Archives for category: Travel

This article accurately describes one aspect of life here in West Africa.


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!

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.

A curious moment as I joined the ‘European Union’ queue at passport control and realised with dismay that it might be the last time I ever do so. I sooooo hope not. I’ve left Dad with clear instructions what to vote as my proxy.

Just spent five amazing days in Lyon. On Saturday, I made a further three year commitment to the lay fraternity of the Society of African Missions. Since then it’s been a social whirlwind – every meal in a different place with different people, each and every one of them inspiring. The fraternity is an exact fit for me, and I’m feeling very loved and cared for as I return to Togo today.

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.

The road through our village has several very steep parts which get eroded during the rainy season, leaving nothing but ruts and sharp rocks. Passengers get thrown about in the back of the car, and it plays havoc with tyres and suspension rods.

So it’s become something of an annual tradition, between Christmas and New Year, for the entire village to descend on the road to repair it.

I joined 100 other people early this morning. The younger men dig earth and stones out of the nearby fields . The women and children transport the loads on their heads to the road. The older men fill in the holes to make the road smooth again.

Then we all go back to my place for millet beer and grilled sesame seeds.

Another day of hard work, interdependence and laughter in an African village.

Arrived safely in Lomé, but… That’s three times I’ve flown this year, and three times my suitcase has ended up elsewhere. Was planning to hop on another plane to Ivory Coast straight away, but marooned in Lomé for a few days in the hope of being reconciled with my belongings. In the meantime, picked up some good replacement clothes bargains in Hedjeranawoé market as usual.

That twice I’ve flown with Asky (or however you pronounce it…) and twice they’ve mislaid my luggage.

That has never happened to me with a bush taxi.

Arrived back in Lomé suitcaseless and had no choice but to head straight to Hedjeranawoé market to buy a new set of clothes, as I was expected for meetings in the north of Benin the following day. Finally got my luggage back ten days later, so now I’m inundated with clothes. Any takers?

No apologies, no reimbursement for the inconvenience from Asky (…just how do you pronounce it anyway?)

Bless them.

One of the most striking differences between Togo and Nigeria is the availability of electricity and water. In Togo we complain if it goes off for an hour. In Nigeria, they’re thankful if it comes on for an hour. But those who live there quickly learn to be philosophical about it. As one of them said “Let’s be thankful: We still have gravity.”