Went travelling again this weekend, after a long week of exams, plus an extra day off which was appreciated! Left Friday afternoon to see the market at Vogan. Did have rather a lot of difficulty finding a taxi, but ended up having the most luxurious ride I've had since being here - the two yovos in the front of a van by themselves! It was just heavenly in comparison although seatbelts are just non-existent here and am going to have to think hard when I get back home after 7 months of just hopping into cars/vans/taxis/motos/etc... Arrived at Vogan mid-afternoon and despite not really seeing very much straight away except a lot of cars, as soon as we got out and turned around the most enormous market ever sprang up right in front of us. It was literally enormous. And everything was there! Food, drinks, fabrics, clothes, fetish stuff, (which included snakes, crocodile skulls, feathers, shells and all sorts of things!) animals (alive and dead), medication, toiletries, things like nail varnish, household items, pottery, baskets, stationery, books - literally everything you could ever want in your whole life was there. It was just amazing!
And while we were gaping in awe at this, we spotted some kind of voodoo ceremony going on nearby, so we went to look. First we stood a little way back, near the market, but then a man traditionally dressed told us (in Ewé, which he continued to speak throughout despite us only replying in French...) that we could go closer, so we did. Then a totally scary, totally African woman came out of the dancers and marched towards us blowing her whistle and shouting in Ewé. Unsurprisingly, we followed the example of all the little children around us and just RAN! It turned out she wanted money, and for me to put my camera away (so said the helpful man in Ewé) so we just stayed well back. It looked sort of like a voodoo dance-off - there were two groups, one of which arrived a little after the other, both doing the same dance as far as we could make out. But the bizarre thing was that the first group finished, and then had a little rest, then half the group migrated over to the second group who were still dancing, having started later than the first. Then, the second dance came to an end and the first group started again,with apparently about double the number of people than it started with (we still don't really know where they all came from) and then the second group started again! It was really really cool to watch, but when we asked what it was for, nobody really seemed to know sadly.
So we then left the market for Aného, and it was a good thing we knew the name of the hotel we wanted to stay in because by the time we reached there it was dark, as here it starts to get dark at 6 and by 6.30 it's pretty much totally black. Got to Hotel Oasis and OMG - it's right by the lagoon, beautiful at night, and totally deserted! Asked for a room, were given one, had a shower in the ENORMOUS bathroom (comparatively), had supper and went to sleep - just so so easy.
In the morning we wandered round Aného a little, saw the old colonial buildings, and found the beach where we could swim. Was majorly hot, but by the sea with the wind it was just perfect. Then we got a taxi back to Lomé and all was just fine. Did have a slight surprise when I arrived home though; between 12 and 3pm everyone just goes to sleep here and so I went towards my bedroom to go and shower and get sorted, and there was a man just asleep in front of my bedroom door...! Don't think I've seen much so far that was so unexpected as that... It turned out just fine because he's Mama's nephew who has come to help his aunt (Mama's younger sister) who is not very well at all at the moment sadly but the jokes about the 'gros monsieur togolais devant ma porte' will continue for a while I think..
Some more travelling (at last!) this weekend - set off for Kpalimé, which is a moutainous little city/town right next to the border of Ghana, and only about 2 hours away from Lomé. Having been used to leaving extra early for any travelling, it was very odd to saunter down to the taxi station at about 8.30, especially as I'd already been awake for 2 hours which is unusual! In comparison to normality, the taxis for places like Kpalimé are superly organised - they have an office, including a man to run it and a ticket! Am pretty sure I haven't had a single ticket for anything transport wise since I've been here, they tend to reserve them for things like the Post Office which has inherited much of the French bureaucracy... So we paid our fare (the equivalent of 4 pounds for a 2 hour trip...) and were directed to a taxi. It was in pretty good condition really, as it still had all its windows and windscreen, plus all four wheels, which is often a rarity. A 7 seater minibus, it already contained 3 people when we got on to make it 5, but here in Togo there's always room for more of everything! After about 2 hours, 6 more people, and a roof-ful of lugguage of various sorts, we finally set off for Kpalimé; departure only slightly marred by a skirmish between our driver (sporting a rather fetching pink princess mobile phone holder on his belt) and another possible passenger, who had in fairness already entered another taxi. This minor factor didn't stop our man trying his absolute hardest to persuade him that in fact he would have a far better ride in our taxi. The other man didn't quite seem to see it himself, can't think why...
