Hey there!

Since my last blog entry I have traveled to two countries in west Africa. Those countries are Ghana and Benin. My husband and I stayed in Accra for two blissful weeks. A highlight of our stay was visiting the parents to a long time friend of mine. They are age 83 and 93 respectively and my husband and I gleaned some nuggets from them on what it takes to stay happily married. The main takeaway point was to know the person very well and make sure you can deal with their temperament before saying ‘I do’. The second highlight of the trip was Elmina castle in Cape Coast. Getting there by road with one our new friend’s was an adventure. A trip that normally takes 3 hours one way totaled 9 hours round trip. But it was worth it. The adventure was having car troubles, finding a reliable roadside mechanic, having to ‘pee’ in someone’s outhouse because no toilet was nearby lol, getting lost and the taxi driver turned tour guide charging extra for his “tour” around town en route to the castle… need I say more. I will add pictures later.

Next stop was Cotonou, Benin. There was no time to stop in Ouidah, which would have been nice to see because of the history of enslavement that took place there. However, the road trip was exhausting trekking from Accra into Benin dealing with visa issues at the border ( 3 hours delay dealing with border patrol just for a freakin’ 2 day visa pissed me off!) and numerous road stops by military personnel all because we had 7 suitcases hehehe. Come on now, really?! I just wanted to get to Cotonou and sleep. On a 2 day visa not much time to go sightseeing, so we spent relaxing after the long journey, visiting with cousin and enjoying pear fruit. Yes, I was thrilled to eat a familiar fruit from home. I couldn’t believe I saw them in the market and did a u-turn to go back and get my fill.  The visa expired before our flight to Douala, so guess where we spent our afternoon?  You guessed it, standing in a long  line at immigration to get yet another short extension on the existing one.

I am now in Bafang, Cameroon not far from my husband’s childhood village of Bab Ngaleu. Last week we attended a family reunion in the village of Kekam where he was born. Since this page was all about Togo, you can keep up with what I am doing in Cameroon by going to http://www.fortheloveofcameroon.wordpress.com. You will find some older blog entries there and I’m excited to be sharing some new experiences with you.

I will try to update weekly, but with the demands of grad school and slow internet connectivity in this mountainous area, we will see what happens.

Until soon 🙂

A poem that encourages me

Sometimes I forget and get weary. Following your dreams takes courage and tenacity because circumstances ( and sometimes people) do not always support your vision. But I keep the faith and press on. This is a poem I read years ago. I think I saw it in a Napoleon Hill or Dennis Kimbrough book for the first time. It is the same poem I added to my resignation letter to my job of fifteen years before coming to Africa. Here I am ready to embark on another journey and was feeling a little afraid of the uncertainties that lie ahead. But as I think about those, I think about my desire to experience my dreams far outweighs my fears, so I am gonna fly. I hope you are inspired by this poem as much as I am.

image source: avisocoaching.com

COME TO THE EDGE

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We might fall,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“It’s too high,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
And they did.

And he pushed them.
And they flew.

~author Christopher Logue

Bittersweet week

 

image source: operationworld.org

I have been busy with mounds of reading for grad school and writing papers. Also I have been extremely exhausted juggling work, school and home.  So I wanted to check in with you all and let you know that I have been too busy to post for a few weeks.

This week is bittersweet because it is the end of the school year. I will miss my students and hope they continue practicing their newly acquired language skills over the summer.

I will also miss Togo. I decided not to continue a second year of teaching where I am now due to some logistical matters that have remained unresolved. Besides that, I am burned out working with elementary age students.  I want to teach young adults.  I’ve been entertaining the idea for a few years, but now I feel it’s the perfect time make the transition.  I will still stay on the international trek and if opportunities to work with young adults arise, I am definitely going  for it.  If not, I will return stateside to refine and re-position myself.

While I will miss things here, I certainly will not miss packing LOL. But it must be done, so this week will be filled with packing and downsizing so that each piece of my luggage does not weigh over 50 lbs. Also the week will be filled with a few farewells to my friends here. I must definitely have one last meal at Rotisserie resto. They serve the best jollof rice that I have tasted. I will miss the tranquility of the beaches. I will miss coconut water and coconut in general. I will miss the fresh fruit from the mango and banana tree in our yard. There are also scorpion peppers that started growing in one of the potted plants.  Maybe they will be ready to try in a stew this week.  My husband and I plan to hop around the border countries for a few days of relaxation and then head on to our next destination.

We have planted some roots here in Togo with great friends and the development of our NGO, so it’s not goodbye, but see you soon.

Making an impact

I would like to highlight the NGO, HOKIFA. My husband Constantin S.T. Toko is the CEO and founder. I am the honorary president. We have launched a mobile library project which will enhance and develop English literacy and language skills for the communities we serve.

