Posts Tagged ‘Togo’

Avepozo, Lomé, Togo, West Africa

December 26, 2017

Avepozo beach, Lomé, Togo

This last October, I had the privilege of staying in Avepozo, a quartier, or neighborhood, of Lomé, Togo. In the Ewe language, which locally it is referred to as Mina, it means a thick forest area that has been burnt to make way to farmland. And one can see it is an area rich in agriculture and water.

Avepozo is also in the Eastern part of Lomé. It has a number of hotels and I was able to visit the Madiba hotel on the western part of this neighborhood. It is right on the beach and I found it to be quite pleasant. The food there was superb and it was very calm and not noisy at all.The rooms were very clean and the service very friendly. A few meters away from

Typical Fishing boat in Avepozo

the hotel’s beach, there are fishermen who bring fish twice a day and sell it to anyone, including to the hotel, who prepares and cooks the fresh fish for their clients.  I understood the price of the fish to be very inexpensive. One red snapper that must have been about almost a 75cm long and 40 cm wide cost 30,000 CFA.

In the mornings I would walk from a private residence of some of my in-laws, north of the hotel Montaniato (sorry no website), which I did not have the chance to frequent, to the beach, so past the N2 main thoroughfare (listed on google maps). On my way to the beach, I would walk past a garage shop where cars are repaired and past some shantyhomes, sometimes down a narrow stretch of land of perhaps 200 meters long, where garbage is deposited by the local residents. It doesn’t appear that there is any garbage collection in this area of Lomé (I also didn’t see any garbage burning, which would have made for a lot of pollution). Although I often was scared to walk alone, or with my brother down this area, it was not dangerous at all, and I found residents to be very friendly, despite their clear lack of modern means. Most of the dwellings I saw, as I got closer to the beach, seemed to lack running water and electricity although I can’t say for sure. I did see many water wells all over the neigborhood, so I don’t think there is any shortage of water whatsoever. I also saw an abundance of food and street vendors. I only saw one child in Lomé, who was perhaps suffering from mal-nourishment. The child had a big belly, but because I saw the child at a distance, I couldn’t tell if the child was fat or suffered from kwashiorkor.

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Fishermen and workers gathering and preparing fish Avepozo, Lomé, Togo, West Africa

The approximately 12 days I was in Lomé, in mid-October, it only rained one day for a couple of hours. All other days it was very hot, humid and sunny, with few clouds. Temperatures were in the thirties celsius and it was quite humid. I didn’t get a lot of mosquito bites, maybe about 4 or 5 total and I believe it was due to the fact that I was taking vitamin B every day. When I saw I was getting mosquito bites, I doubled my dose of vitamin B and I didn’t get any more. The ones I got, by the way, were rather insignificant, not the ones one would expect to get from tiger mosquitoes, although apparently the mosquitoes in this area of Lomé are small.

One thing that I found difficult in Lomé was the malaria medication I was taking. In my opinion this medication made me go to the bathroom a lot, up to 3 times a day, and my stools were very dark and liquidy. Other people taking the medication told me “yes, it does that.” I also got some food poisoning in Togo, so I was sick with diarrhea for two days, which I cured by only eating white rice, white bread, white crackers and an occasional soda.  I lost about 15 pounds in Togo,  and it might have something to do with the loss of water, although I kept myself well hydrated.

The Yellow Fever Vaccine

Although I had it when I was a child, I was told by my doctor’s in the U.S. that I would have to take it again. I decided to take it upon arrival at the Lomé airport. I paid 10,000 CFA for it and the whole process took about 20 minutes. I noticed the nurse did not wash his hands before putting his gloves on to administer the vaccine but he applied alcohol to my arm and the needle he used was sterile. I was given a small booklet and receipt as proof of vaccination.