So after a comparatively short wait, and an extremely bumpy and noisy journey, we arrived in the town of Kpalimé! Our next challenge was to find somewhere to stay. So we headed for the cathedral (the largest and only church we could see) to search for a hostel which was supposed to be opposite. And guess what, it was there! And they had a room! We did have to do some explaining though because the question 'do you have a room for two, with two beds?' was met with much consternation and Ewé speaking and general confusion. In the end, the lady just took us to see the possible rooms directly - we then understood the confusion as every room has a Togolese double bed which I am sure is bigger than a standard hotel double at home! One of them hardly fitted into the room and we'd been asking for two so you can imagine what they must have been thinking... After such an easy find, we headed straight to the market to find some lunch. I unfortunately (or fortunately...) fell into the temptation of freshly made botoquins - literally just out of the oil! - which are basically like Togolese beignets and so bad but so good! We finally settled on a little café/bar which we'd passed within the first minute, and got a plate of spaghetti with chili tomato sauce and some meat (non-specific... I stayed veggie) which was ENORMOUS and cost 1 pound...
We had then planned to visit the Artisanal Centre, and also to do a guided butterfly walk from a place my Lonely Planet had recommended. However, despite being mentioned in the LP, the place for the walks was apparently non-existent. After many many explanations, and being driven round for miles by two taxis trying their best to help the yovos in distress, we finally gave up and just headed to the Centre Artisanale instead. As they say, all things happen for a reason, and we were not just a little bit pleased when it began to rain (Togolese style of course...) as we'd ended up with the indoor option! So spent a pleasant couple of hours looking round the Centre and seeing the men at work. I was SORELY tempted by a wooden elephant that had actually been made before my very eyes but resisted... and regretted it! The level of skill there is so high, it's incredible, but the prices were of course elevated by at least 3 times sadly. But as I know I'll go back to Kpalimé I can wait. How sensible...!
When the rain stopped, we walked back to the hotel and having stepped over an electricity cable which had come down on the way there, we weren't surprised to find a severe lack of electricity. This did however pose a few problems - in order to have any light at all we had to have the door open, which attracted the mosquitos and we were also trying to shower at the same time which is not the easiest thing to do in the pitch dark, let me assure you. Had a small incident involving my soap and the loo... but all was resolved when the helpful men came round with candles and matches! We then went out to eat at a sort of famous hotel/restaurant called Chez Fanny, owned by a French/Togolese couple so serves French food. Had garlic steak-frites, and realised just how much I miss meat like beef! The only meat we have here is chicken, sometimes a meat sort of more like duck, or the packet frankfurters for salads etc. Then followed it up with a sugared crepe with vanilla icecream - YUM.
