Saturday, December 05, 2009
Of Course I Slipped in a Mud Puddle
Packing in Togo is hot and sweaty, so it's wise to shower after. For the three days we'd been in Lome, each day Ortencia would ask for Quaker Oats for breakfast at the stand. This is notable because in Togolese French, oatmeal is said as, "kakawatts." I have to admit that I snickered like a little girl each time she tried to order it. Before we left Lome, we stocked up - we picked up some vegetables to take to Ortencia's host family. We had a taxi drop us off in a taxi at the station for Kpalime and then I walked over to pick up my passport, complete with a second visa for Ghana.
While we waited for the trou-trou to fill up with passengers (and that took a wee while), the tiniest little boy went across the station by himself to buy ice cream. It was super cute. There was a great deal of confusion with change and then we bought some bread through the window of the van. It was not a bad ride to Kpalime, hot and a bit cramped, but with a soldier and a nun in the car, we were travelling in safety, no matter how you measure these things.
We were on our way to visit Ortencia's host family- Maman, Victoire, and Achu. When we hoped off the bus at the side of road and started walking down a path - where I promptly slipped and fell on my ass in the mud. Ever tried to wipe mud off your feet and legs with wet wipes while wearing a backpack? No? I don't advise it.
Victoire, Ortencia's petite seour, was the first to greet us. She led us to the kitchen, which was in a long, rectangular building that ran along one side of the compound, to the left of the house. Achu, Ortencia's host brother, is named because he is a twin, though we didn't have the opportunity to meet his twin sister. After rice and lemon & grapefruit juice, we were sent off to walk around the village. After a Coke, we walked around through incredibly lush, green mountains and were given some oranges by some children as a gift. I was surprised that they were green; they looked more like limes. In Togo, whenever you greet someone, you say Bien arrive, or if you are talking to children, bon soir/bon jour. It's an incredibly friendly country - everyone greets everyone else.
By the time we returned from our walk, dinner was ready. We had deep fried plantains (so, so good)with spicy sauce, yam chips, and salad with courgettes, which we had brought up from Lome because Maman had never had them. Maman is really good at cooking. I have to say, drinking out of a bag at the dinner table brings up a whole new set of etiquette rules. And then, as dinner ended, it rained. Rain in Togo is loud - those metal roofs make a lot of noise during a rain that hard.
Victoire was doing Ortencia's hair as we sat on the porch and we debated our plans for the next day and how we should get to the waterfall we wanted to go see and if we should hire a taxi for the day, up until Victoire demanded that we go inside. We watched Brazilian telenovas and a travel program about China until the electricity went out twice and that's when we got out the secret chocolate. You see, since Togo doesn't sell chocolate, before we left Ghana, Ortencia had bought two boxes of chocolate bars. When we arrived at Maman's, Ortencia gave her a bar of chocolate for everyone - herself, Achu, Victoire, a visiting niece. But Maman decided that the two girls could just share one bar, so Ortencia snuck her another during the blackout. We could smell the chocolate in the air and there was a momentary panic when we weren't sure where the wrapper had gone.
Even though it was only 8 p.m., it was incredibly dark. Victoire started using the flash on my camera as a light source and just after the lights came back on, Ortencia and I decided to go to bed - before the seven year old! For awhile, Oretencia was chasing a bug around our bedroom, finally killing it with a broom, and we fell asleep, only to be woken up again by the loudest rain ever heard in complete and utter darkness.