Travel Diary — Days 3 – 4, Togo

Day 3, Thursday, June 19 –
Chantal had a big breakfast ready for us, much more than we could eat.  Newlove says that is “the African way” to entertain.  He had breakfast with us, too, and his buddy Joel Panapesse, the program director of the Lomé chapter.

We have a 7-day visa, and our flight to France will be on the 8th day, so we had to go to Immigration to ask for an extension.  (I suppose there would be a fine or penalty if we tried to fly out with an expired visa.)  It was like the mess at the airport, only in the open air.  We had to submit our application with our passport and come back in the afternoon.

Newlove is intent on having us visit the U.S. Embassy, so we went there also, but it is only open to visitors from 1:30 to 3:30 pm. Mon-Thurs.

So we headed out to Amadenta to see the school that PTPI has been helping.  There was hard rain, and after we left the city all of the roads were unpaved.  Often Fofo had to drive his taxi on the left side because the right side was a deep pond.  Once he had to stop and ask for a detour because the whole road was submerged.  The trip took over an hour, but we arrived at noon to meet the headmaster.  Too bad, he apologized by cellphone that he had been kept at home by the rain.  But we could walk into the classrooms where the roof had been rebuilt, with half the funding ($535) coming from LA.  In those rooms, the floors are still dirt and no doors have been hung in the doorways.

Then we asked about another building nearby, much more substantial than the one we were in: three classrooms with lockable doors and solid construction.  Here’s the story: While the PTPI guys were working, a Swiss charity came by and were impressed by Togolese helping Togolese.  They decided to do the job better and contributed this whole new building.  We could not go in, but we could peek inside to see new wooden desks stamped in French, “Gift of PTPI TOGO” and “Gift of UNHCR.”

Not only that: A Turkish charity also came by and helped by drilling a well and installing a modern steel hand pump.  There is no electricity in the community, but now the children will have clean water to drink when school starts in the fall.

All of this happened because Newlove took an interest in helping the children back in 2012.

Back in Lomé, we realized that we could not go to the Embassy without our passports, so that has to wait until next week.  Newlove took us instead to a market area where small shops sell African souvenir products.  We admired the colorful cottons here, and I bought a shirt with an unusual pattern in narrow stripes of orange and black.  We met Kennedy’s father, John Owusuh, who has a delightful smile like his son, and we bought some necklaces from him.  He took us to Ken’s cousin Espoir, and from her I bought another shirt, blue and white.

During the evening, more PTPI members came by.  Max is a plumber who works at the busy shipping port.  Fafadzi, who stands several inches taller than me, owns a printing business which has produced the PTPI T-shirts and banners that show up at Newlove’s activities.  He took a close look at my wedding ring because he is planning to propose to his lady friend.  I advised him to bring her around to meet his PTPI friends and make sure that she is an internationally minded kind of person.  Also, that he should pay attention to the advice of a very old man.

Day 4, Friday, June 20 –
Fofo took us to Immigration, where we learned that passports are only given out in the afternoon, so we set off southward to the sea and then eastward in the direction of Benin.  We were on a smooth main highway that also extends westward into Ghana.  We passed miles of commercial development, a vast exporter of cement, large factories, and a storage yard for hundreds of stacked shipping containers.

A half hour east of the city, we turned left on a side road that brought us by accident to Hotel du Lac, a luxurious facility on the shore of a fresh water lake.  We walked in and had friendly conversations with a couple of employees.

Back at the highway crossing, we went south toward the sea and followed signs to “House of Slaves.”  It’s a large house built in 1830 for slave traders to stay on the main floor while slaves were held as captives in the area under the house, a dark space only four feet high.  The house was located about a mile from the sea and hidden by trees so that British military ships could not see it.  Slave trade was illegal by then, and the slaves were contraband.

All this was explained by a kindly man who then led us into the house to see the main central room and the trader’s bedroom.  The original safe is still there, never moved during many years when the house was abandoned.  He lifted a floor panel so that Newlove and Joel could climb down into the cramped slave areas to take pictures.  We made a donation for the upkeep.  When we left a large school group was coming in.

We stopped nearby to purchase some local tapioca and some palm fans that turned out to be very effective.  On the way back to Lomé we turned off to see a beach and drove through a refugee camp that is maintained by United Nations.  Newlove has worked here with refugees from the civil war in Ivory Coast three years ago.

Out on the beach we opened snack bars and fruit that we had brought from home and enjoyed watching the surf.  The guys preferred to sit over by a makeshift bar.  When we left, the bartender was playing country music for us, “Lucille.”   Newlove loves country.

Back at Immigration, we got our passports after more waiting, confusion, and signing of record books, and went home for dinner and a quiet evening.

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