Togo by Mobylette
I've been on holiday, traveling all over Togo on my Mobylette with P. It's the best way to see Africa. I could make it down to Swaziland on one. We were breaking in the Mobylettes since they are new and so didn't go over 40 km/hr most of the way. At that speed, you can see all the little details along the road; the little round mud huts off in the woods, the different kinds of trees, dead snakes on the road...etc. More about this in my Dear R letter.
I've decided to take Ewe lessons. I can learn some of it on the street but not as much as I want. There is a teacher at school who will teach me. I'll go two hours per week to start, since school work will still take most of my time. It is such a funny sounding language. It is hard to believe that one can actually get information out of all those sounds. French and German sound unusual, too, but there are a lot of similarities between them and English. Ewe is tonal so it has to be almost sung. I found an Ewe Bible which is exciting to look at. It might be a good way to learn the language since it is translated line by line. Here is some of the 23rd Psalm:
From the Americans that I've talked to who have learned some of Ewe, I've heard it's not too hard. But with any language, even if you can get all the grammar down, it is still hard to understand people and to form sentences. Yet just from living here, I can tell when Ewe is being spoken rather than some other language like Akposso or Kabyé, which are also spoken here. I may go to the Sunday service at the Protestant church. Singing hymns in Ewe would be one way to learn pronunciation.
I like the connections between the letters from home. Mom talks about your phone being out of order, then you finish the story. Or you talk about how you are going to have dinner with P, then P writes about having had dinner with you. It's like reading chapters in a big novel. On November 24, P wrote into the future saying, "I certainly enjoyed the phone call from Togo, if it happened."
I'm glad everyone liked the phone call, but I had to say good-bye 8 times since there were 8 people to talk to.
Are you still depressed? I'm 26 now and I still don't see any direction to my life. I'm just as confused as always. I'm surrounded by 2nd year volunteers, which confused me when I wasn't sure I wanted to do this. They kept talking about going home and about what they were going to do when they got there. I was always thinking, "They're going home and I'll be stuck here forever." Now I just think, "They're going home and I'm not."
There is no pressure right now. Soon we'll be full swing into the second quarter and I'll have to write tests and write class preparations. Then I'll be all frustrated again, but it will never be as bad as those first months when it all seemed impossible.
Your letter was depressing when you said you feel like you're going nowhere slowly. What should you feel like? I've never felt like I was going anywhere. I can't see very far ahead, ever. I don't know what will happen after this. Sometimes I think that I should be back in school. How much good am I really doing here? Is it more than an education for me? But that's what school would be, too. Confusing. I have no direction. I feel like I'm spinning around and around. Maybe I'm getting somewhere but it is by a very twisted route. I'm surprised at how Togolese my attitude is. The Togolese do things until they work. They don't rush, rush, rush and are generally apathetic. The hard driving Americans are driven crazy by them, but sometimes it bothers me, too.
I'll stop here and write some more later.
Mom, you wanted a map of my house with respect to the road, etc. Here it is:
"Old path" used to go all the way to "paved road." You can see where the taxis wait to go to Atakpamé. Taxi stations always have market women selling things like bread, fruit, cigarettes, rice and beans, etc. With the new roads, we don't have to go down the overgrown old path to the paved road, risking life and limb because of snakes hiding there. Actually, I think there was little danger of snakes, but now there is less danger still.
[Badou, from the "X" in the first map.]
I still have the vacation trip to talk about, but I might as well continue with this map stuff since I've started.
All roads lead to Ghana. Every school day I follow the arrows to school. I cross the little bridge which crosses the river in which there are usually little children bathing and women washing clothes. A dirt road goes off to S's house, two dirt roads, really. The Marché is on the left as I go to school. It is a bunch of shelters under which people sell things. I turn left after the Marché and continue on to school. This road is also paved. I turn right into the lycee. You can see the building which contains the four rooms where I teach. You can see also all the students lined up and the flag is there, too. If you look very closely you can see all the books that the students use. See how nicely they write? See how they use different colored pens when they take notes in class? Notice how their collars are all straight? As you can see, there are two buildings for the CEG (Junior High School - College d'Enseignement Generale) and one building for the Lycee itself. Next year one hopes that one will be teaching in the new Lycee, the direction of which is indicated on the map. The brochette man, the bean lady and the rice lady are indicated for your viewing pleasure. The only hotel in Badou is also shown there by the Lycee. "Bar" is also shown, where B and I sometimes stop with brochettes to have a Coke or Fanta. The map is a bit compressed because of lack of space, but you get the general idea, I hope. If you're ever in Badou you can now easily find my house. The new road in front of my house is the first dirt road on your right as you come into town. Hope to see you all soon.
Seriously, for a moment, if anyone wants to come visit, we should start talking about it soon. July will soon be here, or June, or August or whatever. You might check into something called "Friends of Togo."