Vaccine Booklet

VISA: Service de Passeports

I got my visa to enter Togo at the airport of Lomé and I paid 10,000 CFA for it and it was good for 7 days. Getting the visa at the airport was not lengthy because the Tokoin International Aiport is a modern airport which does not handle a lot of traffic. To extend the visa, I went to a suburb called Agoé, which is not listed in Google as a separate town or suburb. Service de Passeports at Avenue de la Chance are listed, however, and that is where one can get a visa extension. My in-laws knew someone who works there so we were fortunate to not have to wait for too long. The line was not long but the paperwork is a little tedious. I have been told getting a visa in the U.S. through the Togolese embassy in Washington DC can cost more than $100.

Civil Unrest, demonstrations “manifestations”

During our stay in Avepozo, we witnessed 3 days of demonstrations, two consecutive days and one a couple of days later. During the manifestations were not able to leave the house because everyone said it was too dangerous. We saw tires burning on the main thoroughfare, the N2, about two blocks from the house we stayed in. If you have never seen a tire burning, it burns completely, creating a lot of smoke and it leaves soot in a large radius around it, up to at least two blocks away. It is unfortunate for the environment. I am sure that burnt tires have a high level of toxicity and that soot must have gotten all over the agricultural plots everywhere in Avepozo, and in children’s food. I saw one burnt car although I was told many were burnt.

Someone

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Burnt Tire Remains. Notice the metal wires.

we knew decided to go to the downtown area of Lomé in a vehicle during one of the days of civil unrest. He told us he had to bribe the police and demonstrators to reach his destination and return. He said he was quite frightened but had no problems when he paid what the soldiers and demonstrators dema

Civil unrest in Lomé, Togo

nded, which was not very substantial. He ended up transporting some demonstrators with him in his vehicle, as proof that he already had paid to get through one of the roadblocks and so that he wouldn’t have to pay again at the next one set up by the manifestants.

I saw on a French news report that up to 4 people had been killed by the police during the first two days of demonstrations. Natives, however, told me that it was a lot more and I was shown many pictures of dead people that had been posted on social media. I had no way of knowing if the pictures were real, which showed dozens of dead persons and some with mutilated bodies. One fellow who was Togolese but a resident of Germany assured me the pictures were real.

The Roads

A typical dirt road in Lomé and Muslim woman walking

Because my wife is from Togo, I spent most of my time in Lomé visiting relatives, which meant being on the road 4 to 6 hours per day. We had two different chauffeurs drive us around. One chauffeur accepted to drive us and our host family, who are from Togo but live in the U.S,   for 12 days for a total of $100, although he ended up getting paid about $125. I frequently spoke to this particular driver and one time I asked him how much money per month he would need to live a comfortable life. He said what came out to be $2

Mototaxi center at the N2 in Avepozo, Lomé, Togo

60 per month. I also found out the minimum wage is 35,000 CFA per month, or $61/month. The other driver was provided to us by an in-law. Most roads in Lomé are not paved but the main roads were good. There were a lot of motorbikes on the road, which I was told are made in China and are quite inexpensive, about $500 for a new motorbike. Many of the motorbikes are actually mototaxis and one can ride in the back. I paid 100 CFA one time to ride from our residence to the Madiba hotel, about 1 km or less. I saw three wheeled taxix that could transport about 4 people comfortably. I was told anyone could buy a new one for about $3000 and

Motorbike traffic in Lomé, Togo

start working right away.

If you are a US citizen and if you want to drive in Togo, get yourself an International Driver’s license before travelling. The fines for not having a proper driver’s  license can be very high for Togolese standards, up to $50.

Money Exchange

To exchange dollars and other currency,

one fellow would come over to my host family’s house and would give us an exchange rate of up to 580 CFA per $1 USD. Other times we needed money we went to the Grand Marché, in the Assigame neighborhood, and we would drive up to one bank and plenty of people outside the bank would offer to exchange dollars for us. I found it quite unsettling at first but it was perfectly safe and I witnessed no crime at all in Togo and I never saw anyone who even had the remote appearance of being a crook or criminal. In my experience in other countries one can tell right away who has bad intentions.  In Europe no one would dream of exchanging money anywhere else but in bank or currency exchange.

