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.]

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Memories

Thailand 2010.

The best five weeks of my life.

/Drive to the orphanage.
/Talking to the kids after a fun English lesson.
/Evenings at the bar across the street.
/More teaching.
/Kids at the orphanage LOVED recording with my camera.
/Painting a classroom.

/At the local pool.
/Playtime with the kids at the orphanage.
/What do you do when the taxi you ordered doesn’t show up and it’s 2am? Right, you pile onto the pick up truck of the owner of the nightclub- even if there’s no way 17 people can really fit. And then? Then you start singing silly children’s songs. It’s moments like this – stupid and utterly reckless, when you feel most alive.
/Saying goodbye to friends was always hard.
/New adventures: on the way to Koh Samet!
/The bar where we spent most nights.

I was 18 when I left and I was hesitant at first but those five weeks soon turned out to be the best of my life. I’ve met people from all over the world and we became fast friends. We spent weekends away traveling the country, hiking up to waterfalls or partying to the early morning hours in Bangkok. We taught at orphanages and schools, ate fish flavoured ice cream and cooked pad-thai. We all had the time of our lives.

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.]

Reflection

What did I know – or thought to have known about life? About living standards? Adventure? Poverty? What did I know about myself?

I was in Kathmandu in February once, and I remember being so, so cold. The cold was inside of my bones, seeping through my entire body. I felt like I’d never get warm again. We didn’t have warm water for showers, no heating, next to no electricity, and I woke up more than once in the middle of the night because I was freezing.

So I thought I knew how to appreciate electricity and warm, running water. I thought I wouldn’t take it for granted anymore because I knew what it was like to have to live without it.

The reality is different, though. It’s frightening how fast and easily you adapt back to what you consider normal and take things for granted again once you’re home. And how, from that experience onwards, you think  “Oh well, I can go through anything now.”

How wrong I was.

My days in Africa were filled with difficulties: the language barrier was the most obvious one for me, but it was something I expected to be hard. What I didn’t know about was the complete lack of electricity whatsoever. The lack of plumbing or running water – never mind warm water took me by surprise, too.
I carried buckets of water from the cistern to the main house, making a ten minutes walk seem like eternity. If we wanted hot water for the shower, we had to heat it up over open fire. Toilets? Ha! How about a hole in the earth that was used by the entire village?

Cooking dinner? Awesome when you can’t see anything at all. We sat around a tiny bench, torches in our mouths trying to cut tomatoes and the chicken that was, until a day ago, still living right next to our room.

I thought I’d seen everything. I thought I was conscious of poverty and I thought I was able to handle it all. Culture shock seemed to be a word I thought I didn’t know.  And in a sense I wasn’t shocked, it just took me by surprise. Never once had anyone mentioned that this was how I’d spend those two weeks. Never once had I thought all these things would end up complicating my stay – adding to the already established difficulty I experienced because I couldn’t speak the language that well.

However, my days were also spent with playing with kids, “teaching” mathematics and French, cooking meals, washing the dishes or collecting water. I went on wild taxi moto drives up to a waterfall – the true speed never to be known because the speedometer was broken. I was in a car with four French girls when the driver got lost in the African bush at four o’clock in the morning.

I danced around the fire, clapping and laughing to the sounds of a drum, drinking Togo Gin, eating Fufu, and having a great time.

It was difficult, yes. More so than I ever could have imagined. Was it worth it though, in the end? Yes. A thousand times, yes.

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