A trip through Togo

On my way to Togo, I made a stop along the southeast coast of Ghana for one night in Tegbi. Having a postive review in West Africa Lonely Planet,I had high hopes.I arrived at midday on Sunday in the heat of the Ghanian day,looking forward to a refreshing swim in the ocean. Larneh Lodge,facing the ocean,with a price tag of 58CDs a night,sat on a garbage filled beach and as I sat drinking my Coca,I watched as three men urinated 10 feet from my table. After wandering around the village with my camera,I tried to wake up the girls in the hotel annex to get me some food,finally at the top of my voice spelling FOOD.I settled for fruit salad and toast,playing it safe.
As soon as I could find a taxi Monday morning,I was on my way to the border of Ghana and Togo,roughly an hour away.
Imagine the temperature hovering around 95-100F,sweat covering your body,Ghanian and Togolese people pushing their way past the huge Lorries that are waiting to continue to Nigeria; and me,on foot looking for the passport control so I can get stamped out of Ghana and buy my visa for Togo. It takes me a day to comfortably speak decent French so I stumbled through the first few minutes,finding out later I had been charged fifty percent more for my visa,the police taking their cut. I was dropped at the Hotel Ibin by a light skin Moroccan woman who lived in London and worked for an East Indian company in Togo and French speaking Africa. Within seconds she was gone in her chaufeur driven car as I realized the hotel I wqs dropped at, was for businessmen and those who didnt want to remember they were in Africa. Without any ideas as to where to sleep, I took a taxi to the Togolese tourist office,screamed at the taxi driver for cheating me and was saved by a lovely Togolese woman whose husband worked for the World Bank in Washington DC. Asking why she had been separated from her husband for 6 years,she responded that she couldnt get a visa for her and her children. They proceeded to help me find a good hotel;the capitol cities in Africa set their hotel prices for foreign businessmen so 80 dollars is considered considered a low price:the range is 150-250 dollars a day,regardless of the country’s economy. The capitol of Togo is Lome. Again Lonely Planet lead me astray as I was assaulted by crumbling buildings;mounds of garbage rotting in the heat,plastic bags blowing in the wind all over the city and sad looking people sitting on the beautiful dirty beach that fronts the city. I find it difficult to understand how foreign nationals can spend years in environments so abusive as these.I met an older French woman psychiatrist who helped me at an ATM machine,that loved living in Togo;a wonderful German lady that had married a Togolese 25 years ago,had three children who study abroad,was still married and still here;one of many Lebanese,who was born in Ghana,lived with his family there for 25 years and cleverly figured out how to do business between China,Lebanon and Togo. He blamed the American government under Clinton for supporting the opposition against the 40 year dictatorial reign and making it more difficult for him to do business. I asked him about Togo but he had never ventured beyond the capitol. One of my favorite encounters happened within 3 hours of arriving in Lome; I had just eaten a delicious warm chevre salad at a French restaurant,a leftover from the French colonial period,and I was looking for an internet cafe. I stopped at a office supply store and was told the internet had been out for days. I asked if I could sit and rest for a few minutes and I mentioned I thought Togo was much poorer than Ghana,noticing most of the streets in the capitol unpaved and many of the people living in straw huts. The central market was so crowded and dirty that I,who love such places,had no desire to enter. how long have you been here they asked. About three hours I said. They were surprised and told me they had been sitting there for several hours,talking about the dismal situation in the country,the president being the son of the dictator who finally died after 45 years. One of the men had moved to Ghana and opened a factory because life was so hopeless in Togo: the other guy had been working for DHL in Nigeria. They asked me what I thought could be done; an honest government first,I said as well as birth control,no child labor,better medical care and universal education. This prescription is for most of underdeveloped countries in the world. As long as the masses spend each day searching for food,have their six year old children on the street working and can barely read or write, dictatorships will flourish along side of poverty and suffering.

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