Togo, West Africa: More Than Just Home
Updated: Feb 19, 2020
The place where Kofi grew up, and where I couldn't wait to visit the first time we went.
This was our second visit, and we went using Ethiopian Air, a new airline for us. We flew direct from New York City to Togo, which was really nice, as we got to avoid long layovers required in European or Northern African cities. They also fed us...and fed us...and fed us! And the food was delicious! Also, since I'm a larger female, I noticed the seats had a bit more room between passengers. It's always nice not to be squeezed up against a stranger for 14 hours at a time.
The climate in Togo is perfectly hot, the people are perfectly friendly, and the food is always perfectly fresh! We watched a man create a fishing boat from a piece of wood, using simple woodworking tools. I bought the boat. We took a tour through the place where Africans were bought and sold by their fellow Africans and sent to various countries as slaves. We watched as a group of young, strapping men pulled in fishing nets laden with fish and sell to the women, ready to take the to market to sell, as fresh as you could possibly get, straight from the ocean.
It's also where I first got the nickname that has stuck with me for almost 20 years ago, Kalamita, which means fish head, because I would lose my appetite every time I would see my food looking back at me. But I loved eating everything else! lol
I especially it because of the amount of love and work that goes into preparing food (and everything else) in Togo. My mother-in-law kicks me out of the kitchen whenever I want help, even to do the simplest task. The kitchen is her domain, and in truth, it was completely foreign to me. I have a new respect for how she accomplishes so much with what, in my mind, seems so little. But every meal, there were three main dishes with multiple sides, and fresh fruit. There was never an empty belly. It was the same no matter at whose home we ate. No matter how little a family possessed, they always gave happily, and sent us away with something extra.
Besides food, we always enjoyed the views of the beach. Togo is a small slice of a country along the southern coast of west Africa. There is a very active shipping lane, and Lome is a large port city. It's beautiful to see the ships' lights twinkling in the dark as they sit the shipping lane at night, waiting to unload in the morning.
Since Lome is such a large, metropolitan area, it's rare to see wildlife, so I was surprised to see a woman in the market walking around with a monkey as a pet. However, for a few cents, she would allow the monkey to sit on your shoulder for a picture. Everyone in Africa is always trying to make a little extra money, and being a tourist (even though this is also home), I was game. The monkey didn't seem to like me much, but I was willing.
Most of our travel is done via motorcycle taxis, called zemizan, or Z for short. This time I was in a car (Kofi's brother Daniel is on the Z in front of us). We had to stop for gas, which was the perfect opportunity to snap a pic. This is actually an illegal practice, but when police come around, the people providing gas simply pic up their gas cans and disappear into the surrounding areas, and then reappear when the police leave. But gas is much cheaper this way, so the main portion of the population gets their gas like this, and the police typically turn a blind eye. You tell them which size container (small or large) of gas you want, they fill up your bike or car with that amount, and off you go.
This is a typical street scene as we are driving along. Shops, cars, Z's. It's always a busy place!
Just as the picture of the kitchen showed, much of the work is much harder in Africa. Many homes have electric stoves, but just as many don't. Many homes have running water, but many don't. For example, Kofi's parents house doesn't have running water, so all the water comes from a well. Every day, when we were at Kofi's parents' home, Kofi drew water from the well for cooking, flushing toilets, taking showers and drinking. We stayed with Kofi's brother, and they have both a well and running water, so the work of the day was easier. Kofi has tried a few times to teach me to draw water from the well, but I certainly never got good at it!
Watching life unfold in Africa is beautiful, and makes me thankful every day for the simplicities I take for granted. I miss the kindness of people constantly and try to pattern myself after the kindness I see shown daily by everyone I met there. I can't wait for our next trip!