Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lome, Togo

Lome, Togo
Monday, May 17, 2010

I took the ship tour with Bas and Monique to visit a rural area two hours away from the city of Lome. As we began our tour, the tour guides said that Lome did not have stores as we were accustomed, but that everything is sold on the street. Indeed, everything from food to clothing, to furniture, to kitchen appliances, was out on the sidewalk. It was a very colorful sight. My first impression of Lome was the shock at its primitive appearance. Only the main street was paved; all of the side streets were dirt. Ladies walked everywhere with loads on their heads, and it seemed that everyone was outdoors as there is little electricity and no air conditioning. Motorbikes (called “motos”) were everywhere, although not as overwhelming as in Vietnam; there were lots of cars, too. The buildings were almost all one story, and it seemed that most of the buildings were dilapidated. I felt that we had truly arrived in one of the poorest, most primitive parts of Africa.

Our tour took us first to the Lome Fetish Market, where we listened to a talk about fetishes while we looked at fetishes for sale, most of which are intended to bring good luck. I was not interested in the fetishes, but instead focused on taking photos of children whose parents were selling items at the market. After a few minutes of being harrassed by vendors wanting to sell us anything at all, we reboarded the bus just as a rainstorm began. The rain was very heavy and lasted two hours. Everywhere we went, people were scurrying to get out of the rain. Those on “motos” got drenched, as did those who were walking. A few gas stations had awnings, and they were filled with motos seeking protection from the downpour. All along the street, vendors covered their wares with plastic and huddled under their awnings or tin roofs. The downpour spoiled phototaking out the windows of the bus.

After driving more than an hour, the bus stopped at the village of Attinoufoe, where the guides first determined whether passengers would be able to walk through the wet soil to the school, several hundred yards off the road. After deciding that it was okay to walk there, the bus passengers followed the guides to the school. The school had four rooms, one for fifth and sixth grade students, one for first and second graders, and two rooms seemed to be for third and fourth graders. The students had no books. Teachers had to write everything on blackboards. The schools were very primitive -- one room was an outdoor structure with straw walls and roof; the others were in a long cinderblock building divided into three rooms that were open -- no doors and no windows, only open places for doors and windows. The students were very happy to see the passengers and smiled and sang for us. When we took photos of them and showed them the photos on our cameras, they laughed with delight, and all of the students tried to crowd around the cameras to see. Then all of the students wanted us to take their photo and show them. It was sad, but also a very happy scene. A basket was available for donations, and I felt generous to them, although many passengers did not leave a donation.

After leaving the school, the bus took us to the area near the one “mountain” in Togo, Mount Agou, elevation of 3200 feet. We stopped for photos, but we were too far away to get good photos. The bus then drove on to Kpalime, a small town near the mountain, and to a hotel in the town -- the Cristal Hotel, The town was exceedingly primitive, with no paved streets, and the houses very primitive. Because of street repairs, the bus had to take a circuitous route to the hotel, giving us a good look at the back streets in the town. It was really amazing to see the town and the houses and the way people lived. It was very primitive.

When we got to the hotel, we entered a hall with a buffet lunch set up. The dishes were lettuce salad, avocado salad, couscous, rice, roasted chicken in a sauce, beef skewers like satay, whole roasted pig, pineapple slices, and fruit salad. It was surprisingly delicious. After lunch, most of the people on the busses walked around the area taking photos.

The tour next took us to the Kpalime Arts Center to look at wood carving and batik making. I enjoyed taking photos of the artisans and various wood carvings on the grounds. I was particularly amused by the carvings into a line of trees, and we enjoyed seeing a very large mango tree, filled with rich, full green mangoes.

After leaving the arts center, the tour stopped at the village of Tove-Atti, where the King of the village welcomed us and then a group of village ladies danced while a group of guys played the drums. I mostly enjoyed taking photos of the children attending the ceremony. I loved the reactions of the children when I showed them their photos.

The tour guides announced that the drive back to the ship would take more than two hours, and we took off. The rain had stopped and the windows of the bus were clean. It was perfect for photos; Rae was kind enough to sit in the aisle seat, and I glued myself to the window of the bus. I snapped several hundred photos of scenes along the way back to the ship, and I enjoyed it very much. When we got back, I snapped the final frame on my card of the Manager of the Hotel on the ship, and the tour director, who were both on the pier helping passengers reboard the ship after returning from tours. Perfect timing. I was exhausted, and went to sleep immediately after dinner.

No comments: