Janet Roberts

Janet Sheed Roberts, born Janet Sheed Gordon, was a British supercentenarian who was born in Craigellachie, Scotland, United Kingdom, on 13 August 1901.
Roberts, who studied law at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities in the 1920s as the only female in her law class, was also a hockey player in her youth, and at one time played against Eric Liddell, an athlete who would later gain fame as a champion at the Summer Olympics at Paris in 1924.
Roberts was known during her life as the granddaughter of William Grant, a businessman who in 1886 set up the Glenfiddich Distillery, the first-ever company to produce and sell a true single-malt whiskey.
Owing to her relationship with the company, bottles of wine were produced to mark her birthdays when she turned 100, 105, 107, and 110. One of the eleven bottles produced to commemorate Roberts' 110th birthday was sold the month before her death for £59,252 — setting the record for the highest price ever paid for a bottle of whiskey at auction.
While practising law at the firm then known as McGrigor Donald, she met Eric Lloyd Roberts, who would later become her husband and a director at William Grant and Son. The pair, who married in 1938, would later tour the world together, promoting the family business, despite Roberts never being directly involved in the company's running. Roberts' marriage would last for 42 years until her husband's death in 1980.
Roberts in 1990
Roberts, who named hard work, moderation, and laughter as the reasons for her longevity, cared for her mother and sister throughout her marriage, particularly as her mother aged, and was known to have a fondness for Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.
She became Scotland's oldest living resident on 3 September 2010 following the death of 111-year-old Annie Turnbull, the United Kingdom's oldest person. A year later, on 9 September 2011, Roberts would also become the oldest living person born in Scotland, upon the death of Jeannie Pattison, who died aged 110 years, 101 days.
Roberts died on 6 April 2012. It was in Strathspey, located in northern Scotland, that she passed away; Strathspey is is the present location of the Glenfiddich Distillery. She was then the sixth-oldest living Briton and the 64th-oldest validated living supercentenarian. At the time of her death, aged 110 years, 237 days, it was not immediately clear who had become the oldest living resident in Scotland, although it is currently believed to be Janette Brown of Edinburgh, born 12 September 1903, who was aged 108 years 207 days at the time of Roberts' death.

there's something about kittens

as i write this, Bry's recently ex-kitten is purring on my chest.  Bry has been gone for a couple of days and her cat misses attention

how many Togolese does it take to kill a 7 inch snake?  As many as can find big sticks

when is a Togolese convinced that a snake is actually dead?  one word-- hamburger.

seriously, i watched a snake killing the other day and this one woman refused to accept that that the thing  was dead even though its head was mush

a snake-killing gave rise to one of the best ethnic cracks Ive heard in Togo.  I was drinking tchakpa with a friend of mine who is a primary school director.  Across the road from us, a couple of guys found a snake in a roll of thatch and beat it with sticks bigger than they were.  They brought it over for the director and me to examine.  A cluster of jumpy kids hovered over my shoulder.  Every time the snake twitched, they jumped.  Anyway, I was like "so are you going to eat this?" cause konkumba eat everything except for crocodiles.  The director was like no.  but then he was like "but if this was chez Lamba, the kids would already have it skinned and over a fire."  this was hilarious.  Lamba live across the river.  they and konkumba dont get along very well.

i found out that this weed that ive been pulling out of my garden by the armfull is actually edible.  I was at the nampoch marche with my friend a couple nights ago and I tried it. he was like "its konkumba salad"

since my nook decharged the other night, ive been watching this TV show-- "homeland."  its pretty good.  good acting, psychological and stuff.  i cant get into the plot though.  I feel detached from the terrorists-want-to-attack-the-us-and-we-have-to-stop-them motif.

since i promised kittens  . . .

they are cute. highly adorable. and do all kinds of kitten things.  like crap all over my my house.

it is funny to watch them when Ninghan brings in a lizard (often bigger than they are) and they try to eat it. 

last night i was sitting on my porch when Ninghan ran across the compound and jumped up on a 5 ft wall.  then she snatched a mouse out of one of the thatched roofs

then she took it inside for the munchkins to play with

having 4 kittens, ive decided, is a lot like having a kid.  they crap everywhere, yowl a lot, and keep you up all night

another thing that bothered me about "homeland" was that i couldnt recognize any of the cars in it

fyi- the kittens arent naturally pink.  the trim in my house is red, and the paint rubs off (it also scrubs off the floor along with kitten crap). 

