Susan White in Togo
Summer, 2006

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For background and additional information see Togo Connection

Since my last visit to teach in Togo in January, 2006 I was interested in what changed. The big stories - Togo's World Cup losses and yet another attempt at political reconciliation are still being talked about but interest is quickly fading. Yellow and green jerseys and souvenirs are still present and it might be my imagination but I think there are more pictures of the president in public places than before. The results of the high school leaving examination, the 2nd Part of the Baccalaureate, were announced - 10600 out of 27000 students passed, 39%. What would BMC be like if only 39% of the seniors graduated each year? For the Lycée de Tohoun, where there was only a volunteer Math and Physics teacher for much of the year 9/19 passed in the literary series and 4/14 in the scientific track. Nationwide, in the past six months many cell phone booths have been created. Since relatively few people can regularly buy the prepaid cell phone cards, these booths provide cheap calls to cell phones - except that the recipient of such a call has no idea who is calling and so it is impossible to return the call if you happen to be out of the network. Finally the major road paving project slightly south of the Lomé campus has been finished and for the moment, the cobblestone road looks great and more upscale businesses and houses seem to be sprouting up alongside. Gone are the bumpy, circuitous detours and piles of construction materials. Now you can surf the internet, visit a pharmacy and even weigh yourself, eat ice cream, croissants or pizza, buy a hand-carpentered bed or cupboard, or get to the traditionnal Gbossime market quickly.

The Travels of Bryn Mawr Soccer Jerseys and Shoes

Mr. Adja, orange suit (upper photo), and in BMC soccer shorts (lower photo) while participating in a local religious ceremony. Note the black and white chickens and bottle of SDB. The "house god" was asked for my safe travel (in French) and for more (in Adja). Click on photos for enlargements.
On a Sunday afternoon following a large lunch of roast chicken and a short nap, I was invited to a local soccer game in Notse by Mr. Adja. This was a first round match in a tournament that would end during the local cultural festival Agbogbozan in September. The team in newish purple jerseys had several players from Notse's regular team and represented the part of town near the cotton processing plant. The star was the only player with dreadlocks. The other team had bright yellow BMC shirts donated several years ago. Many of the numbers had faded off and this was the first game for a new team composed of student-peasants from the "perimeter". Although it was suggested that they invite a some regular players from Lome to help, they declined on the grounds that any of their winnings would be consumed by travel expenses for their stars. The crowd was small and the stands are no longer covered after the roof was torn off during a windy storm months ago. Of the three referees, one was a women. It only took a few minutes for the yellow team to fall behind and the score was 3-0 by half time. But the peasants had brought a group of cheerleaders who didn't give up. Nor did the players and there were good scoring attempts during the second half. The final score was 6-0 as the purple team continued to find easy scoring openings. One of their team's goals was scored by a pair of BMC soccer shoes donated several years ago.

For each game, Mr. Adja, a local coach and gym teacher lends out soccer uniforms and shoes to needy players. He only asks that the players return the shirts right after the game with laundry soap so he can have the shirts washed all together. But the student-peasants needed to go to their farms on Monday so the soap wouldn't be brought until Tuesday. Mr. Adja went out of his way to encourage these newcomers not to give up and explained that most would be returning home on foot, a distance of several kilometers, and that the soap that costs less than a dollar would be a hardship but that the league had given the team a break on soccer licenses. A day later a group of motorcycle taxi drivers formed a team to join the tournament and this left Mr. Adja wishing he had structured a round robin or consolation round so the new teams would get more chances to play.

Visit to a Private Rural Medical Clinic

Dr. Aka in his office and the front of the clinic. Click on photos for enlargements.
In a small village not far from Tohoun I visited a private medical clinic and gave them some donated medical equipment. It was started with the help of an NGO and seems very clean and relatively well stocked. The pharmacy seemed well organized with supplies in plastic buckets on shelves and several rooms have tables for giving birth - they have about one per day and only charge the women for their health cards, about 50 cents. The first was a frail old man who was in a coma for 8 days. His coma was caused by low blood pressure, not eating, and too much SDB, local gin made from palms. He had the fine features and squeaky voice of a woman and when he slowly sat up he insisted on shaking my hand first. Next, a beautiful newborn baby - coppery skin and curly hair. But baby and Mom have different blood Rh factors and the husband was sent back to the village to get 40000 cfa, about $80, to pay for the medicine so the baby can have its mother's milk. Soon they'll try a bottle because the little guy was getting unhappy. Although I took Dr. Aka's phone number, I'll been hesitant to call him to ask about that baby. Next a mother with a well newborn and a little girl with a very high white blood count - she was laying nearly immobile I assume with a very high fever. Naturally all of the families of these patients were hovering nearby. Last a little boy that sliced off part of his thumb with a machete while taking care of manioc. The doctor said they arrived quickly from far away and although they couldn't reattach the thumb the wound was clean and healing well. Finally the doctor's office and then I saw the 26 meter hand-dug well that took a year to dig, the generator that is not good enough to power a fridge - petrol is now expensive and petrol fridges are hard to maintain. The doctor says they need a centrifuge and my impression is that he is getting fewer drugs from NGOs and having to pay for more himself. He has a house in back equipped with modern TV and other nice gadgets.

How My Macintosh Saved Me

With some difficulty I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, an outside latrine across the front yard. On my return I had a hard time falling asleep. Why is that white mac light so big? Pulsing dimmer and brighter, dimmer and brighter. I don't think much of it. But those new mosquite coils they bought and Dodzi lit, they give off lots of smoke. No, that's too much smoke. I sit up and lift the green towel off the spiral. It flames briefly and then the flame dies. Wake up! Wake up! The newly painted windows are hard to open. My eyes are burning. Wake up! Wake up! Finally the light is turned on and I manage to get the fan started. The smoke is acrid, like a rubber sandal smoldering, and clouds below the ceiling. In the morning, I take the towel outside and Dodzi cut off the burnt part and washed the towel by hand. Still useful. Could years of teaching about light beams and suspended particles have entered my sleeping consciousness and told me that the mac light could only be so big in a room filled with smoke?




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