I'll stop here since the paper is thin. You'll hear about my vacation soon, I promise.
More soon, from Badou.
I know it has been awhile. I just got your letter #14 with more lyrics! You implied that it had been awhile since you had received anything from me. I hope the letters are not getting lost. Did you get the one where I told you about each of your lyrics which I have put to music? Let me know.
As I write this, I'm eating a tuna fish sandwich and drinking a cold glass of milk. The tuna comes from France, of course and the milk I made up from powder, but it's not too bad when it's cold.
One of these days soon I will make a tape. I know you're just itching to hear those new tunes, or else you're just itching. D mentioned the poor quality of the first one I sent, and I think R mentioned that the speed was too fast. Not much I can do.
You'll have to catch the latest chapters at 403 where I talk a little about my voyage around Togo on the mobylette. It was a 12 day voyage so where can I start? One of the best things about the trip was the friendly smiles we got from everyone. I tried to visit E, a girl I've written about before, but she wasn't home. But I talked to A, and he said without prompting that E says she likes me. Wow. She just said, out of the blue, "I like Bill from Badou."
Things are good. I feel good about the way things are going. There is plenty to keep me busy. The people really are beautiful. There was a girl in a market where we stopped... I had two oranges and was eating one. This girl asked me for one of my oranges and so I said, "Why?" And her response was "Tu n'as pas besoin d'une femme comme moi?" If I had wanted, she probably would have come along. There are status seekers all over the world. I suppose if I were a very rich American in the States, I would have the same offers. Should I take advantage of it? When in Togo, do like the Togolese? I think the problem will solve itself somehow.
Time to close. There are 6 more hours of '82 left. Happy New Year to you. More to come.
[The magnificent Mobylette, pictured on the right.]
Happy New Year.
About my vacation. On Friday, December 17, I left Badou in the early afternoon and rode to Kougniohou (1) to rendezvous with P. I stayed in K town that night at P's house. (You can hear a song about a moped trip to Kougniohou here, written several years after this vaction.) Saturday morning we rode our mobylettes out of town, heading for Atakpamé. We stopped a few times between Kougniohou and Atakpamé for Cokes or Fantas at the little bars in the little villages along the road. On of the best views in the region is from the top of the plateau looking down on the plain.
We spent Saturday night in Atakpamé (2) at the house of a Peace Corps volunteer named J. His sister was visiting from the States and talked to her about "new" things from the States.
Sunday morning we headed for Kpalimé. We stopped in Amlame (A) to visit J and I. J is a physics teacher at Amlame and his wife is in co-ops. She organizes people somehow. Then we went on to Kpalimé where we stayed with B (4), then Monday night with J (5), physics teacher, then Tuesday and Wednesday nights with M (6) and (7), who works on well-digging projects. We stayed so long in Kpalimé because it is a big town in a lush, green region with with good restaurants. During one day we went to Ferme Batania, which is a training center with a swimming pool. So we spent an afternoon pool-side. I read some of the Fountainhead and played in the pool. Another day we rode up a nearby mountain for a nice view of the area and to try to get a look at one of the president's palaces. The route between Atakpamé and Kpalimé is beautiful, with a plateau rising to the north west and palm and cocoa groves on either side.
Thursday we went back to Atakpamé and stayed with N (8) who is an animal traction volunteer. This guy spends every noon at the same restaurant and orders the same meal: steak and fries.
Friday morning we went up as far as Sotouboua and stayed in a hotel (9) since there were no volunteers at home. We had some beers in a bar and I listened to P talk to some local about James Bond, or something. My conversational French still needs work.
Saturday, Christmas, we ate lunch in Sokodé and continued on up to Lama-Kara. By this time, we thought that we wouldn't find any volunteers up North since there were none in Sotouboua or Sokodé. Apparently, they were traveling for X-mas also. But we found A, math teacher, in Lama-Kara and stayed there Saturday night (10). We had "X-mas dinner" at a restaurant in L-Kara with A, C (Technical Education), G and C (both English teachers). It was good to see them. They all came in to Togo with me.
Sunday we rode to Pya to see C's house, then to Niamtougou to see the market; then to Kpagouda to see the town. I have friends there but they were all elsewhere. Then back to L-Kara to stay at A's again Sunday night (11).
[My friend Alex took this picture of a neighbor in L-Kara.]
Monday we rode to Sokodé and this time found A, S and W, with whom we spent some time. We spent the night at A and S's house (12).
Tuesday we rode all the way back down to Atakpamé. That night we stayed at J's house in Heatro (13), just West of Atakpamé.
Wednesday, we rode back home, P to Kougniohou and me to Badou (14). I made it sound all like ride, ride, ride, but it was a good trip, a good way to see Togo. I'll fill in little details in other letters.
More to come.
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