continuing on the poop vein, Jacques drug me over to another compound yesterday afternoon to drink tchakpa.  there was this kid, maybe 2-3 asleep on a mat.  we sat there drinking.  he peed himself and woke up.  his mom brought over a bowl of rice to eat, and yelled at him to wash his hand first. they ate.  then he got up.  stood there looking at me-- and crapped on the ground.  plop plop plop.  his sister didn't even blink. she went and got some sorgham heads and scrapped it up. i tried not to read anything into this

ive been waging war on ants this week.  since it started raining, ant hives, colonies, whatever, periodically swarm.  there is this one kind of big brown ant that seems to prefer to live in concrete/mud brick walls- like my house.  i go around the outside of my house every couple of days and spray their holes.  im afraid of their burrows opening up on the inside of my house sometime.  that would be miserable

the same stuff that i used on ants, and that makes me afraid of 6-foot tall mutant ants/cockroaches coming to murder me in my sleep, is the same stuff that my friend Djabab sprays on his plow cattle to kill tumbu flies

village rumor has it that my oldest host sister, N'tido, is pregnant.  A fact that ive been hoping was my imagination for the past 2 months.  Ugh. 

IOC selects three cities as candidates for 2020 Olympic Games

(CNN) -- The International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid have made it on to the short list of cities bidding to host the 2020 Olympic Games. Baku and Doha were rejected for the second time in a row after failing to make the 2016 games.
"The executive board has decided that the following cities can continue to the next phase and become candidates for 2020. In the order of drawing lots: Istanbul, Tokyo, and Madrid," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.
The three remaining candidate cities will enter into Phase 2 of the selection period. Files from the cities will be submitted to the IOC by January 7, 2013. Following an official visit by the IOC Evaluation Commission between February and April of 2013, a report will be made to the 2020 IOC Evaluation Commission and candidate cities will brief IOC members.
The election of the host city of the XXXII Olympic Summer Games will take place on September 7, 2013, at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires.
In culling the field from five to three cities, the IOC executive board relied "on application files, the report of a working group of experts which is formed to assess the application forms of each city, the city's compliance with elements like the World Anti-Doping Code, and other criteria," said Adams.
Doha, the capital of the Gulf state of Qatar, had proposed changing the games to October 2-18, to mitigate the extreme temperatures athletes would have to experience during the usual July-August summer games. Based on a 10-year average, Doha temperatures in October range from 30 to 36 degrees Celsius (86 to 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
The working group also decided against Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, for its infrastructural limitations. The "games planning and experience," were "not sufficiently developed at this stage," according to the report.
Of the five candidate cities, only Tokyo has hosted the Olympics before, in the XVIII Olympiad held in the summer of 1964.

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of Madrid in this contest? Write more than 200 words. 

existential speculations or life in Togo

I was in Kouka the other day talking to someone on the street when this guy walked past me wearing a skin-tight University of Wisconsin-Platteville tshirt.  its a small world

I dont think that god wanted me to come home from Lome.  D and I spent some quality time on the ride up from Atakpame sitting along the road in Blitta while the brake line in our bush taxi was repaired.  At least they caught it while we were stopped . . .
The next day, I called Richard at 830 to come pick me up from bina.  Then i called him at 11 something- he said that his moto was broken en route.  He finally got there about 1600 and we left.  Then I spent 2.5 hours in Manga with Jenn while he fixed a flat . . . and finally got home at like 2130.  . . .

 . . . to find bags of rice and gari shredded on my floor and the discovery that the kittens are not as litter trained as I thought.

I think that tumbu flies are best argument both for and against the idea of the world as the product of Intelligent Design.  They are definitely a great argument against the idea of a Loving God who cares about His Creation.  Unless He has singled out dogs as special objects of His divine displeasure. 

I am happy to be home. People in the south, specifically the Ewe, are different than they are up here.  The Ewe are more abrupt than people in the north.  People up here are more laid back and respectful. 

I am still amazed by how fast stuff grows here when it rains.  Including my garden.  My tomatoes are like 2 inches high after 9-ish days.  I found sweet potatoes, some kind of native squash, and marigolds coming up in my garden.  The marigolds are especially exciting.

The kittens are really cute.  They have figured out how to get up on my bed, so now they like to cuddle.  Then I feed them fish and fear for my fingers.  Oh well.

One of my new favorite things to do is to sit out with my family in the evenings and shell peanuts.  The kids can do it really fast; they crack the shells on the pavement and break them open with their fingers.  Adjai can do it with both hands.  I cant do it at all.  Well I can, but I destroy as many peanuts as I shell. So I shell them with 2 hands and sit there and let konkumba swirl around me.

Im kind of amazed by how much I read here.  I read all of Asimov's "Foundation" books.  Now I am working through McMaster-Bjuld's "Vorkosigan" series.  Jenn is re-reading "The Wheel of Time" so I dont feel too bad.

My Facebook feed is full of graduation announcements.  MDs, MAs, PhDs, BAs. . . . its kind of depressing cause that would have been me in a different life.  But, congratulations to all the grads.

