It came at the witching hour. People tore from their beds and homes into the streets. A terrible sound roared from the night. It was a voice, but not like any hume or indeed any creature the people had heard before. The worst thing was that the voice cried a word: “Oleniath!” Whatever it was—was intelligent.

By the time people discovered the origin of the guttural obscenity two newly thatched houses were ablaze in billows of dark blue smoke.

One man yelled, “By the light! Blue smoke! Magic this is; wicked deviltry!”

At his words hairs stood up on the arms and necks of the gathering onlookers.  

The roaring blue flames lit the scene clear as day. On the dirt road between the two flaming houses laid Thorold. His lifelong friend Trustan was sprawled over him weeping—no not just weeping, wailing in deep sobs of pain. 

Shiny blood poured from Thorold’s limp body like wine. It danced with reflections of firelight and confirmed everyone’s greatest fear, their leader—was dead.

Though Thorold’s body was limp his hand was still clenched to the hilt of his sword. The blade was swallowed up in the neck of a creature that could only be, a demon.

People clasped their hands over their mouths in gasps of surprise when their eyes met the monster. Everyone knew the dangerous creatures from their world, but in this moment it didn’t feel like theirworld anymore—they were strangers in a new world—a dark brooding world.

The beast almost doubled Thorold’s length as it lay beside him. The creature’s feet were highly arched like a cat. The thighs were layered with muscle. It appeared to stand upright, like a hume, not hunched like an ape. Of all the strength the creature had, the chest and shoulders seemed so thick that if it stood up, it might fumble under their weight. People thought the most bizarre thing was that it wore clothing, armor in fact. It had a simple hammered metal breastplate connected to a battle kilt. This confirmed intelligence, perhaps even a culture. Pouring from the top of the breastplate a large yellow mane wrapped up and around the animal shoulders and blended into a thick blonde beard. Another curiosity was its face. Most expected a wild animal face, but the face looked shockingly like a hume. It had bushy yellow eyebrows, deep blue eyes, hefty cheek bones and all in all, an un-scary expression.  Tightly matted fur covered its face even tighter than the body.  

That night, the people pushed the demon-beast into one of the blazing houses and burned it to ashes.

The next morning three men trundled the demon-beast remains to the edge of the Ipsen Mars; a two day hike northeast of town, and buried it.

Thorold was the first man to die in the town he founded. Trustan bestowed a cemetery in Thorold’s honor; a two day hike west of town.

After the funeral, Trustan didn’t make it back to Afgarb until morning. The town was set nicely in a cove surrounded by larger trees than Trustan had ever seen back in Wuthrun. Though He kept his head low he could feel the awkwardness of the other town folks as he walked by. Nobody took Thorold’s death harder than Trustan.

A single dirt road became a tunnel under houses that lined the street. The building style was typical Talonthian architecture. Each house was built from wood and thatched. Every house had a second floor built above it that expanded over the road and connected to another house on the other side which was built the same way. The style allowed many of the bottom floors to be used as artisan shops, while rooms and storage were upstairs. Small garden crofts were kept on each side of the houses. The crofts separated the houses from spreading fires, which were few, but very destructive. Women were expected to run the home, the croft, and any trade or craft business while the men worked the fields. All the houses were built as tight as possible to maximize larger farms behind them. 

As Trustan drudged forward he looked up and saw two girls playing in a croft between the Inn and the Boyer and Fletcher’s house. He thought on the simplicity of their world and almost stopped to watch them. He looked back down; eyes welling up as he sighed and forced himself to remember that he had duties.

A young boy came running out of the scrivener’s house. “Have you seen—“ He shut his mouth abruptly and fumbled to walking pace. “Sorry Trustan. Um. Never mind. It’s not that important.”    

Trustan tightened his lips and nodded.

Passing the Chandler’s house on his left and the pottery shop on his right the town seemed to blossom into a wasted circle of grass in the center of town. The space was used for town gatherings which included carnival games, events and competitions. In the center of this round field stood a huge guild hall large enough to fit the entire town. Next to the guild hall was the town well and the bell tower. He walked through the field remembering when he directed the building project for the bell tower. He remembered Thorold overseeing the well development and then working together to level the field.

