There is some kind of outdoor church service going on right now here at College Protestant. Someone speaks, then everyone sings, then someone speaks again. The singing is in French. I'm not sure about the sermon. It is muffled from here. In Atakpamé, some of the other trainees went to a Catholic service which was held in the local language. Couldn't understand much except "Jesus Christ" and "alleluia."
[Click on each picture to hear church song samples in a local language.]
There were 6 or 7 mosquitoes in my net with me this morning all with my blood inside them. How did I know? You can guess. I'll have to keep my net more tightly closed during the day and tuck it under my mattress at night. There have been a couple people who have had malaria here. But they take the treatment dose of chloroquine® and get better. They say that they can totally cure malaria with primaquine®, so everyone takes that when they get back to the States. No recurrence each Spring like our ancestors experienced. Everyone has a little or a lot of diarrhea. It was just my turn to have a lot, but I'm getting plenty of fluid and eating bananas which seem to help.
There is a store called GOYISCORE and if there were no French labels, you would think you were in Pathmark: air conditioned, aisles of check-out counters, Frosted Flakes(!), ice cream, all kinds of meat and cheese, etc. There are also some fancy furniture shops, bakeries, etc.
I wanted to see a poorer nation, but not from the eyes of a rich tourist. Yet, I am not going to be living like an average Togolese. My "class" here will be much higher than it was in the US. I will have a nice house, and it may even have electricity. The volunteer houses I've seen have been made of cement while most Togolese houses in villages and towns are made of mud. Actually, I'm getting what I was told I would get: I'll be living like my Togolese counterparts. What I didn't know was how much prestige Lyceé Professors held.
The food here in Lomé seems a little less African which is good since I'm having some trouble getting to really love African food. One of the non-favorites among trainees is called gboma sauce, which is a green slimy vegetable sauce. It is really slimy. I have noticed, though, that this sauce settles my queasy stomach.
I got letters from P and R today. I like letters.
It has been very comfortable here in Lomé. Low to mid 70's everyday, almost no rain and not very humid. This is the best time of year. I hear January and February are the worst. I will be sweating while you're freezing.
I'm going to try to call home in two weeks or so. It's pretty expensive so if I get through, I won't be able to talk for long, but I'd like to say hello to everyone. I will try to call Sunday afternoon on August 29, around 1:00 PM. There may be some difficulty on this end, so don't bank on it!
A note about naked women. It is not uncommon to see bare breasted women in the market; some to breast feed their babies, others just dressed that way.
[I later learned that the topless white-skirted women in the Lomé market are from a certain traditional religious group. Most Togolese would not go shopping topless.]
It's funny how my moods change. I was looking at the stars tonight and they usually look new or fascinating because I'm seeing old friends from a different view. Tonight they looked wrong. What is the Northern Cross doing there? Why is Jupiter so high up? Actually, they looked good, too. I can't help being ambivalent. I'm a long way from home. I think everyone here feels that way. I miss oaks and maples and grassy hills. When will I miss snow? And what else will I miss? I miss everyone there.
I found the movie theaters in Lomé. Last night I saw "Nighthawks," a new American film with Sylvester Stallone about some NYC cops. It was dubbed in French and was a little hard (impossible) to understand. But it had some good action in it that come across without the French. Going to movies will be a good way to gauge my progress in French. This morning I went to see "For Your Eyes Only," a James Bond flick. The action scenes were good, but all I could understand was "James!" and "Double-oh-sept" and "Aiiiiiii."
No new songs of my own yet. I have no time to myself with my guitar. I'm living in a big room with seven other people so I don't often get time alone. If I need more French, and that's almost certain, I will go to a little town a few kilometers North of Lomé next week with the others who need more French. I will be there for 3 weeks and if I have a room of my own (doubtful) then maybe I can get some music written.
I've only been on my back for one day since I've been here and been healthy since, but some people have had diarrhea ever since they've been here. They're real bony now. One person was sent home because of illness. That's just one out of forty, though. One can't let the threat of disease stop one from having adventures.
I like Africa a lot today. It goes in cycles like when I was in Michigan, but the overall here so far is much better than Michigan. The lows don't go down as far and there are far fewer of them. It helps to have a lot of friendly and interesting people around. The people I've met here aren't like chemists at all (Quelle generalization!).
Lomé: This bustling coastal city of who-the-hell-knows-how-many people is alive until about 11:30 PM. Then almost everything stops, although there are always street corners with people quietly talking in the local language. Candles or kerosene lamps take over during the late hours. During the day, the streets are heavy with car traffic. About half the cars are taxis, little Renaults or Toyotas. There is a rush hour at around five o'clock, like anywhere. It is pretty noisy most of the day because many of the vehicles are mobylettes or motorcycles with poor mufflers. There is an area near the center of town with a three-story cement building and a lot of stalls. This is the marché (mar-shay'). People are always there selling things on the street but Tuesdays and Saturdays are "Marché days" which means there is a "Grand Marché." This is when everyone comes out to sell and buy. It is difficult to move through the streets on these days. Everything is for sale. And anyone can be selling anything. For example one women (and the sellers are almost exclusively women) can be selling soap, gum, canned tomatoes, nails, candy, rice, airmail envelopes, etc. Each stand is crammed with goods. I don't really understand the economy. There are certain young women, maybe from a certain tribe, but I'm not sure, who are always topless, wear white skirts, and walk around the market, just walk around, from what I can see. I've been told that they won't let you take their picture, but I haven't tried yet. It is supposed to be bad luck.
I just talked to you on the phone. It was good to hear your voices. It makes home seem much closer now.
Practice teaching is over, but I have three more weeks of French [I got a 2 on the FSI]. Most of the math/science trainees need it. We will go to a training center a few kilometers North of Lomé for the next three weeks for the extra French study.
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