A-Lomé in Togo

11 Aug

I headed solo to Togo!  And landed in Lomé, the capital.

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To Togo I go go.

 

It was a direct flight from Addis Ababa (5 hours and 50 minutes) where watched some feel-good content to make me sob (i.e., the movie Max and, of course, Queer Eye).

I arrived at 10:30 AM, looked at my calendar to make sure I had penciled into my schedule a healthy dose of misadventure and bewilderment when I realized… drumroll please… I accidentally had left my passport with the customs officials when I left the airport. 

AHHHH!!!!

PANIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had already left the airport!  Thankfully, Togo is one of the only countries in the world where this didn’t seem to be too much of a problem.  I took the same taxi back to the airport, practiced my French, went the employee way through through several metal detectors, and retrieved my most valuable item.

 

After that stressful debacle, I was happy to check into my amazing hostel, which was reasonably priced, didn’t have bunk beds, and was situated right on the beach. It also had a huge, friendly tortoise as the hostel pet. 

 

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hostel place with friendly views

 

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Home for the night.

 

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Really coming out of his shell.

 

The sounds of waves crashing:

 

 

I paid $11 USD for a 6-person dorm and I was the only one there that night (#HomeAlomé). But the day was young (I had gained three hours of my life back traveling from Ethiopia), and I still had lots of exploration ahead of me. 

I was on my own again.  No one was expecting anything from me.  Also, no one was there to remind me how dumb it was that had I left my passport at the airport.

The first place on my to-go (haha, get it?) list was the largest Voodoo market in the entire world. Once I got there, I learned that they charge tourists to take photos, so I opted out of snapping pics and found some stock ones on the internet (Scrappy visits Togo). Here are photos that look exactly like the pictures I would have taken had I been willing to pay.

 

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Sugar, spice, and…everything nice?

 

The market had what you’d need (I assume) for a voodoo ritual: fetish charms, porcupine quills, tortoise shells (thought back to my new friend at the hostel), baby hyenas, snakes. The whole place smelled like death mixed with dried herbs. You best believe I used hand sanitizer after being there.  Not to mention my loss of appetite.  The smell of decaying skin was pervasive.

 

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Voodoo market for all your voodoo needs

 

My initial observations in Togo: 

I still don’t, in fact, speak French (although I tried);
I love how it sounds when Western Africans speak English;
The men here are gorgeous.  Striking.  Not that I notice those things anymore, I’m just letting you know for descriptive purposes;
People kiss their teeth when they’re mad;
Women mostly keep their heads uncovered.
Motorbike taxis are a game changer — giving me a sense of freedom. They were everywhere in Togo!
Paved roads:

 

Dirt roads:

 

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They see me rollin…and snoozin…

 

I left the Voodoo market to check out another market in Lomé; the largest market in Togo.

 

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How many coconuts can you carry on YOUR head?

 

The market was insanity!  It was one of the busiest markets I’ve ever seen.  It was gorgeous and, bonus!, it didn’t smell too badly. (I admit, the voodoo market before might’ve clogged my nostrils).

Compared to Ethiopia, this market was way less muddy and there weren’t coffee stands (they were missed).  

This market was hectic!  I was only able to take pictures from the outside as I couldn’t focus on anything other than what was happening. Including walking.  I had to focus intensly on walking, which was crazy because unlike other women at the market, I wasn’t even carrying anything on my head.

 

 

 

 

At the market, THE FOOD LOOKED AMAZING (especially compared to Djibuti). The variety and smell far surpassed what I had been seeing in other African markets.  I was so tempted to eat, but I had flashbacks to being sick in Ethiopia. So I was wary.  Especially since I couldn’t see any of it being cooked and none of the food was actually served hot. In fact, most of it was on people’s heads.

I needed a break from the hustle and bustle. I popped inside the courtyard of a church.  The famous cathedral was gorgeous (but not super photogenic), so I’ll let you use your imagination.  The church was yellow, if that helps.

I met a guy in the church yard who was dying to practice his English, so I asked him about food. I tried to say I needed food “with fire” because “cooked” wasn’t getting through to him. To be fair, I also don’t know how to say “cooked food” in French.

 

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Nice guy.! Bad at english. Same could be said about my french.

 

Apparently, he understood what I was communicating, so he took me to a spot…

 

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Time to try to order some food.  Bon chance.

 

Before the woman put any food in my bowl, she nicely washed it, and I — very obnoxiously  (but understandably so) — grabbed it to dry it out with the tissues I’d just purchased, because I wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be any water left in the bowl.  You know, so as not to upset my sensitive Western stomach.

Before eating, I didn’t wash my hands with soap (can’t wash with what you don’t have), but I did douse them with heaps of hand sanitizer and made sure they were dry before I ate becauseee….. I had to eat with my hands (GULP). No silverware. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore eating with my hands, yinz know me, but keep in mind, I’d also just spent a day walking (and motorbiking) around Togo with no hand washing. 

 

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If I get sick, I know exactly where it happened.

 

When I got my meal, I didn’t technically see any fire as it was being cooked. I felt the food with my eating hand, aka my right hand.  At least the rice was hot! But the meat was cold (literally).  But not like from ‘straight from the fridge cold’.  So that was gonna be a ‘no’ for me.

 

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Not typically the way I like my hot/cold combo

 

I ‘ate’ my 85 cent meal, pushing food from one side of the bowl to the other, mashing it up.  Eating rice.   I toyed with not posting the food pic on here because, well, look at it.  But I wanted you to know.

 

After ‘eating’, I’d had enough exploring for the day and took a harrowing motorcycle back to the hostel. Not all motos and motodrivers are created equal.   In fact, I had to switch drivers along the way.  That evening, I got my adrenaline fix for the year.

