Saturday, March 13, 2010

Where'd the Maple Syrup Go?

27 February 2010
Our Ghana visas only last two months, so this weekend landed us with some mandatory travel time. Because we've been here almost two months? Whoa. Anyway, the third country I’ve ever gone to: Togo! We drove about three hours to Aflao, Ghana, which is at the border. Now, I’ve never been to the U.S./ Canada border, but I discussed with a couple of friends that there are probably one or two differences. And I’m not talking about temperature. The border checkpoint thingy to get into Togo had… character. And by that I mean it would be kind to call it a shack. There were nails sticking out of boards here and there and the nine of us struggled to find flat surfaces to fill out our bilingual paperwork. (Togo is a French speaking country. Ghana is completely surrounded by French speaking countries.) As we tried to determine whether our ‘point of entry’ was in Ghana or Togo, vendors were passing back and forth across the border. This went smoothly for them for a while, but for no reason as far as I can tell, a border employee suddenly decided he did not want this. So he grabbed a wood plank (with nails sticking out, of course) and closed off their path and yelled at the vendors to get away. On second thought, I imagine that’s exactly what the U.S./ Canada border is like, no?
Anyhoo, we got through and went to a German restaurant (because apparently there’s German influence in Togo as well) and ate delicious food and then walked around the city a bit. ‘The city’ is Lome, by the way, the capital of Togo, and we found it to be much cleaner than Accra, which was nice.
At some point during the trip, I heard about the earthquake in Chile. This was horrible timing. Being in Togo, I had no phone signal and no way to get online. For those of you who don’t know, my good friend Miki is studying abroad in Santiago this semester. Right where the earthquake hit. I have no way of finding out anything about her until tomorrow evening. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by coverage. It seemed like everyone was talking about it, and when we got back to the hotel, we stupidly watched CNN, which of course showed nothing but constant re-tallying of death tolls and footage of destruction. This could only make me more worried, because no matter what they said, they couldn’t tell me about Miki specifically. Stress and suspense. Sorry if it’s weird to read this, Miki.
Something interesting I did note while watching the news: the news anchor at one point said something to the effect of “Let’s see what the president has to say.” It took a moment to think which they were speaking of, but I figured it must be the Chilean president. Wrong. It was a surprise visit from Obama! “The” president. Obviously. Keep in mind we were watching World CNN, with British anchors I believe, in Togo, showing Chilean earthquake coverage. But everyone needs to hear the United State’s opinion on everything, so there he was.
To be fair though, he is speaking for two countries. (I feel as though I’ve explained this in another post, but I can’t find where I did, so I will continue. Forgive me if I’m wrong.) Yes, at least two. Because the Ghanaians claim him as their own. In fact, one man told me that Barack Obama is actually Ghanaian and that after he finishes his eight years of presidency, he will come and live in Ghana. I have been told by people that they love us (Americans) because Obama is our president. Little bonus today-- here’s a song a bunch of prominent Ghanaian musicians put together when he came to visit Cape Coast: (‘Akwaba’ means ‘welcome in Twi) Some of us have decided that we would like to write letters to our president thanking him for making our stay in Ghana welcoming. Fun fact though: Despite the fact that Ghanaians don’t approve of the wars we have going on, they really liked Bush as well. In fact, I’ve heard that Africa is the only country where Bush’s approval ratings went up through his presidency.
Anyway, Togo was nice from what we could tell, but we’re only spending the one night, so I don’t think we’re getting a whole lot out of the area. Unfortunately, our coordinator seems to be unimpressed with Togo and wants to go and come as quickly as possible. Oh well, we’ll see what tomorrow holds for us.

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