It took about one and a half hours to get to the Langabou junction from Sokodé where Mensah was waiting in the Peace Corps truck to take us to Pagala.  The ride from Langabou to the PC training camp at Pagala took about 15 minutes, and the countryside was beautiful with rolling hills and plenty of trees.  It wasn’t the jungle, but it was pretty and it was still exciting just to be in West Africa.  The training center was pretty, too.  Lucky for us, we were a small group of only 19, so we were each given our own dorm room.  Normally trainee groups were so large that they had to share a room.  I immediately unpacked and felt at home.

All the professors in the training center know my name, even the ones who aren’t my teachers.  My reputation must have preceded me.  Several of them had come to Mamy’s in Lomé to meet us, and I hit it off with a few of them.  I especially liked Rose and the two Koffis.  (In addition to the Koffi whom I had sat next to in the dining room the night of our arrival, there was another Koffi who was the head trainer for the Small Business Program.) The feeling was obviously mutual.  They all had great, loud laughs, and I had been cracking them up in Lomé.

Little by little I began to connect names and faces of the Togolese professors and the staff at Pagala.  I also became well known for amusing the professors at the dinner table.  Everyone had also seen me dance at the little party Damase had for us Tuesday night.  They liked that, too.  I was more than twice the age of most of the stagiares, so I had little in common with them.

Several times I attempted friendly overtures to some of them, but there was never any reciprocation.  At first I didn’t feel as if the age difference had anything to do with it, but maybe it did.  My attitudes towards so many things were so different from most of the others.   I had traveled a bit overseas already. I grew up in the country where there were bugs, so the bugs in Togo didn’t faze me. I had also spent the last five years learning French in undergrad and grad school, so I was fluent and could easily converse in French with the Togolese.  Not only that, but having studied underdeveloped countries and cross-cultural issues as part of my international studies master’s degree, I was more familiar with the problems and issues we were likely to be facing.  In my graduate studies, I had also come across the concept of culture shock, what it was and how to cope with it. Finally, being in my 40s,  I had been independent for a long time.  I never suffered from homesickness or culture shock.  I began spending more and more time with the Togolese professors.

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