“Haha, the white man looks scared,” crowed the delightful lady who’d just sold me mobile phone credit, as I clambered on to the back of a motorbike a few miles away from the Togolese/Ghanaian border. Holding on for dear life on a motorbike as I went into Togo wasn’t outlined to me by Coco when he first invited me to meet his family across the border. But here I was and after I stopped holding my drivers shoulder in a death grip I actually started to really enjoy the ride. Whizzing through villages high up in the mountains of Togo with the sun beaming down was a pretty cool experience and one I won’t forget in a while.
Coco, a part-Togolese KickStart Ghana volunteer, had invited me to go to his home in Kpalime and sample some of the delights of Togo on one of my weekends off. I would see some sights, maybe go out for a beer or two on Saturday night and meet his family at his home.
I’m happy to say that we succeeded in all three parts of this plan. We saw some cultural highlights at a local art school, Azonto’d until 4am at a Togolese club on Saturday night and I was lucky enough to enjoy his mum’s cooking and father’s hospitality throughout my time with them. Having not seen my parents or sister in almost three months it was great to be welcomed as though I was part of the Mawuenyegah family.
To be honest I thought Togo would be very similar to Ghana and, although there are similarities between these two West African neighbours, there are also some very obvious differences. The biggest of these is the language, with French being the official language of Togo. My French is only slightly better than my Ewe and I spent most of the weekend trying to figure out what language people were speaking to me before trying to translate that to English and then form some sort of reply. This led to some fairly stilted conversations and I’m sure the general impression of me was, “nice, but dim.” The ‘Frenchness’ doesn’t stop with the language as I feasted on a chicken baguette for my first lunch and cheese is on sale in many of the shops; an absolute rarity in Ghana. Togo has more of a café culture than Ghana as well with people relaxing at roadside bars and the smell of sizzling omelettes arising from them.
The welcome you receive from everyone is still the same as Ghana though and football is the universal language that transcends nationalities. Like Ghanaians they know how to have a good time on Saturday night but still rise early for Church on Sunday morning as well.
Togo, was without doubt, one of my favourite weekends of my trip and I can’t thank Coco enough for taking me there (and negotiating with the border control for me). Below are a few snaps from our visit.