Trustan was middle aged and well built. His rough calloused hands slid up the railing that Thorold insisted be built into the bell tower. The tower was the only stone structure in town. He smiled remembering their arguments about it. At its top floor sat a giant Mahogany wheel as tall as a man. All around its edges were cogs. It sat on two smaller wooden gears, one on its right and the other on its left. They were supported by a decorated base. In the center of the large wheel was a handle that was made for cranking. Trustan grabbed the handle and turned the wheel one click. He enjoyed watching the three gears work together, but even more-so enjoyed watching the inside of the large wheel. Inside its center were several elongated hourglasses encased in glass. The hourglasses weaved with each other in a complex maze of beauty and all crossed at the center. Trustan looked at the cogs on the outside of the large wheel. On each notch was carved a word. Each word was the name of one day. There were three hundred days in one year which made up the whole wheel. The wheel also had wooden cross sections that divided each season. Seventy five days made up one season. The name of each day of a particular season had the prefix related to that season.

“Sprilone,” he mumbled. “Fitting, since I amalone. The king takes my family and you are taken by what? A demon! You were all I had left—like a brother. Misery is all I have now; misery.”

His hands reached up to a rope that dangled above the wheelglass.

He rang the bell and spoke to himself, “Time for the working day to begin everyone. Life goes on like the day before; but not for me.”             

After awhile of ringing he walked back down the tower and crossed over to the guild hall. He sat down at a large oak table and pulled a red pipe from his waistcoat. He packed the tobacco and lit it with a flint from his tinder kit that was strapped to his chest.  And then he waited.

The hall slowly filled with men; fourteen men to be exact. Each man was a town elder and each hand selected by Thorold himself.

The oldest man, named Gabronze, stood to address the others. His unsteady, but wise voice echoed in the hall, “We need another to lead us.”

The town’s glass blower stood, before Gabronze could add any further thoughts. “Do we?! We are alone out here you know—”

At the oddly redundant word Trustan looked up.

“We left Wuthrun to escape corrupt kings and oppressive lords! You must’ve forgotten. We need a new system of leadership. I move that we rule together; no leader. Let every decision be by vote.”

A web of blue veins seemed to reach out from Gabronze’s face as he argued, “None of us need be reminded of our journey here Lefric, nor do we need reminding that we’re alone. All the more reason we need leadership.”

A short bald man with a long red goatee stood. “Nothing will get done without a final voice, especially if we are to face demons out here.”

A voice from the table shouted, “Now is not the time for gloating Relck!”

The bald man named Relck pounded his fist on the table. “No, it is the time! Rumors circulated about demons and dragons! I told everyone! Didn’t I say—“

Lefric interrupted, “You never had to come, Relck!”

A pause filled the moment and Lefric looked around as he held the room’s attention. Pipe smoke lingered in the air. “Thorold was the best of us. I find it hard to earn the respect of my wife. Thorold earned the respect of over two hundred men and their families! I remember when you warned Thorold and I remember what he said. Do you remember what he said?”

Relck sat down gruffly and folded his arms.

Lefric continued, “He said, ‘I would rather face dragons than dragoons; demons over demands’.”

Gabronze raised a boney finger. “We’re getting off track. Rather than discuss it, I recommend we vote by ballot on leadership. The vote will include a vote for non-leadership.”

Several heads nodded as Lefric sat down.

The old man pulled up an old steel helmet. He placed fresh parchment in the helm with a quill after jotting down his own vote. The helm was passed around until it fell back to Gabronze. He turned the helm over and read each vote in front of them all. Of the fourteen men, ten votes fell to Trustan as leader.

Trustan slowly removed the cherrywood pipe from his lips and laid it on the table. His sparkling blue eyes were damp and fresh. He stood as though he held the weight of the world on his shoulders. Such was the enmity of his coming words that many men gulped and cringed. Licking dry lips he simply said, “They’ll be back—more will come.” With that he turned to walk out and was gone.

Ephraim Pratt: The Oldest Man Alive?

The longest unambiguously documented human lifespan is that of French woman Jean Calment.  She met Vincent Van Gogh in 1887 when she was a girl of twelve or thirteen, and died when she was 122, only four years short of seeing the Twenty-first Century.  The longest definitively documented lifespan of a man, a record held by Danish-American Christian Mortensen, was far shorter, at 115.  Today, in the year 2012, the oldest human being alive is American Besse Cooper, who was born on August 26, 1896, and is now one hundred and fifteen years old.  There are only seventy verified super-centenarians, people who are older than one hundred years old, alive today.

