Road trip north

Trip Start Mar 26, 2012
Trip End Apr 29, 2012

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Flag of Togo  ,
Sunday, April 1, 2012

Guy and Pierre picked me up a little after 8:30 this morning so we could drive up to the village of Gamé (pronounced gah-may) about 40 miles north of Lomé to visit a long-time church member named Maurice who was transferred there for his work about a year ago. Sunday morning traffic was quite a bit lighter than it is during the week.

The road north toward Atakpamé was in reasonable shape for the region which means that the giant potholes, easily capable of bursting a tire, were interspersed with sections of clear, unbroken road. There were perilously-loaded, ancient semi-trucks and trailers heading either into Lomé or to the north toward Burkina Faso or even Mali; Lomé serving as the port for those landlocked nations.

Most drivers proceeded carefully, forced to do so by the risk of blowing a tire or even flipping a car, but there are always some who drove madly, either because they know the road well, or they don't care about consequences. One such driver flew by us in a cloud of red African dust. (If the following offends any readers, I apologize in advance – it’s part of life here) Guy commented "that guy is in a hurry like diarrhea," a not infrequent occurrence in sub-Saharan Africa and one with which anyone who lives or spends much time here can identify. We all have stories, and we swapped a few. He reflected “we have a saying here: « celui qui a la diarrhée ne craint pas le noir » (he who has diarrhea isn’t afraid of the dark”). When forced to act by events beyond our control, some things don’t seem as important as they would under other circumstances…. Quite true. We had a good laugh about that one. You can share that one around the water cooler tomorrow: “There is an old saying in Togo…” Or not.

We arrived in Gamé and pulled into the school grounds where Maurice works and for the moment, lives. He came to meet us and we shook hands all around. We’ve known each other for years, though not especially well. He very much appreciated the fact that we all drove out to visit him.

He is a government-employed school administrator and about a year ago was transferred to this agriculturally-oriented school for future farmers and wives. He is responsible for the administration of the 15 or so teachers that instruct young adults about farming, and homemaking. He gave us a tour of the facilities that appeared to date from before independence. The colonial style was evident as was the wear and tear. She showed us his office which because nothing else in available for the moment in the village is also his bedroom! There is electricity but no running water, so the living conditions are spartan to say the least. The tour continued with the storage room where agricultural implements were piled along with two modern cooking stoves and even a washing machine, though since there is no running water it is of questionable use. Another room was full of foot operated sewing machines. A frenzied squeaking and scratching noises drew our attention to the tin roof where a family of bats was nesting is a corner.

We toured several classrooms and an experimental agricultural plot of ground. Maurice explained the operation of each section. There are about 40 students enrolled for classes at the moment.

We sat in the shade of a tree, where we could take advantage of any air movement that would diminish the heat, and talked of many things. Maurice and his family situation (for the moment he only gets to see them on weekends), recent events in our Church, and the situation in Togo overall. Guy and Pierre had brought some leftovers from the meal we had shared on Saturday, and Maurice was most appreciative since usually he has to make do with what he can prepare in his difficult circumstances. So we had some bean and beef casserole with French bread, a soda (Maurice was treated to a beer) orange each and an orange for dessert.

When the time came to start the drive back to Lomé, we shook hands with Maurice and made sure that plans were in place for him to be in Lomé for the upcoming festival days. He’ll spend next weekend starting Thursday in Lomé to which he is looking forward with joy.

The drive back when a little more slowly, there were more heavy, slow trucks on the road which acted like rolling roadblocks. Finally arriving in early afternoon, stopped at Guy’s home to print some documents and then continued to the hotel where I presented some leadership training material similar to what I had presented in Abidjan. We sat on the second floor terrace on the hotel where we could catch a breeze to lessen the heat. Again it was helpful to make sure we all doing the same thing as far as formats are concerned, and it also gave them the chance to ask questions about how to do certain things. How to handle translations for example: one lady doesn’t understand enough French to follow a sermon, she speaks Ewe. They had been stopping the CD periodically to give the translation for her. I suggested they try having her sit in the rear of the room and have someone translate simultaneously. They agreed that in most cases that would be best. Pierre’s wife is from Benin originally and doesn’t speak Ewe well, so that also has to be taken into account.

We finished up at the end of the afternoon, after what we all felt was very useful time spent together.

Guy will come back tomorrow morning one last time to help me run a few errands prior to my departure to the airport for the ongoing travel to Kinshasa, in the Congo.
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Tess Washington on

Mr. Meeker, we sure get a good picture of your travels to-date by your descriptive words and pictures...we do appreciate to know these brethrens even only through your blogs!

Emily Stoner on

Thank you so much for sharing the African brethren's lives with us. Your patience is truly a virtue in this amazing world in which you are traveling. May God Bless You!

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