Togo! Beaches, Dancing and Voodoo….

In December there is a public holiday on the first Friday of the month – Farmer’s Day!  So of course I decided to go away… duh!  I had met this group called Adventure Junkies while we were in the Volta Region, and they were planning a trip for that weekend to a neighboring country, Togo – why not?!?

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We met at the mall on Friday at 6am (ugh!).  I saw another white guy with a suitcase standing in the middle of the parking lot, so I wandered over and asked if he was going on the same trip.  Sure enough he was!  We waited for the rest of the group to show up, and just before 7am, the 12 of us had set off on our grand adventure!  It took 3 or 4 hours to drive through Ghana to the border.  Once at the border there was a lot of waiting in the hot car.  We filled out forms and waited in lines on both sides of the border, but eventually we went through.  This is only because we went the “official way”.  We saw many hawkers easily passing back and forth, who simply paid 1 cedi to the border guard to let them pass with no fuss or documentation.  The good news is that we were already pretty much in Lome (the capital of Togo) as it’s right on the border, by the coast.

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When we arrived at our hotel, the guy in charge of the tour (Kofi) told us everything we had planned for the day.  Instead we all voted to take a nap. We had lunch and a few of us went in the pool.  It was super relaxing until these French men decided it would be hilarious to do cannon balls.  They were easily 35-50 years old and were splashing about until we got out of the water. Then they dried off at went back to lunch, it’s like their whole goal was to force us out, so annoying, it felt like kindergarten!  I fell asleep in a lounge chair, and then later had a nap in my room.  My roomate and I woke up and it was already dark, oops!  Everyone else was still sleeping too, but eventually we had a nice dinner at the hotel.

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We decided to check out the town afterwards, and Togo was definitely prepared for Christmas, with lots of lights and decorations!  We tried 2 different bars that were dead before settling on a third bar, which was a wine bar with a live band.  There was a trumpet player, drums and and old Rhasta man singing Bob Marley.  It was just a quiet night, and we headed back to the hotel before 1 to get some more sleep.

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On Saturday we got up, had breakfast, and then headed to town.  We had a lot more to do since we had skipped everything the day before. Our first stop was the Voodoo market.  It was an outdoor area full of tables and surrounded by a fence.  We hired a guide who told us about the different ingredients.  He claimed this market was only for white magic, and all the animals died naturally, but I don’t believe him.  It was interesting but super disturbing to see all the dried lizards, dehydrated monkeys and birds feet.  There was even cat and dog heads, bats and colourful birds.  He kept saying “Oh here you can hold it.” Um… no thanks!

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After talking about all the different animals, the guide took us to see a man who creates fetishes (which is not sexual, but just an item that grants you sort of magical powers).  He explained some of the different items they had.  Some that were good for love, protection, good health, etc.  Each item has a certain ritual that involves saying your name, bringing the item towards you, splashing water, running it over your body, etc.  I ended up buying a little one for travel… y’know, just in case!

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After the market we went to the National museum.  The building was immaculate and near a beautiful round-about with a big statue in the middle.  We were like wow. But then when we had to go to the actual museum, we found out we had to go around the back at it was only two small rooms of the actual building.  Basically it’s a bunch of old iron and pottery and some posters about slavery… I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’ve never learned anything before about West Africa. Some of the girls loved it and asked a million questions (even though he never knew the answers), while the rest of us cooled off in the shade outside and tried not to think about our hunger.

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After the museum people wanted to check out the grand market. I thought I could buy some souvenirs but it was mostly just food and random items made in China.  The only cool store was that selling cloth, there was so much!  It’s the same cloth we have in Ghana, pretty sure it’s made in China though (with “African” patterns).  The Ghanaian women buy it from Togo, since Togo has a free port so they can import it more cheaply.  After this store we wandered through the market looking for our car and trying not to get hit by all the motorcycles!

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Finally it was time to eat!  We got to the beach in the late afternoon and took over some lounge chairs.  Some people read, napped, drank and splashed in the waves until our lunch was ready.  We had cocktails, and the food was delicious!  Some of us had desert while the rest were salsa dancing.  It was a super relaxing afternoon.  Once the sun set we headed back to the hotel to chill and get ready for our big night out.  We ordered a late dinner around 9:30 (since we hadn’t had lunch until after 4), and drank some coffee to wake up (I had hot chocolate with Baileys!).  By 11pm we decided it was late enough that there might actually be people at the club.

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Apparently the coolest spot in town was called “Privilege” – oh boy!  The day before I had written a blog talking about my guilt with white privilege, and it was kind of crazy to have a place with that actual name.  Not wanting to be a party-pooper, we went inside where it was absolutely dead.  So we got a table and bottle service (which only ended up costing about $200 for 2 bottles for 12 people – not bad). At least we were a big enough group that we had fun, and at around 1 am people started trickling in.  I would say it was about half Togolese, but unfortunately many of the old white men go for the young African women in sexy outfits.  I dunno if this is technically called prostitution or just a “sugar-daddy” situation, but it’s really awful and unfortunate.  Eventually we saw a girl in a bikini, and the boys followed her out the door (of course they did).  The place next door was a “go go” bar where women dance in skimpy outfits on poles but don’t actually strip.  There was no entrance fee and the men weren’t giving any money, so my guess is this is just a way of advertising for… their other services.  Some of my new girl friends were friendly with the dancers and ended up getting on stage – they had a lot of silly fun.  We went back to dance and drink, and by 4 in the morning we decided to pay and go back to the hotel (we were also out of drinks).

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On Sunday we all staggered out of bed at 10am for some breakfast, and lazed around until the organizer actually got his butt out of bed.  By the time all the bills were paid it was 1pm and we had to hit the road. Again we went through immigration at the airport, and then I passed out for the rest of the car ride back to Accra.

In general Lome didn’t seem that exciting.  I wouldn’t recommend it as an amazing holiday place to visit, but if you’re bored and want to get away from the city – why not try another country?  It’s also great if you speak french (but less great if you do not)… The beaches are beautiful, and it’s always good to go to a new place to relax.

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
This entry was posted in Ghana (2014) - Professional Fellow Placement (EWB), Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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