Arrival in Togo
Trip Start Mar 26, 2012
32Trip End Apr 29, 2012
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It was an interesting window for me into the African socialist mind. From all I read, the bloated, profiteering, inefficient employees of one-party states (still the situation in much if not most of of Africa) vaporize a huge percentage of what Africa produces.
We arrived at the airport about three hours before the flight to Lomé was to leave. Everyone seemed to be in place, but we were all kept in the exterior zone and not allowed into the check-in area for an hour. I could see the attendants at their desks, the security people sitting in place but motionless, and nothing happened for an hour. Then with no explanation and seemingly no change in the situation, we were told we could enter. Check-in went quickly.
I lost at the “pen game” today. I've written before about how it appears to be a popular pastime to separate visitors from their pens. Not normal bic pens, but the kind that click and that have any little extra value at all. My clickable pen, one of the preferred kind here, was taken at the security checkpoint. I almost lost it the other day to a taxi driver, and managed to retrieve it just before he left, but it was too late this time. It wasn’t in the basket with my other items as they came out of the x-ray machine, and of course I didn’t realize it until it was too late. You can’t win the “pen game” all the time….
I had purchased the ticket for today’s flight on Ethiopian Airlines, a pretty consistent company, but the flight was operated by ASky which Ethiopian founded and in which it holds a large interest. I’ve flow their lines several times and have been favorably struck so far, time will tell. Most airlines based in West Africa end up becoming inefficient and eventually going bankrupt, usually because of bad management and government meddling. The pilot, I noted, had a South African accent.
We departed on time, but landed late because there was a heavy thunderstorm over Lomé. I learned later this was the first big rain at the start of a rainy season. I received my visa within about five minutes for 15000 Francs ($30) as opposed to around $150 in the US.
One of the customs officials tried to shake me down. I’m traveling with an AV projector, which he discovered at the entry x-ray machine. “Ah you will be consuming this while you’re here” he said. I replied that it was a projector and I wouldn’t consume it, nor leave it in Togo. It would leave again with me. “Yes, but we consider that consuming” he insisted, so you will need to leave a deposit and we will give you a paper showing ownership and when you leave we will give you part of the deposit back again.” I immediately noticed the “part of the deposit” section of his explanation. I responded that it was not my intention to use the projector in Togo, that I would more likely be using it in other countries; I was just passing through Togo for a few days…. I guess he lost interest or decided getting his money was too much work, he let it drop and I left the zone with no paper and without paying a “deposit.” That more than made up for the pen!
Guy was waiting for me just outside, and drove me to the pleasant little hotel I use in Lomé. We caught up on the news on the way. He and his family are well, as are the other church members in the area. The streets were full of water and it was slow going, but they were happy to have the rain. It clears the harmatan dust from the air, and reduces the heat to a more bearable level.
After checking in, Guy and I sat on the second floor terrace and talked a while longer, concerting on the plans for the next few days. The he left to let me get settled and rest before the Bible Study planned for the evening. I had a quick bite of lunch, and then lay down to catch a nap, but just as I was fading off, a knock at the door announced the visit of an old friend. I went down and we chatted for half an hour, catching up on all the news. When I went back up to my room, I no longer felt like a catnap, so I took care of some work.
Bernard Hongerloot and I worked together via the Internet to prepare our weekly French newsletter, and the translation of the President’s letter from yesterday to be sent to our brethren and posted to our French language website.
By the time all that was done it was time to expect Guy to take me to the Bible Study in his home. As we started out he mentioned that the heavy rain has caused a power outage at his home. He hoped, but wasn’t sure, we’d have electricity. Lomé was darker than usual and the traffic was thicker, slowed by the deep puddles here and there.
After the study Mrs. Kloutsé served a snack of crepes she had prepared, and about that time, the lights came back on. Guy had told me earlier that the government minister responsible for utilities lives on the same street, so I’m sure everyone was working as quickly as he could to get the fault repaired!
After some very pleasant fellowship, Guy drove me back to the hotel, where I’m sure I shall sleep soundly tonight!