Pictures to be added when Internet connection is better.
Lome, Togo, Africa
Today I woke up to the sound of my door shutting. It was 5am and Manon was long gone to Burkino Faso and Robert and Ryan were sleeping. Aminata was apparently tidying my room despite Roukia working today. She came back in and told me to get ready to go to Togo. When I went to the bathroom, I saw that my shampoo was at the shower. Amimata keeps coming in to use our shower and she looks for and uses our products at will. That’s the only shampoo I have my whole time away and I don’t have access to money besides what’s in my pocket. After I showered, I wanted to eat and make coffee but I knew coffee would take too long and that eating in front of Aminata would mean she would open her hand for me to give her some or a whole thing to herself. So I went hungry.
We walked to the main road where a guy helped us flag down some brousse taxis. We turned some away and some turned us away but then we chose a ride. I failed to verify Aminata settled on a price before we got in. I ended up getting ripped off for 10,000 XOF to get from Ouidah to Lome for two people. I had agreed to pay for the transportation, the visa stamps, and lunch for both of us if we could go to Togo, but Aminata doesn’t realize how bad it is to be a Yovo. She got the gist of it today… Eventually.
At the border, we apparently got out without paying our chauffeur as you call them. I had to pull out my passport about 5 times before crossing, and I paid 15,000 XOF to get my visa. When we got through, our chauffeur flagged us down and made us pay. I was pretty upset by the price and Aminata got him to split it with a guy who drove us to Lome from the border. The second only got 20% for probably 33% of the drive. A girl on the back with us sung the whole way to herself.
Once at Lome, I almost feel like I paid a second time but I can’t remember. We started walking through the market which Aminata was saying is the largest in Togo and I could tell already I was going to hate Lome. Within the first block, I had swarms of vendors toting their products up to my face, a man grabbed my arm, I was called “jolie”, and I was hissed at every other step. It was like that every step of the way. I suddenly missed saying “Bon soir” at 11am and listening to the friendly kids say “Yovo, Yovo! Ça va, Yovo?” and singing their Yovo song as they do in Ouidah.
The roads looked extremely dangerous. In the market, there were hardly traffic lights or intersections, and even if there were, no one followed them. So many motos, so many people. I don’t know how people aren’t killed by the hundreds each day. Or how those eggs on women’s heads and plates of fruit don’t go flying with all the people ducking in and out. Well Aminata wanted me to see the University of Lome, the biggest in Togo, to add to my comparisons of language, education, etc, in my studies. She wanted to take a moto. I tried hard to explain in French and then English and then franglais several times before she understood. The moto men seemed angry. I wanted to walk, to see Lome… To save my money. So we walked and it was very far and very repetitive, and mostly uphill.
At one point Aminata asked if I wanted to get food or a drink. I said no, I’m not hungry, and that I had my own water. After a long time of walking, I finally gave in and pulled out two protein bars because I was starting to get dizzy and have a headache. The headache stayed all day. We ate the bars which I brought knowing this would happen and I was glad to have avoided buying two meals for her. She pulled out a water bottle that was way larger than mine and I was suddenly miffed that she had even considered me buying her something else. I’ve tried explaining to her my card doesn’t work overseas and cash is all I have to buy my plane ticket and eat with for several weeks.
When we finally made it to the University, we walked in and quickly found a dorm. Everything was dusty and abandoned looking, and nothing was closed in because there is no central cooling systems out here. Kids were playing soccer in the big, dusty field. It looked like red sand. We walked into the sandy, slippery hallways. Aminata thought it was okay to just try to open someone’s dorm door. I noticed a big stack of water bags instead of a water fountain. Meanwhile, all of the commotion caused a girl to call down from upstairs. We went up and spoke to her. She invited us in.
Her name is Irene Moses and she is here from Nigeria to learn French. She spoke English with me, too. I told her in French that she and my grandma had the same name, Irene. She told us that she was in sick and her friends hadn’t brought her food yet. I gave her one of my protein bars and she ate it. Then, when I was ready to leave and when I could tell the girl was getting a little anxious for us to leave (which Aminata flat out said she didnt understand if we had been invited), Aminata started pitching an advertisement for herself as a French teacher at the Exchange. She gave information on paper. Then she started pulling out pills and products and handing them to us, letting us take certain pills. There were are herbal remedies to I took them, and Aminata didn’t understand why Irene and I thought her pills were gross. We said she needed to swallow them with water and she told us they are to be chewed because they are sweet. They weren’t. I took the bottle and read allowed that one should start with just one quarter of a pill for a day and gradually increase it. Irene and I had just had two apiece. My headache got severely worse. Aminata continued to try to sell products to the girl. I had my bag strapped on ready to go but it was impossible to make her leave. When we finally did, I realized it was just the start.