The Grand Marché or Assigame

Like in other African countries I have been to (Morrocco and Kenya), I witnessed a lot of haggling and aggressive sales at the Great Market (Grand Marché). In my opinion it is best not to have direct eye contact with anyone, nor accept anything, or touch anything at all, if you are just looking at things out of curiosity.  I was fortunate that if I wanted

Assigame Grand Marché Lomé Togo

The Grand Marché in Lomé Togo, Assigame

something, my in-laws would buy it for me and go through the trouble of haggling for it and then I saw prices drop up to 60 to 70% from their original price. I did buy somethings myself, namely a pair of shoes and a belt, which I didn’t quite want. I paid 5000 CFA for the shoes and 3000 CFA for the belt, probably about 150% more than I would have, had I allowed my relatives to buy it for me. I had a mild interest in both products but the vendors had placed them in my hand and then it was almost impossible to say no.  I found the Grand Marché has a wide range of products from luggage to Food.

Conclusion

Although the U.S. Deparment of State “has assessed Lomé as being a critical-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests,” I found the neighborhood of Avepozo to be very safe and peaceful. For more information about Togo, you may also visit the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Togo 2017 Crime and Safety Report.

Copyright © 2017 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

N2 Avepozo Lomé Togo

The N2 Road in Avepozo, Lomé, Togo

 

From Amsterdam to Cape Town on Motorbikes

October 26, 2017

This last October twenty-first, I was in  Lomé, Togo and I met two Dutch men who are currently on a motorbike trip from Holland to South Africa and this is their website: http://africa-over.land/

Here’s a picture of these two fellows, father and son:

Africa over land, Dr. Johann, hotel madiba, Lome, Togo

Dr. Johan and his son, Wilbrink, in Lomé, Togo, on 21-10-2017 at the Madiba Hotel

And here is a picture of one of their motorbikes:

BMW, africa-over.land, Dr. Johann and his son, Hotel Madiba, Lome, West Africa, Togo

 

Dr. Johan, a Medical Doctor in the Netherlands, mentioned he was taking 3 months off from work to do this Road Trip and that the BMW motorbikes they are using are equipped with cameras that take pictures every 30 seconds that they are on the road.

He added they were probably going to ship their bikes from Cotonou, Benin, to somewhere south of Cameroon, since they would not be able to enter Cameroon due to civil unrest in that country.

Their website has all the details about their trip and mentions Lomé here.

It was nice to meet these two men and I wished Dr. Johan the best of luck.

The Madiba Hotel in Lomé, where I met Dr. Johan and Wilbrink, is in the Avepozo neighborhood.

I later learnt there is a website http://africa-overland.net/ portal for people who travel Africa over land, perhaps these two men were inspired by this portal and named their website similarly.

Copyright © 2017 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

Beau-frère

April 3, 2013

I was celebrating Easter with my girlfriend, at her aunt’s house. Most of the people there were from Togo because she is from that country. The party had a lot of wonderful food and great African music. People were dancing, drinking and being merry.

I was speaking to a man from Sudan about several things. We were conversing in French and at one point a man in his fifties who was dressed in a beautiful colorful striped African shirt approached me and remarked that he was surprised I speak French. Well, I understand a lot more than I speak, I explained. I introduced myself and my girlfriend who was sitting next to me. I thought maybe they were relatives but they didn’t know each other despite the fact that this party was at her aunt’s. The man was pleasant. He was also surprised that my girlfriend is from Togo and he called me “Beau-frère.” In French it means “Brother-in-law.” The man from Sudan said it was a privilege to be referred this way by a stranger.  After greeting us he left us and joined the people he had come with to the party.

man playing percussion instrument

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

Later on when we decided to go home and when we started to say our good-byes, this same African man came to bid us farewell. He was very polite and held my hand. Then he looked at my girl-friend and said: “This woman is my daughter. Please make sure you take good care of her. Take care of my daughter please. Treat her well. I trust that you will.”

I promised and assured him I would always treat her well. I thanked him for his concern. I was touched by this man’s good intentions and sense of fraternity towards his own kin.

Copyright © 2013 Jorge Luis Carbajosa