The longer I am alive, the more I appreciate, or perhaps discover, all the shades of grey that color life.  For example, child trafficking is a problem here.  The other night Jenn was telling me how she interviewed a zedman who had been "trafficked" at 16.  He went to Nigeria, worked for awhile . . . and came back with a new moto and English.  He has more education and experience than a lot of people in Nampoch now, plus a way to earn a decent living in his moto.  Going to Nigeria worked out for him.
The flip side to this is the guy in Nampoch who, last month, tried to send a junior-high girl to Nigeria.  I cant figure out if she is his daughter or a relation or what.  Anyway, the director of her school noticed she wasnt in class, threatened her brother with beating unless he talked, found out what had happened to her, and called the Minister of Social Affairs, the national one, who happens to be from Kouka.  Within a couple of days, a warrant was issued for this guy's arrest and another warrant was sent after the girl to fetch her back from Nigeria.  Jack, and the rest of my forced marriage committee, take great pleasure in retelling the story of how the gendarmes came and arrested this guy.  He was in prison in Bassar for about a week and a half before he paid his fine and was released.  I have to bite my tongue whenever I see him around village now lest I say something untoward.  The girl is back now too.  Justice was served, the bad guy chastised (apparently his wife had to help him urinate after the gendarmes cuffed him . . .), and the victim returned.

Two instances of child-trafficking, one that benefited the "victim" in the long run, one that was basically a kidnapping.  The latter case makes my skin crawl; the former case makes it hard for me to universally condemn something that I found easy to trash before.  I could argue that, here, 16 is basically adulthood so the zedman wasnt really a "child" when he was trafficked.  I think that works.  I think it explains the discrepancy.  The age of consent, 18, in the US is an arbitrary rule that has become a socially relative fact.  It hardly works here where the concept of "childhood" is abbreviated at best and in no way resembles that culturally mandated period of societal dis-responsibility in the US.  The 10-12 year old girls I saw working in the fields as I biked in today bear witness to that.  They contribute directly to their family's well-being at the sake of their own education.  I find it easy to condemn people who dont send their children to school, but what about when its the choice between education and hunger?  A preteen girl torn from her home and shipped to Nigeria is tragic.  But what about when she comes back fluent in English, like the woman I met in Bina a month ago?  Still as tragic? Yes. Maybe.  I dont know.  Shades of gray.

Every time I see a horizon here, I wonder what cool stuff is over it waiting to be discovered.

Another goodbye

When I found out that I was coming to Togo, I spent a month or so checking out current Togo Volunteers' blogs.  One of them, I cant remember which, had a quote to the effect of "PC service is a series of sad goodbyes and anxious hellos."  As in you constantly have to say goodbye to amazing people as they finish their services.  They are sometimes replaced by new people whom you hope will be cool too.  I'm currently in Lome to see Jacqui off-- she was in Karen's stage but she decided to extend for 6 months.  Her post, Bassar, isnt being replaced.  At least not yet.  Her house was awesome; you could stand on her porch and look out at the Bassar mountain.  I have a lot of memories in that house-- I spent last Christmas in the bathroom there, got dumped there, made ravioli there, had a hooded onesie party (don't ask) there, etc.  More importantly though, Jacqui is leaving. A piece of the fabric of PC Togo is leaving.  She's done a lot of great things in her service.  She just finished building a school in a village in the mountains near Bassar for example.  People will remember her, like they remember most Volunteers, for a long time.  Jacqui is probably the best/ classiest dressed Volunteer I know in Togo.  That is saying a lot. Service goes on, but its like a stained glass window just lost a piece.


I was standing in front of my bookshelf the other day looking for something to read when I realized how much stuff by Russian, or Russian-born authors Ive read in Togo.  Asmov's Foundation series, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Rand (I refused to read Atlas Shrugged but the Fountainhead is really good), Pushkin, Boris Akunin, Boris Pasternak,  and some others I cant remember.  I have not read Tolstoy.  I am not sure what this says about me.

One thing I've always found interesting about Togo is the clouds.  I don't know if it has to do with elevation, latitude or what, but clouds here seem to hang lower than they do in the US.  It makes for spectacular thunderstorm viewing.  We were sitting at lunch today and I watched thunderstorms build out east of us, over the ocean and Benin.  They looked like towering flying saucers. The other night there were a couple developing south of Bassar during Jacqui's going away party.  The setting sun turned them into pink towers.  Then the light went out and lighting lit them up from the inside.

Its sort of amazing how much I look forward to coming to Lome just to eat.  Although, now that I think about it, its probably not that amazing considering I consider a bowl of rice covered in hot sauce a meal.  However, Lome does have the best faux pizza in Togo.  And Indian food.  And Vietnamese. And it has Lebanese food. A lot of Lebanese food.  I do not know why there are a lot of Lebanese in Togo, but I am thankful that they are here.  D likes to go to Lebanese places to celebrate her roots.