In the early years of the 19th Century the famed academic and former president of Yale University, Dr. Timothy Dwight travelled throughout New York and New England collecting stories of American lives”.  In 1785, Dwight published The Conquest of Canaan, which is widely regarded as the first American epic poem.  In November of 1803, the fifty-one year old Dr. Dwight set out for the rugged farmland of Shutesbury, Massachusetts.  The object of the journey was to see a man, Ephraim Pratt, whom Dwight believed to be the oldest man alive at the time.

Dwight believed that Ephraim Pratt had been born in Sudbury, Massachusetts in 1687, and, that in less than a month from his visit with this ancient man, Ephraim Pratt would celebrate his 117th birthday.  Dr. Dwight and his travelling companion reached Pratt’s home in the late afternoon.  The man that Dr. Dwight encountered was far from the withered relic that he had expected to find.  Pratt, according to Dwight, was of a medium height for the day, firmly built, and plump but not fat.  Pratt had the appearance of a man of about seventy years old; his handshake was firm and his voice was strong and steady.  That year his sight had diminished to a point that he could not distinguish one person from another, and his hearing was impaired so that it was difficult for him to follow someone speaking in conversational tones.  But, at 116 years old, he still had a sharp mind, a vigorous memory and a keen understanding of the world around him.

Ephraim Pratt held Dr. Dwight’s hand as he answered all of the doctor’s inquiries.   He surmised that, from listening to Dwight’s voice, he must be at least forty-five years of age.   “I must look very old to you,” said Pratt, “but I know that there are men who have not passed their seventieth year who look just as old.”  Dwight agreed with the old man’s sentiment, but was amused at the idea of someone of seventy years old being thought of as “young”.

Pratt had been a laborer all of his life, and he had mown grass every year for one hundred one years consecutively.   As late as the summer of 1802 he could easily walk two miles and mow a small quantity of grass.  In 1803, on one of his walks, he had tripped over a log a fell.  Immediately after his fall, his hearing and sight began to deteriorate, and walking half a mile took considerable effort.  His mowing days were behind him.

Dwight asked the old man about his habits.  Pratt said that he had stayed away from “ardent spirits”, but that he would occasionally drink cider, in moderation.  As a younger man, he had eaten meat, but far less than those around him, and milk, which had always been a great part of his diet, was now the entirety. 

Dwight found Pratt to be naturally cheerful and humorous, free of any sentimentality, and not inclined to serious thinking.   He had only been seriously ill at one time in his life, when he had suffered through a period of fever and chills. Pratt had professed his religious faith publicly over seventy years ago, but none of his acquaintances found him to be a particularly religious man.   Dwight, a theologian and Congregationalist minister, noted, “It is scarcely necessary to observe, that a man one hundred and sixteen years old, without religion was a melancholy site to me.”

Almost eighty years before, Ephraim Pratt had married Martha Wheelock, and they had six sons and two daughters.  His longevity had allowed him to see many of his great-, great- grandchildren, and a newspaper article from the late 1790s claimed that he likely had fifteen hundred living descendants at the time.

In 1803, at 116 years old, Ephraim Pratt was almost certainly the oldest human being alive.  When he died in 1804 the Worcester newspaper The Massachusetts Spy noted the death  of Mr. Pratt of Shutesbury, “on the 22d (June), aged 116 yrs, 5 mos. and 22 days.”  It is remarkable that Ephraim Pratt’s longevity did not create more of a sensation during the man’s life.  The death notice in The Spy did catch attention of the Rev. Dr.  Sumner of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.  Rev. Dr. Sumner wrote to the newspaper that when Pratt was married on July 9, 1724, he told the town clerk that he was twenty-one years old.  According to Sumner, that would have made Pratt about 101 years old at the time of his death, a remarkable age, but far short of 117 years.   The town records of Sudbury, Massachusetts give the birthday of Ephraim Pratt, son of Ephraim and Elezabeth, as November 30, 1704, which would have made him 99 years, 5 months, and 22 days old on the day of his death.

