The three of us woke up the morning of New Year’s Eve anxious to begin our journey. Togo is not a large country. In fact, it is a little smaller than the state of West Virginia. In spite of Togo’s small size, however, our journey to Monica’s village would take us all day and part of the evening. We had our formal introduction to public transportation in Africa – bush taxis.
Bush taxis come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The first one that took us from Lome to our first stop was a van with three rows of seats. There were 18 of us in that van. The girls and I were “fortunate” to get the last row and had an open window. Yes, it is very hot in Africa and deodorant is not widely used.
When traveling in Africa it is important to stay hydrated. It is also important that you drink only bottled or boiled water. Therefore you bring your water with you but unfortunately after 30 minutes in the African heat, the water turns warm and unappealing and you forget about drinking it. The first leg of our journey took three hours. The good news is that during those three hours we did not need to use a bathroom. The bad news is that we were probably becoming dehydrated.
Our first stop was Atakpame where there was a Peace Corps house. The house was a place where volunteers came to pick up mail, share experiences with other volunteers and hang out. We left some of our luggage at the house, picked up a bicycle and grabbed a ride on another bush taxi that was large enough to put our bike on the roof. This one held 23 passengers and only took us part of the way to our final destination. After picking up two more bikes at our next stop, we continued on our journey in a small taxi. I don’t remember how the driver fit the three of us and three bikes in his car but he did so cheerfully.
We arrived at Monica’s village at 7 o’clock and it was already dark. Dinner was served and it was our first taste of both the food and the customs of her village. We were fed millet with a beef tomato sauce that we ate with our hands. The villagers heated large tubs water for us over their fire pit and I took the most magnificent shower of my entire life. After being on the hot and dusty road for as many hours we had been, pouring hot water over my body in an open- air stall, looking up at the moon and stars, was heavenly. The hot showers revived us and it was a good thing because the night was not over yet. While we refreshed ourselves, the villagers went to church. After church there was a “ball” that we attended but did not stay too long as we were ready for BED.
The real feast began the next day, New Year’s Day. Monica was the first Peace Corps volunteer in her village and the villagers built a hut especially for her. Our day began with visitors who brought us breakfast. Breakfast was fou-fou with sauce and after sampling it, Heidi and I elected to have Cream-of Wheat. After showering and putting on look-alike, African style dresses that Monica had made for us we began our rounds of salutations.
There were many people with whom we needed to visit and share food and drink. We sampled sodabe, which is palm wine, different types of beer and various samplings of food. When we visited the village chief, we gave him a bottle of Scotch and a small American flag. He was very pleased.
The evening ended with drumming and dancing. It was a bittersweet ending for me as I was extremely tired and a little bit homesick. As I sat on a bench listening to African drumming and watching the natives dancing, with a small African child on my lap and looking up into a starlit sky, I was overwhelmed by the whole experience. We went back to Monica’s hut, where I proceeded to take the extension braids out of my hair. I slept really well that night.
To be continued.
To read parts 1 and 2 of My African Adventure go to the following links:
Part 1: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5960100/my_african_adventure_part_1.html?cat=16
Part 2: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5967590/_part_2_of_my_african_adventure_flying.html?cat=16
Sources: 1. http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/africa/tg.ht