Views #599 | Intermediate 5

Life in Togo

Michael talks about life in Togo in West Africa.
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Todd: Now, Michael, you were in the Peace Corps?

Mike: Peace Corps, yeah.

Todd: Can you explain what the Peace Corps is and what you did?

Mike: Well, it's an organization, U.S. Government organization that sends young people for the most part, college graduates, to different countries to work as volunteers in either construction or education. I was in education. I was a high school teacher.

Todd: Where did you go? What country?

Mike: I was in Togo.

Todd: Togo?

Mike: It's a little country between Ghana and Dahome, and the time Benan, Nigeria, West Africa.

Todd: West Africa, yeah.

Mike: And I was a high school teacher. I was an education major at the University of Michigan, and trained as a high school teacher there, but I had to get a complete different training, skills, to work in West African high schools. I mean for one thing, the classes were huge, like a hundred students in a class, and we didn't have textbooks. We just had a blackboard in front of the class and students had notebooks, so you had to really manage the class so that the students always had something to write down, or practive from their notebooks, and you know I had like four or five classes like that every day, and it was a very grueling job, but very, very exciting work, I mean, I loved it. I just loved it. It was the best thing a college grad could do in my opinion.

Todd: What type of experiences do you remember about living in Togo?

Mike: Ah, living in Togo, well, I was a foreigner, right, I was white, I am white, and everybody was African, black, so there was this feeling of always being an outsider and occasionally, not occasionally, often, you know kids would make fun of you for being different, and you know, so it was sort of hard to get used to that. That was one thing I remember.

Mike: I mean, I remember the beauty of it all, and how in the tropical area, how things grow (right) like it would rain almost every day and then when the rain stopped and the sun came out you could just literally see flowers growing, plants blossoming, you know, that's one thing I really remember.

Todd: Man, it must have been really, really beautiful.

Mike: It is.

Todd: Have you ever gone back?

Mike: You know, I was just thinking about that the other day, that why, no I haven't gone back. I haven't gone back. I would love to. If I have the opportunity I will, or I have to make the opportunity to go back. It's a very volatile country, though, you know. It's not an easy country to go to just as a visitor. I think you need to have something to do there, (right) like I did, you know, I had a regular routine, and place to live. I don't think I would want to go there as a tourist, but I'd love to go back if I have an inviation to do something again.

Todd: Alright, thanks Mike.

Mike: Sure.

Learn Vocabulary from the lesson


It was a very grueling job, but very, very exciting work.

If a job is 'grueling,' it is very difficult.  We usually use this word to describe something that is physically difficult.  Notice the following:

  1. January is always a grueling month at the office.
  2. It was a grueling hike, but the view from the top of the mountain was incredible.


So there was this feeling of always being an outsider.

If you are not part of a group or don't feel like you fit in, then you are an 'outsider.'  Notice the following:

  1. Although she went to their parties, she always felt like an outsider.
  2. When I moved to my new school ,everyone was very friendly, and nobody treated me like an outsider.

get used to

So it was sort of hard to get used to that.

If you 'get used to' something, you become accustomed to it.  For example, if you move to a hot place you will be very uncomfortable at the beginning, but slowly you will get used to it and the weather will feel normal.  Notice the following:

  1. I will have to get used to waking up early.
  2. She never got used to his habit of leaving water bottles everywhere.


You could just literally see flowers growing, plants blossoming.

Plants or trees 'blossom' when they grow flowers.  Notice the following:

  1. When the trees begin to blossom in the spring I get really bad allergies.
  2. The apple tree by our house is beginning to blossom.


It's a very volatile country.

Something that is 'volatile' changes very easily. When talking about a country being volatile, it typically means that violence can break out at any moment. Notice the following:

  1. It's very difficult to predict her reaction to things because she has such a volatile personality.
  2. The weather here is very volatile, so it's hard to plan any outdoor activities.

Vocabulary Quiz

grueling • outsider • used to
blossomed • volatile
  1. Wow, that fig tree finally .
  2. This has been such a winter, everyone has had to stay inside .
  3. They all stared as the approached their village.
  4. I am actually getting commuting to work.
  5. The situation was , nobody could look at each other .
Answer these questions about the interview.

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