Had Timothy Dwight been mislead about Ephraim Pratt’s seemingly incredible longevity?  Had he known that he could not possibly have been talking to a man who had been born more than a eleven and half decades before?  Once again, if Ephraim Pratt had been 116 years old, he would have surely been the oldest man on the face of the Earth.  But wouldn’t Dwight have been able to see through any hoax?  Timothy Dwight, the former president of Yale College, had been a child prodigy, learning the alphabet in a single lesson, and reading from the Bible before he was four years old. He had graduated from Yale at the age of seventeen.   He had served in the Massachusetts legislature, and was known throughout the country as an accomplished poet and lyricist, and he was an innovative educator who had opened schools for boys and girls, and had campaigned to rid schools of the corporal punishment that was common during the time.   How could Dwight have fallen for a ruse perpetrated by a backwoods laborer like Ephraim Pratt?  Perhaps Dwight’s impressive accomplishments had made the otherwise unlikely feats of those around him seem plausible.  Dwight’s reputation had been firmly established, and he had little to gain, and much to lose, by publishing a sensational story that might prove to be false.

Did Ephraim Pratt truly believe that he was 116 years old when he met with Timothy Dwight? Could someone with an otherwise clear mind be mistaken about his own age by eighteen years?  It is unlikely that Pratt thought that he was going to gain in any material way by making false claims about his longevity, but maybe the old man was looking for attention and a degree of notoriety.   Regardless, Ephraim Pratt was witness to nearly every year of the 18th Century.  He was born shortly after the Witch Trials in nearby Salem and lived to see the colonies separate from England and become the United States.

Togolese Health Care, or, A Very Long Post

I spent a lot of time this week in the Togolese healthcare system.  Most of this was intentional. 

Like Ive said ad nauseum, one of the things I like about Peace Corps is the fact that I don’t know whats going on happen on any given day.  Last Monday was no exception . . .

I think I mentioned that N’tido is pregnant.  I took her into the Kouka hospital last Monday to get her blood work done.  To get there, I called my friend Richard, he’s a zedman, to come get us.

We got to Kouka, and I realized that I actually had no clue what was going on in the hospital, luckily Richard did.  He parked his moto and led the way in like he owned the place.  This was kind of funny given his penchant for wearing big floppy hats.  Richard knew the sage femme (midwife—actually the title of the nurse who runs the maternal care ward).  She got N’tido set up with all the tests that she needed right away.  Richard took us to the laboratory, helped me pay, etc.  It occurred to me that while he was helping us in the hospital, he wasn’t taking clients anywhere.

Since we had to wait until after repos for the results, I took N’tido out to lunch at Kouka’s only cafeteria.  I’m pretty sure it might have been the first time she’d been somewhere where you sit down and people bring you food.  I discovered that I can definitely use a fork better than her.  And I can drink pop out of a bottle. These, plus typing, are probably the only things I can do better than she can.  Anyway, it was interesting.  N’tido spent most of the day being overwhelmed by everything I think. 

We went back to the hospital after repos. And had to wait for the lab to finish N’tido’s blood work.  When it was done, we took her health booklet with the results to the sage femme.  Turns out N’tido is B neg.  Until Monday, I had no idea that this is a problem for women who want to have babies.  

Anyway, N’tido had to go back to the hospital on Tuesday for more tests.  I went home.  Richard met her the next morning and walked her through the rest of the tests.  No HIV.  2 parasites/infections.  Bag full of medication and vitamins.  

We had to go back to the hospital Friday with the dad to see the sage femme again.  The sage femme sat N’tido down and was like ‘you need to thank daniel for making you come in here because if he hadnt you wouldn’t have known that you are B neg and you would have had your baby at home and it might have died and people would have said it was sorcery.’  

This was after she asked N’tido if the baby was moving yet and N’tido was like “I don’t know.”  D does a lot with family planning and pregnant women in Bina and she often tells me that she’s amazed by how much women here don’t know about their bodies.  I didn’t know what she meant until I watched the sage femme explain to N’tido how it feels when one’s baby is kicking.  