Speaking of food, I love my region, but the food situation there sucks.  We're entering the "season of famine."  Most of last year's foodstocks are gone, or used for seed.  This year's stuff isn't ready to harvest yet.  The staple food is pate . . . pate . . . and more pate . . .. Bush food ( i feel like there is a word for this but i can't think of what it is) is really popular.  Wild grapes are starting to come in.  Anyway, this is weird because I can drive south for 4 hours down to Atakpame and eat fresh grilled corn and avacados. Its the land of milk and honey -- just because its been raining there for a couple months longer than it has been up north.  oh well.

The rain difference is even noticeable between  Kouka and Bassar, and they are only like 55k apart.  Bassar is obviously greener than Kouka.  The other day, my host dad was like "Rain for Nampoch is just wind.'  Just goes to show that farmers are the same everywhere.  They are always griping about the weather. 

On the moto again: A saga of traveling in west Kara

Monday, I was in Binaparba, D's village, on my way home from Atakpame.  The trip on Sunday up to Bassar from Atakpame was hell-ish.  The bush taxi from Atakpame to Sokode was ok.  But we had to wait for like 3 hours in Sokode for the Bassar car to leave.  When it did, at like 1900, I was sitting next to a drunk guy who kept passing out on me.  And the driver went extra slow through the mountains, but I digress .  . .

So, Monday morning I called my regular zed-man from Kouka, Richard, to come get me.  Richard and I are good friends, so I call him whenever I can.  Anyway, later on, D and I decided to walk the 4k into Bassar from Bina to meet up with Saye.  I texted Richard to just pick me up in Bassar.  He called me about an hour later, said that his moto was broken, so he'd sent another guy who did not have a cellphone, so I needed to go back to Bina to meet him.  Back in Bina, the zedman showed up at like 1330, no problem, and we left.
The road from Bassar to Kabou is new and paved.  I was spacing out on the moto, listening to music and watching mountains and brooding thunderstorms pass when the back end of the moto started wobbling.  Flat tire. The zedman looked at it, and saw that the valve stem had blown off the inner tube.  He left me along the road while he went back to Bassar to fix it.  I sat there and watched thunderheads build over the mountains to the south.  Then I went and kicked a termite mound for fun.  It hurt my foot. 

The zedman came back and we continued.  We were about 8k out of Kabou, going through the new road construction, when the back of the moto wobbled again.  Same thing.  Only in the middle of nowhere between Kabou and Manga.  The only things in sight were a bridge construction crew and this line of dark clouds.  I had just been ruminating on how it looked like we could outrun this storm to Kouka . . .
I was all for finding the nearest tree and waiting out the storm, but the zedman was like, "we gotta walk to Manga to find a mechanic." Ok.  Then the rain hit.  I, for once, was really glad I had my Peace Corps-issued moto helmet.  Cause the rain was coming sideways.  Then I realized that rain shouldn't be making a "tink" sound when it bounced off my helmet.  This was just after the back of my neck really started stinging.  Pea-sized hail.  As shitty as I felt, I was glad I wasn't my zedman-- I at least had a helmet and a huge pack to protect part of me.  He had nothing. 

So we trudged down the road in the rain, him pushing his moto.  Then the rain stopped, eventually.  And the prefet came up behind us in his Toyota pickup.  He's a nice guy.  He had his driver stop, and I got in the back seat, and got a free ride back to Kouka.  This is roughly analogous to a state governor picking me up in the US.  If the US was the size of West Virginia . . .

Back in Kouka, I dried off, ran errands, and ate lunch/dinner.  The zedman eventually made it back, and came to pick me up at Bry's.  He was like "I just bought a new inner tube and a new tire. We're good now."  So, about 1600 we left for Nampoch.  Just over the bridge, the rear of the moto wobbled . . . we slide and spun around for a bit.  The inner tube blew. Again.  I was like "ok, I'm walking home."  Fortunately, a friend of the zedman passed and took me the rest of the way to Nampoch. 

I usually pay 5 mille for a trip that should take about 1.5 hours.  That day, I left at 1330, got home about 1830, and paid 8 mille cause I felt bad about the zedman blowing 3 inner tubes.

I slept all day the next day.

The kittens are getting big.  I got home and I couldn't figure out why my house smelled bad.  Then I discovered that the kittens figured out the concept of the litter box, they are just too small to get into it  . . .

 Flies bite.  They are more annoying than mosquitoes. 

So our term as the editing team of Farm to Market is finished.  It was fun.  We just finished the last issue in Atakpame this past weekend.  It was kind of a mess cause the Malaria Action Committee was meeting at the transit house at the same time we were so the place was crawling with Volunteers.  But it was good.  Read issues of Farm to Market here.

Seeing people is always nice.  After I am around a lot of Americans, though, I find myself wanting to go hide in village for awhile.