Archives for category: Togo


George is three, and is proud of his new responsibility in the Pidassa household. Every evening at sunset, it’s his job, without ever being told, to catch six chickens and put them in the chicken coop. It’s easier for him to do it than anyone else because he’s closer to the ground. It’s great fun racing round the courtyard until all of them are caught. When jobs like that need doing, who needs toys?


Green wood hoopoe

A clear but all too brief sighting of a green wood hoopoe today.

Wikipedia 1000 articles
Celebrations! Today we’ve reached the target we set almost exactly three years ago. The Kabiye Wikipedia now has over 1000 articles in it. Recent additions include Stephen Spielberg, Tornado, Proton, Brain, Neptune, Gupta dynasty. Kabiye Wikipedia has also recently been approved for transfer from the Incubator to the real Wikipedia platform, but please would we translate 100 more interface messages first…

Want to wake up REALLY fast at 5.30 am? Try a scorpion sting. I guess I always knew it would happen eventually. It’s scorpion season here, the first rains send them scurrying indoors. We’ve killed ten in a week, but number 8 got me first. That puts paid to all my plans for today.

On my return to Togo yesterday I learned that a severely mentally handicapped beggar, about 17, was burned alive in Kara a few weeks ago by unknown assailants for unknown motives.

I’ve known him since he was about eight years old. He used to flag my car down in the market. If I didn’t stop, I’d catch him in my rear view mirror, flinging himself onto the ground and beating his head on the tarmac in frustration. I soon got the message, and would usually pull over to give him 100 cfa (13p).

And that’s how we got to know each other. He couldn’t speak, so I never learned his name. But he could grunt, smile and make everyone laugh.
Paix à son âme.

I’m prompted to write this after the recent news from Glasgow and Gloucester Cathedrals:

Back in October, I led a linguistics workshop in Togo at which, as usual, there were Christian and Muslim participants. On such occasions the Christians generally take it in turns to lead morning devotions, and most Muslims usually choose to arrive twenty minutes later.

But when Andy’s turn came round, he had another idea. The day beforehand, he explained to the Muslims what he wanted to do, and they agreed to attend the following day. Andy printed out the parallel Bible and Quran passages about Abraham, the father of both religions, offering hospitality to the unknown guests. He led a simple meditation on the two passages, picking out the common themes of friendship, communion and hospitality.

To my knowledge, everyone in the room – African and expat – had a positive reaction to Andy’s initiative. It seemed perfectly natural, given that Togolese Christians and Muslims live peacefully side by side.

After five long months of paper-chasing, form filling, photocopies, telephone calls, photo booths and waiting rooms, I’ve just been awarded a three year Togolese residency permit. No more visa hunting until I’m 60. Yippee!

In the past week, two African friends have made the same comment about Brexit : “Why doesn’t your Queen intervene to stop it?”

If only.

Yesterday, traveling back from Lomé to Kara with Simon, there was a sudden, heavy rainstorm. Swerving to avoid a large lorry, the car skidded, did a graceful 360 degree pirouette, then rolled over into a deep muddy ditch and landed unceremoniously on its side. All that at speed.
It’s a curious moment when, as driver, you observe your passenger floating, as it were, above you. Somehow Simon managed dexterously to unfasten his seatbelt and climb out of the door above him without falling on me.
It’s an even curiouser moment when your first thought is “I would really prefer to stay in my upturned car, it’s bucketing down outside.”
I’m thankful that:
– neither of us were hurt, not the slightest scratch or whiplash.
– no other vehicles or pedestrians were in the line of the car.
– it was me driving, not Faustin, because it’s always easier to forgive oneself.
– the damage was limited to a couple of punctures, the side panelling and the side view mirror.
I’m also thankful that I was in Africa. In a matter of minutes, a crowd of 20 people emerged from nowhere including, of course, an experienced mechanic. He took the whole matter in hand, uprighted the car with great technical skill, instructed me how to drive out of the ditch without flipping the car again, and led us to his workshop, where he and an army of apprentices spent the best part of the afternoon making the car roadworthy again.
Back home safely now. Deo gratias.
PS: My connection speed isn’t fast enough right now to post photos of the accident here, but you can see them on my Facebook page.

While traveling down to Lomé last week, I was dismayed to see that the new Bafilo bypass is closed. Instead, I had to take the old road that goes up over the famous Faille d’Aledjo otherwise known as ‘the lorry graveyard’. Apparently they they are having to completely resurface the new road again, less than a year after it was opened, because the job was badly done the first time. With the minimal resources that Togo has, it is heartbreaking to see this.