Language, Barriers and Open Doors

My second post over at The Blog Wander is up and I’m still really excited to be part of such a fun and inspiring project. And mind you, ‘inspiring’ isn’t usually a word I use lightly.
So what are you waiting for? Head over and read the posts of these fun and brave girls who reflect on their lives, loves, and travels. They’re talented writers and their stories will suck you right in :)

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My new post is about languages. I am convinced that languages have an insane power. They’re also endlessly fascinating and by trying to speak even one or two words of the local language while in another country, you’ll convey a totally new picture of who you are.

“Learning these words and phrases was worth it in more ways than just reveling in their surprised faces. It was me showing them that yes, I am from a different country, yes, I am just visiting and yes, I might just be a young girl, but I really am trying. I’m trying to understand the local customs and traditions. I’m trying to communicate with you, even though we both speak different languages and can barely understand each other. I’m trying to make the most of it. I’m trying.

And isn’t that really all that we can do?”

You can read the entire post here.

 

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New lands, new times, new adventures

Writing this is harder than I thought it would be. I’m equal parts excited and terrified. Leaving for Africa for 7 weeks will do that to you, but I’m hoping for the best. I’m hoping for a mindblowing experience. I’m hoping to meet great people, eat delicious food and see incredible things.
I’m hoping it will be as much fun as Thailand was, and as challenging (ok, maybe a bit less challenging) as Togo was.
I will miss my friends, my cats and my family but I will be back in 7 weeks with stories to tell, pictures to show and memories that will stay with me forever, I’m sure.

I will try to update this blog as much as I can and give you a glimpse into this new adventure I’m embarking on, so stay tuned :)

 

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/ Togo 2012
/ Thailand 2010

Travel Stories: Togo

I’m currently in the process of preparing a speech about how to travel safely and smoothly through Thailand and it’s mostly consisting of personal travel stories. Things to watch out for. Stories to illustrate the different mentality. Anecdotes to show that life in an other country may be different but not necessarily better or worse. I’m thinking about writing some of these memories down and posting them on this blog. You can view it as a short story, or maybe as a tip in case you plan on traveling. It’s totally up to you, I’m only here to share my experiences ;-)
For more info click here.

Let’s start with my first Sunday morning in Dzemeke, a tiny village in Togo.

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We were advised that we should go to church. The plan was to introduce us to the villagers, and as the village actually consisted of a collection of small villages, we ended up going to not just one church, but four.

The whole experience was a bit strange and surreal as none of us volunteers were even the least bit religious. We were welcomed with open arms though, and everyone was so friendly and nice. All the women were dressed in their finest, most colourful clothes and they were looking absolutely gorgeous. The music was full of rhythm and it seemed like fun – such a huge difference from what I knew church to be.

One thing they couldn’t quite understand though was how we could not believe in God. How we could not have faith. A conversation with one of the men living in the village went like this.

“So you don’t believe in God?”
– “No, I’m afraid not.”
“And you don’t go to church on Sundays?”
– “No, no point in going when you don’t believe in God, you know.”
“So what do you do on Sundays when you don’t go to church?”
– “I don’t know… sleep in, I guess. Spend the day at home with the family.”
“That’s it? That’s all you do on Sundays?”
– “Yeah…”

It was the strangest thing and that moment showed me how drastically different we see certain things. Nevertheless, they welcomed us to their community, eager to show us a part of their culture and life and it certainly was an experience I won’t ever forget.

I attended a catholic school, yes, I went to mass and had religion classes. I’m baptised and confirmed but those were more done out of tradition than belief. I haven’t been to church since I finished school and I don’t think I will go again any time soon either. I don’t want to get into a huge discussion about religion, I only meant for this to be a little story, something small that had a big impact on me.

Here are some of the churches we went to:

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World: Togo – Activities

Since I was only in Togo for a short two weeks, and since we spent most of the days teaching, we didn’t have much time for other activities.

On our first day in the village, which was also a Sunday, we went from church to church to introduce ourselves to the people. There were a lot of churches. However, we were always welcomed very warmly; church in Africa is drastically different from what I’ve known church to be elsewhere. Women dress in their finest, most colourful clothes. They sing and dance and it’s a totally different atmosphere.

We also managed to spend an evening/night in the capital city, Lomé, and one weekend in Kpalimé.

We caught a community bus to Lomé where we went for dinner at “Al Donald’s” –a pretend McDonald’s. We then went to a Reggae bar and met up with some friends. We danced and laughed and had a lot of fun. At around 3am we caught a cab back to the village–but the cab driver got lost in the African bush. A trip that could take around 30-40 minutes took us two hours. We did manage to get back safely though ;)

The morning after – or should I rather say afternoonwe made our way to Kpalimé to the waterfall. On our first night we went to a bar where we spent another night dancing and drinking – we met another group of volunteers and… believe me when I say that those Togolese guys have some serious dance moves going on. I kid you not, they’re incredible and passionate dancers.

The next morning we got on taxi-motos and went to the waterfall. This taxi-moto thing… well let’s just say it’s probably not for everyone. Let me tell you that I feared for my life the entire time.

The waterfalls were gorgeous, secluded with clear, ice cold water.

Other than that, we regularly danced around the fire to the beat of traditional Togolese drums, and met up with the group of volunteers we met in Kpalimé. As it turned out they stayed only a short walk away from us ;)

However, most days we were just crazy exhausted and more than happy to go to bed at 9pm.

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[Above: our group of volunteers with the kids.| Below: community taxi to Lomé.]

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[Above and below: Al Donald’s!]

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[Above: rainy street in Lomé at 3am.| Below: dancing and drinks in Kpalimé.]

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[Above and below:the waterfall.]

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[Above: waterfall fun.| Below: Moise, Laura and I on a taxi-moto.]

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[Above: Sunday at church. | Below: an evening together with the other group of volunteers.]

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[More Togo-travel posts: The People | Life in the village | Reflection | All Around | More photos here.]

World: Togo – All Around

Some more pictures I took while in Togo.

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[Above: Through the window. | Below: Togo-Gin, anyone?]

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[Above: At school.| Below: Lunch ingredients.]

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[Above: At the market. | Below: coast.]

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[Above: Dinner in Kpalimé. | Below: Holding the hairdresser’s daughter.]

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[More Togo-travel posts: The People | Life in the village | Activities | ReflectionMore photos here.]