Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Goodbye Post

I’m writing this post from the Swiss Alps, which are not like Togo. Due to a baggage mishap, I arrived in Switzerland two days early. Morocco will have to wait until I have more time and maybe more money.

I can’t remember if I promised photos or not, but here they are anyway, some photos from all my Togo goodbyes, as well as a list I started about nine months before I could seriously begin thinking about leaving.

Things I Will Miss About Togo:

Entering Sagbiebou ("Gando Carrefour") from the south

1. My village - visiting and staying in my house after eight months of Lomé living brought out the nostalgia. I had to remind myself of heat rash, waiting for hours for meetings to start and sweaty hot season nights. Still, I had a good cement house (compared to some volunteers' village homes, it was big), a decent landlord, friendly neighbors and a beautiful night sky under which to take bucket baths.

Maimouna and Abdou-Razak in my compound yard.

Alima, Djibou, Izaifot and Hanatou

2. Friends - both in village and among the volunteer community. Maimouna and Zaratou randomly befriended me, and besides my neighbor, they are the women I loved most in Sagbiebou. When Maimouna was pregnant, she told me when she went into labor, she was going to make me come to the hospital with her. Then I moved away and could only get a phone call after from Zaratou's husband. But here is Abdou-Razak, and he is just a cute little monster. Also, my neighbors, Alima, Djibou and the girls, Izaifot and Hanatou, shared the strangeness of a Togolese village with me (they’re from Niger), took me to prayer on feast days and provided intelligent conversation about current events. But they cannot pronounce “Kentucky.”

Zaratou cutting up fresh wagash (cheese made by the nomadic Fulani people from cow's milk)

Zaratou and Maimouna with the fried wagash I was supposed to take to America for my family but ate in the car to Lomé instead

3. Street food - I will not miss the day-long trips up and down Togo, but I will miss the smorgasbord of random food pushed into the car window at stops along the highway. Boiled egg with hot pepper? Why, yes, I believe I will. Fried plantain chips? I’ll take two bags.

4. Cheap, fresh fruit - I know we get fresh fruit in the US. But where can I get a pineapple for 50 cents? And if this place exists, will the pineapple lady cut it up for me there and put it in a black plastic bag, “to go”? What about 50 cent mangoes the size of my head (ok, not my head, it’s bigger than average. The size of someone else’s head)? And cheap, huge avocadoes?

George, my host brother, Fridoline and Christine (neighbors) in Agou Nyogbo

5. Kids waving as you pass on your bike - make that kids in general, but especially the reaction of a group of children as you wave from your bike - all nine or however many hands shoot up and wave back. I'll also miss little neighborhood children running up and throwing themselves at my legs, shouting, "Liiinda! Liiinda!" or "Madame Awa!"

6. Ice cold soda on a hot savannah day - Beer's good too, but if I was having a freezing drink, I'd probably have biked to Mango, and there is nothing like a cold, cold Sprite after a 27 kilometer bike ride. And while we're on it, I'm going to miss my bike, and especially biking in the savannah.

7. Beach bar - Open-air bars line the first kilometer of road from the Ghanaian border leading to Lomé. A beer at a beach bar is a great way to re-enter Togo from Ghana or to spend a Sunday afternoon. Granted, vendors of all sorts of crap from sunglasses to stuffed animals will try to sell you said junk, but with the vendors comes the buffet of street food. And trash-filled though it may be, I will miss looking at the ocean over my beer.

Maimouna and Abdou Razak again, just because they're cute

So. There's my final, sentimental post for your enjoyment. I think it's better to leave the list of things I won't miss. When and if I get a new internet space, I'll send out that address, but at the risk of forever posting here things that will become totally unrelated to Togo, I'll try my best to make this my last post. Thanks to everyone who wrote me letters and emails, and thanks for reading.