Thursday, September 2, 2010

Togo Transportation 14 July 2010

Well, I made it through my post visit and didn’t starve to death – mostly thanks to the fact that there was camp going on in Pagala. I’m not gonna lie, I bummed a few meals off of Peace Corps and they were amazing. Better than my meals I made for myself since I was in temporary housing and had no kitchen. One night I ate some bread with nutella and sprinkled peanuts on top.

I’m back with my host family now and it is great to be back! I get three meals a day and have a real bed, not a mattress on a concrete floor. The transportation in Togo is rather interesting. Since the police don’t really enforce the laws (it’s commonly known that they take bribes), taxi drivers just pile as many people as they can into taxis. I was in a 15 passenger van and at one point counted 29 people in it! Plus lots of clucking because there were chickens tied up under the seats. My row alone had a man and wife, two of their kids, Ben (another PCV), me, and another lady. It was a tough ride, but apparently I should get used to it. Our other option for transportation is motos. Most countries don’t allow their PCVs to take motos, but I’m really glad Togo does. They even give us these sweet, spaceship-like helmets!

My house in Pagala is a quaint little house with a bedroom, living room, and kitchen. I live in my own compound that is surrounded by giant concrete walls with glass at the top. The village is in a valley, which causes the heat to linger in the hot season making it difficult to sleep (I’m told). But it makes the scenery absolutely beautiful as the village is surrounded by mountains. If you did google Pagala, you probably noticed that there are two. My village is Pagala-Gare (meaning station in French) because it was once a center for the railroad that ran through Togo. Like most enterprises in Togo, it was not maintained and did not last. The tracks all over the country are overgrown with brush and abandoned. The once-bustling railway station in Pagala is a big, old ghost house now.

Pagala is like a giant center for transplants – kind of like Charlotte, Chicago, or NYC. People from all over Togo live in Pagala, making it really diverse – for example, I attended four meetings on Thursday in in three different languages – French, kotokoli, and losso. Cabiet and Ewe are also commonly spoken in Pagala. Since I can’t learn all these languages, much of my work will be done through a translator. My homologue speaks five languages so he is a really great resource for me!

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