdate can be inferred to be anywhere from 3 to 31 December 1897.

Quick hits

I've spent the better part of the past 3 days on the back of a moto. We visited 16 pumps in the Dankpen prefecture in order to get estimates for the cost of replacing them. I estimate that was about 200 miles or so. I think we were on maybe 3 actual roads the whole time. My body hurts.

I've reached another point in my Peace Corps service. I've taken to buying "biscuits" for meals. These are like little graham crackers that most little stores sell. Nigarmi likes them too. I am teaching him to beg for them.

Speaking of Nigarmi, my house is like the Kitty Cold War right now. I am taking care of Karen's cat, Ninga, and her two kittens. Ninga and company live in my bedroom, and Nigarmi lives in the other room. Nigarmi hisses at the kittens whenever they come out to play with him, then goes and hides.

Next time you find yourself moaning about the condition of life in the US, go wash a week's worth of your laundry by hand.

It's been deliciously cold in the mornings. Especially at Bryanna's house cause she lives down in a little valley. I found myself shivering even. it was a strange sensation.

hi Karen, how's Thailand?

My travel clothes were so dirty after this last pump tour that it took N'Tido a half hour to get my shirt close to its original color. I was scrubbing on it for about 15 minutes while my Petit sat and laughed at me. Then N'tido came over and was like "can you do that?" I said "of course" and she was like "uh huh ok" then she came back over and was like "il faut donne moi ca." Laundry fail.

This is the time of year when farmers burn their fields. And everything else. Huge swathes of countryside burn. I passed 2 brush fires on the way to Kabou yesterday. Little pieces of burned grass floating down out of a clear sky all the time. Bits of charcoal leaves make their way into my house. I find mysterious black streaks on my hands, then realize that its just ash from something.

So I got a bag of beef jerky in the mail the other day (I give up, send it to me!). I shared some with my host family. It got a great "what the hell is this?" reaction. but it got me thinking. In Togolese cuisine, most meals come with a bit of meat, if one is lucky, or has the money. There is like a bite of chicken, or goat, or whatever, on top of whatever you get- like rice, or pate, or fufu. This usually represents one's protein intake for the day. Anyway, I was standing there holding this bag of jerky in my hand, and I realized that the pieces I'd passed out were about as much meat as my host family got at a meal. Then I realized that I was snacking on more meat than most togolese eat over the course of like a week. Think about it.

Yaoe Koda

Yaoe Koda, in blue, is a supercentenarian from Kōchi prefecture, Japan.
Born on 1 July 1898, she was added to the Gerontology Research Group's list of validated living supercentenarians on 30 September 2009, aged 111 years, 91 days.
There is, however, little biographical information on Yaoe Koda available. She eventually died of heart failure on 9 June 2011, aged 112 years, 343 days. At the time of her death, she was the fifteenth-oldest living person.
Koda was also the fifth oldest living Japanese at the time of her death, behind Chiyono Hasegawa, then 114 (she is now 115), Jiroemon Kimura, 114, Misawo Okawa, 113, and Kame Nakamura, 113, as well as the 34th oldest Japanese ever; she is now 35th oldest all-time, her age having since been surpassed by Hatsue Ono of Hokkaidō, born 31 October 1898, who is aged 113 years, 32 days as of 2 December 2011.