Next we went down the road farther and found a soccer match, part of a big weekend festival. I agreed to sit and watch. We did for just a small time. Then we got up and went towards the classrooms but, NO, Aminata had to go chat to one of the teams on the road. While she was busy once again trying to sell her products, I was being harassed by one of the guys about going to dinner with him and giving him my number. In French, I lied that my phone didn’t work and that it was only for taking photos. When he kept prying for information on me, I started pretending I really had no idea what he was saying and speaking broken English instead of French. Then I looked at Aminata and not at him. He laughed and started talking about me to his friends, right while I was beside him, so I abruptly walked away to Aminata’s other side and sarcastically thanked her in English for doing what she did. I was upset, but she thought his playing was funny.
We stopped and asked so many people where things were today. There was a building eith dancing after we saw classrooms, but I was fed up and wanted to go to the beach and leave. At the classrooms, we went to a German class and sat with a few students without a teacher. Outside, we spoke to a group of students about memoirs. Everything looked old fashioned and out of date. And by we talked, I mean Aminata preached to everyone and I stood there, quiet. At least she didn’t try selling more things on campus. We were able to finally leave when I said I get the point, it’s very different, I mean what American school has cows running across campus grazing. All the animals here look like they’re starving, too.
We started talking about my school compared to Lome and how cheap it made Lome. Then I offered to eat since it was 11am. She got the same thing as me, rice with fries, and we got fizzy drinks. We fell asleep waiting for change, then continued down the street. She finally convinced me to pay for a cab, but I would have been happy walking down the other side the whole way to the beach.
When we finally made it to the beach, I asked to touch the water. We did, then after 10 minutes I was done and ready to find some juice. Aminata had met a guy, though, so she asked if I wanted to swim. I thought she was joking until she pulled out a bathing suit and changed right there. I pulled off my jeans and wore my long top into the water. Again, I was done very quickly, but she lingered. It was absolutely ridiculous. This was supposed to be my class time and she was flirting with some guy for two hours. I had paid both of our ways into the country and she was lingering and trying to sell products and chatting with everyone. The guy bought us a half dozen boiled eggs and sacks of water. I got them to leave after over 3 hours. I told Aminata I wanted I quick filmed shot of the busy market, a bottle of juice for the road, and to leave.
It took more than an hour to leave, and I never got my juice. Instead, we had to go to this guy’s brother’s jeans shop. I conducted an interview of him and his shop for my project. Aminata went on to sell her things and she sold a bunch. I was extremely irritated and lingered away several times alone despite the harassment. I had noticed a window overlooking the market which was perfect for filming without getting bothered. The people in the building didn’t mind at all. I got some nice shots and we rushed downstairs.
Aminata frequently dodged away from me. The only way I could stay with her was when I accidentally was so close, I stepped on her shoe and it came off. She doesn’t check back often to see that I’m following, either. It was the same when she was with this guy. Suddenly she stopped at the store front and asked if I like maize. I tried to say yes without wanting any, afraid she would have me pay, but she picked up one and stuck it in her mouth and pushed another ear towards me. The guy paid for them.
We quickly rushed to the taxis and he said a fast goodbye. I tried to thank him. Then we were cramming into a cheaper taxi and I was without my juice. The chauffeur seemed very American to me though and I liked him. He had a nicer car.
At the border, Aminata tried to find juice for me but I didn’t want what was there. It was more like soda or sweetened drinks. Then I asked her how one eats a coconut as they’re sold. Her answer was me paying for two coconuts. We sucked down the water so the lady could hack them up, then we each took half of our shell to carry the pieces. Aminata completely inhaled hers then tried to eat mine when I said it was a lot. I wouldn’t let her. At the border, she forgot her yellow fever card and asked if I had money to pay for her fee to get through without it. I said, “You have nothing??” and paid. But I think she did have money, she was just lying.
The ride back was only 3mille. So many people wanted me in their car but we joined a car of 13 total. Aminata tried to buy another moto when we reached Ouidah but I insisted on walking. We were so close. She said she wouldn’t leave me, that she would pay. I was enraged to think she could have paid for her vaccination pass which was completely her fault. We walked. The when I asked where the cyber cafe is, she freaked out about ,e going alone at night and kept diverting the question. I angrily said I’ve never been given a map and so she showed me a hand sketched map. I intend to use the cyber cafe to screen shot a real map and to complain, which is why her offering to take me was awkward. Then she said I should eat or would I go to Thatys. I said no, I need to save money, I’m not tired. She took my pasta off the shelf and said she would make breakfast at 7am because I missed Roukia’s meal. I said I don’t eat breakfast, and ill be asleep (and I hid the pasta after she left).
I went to go shower and leaned that my shampoo and some of my clothes were missing. We learned Roukia took them, thinking they were hers. She brought my shampoo back and it’s my understanding she will bring the shirts on Monday with the wash.