I thanked Richard profusely on several occasions for his help.  Seriously, US hospitals are bad enough.  Imagine one that’s dimly lit and doesn’t have huge signs over everything.  Or helpful maps for guys whose only experience with pregnant women was about 20 years ago.  Richard was like “you came to help Togolese, and you are doing more for N’tido than her ‘boyfriend’ is, so it’s the least I can do.”  

Actually, the boyfriend is kind of in trouble.  My host dad told me that the guy came by several months ago wanting to “marry” N’tido.  Petit was like ‘no, she’s a student. Don’t touch her.’  Oops.  Getting a female student pregnant is apparently not good.  The guy has to pay for all of her medical bills and stuff now.  I can’t really muster up any sympathy for him.  

Richard and I had another hospital experience yesterday.  He was taking me to Bassar.  We were on the nice Kabou-Bassar road when a moto directly in front of us stopped in the middle of the lane with a flat tire.  Many people don’t get the concept of pulling off on the side of the road when their vehicle breaks down, probably because shoulders are rare, or are part of the road.  Anyway, there was an old woman on the back of the moto.  Her son told her to get off.  Without looking behind them.  I was spaced out looking at the landscape. Richard didn’t notice that they’d stopped dead.  Then we flashed by and something caught the toe of my chaco and wrenched my foot.  

We turned around to see what happened.  The woman had climbed down off the moto and was hopping around on the road, trying to walk it off.  Drizzling blood everywhere.  The skin on her calf had torn.  It was crumpled up like when you push a tablecloth on a hardwood table.  In this case, the table was her calf muscle. 3-4 inch tear. The woman was going into mild shock as we tied my handkerchief around her leg to slow down the bleeding.  Then we went to the hospital in Bassar.  

I hope Im never bleeding to death and need urgent care in Togo cause Richard had to buy all the surgical supplies and medicine before anything happened apart from a doctor looking at the injury.  D was in Bassar and came to hang out with me while we waited for the woman to get stitched up.  In Togo, if you cause an accident, you pay the medical bills.  Richard was out like 8 mille before the afternoon was over.  His profit margin for the trip would have been about 1.5 mille, depending on gas prices.  I felt bad for him.  He was really upset about the accident, which wasn’t entirely his fault.  I asked him about that, and he was like “yeah the guy stopped in the middle of the road and told his mother to get off.  It was stupid.  But if I’d brought it up we would have spent a lot of time arguing about it.  Me paying for it all was much faster.”  

Personal profile: Richard
Richard is a zedman; he makes his living driving people around on his moto.  He’s really good at it too.  Zedding here takes a degree of nerve (or stupidity in some cases), good depth perception, excellent reflexes, a large degree of skill, and luck.  Richard is the president of one of the two zedmen syndicates in Kouka, a fact I use to my advantage when I negotiate prices (“over charge me? Let’s call your president . . .”).  He’s one of the more, um, stocky togolese that I know.  I rarely see him without his big, gap-toothed smile.  He’s the kind of guy who has friends everywhere because that’s just the way he is; he’s happy to see everyone.  Richard knows everyone from the Catholic nuns, to the doctors in the hospital to the gendarmes. It helps that he speaks at least 5 different languages.  Once, a Fulani herdsman pushed his cattle across the road in front of us when we were going back to Nampoch.  Richard got mad, which he usually only does when someone blocks the road and about causes an accident.  He flipped out, stopped after we dodged the cattle, and cycled through a repertoire of languages until he found one the guy understood. 
Richard calls me “ton-ton Daniel” – uncle Daniel—half out of respect, half out of affection.  I’m not sure when we became friends.  He’d been one of the regular drivers for other Volunteers in the area until I, according to Karen once, “appropriated” him. Now, when he comes to my house on Fridays, my mama gives him a calabash of tchakpa.  He helps me when I do sensibilizations, especially the ones on gender equality; he’s really into that, especially since his daughter was born.  Today is actually her first birthday.  He’s planning a big party for her.  This is interesting because, 1, parties are expensive, and 2, Togolese usually don’t keep track of the exact day when their kids are born.  Richard is also probably one of the few strictly monogamous Togolese men that I know. Watching him and his wife interact is really funny because they are a lot alike—same build, same sense of humor, same iridescent smile.  They are devout Catholics.  Sometimes, Richard has to hurry to get back to Kouka to make it to choir practice at the church.  He responds to the universal “comment ca va?” with “good, thanks to God.”  He’s one of those people you can trust implicitly.  He’s one of those genuinely good people who you occasionally meet in life.  

