Thursday, February 22, 2007

Last Call for Visitors

We have recently completed the third and last of our family’s visits to Togo. This one was a solo visit by our daughter Claire for 10 days. She came into Accra, Ghana where we spent the first night. The next day it was off to Lomé, where crossing the Togo border is always an experience as hordes of vendors, money changers and taxi drivers descend upon you. It could be a pleasant experience, as it is right on the beach and the waves are breaking less than 100 meters away, but we don’t really notice as it is more important to be concerned about pick-pockets. The city of Lomé is an experience too, with the congested open market and “rip-off row” alley of tourist vendors selling wood carvings, jewelry, clothing and all manner of tourist trinkets.

Our night in Lomé was also our 30th wedding anniversary so we pampered ourselves, spending the night in air conditioned comfort at the nicest hotel in town, lounging all afternoon by their Olympic sized swimming pool, and the next morning enjoying a huge breakfast buffet. We headed to our humble place in Atakpamé the following day, another 3 hour taxi ride. That night Claire surprised us with 30+ anniversary cards from many of you along with decorations to celebrate the anniversary, as well as lots of goodies we asked her to bring-- things not available here. Claire’s time in Atakpamé included participating in our market women’s Savings and Loan meeting as well as meeting the people we work with at the 2 AIDS NGOs. While here, she was able to help out and use her computer skills in developing 3 different websites for organizations we work with. We made time for shopping, of course, and visiting with our friends the landlord and his wife, pounding Fufu, buying bread at the bakery just across the street, as well as a walk out of town one morning to experience a more village setting. And a visit to a family compound found the kids rubbing Claire’s skin to see if the white would rub off.
We also headed west to Badou one day with 3 other PC volunteers so Claire got to experience the “real deal” traveling in Togo: seven people in a small 5 place car, dirt roads and potholes and goats running out of the way to avoid the fast moving taxi. Our destination was the Akloa falls just beyond Badou. It was about a 45 minute hike up hill in the heat of the day (including quite a few stairs) to reach the falls. But once we got there it was, as one of the web sites described it, a scene out of a hair shampoo commercial with cascading waterfalls beneath which we could “frolic.” So it was worth it and the cool water felt great.

Claire’s final experience in West Africa was her trip back to Accra. And it was a WAWA experience; West Africa Wins Again. We decided to take a new route for a change of scenery through Kpalimé (our first mistake). We went with 2 other volunteers and got to experience the county police stopping us for too may people in the car and fining us $10. Really it was too many white people in the car. (They never stop the locals with even more people crammed in). So what was normally about a 7 hour trip through Lomé took us 13 hours through Kpalimé as we had to wait for 3 hours for the 30 seat bus to fill. Unfortunately, even though it was a Mercedes bus from Ghana, it never went over 35 miles an hour and we stopped numerous times to do border checks, police checks and customs checks, emptying the bus every time. However the seats were not typical Mercedes comfort, as we sat cramped 5 across, so we were tired cranky campers upon arriving in Accra, only to find our room was given to someone else even though we had confirmed it with 3 phone calls in the last 2 days. We trekked off to the hotel annex looking forward to a shower, only to find the room so heavily sprayed with bug spray that we couldn’t breathe in it, and later found out the water wasn’t running anyway for the shower we had so looked forward to. So we opened up the windows and went to dinner – only to find our favorite Italian restaurant closed. We settled for pizza at the only semi-Western fast food joint – still a treat for us Togo PCVs.

That’s the travelogue for Claire’s visit. We loved having her here and sharing West Africa and our PC experience. We are so grateful for all our visitors who have helped make our stay here go by more quickly by bringing a sense of family and home to us. Now we look forward to coming back and visiting them (and you?)---in just 23 weeks.