 

Now, from the get-go, I could tell that the best thing about Togo was the people. TRULY!  The people are grand! Not only are they really nice and friendly, but they also didn’t follow or bother me. Even the children don’t tail me around.  Except for one time (there is always the one time) some random guy started following me home. Luckily, one of the lovely things about the people in Togo is that they always ask you “ça va?” (You good?)   So much “ça va-ing”. It’s pleasant.  This country is great.

Anyway, that night, when I encountered a stranger who asked me “ça va?” I pointed to the man who’d been following me and said, “No! Bad!” I tried to explain my situation, but again, my French is rusty, so most of it got lost in translation.  The stranger came to my rescue, talked to my stalker, and I ran home, thankful. I’d like to reiterate that this story was an anomaly during my week in Togo.  THE PEOPLE THERE ARE WONDERFUL!

At my hostel, I got into bed and dreamt of Blue Apron.

The next day, I woke up and prepared for another day of brain-frying linguistic excursions.  I was going to head north to  Kpalimé.  Later, I will insert a link here to the blog.  But after Kpalimé, I circled back to Lomé for my last two nights on this Togolese visa.  And I’m just gunna keep this blog post about Lomé.

For one of those later nights that I spent in Lomé, I found a Couchsurfer named Deynee.

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My gracious host!

 

I met Deynee at his clothing shop, where I sat with him for two hours doing absolutely nothing. He hadn’t made a sale that day – between 7:30 AM and 9:30 PM. I guiltily switched between feeling awful for him and feeling annoyed to be just sitting there. I was aware of my privilege but also wishing I had brought my book. 

During a break from the store, Deynee took me to his place and showed me where I’d be staying. Apparently, we were going to be sleeping in the same room, in the same bed, with no air flow. Once he realized that I’d just realized we were going to be sleeping in the same bed, he offered to sleep on the floor. But of course, I wasn’t going to displace him.

 

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At least the bed is big…? Not pictured: The stagnant air.

 

While he went back to his clothing shop, I had some time to reflect. 

Inside thoughts while alone in his room:
I have no idea how to use the bathroom.  It’s shared with 20 other people. It’s a yard.  Is there an out house? He hadn’t mentioned how to use it (because why would he think to?).  I really have to go.  But I don’t have good sleeping bottoms for a public outing so I need to get dressed again.  Also, Deynee must brush his teeth but where?

At least I’m alone in this room for now. Thirsty? Too bad.  Can’t drink water ‘cause I’ll have to pee and just thinking about going out there makes my bladder tighten.

Feelings update: Proud to have figured the bathroom situation out.  What a relief, I was going to explode. I might even be able to go out there again and brush my teeth now that I see what it all looks like…

 

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The bright side? I hadn’t gotten sick from any food – so I didn’t have to spend the night here.

 

I could hear mosquitos. All.over.  All.night.long.  They buzzed so loudly they kept me awake.  Or was it the lack of air flow that contributed to my lack of sleep? Or the rambunctious kids outside my hosts window?  

“I’m just on general high alert.” I wrote in my journal, as I continued taking malaria pills.

Finally, Deynee came in.  He started snoring so loudly.  Louder than the mosquitos.  I laid awake and awaited day break.

The next day, as you could probably guess, I was up bright and early.  After a brief tour around Lomé, Deynee and I went to get breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Afterwards, I headed back to the market to get my shoes cleaned (the height of luxury, remember?) as well as to get my toenails painted (for $1).  Then, I headed back to the only hostel I knew in Lomé.  

This time, there were more people staying, which was nice. I met a fellow traveler, an ambitious guy who’d wanted to find some nightlife in Lomé.

 

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This screenshot sums it up.

 

Despite not finding anything to suggest that Lomé had a nightlife, we went out.  It was a weekend night, and we thought we might be able to find something.  

I had the “middle seat” on our motorcycle.  If there was a safe place on a two wheeled vehicle, I guess this was it.  

We drove to a place called Privilege bar, where we played air hockey and drank castle beer (it’s South African). It wasn’t what we were looking for, so, we walked 1.5k to a place called “Mad Complex,” (aka a food court), which, according to a google review, was “the best thing to happen to nightlife in Lomé”. LOL.

When we got there, we (immediately) turned around….and walked 1.5k back to Privilege bar to get a mototaxi back to the hostel. Police stopped us on our ride and asked for a bribe but my new friend – in perfect french – told them that we did not have a fun night out in Lomé and that we didn’t owe them anything. Amazing what being male and speaking the language can do.

 


 

The very next day, I packed for the airport. EEEEEE!!!!
IT WAS TIME TO GO HOME!!! (Is this my favorite part of any trip lately??)  I got rid of both the skirt and a top that I’d acquired in Ethiopia and it felt GOOD.  They permanently smelled bad; they were ugly; they weighed my bag down. #BYE.

[This coming from a girl wearing pants that hadn’t been washed and had recently been swimming in a waterfall (in a country where I don’t trust the water enough to drink).]

On the flight to Newark, I sat next to someone who stank — B.O. stank.  It got so bad that I had to ask the flight attendant for a baby wipe that I could put over my nose.  I was not going to miss this.

I didn’t sleep a wink.  2 flights. 0 winks.  (and not just because of the B.O. stank.)
I couldn’t wait to come home!  I finished my book and watched three movies, including Valentine’s Day (’cause I was feeling romantic). During my layover, I’d never been more excited about airport food; it smelled delicious PLUS I knew it (most likely) wouldn’t get me sick.  THIS IS THE NEW ME.

 

When I touched down in America, I embraced the feeling of coming back home. I’d been looking forward to speaking a language where I didn’t have to think twice about verb conjugations. 

 

To Togo I went,
‘mi

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