Last Wednesday was my first day of work at the orphanage and it was even worse than I imagined. OHS and even general hygiene means nothing here, it’s a complete joke. Every child is sick, there are not enough beds, there are no tissues or toilet paper in sight and there were 2 people to care for all 24 children. This is now down to one (who coincidentally is 100% blind) as the other quit without any warning yesterday. It all just seems so unfair.
Today however marks a week since I started at the orphanage and a normal day consists of the following:
- I arrive at 7am, just in time to finish getting the children ready and then accompany them to school.
- Around 7:30am I come back to the orphanage and along with another volunteer, start the cleaning. This consists of 3-4 hours of sweeping the inside and outside of the orphanage, doing the washing up for 24 children, hand washing the clothes of 24 children… twice, cleaning the shower and the only toilet for all the children (which does not flush!) as well as cleaning out the ‘potty’ (a bowl where the little ones who cannot use the toilet do their business). Depending on the time we then play with the three children who are too young to go to school.
- At 11:30am we head back to the school to pick the children up. This is my favourite time of the day. The first day I arrived to pick them up a group of around 100 children gathered around yelling ‘yovo, yovo, bonsoir’ (which means white one, white one, hello!). It is however the smiles on our kids faces when they see us and the knowledge that for probably the first time in their lives they are the centre of attention and have something all the others want, a yovo, (in fact 2 yovos), that makes it all worth it.
- After changing out of school clothes, lunch is served which is eaten with their right hand (left is reserved for bathroom use) and usually consists of fufu (texture of sandy playdough) and chilli sauce with fish. After lunch there is a siesta for 30mins-1 hour.
- At 2pm it is time again to accompany the children to school and then at 3pm Sam and I usually finish for the day.
- On Wednesdays and Fridays (as the children don’t have school in the afternoon and don’t have school the next day) we arrive a little later and stay until the children go to bed at 8pm.
I have already fallen in love with each of them and cannot imagine the day in just less then two months when I will have to say goodbye. However, as much as I love each of them, so far I have had one pee on me while sitting on my lap, changed and washed the screaming baby in a half-full bucket of water full of her own pee…bare handed (there are no nappies or gloves in the orphanage), cut and cleaned/gutted fish using my fingers and been kicked right in the spot where I broke my leg, hard!
But I wouldn’t change it or them and although I come home absolutely exhausted everyday I look forward to seeing them all tomorrow.
There is however a maniac dog who hates my guts that I could do without seeing ever again. I’m almost 100% positive that if one day he actually wins the war against his chain and gets me I will need to be treated for rabies (obviously dreading this). Needless to say that each time that stupid dog is inches away from my ankle I squeal and run in the other direction which the kids think is hilarious. The yovo is scared of a little dog… I’ll show them all J
If you haven’t eaten fufu, drunk water from 500ml plastic bags and showered using a bucket then you haven’t been to Togo J
To catch a plane at 8:30am from Paris CDG airport, it is necessary to set your alarm for 5am. This was the start of it all! Hilary and I woke up and threw all my things into a taxi for Gare du Nord, having repacked my suitcase until 1am the night before, as my cheap 25euro one completely fell to bits on the metro the day before I left (shocker…). First flight was only an hour but my second and connecting flight to Togo was 7 hours of a child kicking my seat and screaming for at least two - three of the seven hours. Finally upon landing, the one screaming child had become a chorus of several screaming children, coming from every side and corner of the plane. Awesome…
I was greeted in Lomé by a scorching 30°C at 6pm, humidity at 90%. I then had the enjoyment of applying for my visa. It took me 5 goes to understand ‘20euros’ in the Togolese accent after which I was told to collect my bags, having not been handed back my passport. Started to freak out…
Once I found all my luggage had arrived on the same plane as me (rare but lucky for me!), I returned back to the visa office only to find the guy handing out everyone else’s visas. I thought I was in some sort of terrible trouble, heart rate rising just a little. However turns out my visa was withheld because it was necessary that I stay with him… forever. Haha LOL. Great start so far J
Once finally through ‘customs’, I was greeted by a member of the Projects Abroad team. She accompanied me straight to my host family, which I am staying with for the entire two months of my stay. Happy (or Mama) is a large African woman in her fifties who lives with her daughter, her daughter’s husband and son, Ezechiel or Zeek and Benné and Douglas (2 children whose parents died). Happy’s other son and daughter however visit the house daily. Zeek, four years old, took an instant liking to me and before I had chance to greet everyone he had thrown himself at my legs, clinging on for dear life. This was however not the same for Raoul’s children (Happy’s son) who I made cry for 30 minutes straight one night, because I’m white.
The next morning I was woken up at 7am to Zeek sneaking into my room and telling me it was late and I needed to get up. He then allowed me a whole 5 minutes to myself to get changed and showered, although even this I had to fight for. I was shown around Lomé city that day and after months of exchanging emails and phone calls I was finally introduced to Sarah and the rest of the Projects Abroad staff. I bought a Togolese sim card to keep communication costs down however it looks like this only works if I plan to exchange texts with two people… I cannot receive texts from anyone else (however if you want to contact me, I still have my French phone on and with me).
Lomé itself is very crowded, very noisy and always VERY HOT! You cannot escape the heat. There is often a bonfire smell floating around which I find quite pleasant. The people are friendly and my source of transport is a moto taxi which now makes me wish I had never done my motorbike licence driving course as it informed me of all the things that will happen should I fall off (obviously don’t have leather jacket, pants and gloves with me…).
Now I’m finally here I am really excited to start the next two months of my African life!
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