I’ve made some good memories the past two weeks. Taking some free days to visit friends and their villages, I’ve had the chance to see parts of Togo that look completely different than LT. First up was a visit to my good friend Jenny’s who lives about an hour north on the national road. Her little village is almost to Kara, the next largest city and set in the heart of the mountains. Now, I call them mountains, for those who’ve seen the Rockies or the Alps would call them hills; alas, they’re the most elevation Togo’s got. Anyway, I couldn’t believe the drop in temperature thanks to the slight incline in elevation, and I appreciated it very much! We spent a morning hiking around some very interesting rock formations and taking in amazing views and enjoying the peacefulness.
Back in LT, we had our first of six PTA meetings for the school trash project. It was a pretty cool feeling, standing before 100+ Togolese mom’s and dad’s and presenting the project. Of course it was translated bit by bit into local language, but standing up and speaking off the top of my head in French has been a nice accomplishment. The parents planned to set a date to construct a dumpster of sorts out of sticks and shrubs.
I spent Saturday morning picking corn, Togo style. Aposto has a few rows of corn near his house and I offered to help him pick it whenever it was ready. It took the 4 of us all of 45 minutes to pick what hadn’t been eaten by bugs or taken by neighbors. I was surprise at the small amount it resulted in and they were disappointed too. Almost every Togolese I know has at least a garden size plot of land for corn of which they use to make their dish of choice: pate (cornmeal mush). A good corn harvest is crucial as it saves families from having to buy corn when it’s at its most expensive and their supply has run out. Last year Aposot and Nima were able to use the crop for 10 months.
Last week kicked off with a meeting with the local middle school director. My counterpart and I were in the middle of explaining our gender equity club, how it will be intense as we are looking to change attitudes and behaviors when the director stops us, turns to me and essentially says, ‘but when are you going to build us something?’! AH!! Thankfully, this was not my first run in with him and I smiled and carried on explaining until he nodded and waved us off, signaling we had permission to start the club. “Typical Togo,” as one friend put it when I called later to vent.
My day was improved a few hours later as the PC car that travels the country twice a month picked me up and we headed north. It was truly unbelievable how quickly and smooth the six hours passed as we arrived in Dapaong, the regional capital of Togo’s northern most region. A real car reminded me how travel can be enjoyable when the car isn’t over stuffed with hot sweaty bodies, chickens, goats, and running at half speed!
Early the next morning, my host and good friend Sam, and I took a 45 minute motocycle taxi ride to the base of the mountains that lie on the edge of Dapaong. I immediately noticed how much drier the air was. Although the sun was blazing by 8 am, we had an exhilarating hike up to the top where the view was absolutely incredible. I’m not sure how high up we were but you could see for miles and miles.
Later that afternoon I visited a group of women and young girls who run a weaving program and store where my friend Katy helps out. The program gives girls free apprenticeships (rare in Togo) where after they’re taught to weave on giant looms, they pay for their own materials and then when their creations sell in the store they receive the profits directly. Pretty cool program.
I enjoyed some new tastes of the north; a frozen yogurt time treat only found in Dapaong, Moringa juice made by Sam who’s passionate about nutrition, and we shared a few calabashes of tchakpa, the North’s version of tchouk. More than anything, it was a great couple days hanging out with some of my best friends here in Togo, eating some tasty stuff and seeing the sights of Dapaong!