On Sunday, we continued the good food with an amazing breakfast in the same little café, which consisted of coffee/hot chocolate, bread and omlette cooked with tomato and onions - again for the same price and again YUM! The day before we'd met a man at the Centre who had directed us to a village called Kouma Konda where he was a guide and he knew we could do exactly what we'd been wanting to. So, because we're on an adventure here, we took him at his word (which more often lead to difficulties than success with the men here!) and found 2 motos to Kouma Konda. Bless the man, as soon as we got there we were greeted as friends and everything was explained, and within 20 minutes we'd ordered our lunch and set off on our guided butterfly walk, also including coffee and cocoa explanations etc, as well as pointing out of all sorts of medicinal plants, PLUS a waterfall! It was amazing to be in the middle of the bush there - it was just so so green! And cold too! We saw so much - plants to cure impotency, rabies, skin diseases, as well as all the plants they use for the vegetal painting which is very popular there. When we got to the waterfall we were a little reluctant as the water was chilly as chips, but we did it and it felt so so good afterwards! Our guide offered to take us up Mount Klouto as well, where we'd bee able to see Lake Volta in Ghana, as well as all of Kpalimé and beyond but really sadly we were seriously running out of time. So we hiked back up the mountain, to our lunch waiting for us. Then we finally found motos to go back down, got our stuff from the hotel and bought some avacadoes from the market to bring home before managing to find a full taxi. We hopped in, and were away! A more pleasant (though hotter) journey this time, as I had the most beautiful baby EVER sitting right next to me :) he even held onto my finger :D
All in all, a really good weekend! More good news is that we spoke to the children about this extra English/Human Rights club I want to start and had already 60 put their names down from only 2 classes!! I know that at least half won't turn up, but that makes still between 20 and 30 who are genuinely interested. It's such a good feeling to have, and seriously encouraging. Going to go through the lists with my teacher when we have the other one and then form 2 groups to go once each a week as there will be too many to have just one group, at least at the start. Will let you know how it goes - hopefully will start next Thursday with one group, and am pretty excited after that, but am also feeling the pressure! Definitely enjoying school more now, and even though they're naughty and noisy, the children certainly win prizes for cuteness!
Was given the challenge of preparing a lesson for the 5é classes this weekend who are approximately aged about 13/14 although that does vary here as you end up with children of all ages - there is a particuarly troublesome boy in 4é, the next age group up, who is 21... So prepared this lesson, including vocabulary such as 'to shave one's beard off' and the grammar point 'The use of what/what a/what an in exclamative sentences'. It takes some serious thought - I sat for ages going, how do we use what in an exclamative sentence? Normally we just use it! For most pupils, this is their third language as they speak Ewé fluently as it's always spoken in the home, and French obviously so although their level is relatively quite poor it is unsurprising. The pronounciation is also difficult... the difference between 'bow' and 'bow', 'how' and 'who'... It's no wonder they find it hard to follow my lessons! In the end, thought the lesson preparation was quite good; it all seemed to make sense and I could explain it. However, it's the execution which really shows and unfortunately judging by the response I got the execution was immensely atrocious! We didn't finish even a third of the lesson so will continue tomorrow and see what happens then!
The major event since I last wrote was the wedding a few weekends ago. The couple are Jehovah's Witnesses, so didn't go to the actual ceremony (went to the pool instead, so much more culturally enriching!) but yesterday was the reception in which we were dancing. Will put pictures and videos up very soon I PROMISE. I have been saying this since I arrived but it's a bit tricky here! We were told to be there at 2.30 prompt for a 3pm start so being in Togo we arrived at 2.40 to find nobody there, nothing set up and the restaurant still serving clients... It turns out that the guests were also the decorators and caterers so everyone arrived at 3 in their nice dresses ready to blow up balloons and tie ribbons! Wasn't very much decoration in the end, apparently it had all been used at the wedding itself the day before but there was a lovely tableau with shells in the couple's initials. The reception itself was so much fun! It's hard to describe but it followed the format of basically bride and groom enter under arch made by I think close family and friends which they then joined and so that went round and round for a while; then we sang some Jehovah's Witness hymns/songs (don't know the correct terminology...) very enthusiastically, exchanging harmony for general noise; then was the time for surprises for the bride and groom, interspersed with games of Musical Chairs with 3 chairs, music and dancing. First surprise - a woman dressed as Charlie Chaplin who did a very amusing sketch with another young girl, some of the photos were fantastic! Then Emeraude (my friend who organised the dance etc) sang a song with the bride's brother which was very good, and then it came to our two dances. They warrant no description - I got them both filmed so will put them up, and just remember I had one week to learn these two and about 4 hours of training...! After that, there was a song by the bride and a group of her friends. Here it is better to just say that it is definitely the thought that counts the most. And that I will not be singing at my wedding reception... Then the food and juices started coming round and it was basically a free-for-all on the dance floor! We had such fun, but it was very tiring as we didn't get home until 8.30pm! Apparently that was rare and was due to the high proportion of white French who were the only ones left by 9... Had a really good time all in all but was so tired by the end!
Learnt some key phrases in Ewé for school (it's technically forbidden but everyone speaks it and it should make them listen if I do speak it) such as 'spit that out!' 'close that!' and 'give me that!' Succeeded in translating some sentences today - the snake is under the mattress... da la le aba la (have forgotten under!) Hope I won't be using that one any time soon...
I do not recall my Tuesday morning being that interesting, so I will move on to the afternoon. Tuesday afternoon we had a lecture/ PowerPoint at the Projects Abroad office about child exploitation and smuggling. It was quite interesting. After the presentation a group of us went to "La Festival des Glaces" As the name suggests it is an ice-cream place, however they serve food, as well. In Lomé, it is very hard to find proper ice-cream, so after we found out about this place, we had to go. During the dinner a yovo woman came up to the table and asked a girl if we were American because we were speaking English. Since, my Dutch friend had the question directed to her, she responded with a no, and pointed to me, since I was at the opposite end of the table, as being the only American in the group. When the woman asked, what we were doing here my friend explained. Eventually, the woman asked what organization we worked for. My Dutch friend responded with 'Projects Abroad,' and in the American fashion the woman did not understand my friend's, ever so slight, accent until my friend as good as spelled out the name. At that point the woman said, "Oh you mean Projects." After the semantics, the woman asked me where I was from. And I responded Atlanta, GA. Coincidentally, she is from there too. We, then asked, what she was doing in Africa. She told us, that her husband teaches Tennis and runs clinics and such all around Africa to popularize tennis. I had never really heard about foreigners popularizing tennis, usually always, soccer. I think it is great, who knows maybe the next Sharapova or Fedderer will be from Togo. After we finished dinner and our dessert, I had coffee ice-cream, of course, we left the restaurant. We then entered into another of our transportation woes. As we were leaving the restaurant, the security for the restaurant called us a taxi to take. That was nice except he wanted quite a bit of money. So, we tried to negotiate the price down. It did not get as low as we would like and by that time another taxi pulled up and gave us a much better price. Then the first taxi driver started yelling at the new one and hitting the car and such and he stopped us from getting into the car. He was very forceful. The security an the taxi driver said he was a pirate taxi. After the alleged pirate taxi took off we got in with the first one, but because he lowered his price. Then on the way back to our homes he was a bit livid that we did not go with him first and raised his voice, it was ridiculous. We had to ask him to lower his voice several times. When we were in the car we realized that the other taxi probably was a pirate taxi because of the very low rate he gave us.
Wednesday, was not particularly exciting. In the afternoon I created a lesson plan for today and had a French lesson.
Thursday, was kind of frustrating. I arrived at the school at the same time that I usually do and my teacher was not there. I sent him a SMS, with no response. I then waited for an hour and a half and he did not show. So I left. Then after my French lesson I decided to go to the 'Musée Internationale du Golfe de Guinée. My mototaxi of course said he knew where we were going, when he did not. He brought me all around Lomé asking about ten different people until we eventually got there after a little more than an hour, when it should have taken twenty minutes. When I got there the security guard told me that the museum has been closed since January 1st. So I got a water at a near by hotel and went back home.
This morning, my teacher asked me, where I was yesterday and I told him I waited for an hour and a half. He said that the other school I was supposed to go to started earlier on that Thursday. It was so nice to know this the day after. Regardless, I successfully taught my classes and finished my teaching experience well. After I returned back home for lunch, I decided to go to the Grand Marché for one last time. All in all I had a pretty fun experience in Togo and am quite sad to leave. I have learned a great amount about Togolese culture and have met some quite amazing people. I hope I have at least the same experience in Sénégal. I, also, hope that it is cooler there.
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