Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Monday, May 10, 2010

Togo Party: Show me your tatas!

Togo is a country that may not have a ton of notable sights, but which we enjoyed. Most people we knew who had been to Togo told us that we could certainly skip it and wouldn't miss much. But it had a few interesting sights, and we had a really great time there thanks in large part to Peace Corps.

One of Tara's friends was a Peace Corps volunteer and she gave us good advice on places to go and foods to eat before ever arriving. Then, in Burkina Faso, we met Jorge, who invited us to stay with him and his wife, Danielle, who is a Peace Corps volunteer working in Lome, Togo. So, of course, we did. They were amazing tour guides and really great to spend a few days with.

We arrived in Togo the day before the 50th anniversary of independence. We expected great celebrations--instead Jorge and Danielle told us we needed to stay in the next day because of the expected protests against the government. Fortunately, the protests didn't amount to anything and no violence occurred. But neither did any celebrations.

The ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) tower is the largest in Lome and also looks really nice and has this cool domed structure in the front. And as a side note, the money used to build it probably couldn't have fed quite the entire population of Togo for the year, so why shouldn't it have been built?
Every time it seems that someone can't be carrying more on his or her head, we see something crazier. Here are two women with snowmen-like structures of charcoal on their heads who also happen to have babies strapped to their backs. Yet, Tara still complains sometimes that her backpack is too heavy...
In Lome, we went to a private museum called the Gulf of Guinea Museum. It is the private collection of West African objects owned by a rich Swiss guy who married a Togolese woman and then decided that the museum of West African objects probably should be in West Africa.

This mask would be worn by a man for dancing during a celebration in Ivory Coast. There is a similar female version to go with it. Maybe Tara and I will return home wearing them.
Some of the oldest well-preserved artifacts in West Africa are the 2,000 year old Nigerian nok terra cottas. They are from the northern part of Nigeria where we won't be going due to ethnic conflict, so we were happy to get to see one in very good condition at this museum.
Carved ivory elephant tusks were used in the past to record histories of ethnic groups and tribes. This is one example.
This guy is a animist fetish. To tap his power, you drive a nail into him. This is probably from Benin, home to voodoo, but the nails in this case were meant to help you get your wish rather than to harm someone represented by the figure.
Jorge described this church as the Notre Dame of Lome. That might be a bit much, but it is a lovely church and it has a nice blue sky that does not let on how hot and humid it was. A huge rain storm came a few hours later.
From this angle, I look monstrously tall. I'm not. These are Jorge and Danielle, our wonderful hosts in Lome, along with Tara and me.
From Lome, we took the Postal Bus (called Courrier), which also carries the mail, to Kara in the northern part of the country. On board, we were luck enough to meet another Peace Corps volunteer, Liza, and Charley, her boyfriend. They kindly agreed to let us stay with them for a couple of days, so we stayed entirely with Peace Corps volunteers while in Togo. From Kara, we took a day trip to see what are called tatas, which are fort-houses first built by people who were fending off Muslims, then used again to fend off slave traders. The people apparently refused to wear any clothes at all until the 1970s, and they aren't exactly strict about it now, either.

Here is one of the tatas in all its glory. Like a personal-sized fort. The mounds outside the entrance are for sacrificing whatever may need sacrificed to appease the spirits. Might include a chicken, a bowl of porridge, or a bottle of schnapps (apparently, Dutch explorers convinced most of animist West Africa that their ancestors' spirits would really, really like a sacrifice of schnapps, and this tradition lives on even today in many places).
People keep the livestock on the ground floor and then live and sleep on the top of the compound so that they can better defend it. Everything is only accessible through small entries. Here is Tara in the bedroom, which was surprisingly roomy once you crawl through the tiny hole.
They harvest the beans of a tree (maybe some kind of locust tree) and then separate out the fruit part inside the pod. They let us try some and thought it was hilarious that we had never had any (it is a staple for them).
This is the granary, the equivalent of a silo. It stores corn, millet, and the yellow stuff is the fruit from the beans above. The woman is also being saved to be eaten later. Or maybe she was just showing us around her house.
The landscape around the tatas is really nice hills and small mountains. Here are some tatas set on the side of a hill.
Tara is shown here modeling a traditional female celebration hat. Well, at least that's what they told us when they wanted her to buy one. Rather stylish, don't you think?
They took us inside of a giant, hollow baobab tree where a family of four used to live. The guide was not sure if the family were hobbits. Like all their living quarters, the opening was tiny so as for easy defense. Here I am crawling out of the tree.
And that wraps up our adventures in Togo. Thanks to all the Peace Corps volunteers who made our trip easier! Onward to Benin!

1 comment:

  1. So fascinating, as always.

    Hey when are you guys going to be in South Africa? We'll be there second half of World Cup (basically first half of July). Wouldn't be surprised if you're avoiding that whole time, but if you aren't and we are ever in the same region at the same time would love to take you guys out to dinner.

    Dave and Cammy