We have been approved to receive one thousand FREE books from Books 2 Africa, a charity organization based in the U.K. But we need to cover the cost of shipping which is 300 GBP (British pounds) equivalent to approximately $508.oo dollars. We are asking for your support. If you would like to support the project financially, please go to http://books2africa.org/project5/.

There you can also read more about HOKIFA and the various projects we are doing to make an impact in the lives of others. We appreciate you viewing the page, sending positive thoughts, and your financial contributions.

Thank you!

Sights, sounds and smells around Lome’

image source: voyagesaventures.com

The other day while driving, I saw a woman washing clothes in her front yard baring her breasts. This was not my first time seeing this, so I decided to write about some of the common things you will see around Lome’.

1. Women bare breasted washing clothes in their front yard, as well as some young children.

2. Chickens running around

3. Goats and a few horses grazing on the boulevard (main road to town)

4. Passengers on a moto carrying wire on their head, perhaps for a construction project. But just about anything people need and shop for, will be transported with them on the moto

5. Over half the congregation napping during church service and some will have their shoes off (including me) as they get cozy during the sermon 😉

6. Other taxi and moto drivers hailing current passengers (me) as I am already en route on the moto being driven by my husband

7. Men urinating openly (why not, they have it easy 😀 )

8. Pleasant smell of peeled oranges

9. Grilled meat

10. Stagnant water in the trenches

11. Sweet smell of beignet being fried

12. Fried fish

13. Loudspeakers blaring a variety of music

14. Horn tooting constantly

15. A large truck filled with military, sports team or youth workers singing or chanting en route to an event

 

Things to do around Togo

So you may have been wondering what in the world is there to do in Togo?  These are just a few things  I have done over the course of my stay here.  There are more, but that will be for another post.

 

Agbradafor

The first place I visited when settling into Lome’ was Agbradafor.  It is an area close to the Benin border almost 2 hours away.  We visited the Slave House.  It was dismal and of course the history of the house was too.  Here is a picture of the crawl space under the floor boards in the parlor/living room.  The tour guide suggested that I get in and see what it was like, but I declined for fear of rats and unknown crawling critters below.

AGBODRAFOR slave house dungeon

The old man we were interviewing spoke in French and said welcome home. I told him this is not my home. Yes Africa is HOME! And I’m sure that is what he meant. But this place, not this place, this house, this den of human trafficking, it was a holding place for my ancestors but never could be called home.  Nonetheless he was very generous with information and the history of what happened during the slave trade.  I will post pictures of him at another time when I download them from the other computer.

Avepozo

This is a picture of me enjoying the high tide at Coconut beach.  It is a private beach with clean toilets, chairs and tables under a canopy, a restaurant, wandering musicians but not so many hagglers unlike the free beaches (which I suggest staying away from if you want some peace and quiet) and a place where expats like to hang out. It costs around 2 or 3 USD admission. But it is worth it.

AVEPOZO Coconut beach

 

Kegue

KEGUE area under the Boabob tree

This area is about 15 minutes from where I live and has the soccer stadium.  This particular night I attended a musical tribute to Bella Bellow, a wonderful Togolese singer who passed away about 40 years ago.  I am standing under a Boabob tree.  I would have never dreamed that I would see one in the city. So I took advantage of the moment to capture its full grandeur even under the night sky.

Dance troupe Kinatchung

Dance group Kinatchung HOKIFA project

A vibrant dance troupe from the Bassa ethnic group of Northern Togo.  They are collaborators with HOKIFA, my husband’s NGO.  The troupe dances for weddings and other cultural events.  The cultural dance here is phenomenal and full of high energy.

Kpalime water reserve

KPALIME WATER RESERVE

Journeying to Kpalime, which is a village about 2 hours car ride outside of Lome’, was interesting.  I mentioned it in one of my other posts. So here we are at the top of the mountain. This was an oasis. It was very beautiful and serene, and unusually quiet.  I saw a few birds, and lots of lush trees amidst the surrounding wall of the reserve. It was one heck of a climb by moto to the top, and I was shook up to say the least.  Hence the reflective/contemplative position I am in on the photo.  Once up, it started to rain a little and I wondered what will the bike hike down the mountain be like.  Was not looking forward to it one bit. Did not enjoy this at all LOL!  But is was quite an adventure and families do live on this mountain and tour guides take the trek twice a day on moto.

Art center in Kpalime

KPALIME art center KPALIME art

The art work in this small shop is quite extraordinary.  These are only a few of the lovely pieces on canvas that the shopkeeper generously allowed us to photograph.  Any scene from life was more than likely captured in a painting here.  The shop also sold Moringa leaf powder, shea butter, lots of jewelry, and a black stone that is applied to snake and scorpion bites to draw out the venom.  There is a woodcarver next door and he has everything from coffee, salves, jewelry, herbs, mini handheld pieces and life sized carvings.  My favorite was the enormous elephant and one of Jesus with African facial features wearing a crown of thorns.

I hope you have enjoyed this mini tour around Togo.  It was a pleasure sharing this experience with you.