Travel Diary — Days 5 – 6, Togo

Day 5, Saturday, June 21 –
Joan is not well, all the signs of dehydration.  Newlove planned a trip to Kpalime, a nature preserve and tourist attraction, but Joan will not be able to go along.

Our party was Newlove, Joel and I in Fofo’s taxi, which in the end cost 50K CFA ($110) for the day, including all the gas for 4 hours of highway driving.  We set out at 9:30 and an hour later we drove through the gate of Kpalime.  (The K is not heard, but I think it prevents aspiration of the P.)  Then we drove another hour straight north, but with much less traffic than near the city.

Within the nature preserve there are homes, small farming, villages and even one or two towns.  At one village we stopped to meet Fofo’s mother.  He had telephoned her to come to the highway to see us.  She greeted me respectfully as “Papá.”

A little later we stopped to see a monument to the suppression of a coup d’état in 1969.  I walked over to a bridge to check out a medium sized river and there fell into conversation with a young man who said he is a drummer and an “arts man.”  Jamou is his “arts name.”  Newlove took up his offer to guide us to a waterfall and some good walking places.

I was eager to walk after the long drive.  We found a remote place, left the car and went single file through the bush.  We stopped to see stacked planks of several kinds, including mahogany.  We saw various trees I had never seen, coffee, coca, banana.  The path ascended steeply until we reached a goal, a cave where people have lived since ancient times.  I didn’t try to enter the cave.  To its right was a room-sized area sheltered by an overhead rock formation that projects from the side of the hill.  One wall of the room features an altar and a cross and half used candles were lying around.

Jamou directed Fofo to drive us to a waterfall nearly 50 feet high but it is fenced off from the road.  I could see it, but to go near it Newlove paid 10K CFA to a tough guy.  I didn’t much like that, but I admit that the area was clear of trash that might have drifted there.

Driving back down the hill, we stopped at Jamou’s “village,” a complex of simple structures connected by paths.  He made a point of showing us his “house,” a single room with a curtain in front of it.  Three guys were lounging inside.

Jamou directed us to a bar a little way from the highway for lunch and a rest room.  It was clean and quiet and had a decent washroom.  Newlove bought drinks for us all and I supplied snack bars for a light lunch.  When we said goodbye to Jamou, Newlove gave him 3,000 CFA, which he took agreeably (I thought it was too little).  Newlove also took his cell number in case he wants a guide in the future.

Along the return trip we stopped to photograph some huge ant hills, one of which is still swarmed with living ants.  We bought a whiskey bottle full of peanuts for the coming party.

At home we all needed to rest.  After a quick shower, I ate an early dinner so that Chantal could be done sooner.  Joan was still not well, and she said that Chantal was an angel to her throughout the day.  We finally remembered that we have oral rehydration salts (ORS), brought along on Virginia Christie’s advice.  Joan started drinking the salted water and felt better quite soon.

Minutes after Newlove and Joel went home, Kennedy showed up and spent a half hour or so with me.  The little shop where we met his father has been the family’s complete support.  “All my education till now came from his shop.  I’m full of respect,” Ken said.  Ken studied Chinese, English and French at the University of Togo.  He lives with his employer, a businessman who speaks only Chinese.

Day 6, Sunday, June 22 –
Every breakfast is a little different.  Today, a baguette sandwich with veggie filling.

Newlove’s friends often call him Bob (for Bobson, his middle name), and I got used to that, too.

Setting out with Fofo, we reached the orphanage before 10.  A teen-aged girl, also an orphan, let us in. We took pictures in the courtyard with our gifts of a 50kg (110 pound) sack of rice and the little brown suitcase of health supplies that we were donating.

Right at 10 the children came through the gate on a break from church.  Last came Mlle Dorcas, the owner, beautifully dressed and polite.  When we were all seated she asked me, “What is the purpose of your coming?”  Newlove later explained that point of African etiquette: Even if everyone knows why you came, the question must be asked so that you can answer in your own words.

Dorcas spoke Ewe with Newlove although she often understood what I said in English.
She told us that when she was in school she already had the idea of owning an orphanage.  She got commercial training and business experience before starting her orphanage in 2002.  She visits villages to find children who are abandoned and takes them to her orphanage for shelter and education.  They are different ages, 1 – 18, girls and boys.  We saw about a dozen kids, all well behaved and quiet, and we took a lot of pictures.

We showed her the contents of the little suitcase: Bandaids, wet-wipes, child aspirins.  I opened the bottle of multivitamins disguised as gummi bears, and she allowed me to give one to each child.  At 10:30 we all left and the children returned to church.

Near our apartment we shopped at a supermarket for the party at our apartment that night.  I picked out dates, tortilla chips, paper cups, and a few other things.  We were also contributing the second box of Lindt chocolates that we brought from the Paris airport.

By the way, every few days we pay $21 to keep the electricity going– not included in the rent.

Joan felt much better after taking the ORS.  We rested a bit, then guests began to arrive at 3:30 for the 4 pm party.  I wore the white suit embroidered with blue that Newlove sent to me last year and Joan wore a new green dress, made for her by Chantal’s sister Marthe, who is a professional seamstress.

We had snacks and plenty of drinks.  We rearranged the furniture to open up the room.  A couple of non-members came so there were 10 guests beside Joan and me.  Everyone was taking pictures.  During the evening I spoke for about 20 minutes, bringing greetings from the LA chapter and mentioning what we could learn from Togo, namely local activism and charitable efforts.  It was a great party.  Folks left before 8 pm.

A difference from Los Angeles: Close to the Equator days and nights are nearly equal all year, just as the seasons do not change much.  Dark night arrives by 6 pm and cars are driving with headlights.  There are two seasons in Togo, either hot with no rain, or hot with rain.  We had a taste of the former.

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