Last time I was in Lome, I found a bottle of barbeque sauce for 1,750 cfa.  Best. Buy. Ever.  It makes everything taste better.  Barbeque sauce and rice?  Lunch of champions.  I think I even put it on pate once.  Of course, I might just have missed the sultry taste of high fructose corn syrup. . .

Last Sunday I was in the Kouka marche when a Togolese ‘hissed’ me down.  My usual reaction to this when Im having a less than good day, like last Sunday, is somewhat assholish.  However, before I could say much, the guy was like “are you Peace Corps?” In English. Brain reset.  

Turns out, he is the ‘brother’ of a RPVC who was in Bassar 25ish years ago.  Greg was at the Kouka marche with his friend Andy, another Bassar RPVC, and Andy’s Bassari-American wife, their son, and other Togolese relatives.  After running their son back to Bry’s for a pit stop, his stomach wasn’t acclimated to Togolese food yet, I spent a very pleasant afternoon swapping stories with a pair of 50 something RPCVs who love Togo so much that they come back every couple of years to visit and do projects.  

D and I had actually run into Anna, Andy’s Bassari wife, in Bassar the week before.  It was interesting to be in the marche with someone who could yell at people in Bassar then joke about it in English.  Andy went back to the States after completing 3 years of service and took her, and her young son, with him.  It was a refreshing experience because many PCVs get worn down and disillusioned with Togo by the end of 2 years—“I need to get out of here.  This country is stealing my soul.” That isn’t how I feel about Togo; its good to be around Americans who share my love for this place. 

I kick a kitten at least twice a day. Unintentionally. Whenever I walk through my house I have a furry escort running around my feet.

Nighan has started to bring stuff in for them to eat.  The following scenario happens probably once a day—Daniel is laying on his bed reading.  Becomes aware of ferocious growling under his bed.  Becomes inquisitive.  Investigates with flashlight.  See’s lone kitten straddling a lizard twice its size, chewing on its head, and growling at the world.  Kitten is too little to actually do more than tear pieces off, but that doesn’t stop it.  Repeat 4 times until Nighan finishes the thing off. 

I am craving Sprite right now

When I got back from Kouka on Monday I left my phone and my Nook out on my little table while I went to garden.  When I came back, I discovered that David decided that my phone and a bucket of water needed to be united.  I took it to a repair guy in Kouka, but its still messed up.  David has almost signal handedly cured me of ever wanting to procreate.

I don’t know what it is about the landscape here, but I am always noticing new stuff.  Like the other day I was biking into Kouka on the back road, and I realized that, from this one hill, I could see the mountains of Kabou, and, barely, of Bassar.  Then, a couple days later, I realized I could see the Kabou mountains from just outside of Nampoch.  Which makes sense cause they are the biggest thing in like 30 miles, but its still weird that I never noticed them before.  

Ive been watching the TV series the Walking Dead this past week, and I feel compelled to comment on it.  First of all, the people in it are stupid.  If the world was overrun by zombies, and there were abandon tanks everywhere, well . . .  I'd be learning how to drive a tank.  Secondly, one of the driving "apocalyptic" factors in the show seems to be the collapse of Western civilization, epitomized by the lack of hot showers.  Oh, the humanity.  The apocalypse is characterized by a lack of creature comforts.  Ugh.  Third, this reinforces the general lack of hope in the show.  D and I were talking about it today and she made a comment about zombies embodying "mindless evil."  This was my missing link, so to speak.  Civilization collapses, you can die any given day from something mindless and horrible, and you dont have hot showers.  This paradigm doesnt really resonate with me in Africa.  Look up Buruli ulcers (seriously, I just saw a poster about them in the Bassar hospital, i dont know what they are) and tell me about mindless and terrible.  Lack of western civilization has nothing to do with lack of hope in humanity or the world.  Finally, a zombie apocalypse is a stupid concept-- they will all die of starvation anyway. stop whining.  

that being said, i'll probably keep watching the show because apocalypse is interesting.

Thunderstorms are roiling across the horizon, gotta run.

