Sunday, 25 April 2010

how do you know you are in Africa??

A few of us went to Kpalime this weekend, sensible blog and pictures to follow when I have sorted them, but until then here are some of our experiences to share with you...imagine this...
  • you drive past an organised running event, a whole bunch of young men running in matching t'shirts to mark the 50th anniversary of Togo's independance, it all looks like any other race you might see back home until you realise some of them are running in flipflops
  • you get stopped multiple times by unofficial checkpoints requesting road taxes or are stopped by men with guns who tell everyone to get out of the car and walk along the road, they then shout at the driver until they pay the bribe and they are allowed to move on and pick you up
  • you get stopped in the car and asked if anyone is sick (by another man with smaller gun), once assured not he wants to know why someone was sleeping, seriously random!! I mean how dare someone sleep in a car assuming it is not the driver in question??
  • your driver just makes random stops to chat to people or buy some kind of wooden things that looked a bit like rough fence panels that are put in the roof-rack from a lady standing on the side of the road with nothing except a purple bucket - he did say something incomprehensible and check if that was 'ok?' with us, at least he wasn't trying to put chickens in the car with us or something
  • you have people shouting yovo at every opportunity, sometimes with the whole song "yovo, yovo, bonjour, ca va bien, merci" apparantly the only words white people are supposed to know, I can tell you if they were the only words we knew chances are we would be stuck in the middle of no-where now, hungry and without football shirts :-)
  • shops are named things like 'God is good' bakery and 'Jesus is Lord' hairdressers that you drive past making journeys a little more interesting, or you could go to 'winners gate' cafe or eat rice 'from paradise', honestly I should have had a notepad with me there were so many that make you smile
  • you book a 4 person room only to discover on arrival at the hotel that they don't exist - so would we like two rooms for 2 people and pay twice as much? Erm not so much
  • you get shown into a hotel room, given a remote control for the TV and A/c. It all looks promising if you don't mind Croatian TV but in the few minutes while you are settling in the power goes off and then it goes dark and they place tealights in the corridors
  • When the power temporarily comes back on, you get excited until you discover there is no running water and you can't seem to use the remote they gave you to turn the A/C on - so you ask the man if he can help - to which he replies - oh yes that doesn't work, you can turn the fan on instead (giving us the A/C controls probably threw us a little here), which would have been ok if the power had not gone off again and left us slowly roasting in the night
  • your guide for the waterfall walk does not think that we should walk in rain (interesting concept for a Brit who used to deliberately go out in the rain on 'rainwalks' with the boys just so they could jump in puddles) and when we eventually do go he is barefoot and then strips to his underpants at the waterfall to prove to us that it is ok for us to swim
  • when you are swimming in a waterfall surrounded by natural beauty someone reminds you of Dr Craigs talk on parasites and how some can get into your body through your legs as well as your GI tract, you are still trying to blot that thought when you try and get to sleep listening to suicidal insects trying to bang their way in through the mosquito netting on your window and wonder if any wil make it through to eat you alive in the night
  • everyone tries to charge you more than they orginally told you it would cost because of your yovoness- we thought the waterfall guide was cheeky enough wanting to charge all ten of us what it was supposed to cost altogether, until the driver wanted to charge us for 14 seats even though there were only 6 of us, (to be honest that wouldn't be that unusual here to pay for empty seats but for the fact that it was all confirmed before hand and was not supposed to be the case)
  • when you find football shirts for just a few dollars, probably plus or minus a few details it should have - one of the England shirts had the premier league badge on the arm - erm not sure that England is in the premier league - and that is coming from someone who knows nothing about football and would choose one just based on colour 
  • the above mentioned football shirts are all completely random teams, kits, sizes mixed in with market stalls selling soap and bread and whatever else you might trying to find the one you want in the size you need is like looking for a needle in a haystack, unless of course you are Sam and happy with any that fit (West African teams that is, not the random - read rubbish but popular - premiership ones that exist here)
  • you get woken at 6am by someone sweeping, it was loud enough to wake even those whose rooms weren't adjacent to the path being swept with great vigour at such a beautiful hour on a Sunday morning. Presumably someone wanted to get it done before it got unbearably hot or before they crossed the road and joined the very loud Africa church-like singing that stopped us from returning to our slumber after the path was dust free, although equally that could have been the fact we were slowly melting that prevented that?
  • you are in a town with red-sandy roads, people wandering around slowly no-one really up to much, eating frozen milk and can see a bunch of falling down huts and then out of no-where you see a modern neon sign- that tells you it is 42 degrees at 11.20am - always good to know that you really are hot and it is not all in your head
  • we all got to give Sam some moral support during his finger dressing change and a little lesson to the fascinated hotel owner about cleaning wounds with saline - following Mercy Ships model of passing on what we know to the locals even on our day off...
It was a truly fabulous break with some fabulous friends and family, my first time away overnight in West Africa and my first time without the boys since we came to the Ship, and it certainly was a memorable one! So who is up for the next adventure?

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