Europe's Oldest Dies Aged 114

Marie-Thérèse Bardet, a supercentenarian from Pontchateau, France, has died as Europe's and France's oldest living resident. Bardet died in a nursing home in Pays de la Loire, western France, on 8 June 2012, aged 114 years, 6 days. Pictured above at her 114th birthday a week prior, Bardet was at the time of her death the world's sixth-oldest living person. Her death moves Mamie Rearden of Edgefield, South Carolina, United States, born 7 September 1898, into this position.
Born in Bretagne, France, on 2 June 1898 to an unknown father and an unmarried mother, she became the oldest living person in both Europe and France on 1 January 2012, an event that followed the death of Algeria-born Marcelle Narbonne at the age of 113 years and 282 days. Her death leaves 69 living supercentenarians validated by the Gerontology Research Group, consisting of 64 women and 5 men.
Bardet was the last living French person born in the 1800s, having outlived every known and validated French supercentenarian born in 1899. She was also Europe's last living person born in 1898. Her death leaves Paule Bronzini of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region as France's oldest living resident. Bronzini, aged 111 years 337 days at the time of Bardet's death, is the youngest person to become France's oldest resident since Anne Primout, who took the same title more than 10 years prior at the age of 111 years, 195 days on 18 April 2002.
Her death also passes the title of Europe's oldest living resident to Italian Maria Redaelli-Granoli, born on 3 April 1899. The world's oldest living European-born, however, is 115-year-old Dina Guerri-Manfredini, a native of Italy who is currently residing in Johnston, Iowa, United States. Manfredini, born on 4 April 1897, is also the second-oldest European emigrant ever, behind Denmark-born Christian Mortensen, who died in California, USA, in 1998 at the age of 115 years, 252 days.

Kittens Tombu too

My two great accomplishments for today are:

1. taking Ntido to the dispansaire for pre-natal counseling and

2. popping a big tombu maggot out of the tail of one of my kittens.

There is something satisfying about popping tombu maggots out of dogs/cats.  its almost as satisfying as watching them squirm around on cold concrete people you step on them. 

The other morning I walked out of my house to see papa scooping the brains out of a goat skull with his finger and eating them.  his response to the apparently incredulous look on my face? "C'est doux!"

So yeah, Ntido is pregnant.  I thought she was about 2-3 months ago.  then village rumor picked it up about 3 weeks ago. i hate being right sometimes.  Anyway, I tried talking to Ntido about it.  No good. D came out last week though, and had a good talk with her about about stuff.  So I feel better. It sucks being a guy Volunteer sometimes because half the population is too shy or doesn't speak french well enough to talk me.

The dispansaires, e.g. local/village/rural health clinics, have decent pre-natal counseling and infant health programs.  this is especially true with the dispansaire in Nampoch because it is run by Sisters from the Catholic Mission in Guerin-Kouka. 

I have a lot of respect for the Catholics here.  they do a lot of good work in Togo, especially in the arenas of health and education.  i'd never be a monastic, but you have to have a Lot of respect for people who dedicate their lives to making their corner of the world a better place.

D and I went in to talk to the Sister who comes out to the Nampoch dispansaire to find out when their CPN is, well D did all the talking cause she works with dispansaires, I just went along cause I knew the way. Anyway, the Sister was really nice and professional.  Unwed, pregnant teen mothers are sort of a fact of life here.

On my way into town today, I biked past an army ant mound, one of like 50.  This one was different cause it had a 15-ish centimeter long dead viper on it.  Poetic justice.

I refuse to say anything about the recent elections in the US, especially since it could get me fired.

I've reached this weird point in my service. Its time to start handing off national projects that Ive been working on.  Most national projects, like committees, publications, etc, have a year-long term.  Last month we finished up our last issue of Farm to Market and passed that off to the new editing team.  Then, last weekend, I went up to Dapaong to take part in the transition meeting for the new Food Security Committee.  I was one of the founding members of the committee; its kind of weird passing it on to new people, but in a good way.  Normally, I guess, it wouldnt be that big of a deal because I'd be getting reading to COS.  Since I am planning on being here for another year or so this feels like my mid-service point instead of the beginning of the end. 

i like the feel of real books, but i like trees and being able to have 100+ books with me on my nook.  conflicted.