We were all looking forward to this weekend. Two weeks prior, we were at our Post sites from Monday through Saturday. That Saturday afternoon, we all traveled some distance to our regional meetings, using various modes of transportation. The trip home would normally take about three hours, but we got stopped about half way home because a large truck had caught fire and they wouldn’t allow anyone to pass. So the three hour trip turned into a six hour trip. We arrived back in Tesvie around 7pm, had dinner with our host family, and we visited with our host family about their previous week and about our week at Post. I fell into bed and got up at 4:30AM on Monday morning, heading to class at 7am. So…what I’m trying to say here is that from Saturday July 10th until Saturday July 23; a full two weeks, we have not had one minute of unscheduled time. As soon as we returned from post we had a full week of training and language classes, and we even had a thirty minute presentation in French to give on Thursday. My brain and my body were exhausted. SO…we were all looking forward to this Saturday at noon. Because at that moment we were free for the next thirty six (or so) hours to do whatever we wanted to do. All week long I had been looking forward to Saturday at noon. I didn’t have one plan, or one thing scheduled to do. I was just going to wing it. First thing I did was cancel my usual lunch at my host family’s house. I decided, instead to buy some street food and go to the cyber café. There I spent a luxurious two hours on emails, my blog and facebook. I also had the added treat of running into Tom on Facebook chat. We hadn’t planned it, so it was really fun that we both happened to be there at the same time. We were just able to sit there and chat and be silly for about an hour. Tom always appears at just the right time, and this time was no exception. I really needed to talk and laugh with someone. It was like medicine. But all good things must end, as did our chat. He had places to go and so did I. We reluctantly both said goodbye for the time being.
When I was ending my chat with Tom, Ashley texted me and told me that a group of PCV’s were meeting at the Mercy of God Bar…..mmmhmmm…..yes Mercy of God Bar. The Mercy of God Bar is laid out kind of like a mix between a Togolese compound and a Greek ruin??? Can you picture that?? Anyway there are religious blurbs written on the walls, and there are several religious statues…one life-size statue of Jesus holding a red light bulb. I walked down to Mercy of God and could see my friends sitting at the far end of the courtyard. We were the only ones there. There was loud music blaring. Lorena, christa, Elise, Ashley, myself and Carrie all sat around the table. They drank beer, and I had my usual orange Fanta. It was great conversation, and very relaxing, and I was still glowing from my impromptu facebook chat with Tom, so I was in a great mood. We talked about the Peace Corps….Lorena and Carrie have been here for a year, so they acted as the veterans, calming our fears, and assuring us that our two years would go by very quickly. They also told a couple stories that would give us pause, and scare the daylights out of us. After several rounds of beer (and Fanta), we decided to walk back to the Tech House. The CHAT volunteers had decided to spend the weekend in Tesvie, like they did over July 4th, so everyone was just kind of wandering around town doing their own thing, enjoying the leisure time and the nice weather. Ashley and I had some tentative plans to go to a funeral, which is really a huge, huge party with music and hundreds of people. Lorena (the volunteer with one year under her belt) explained that this is “funeral season” in Togo. Apparently they postpone the funerals of people who have died until this time of year when people have a little more money from their crops, and the weather is better. It was explained to us that really, funerals are the biggest event in Togo….bigger than weddings or births. Funerals are THE MAIN EVENT. Ashley and I were very curious and her host father knew the person this particular funeral was for, and he said he’d take us. Ashley said that her host family had been cooking for days, and that a dozen women had been at her host house getting ready for the funeral. Plans change as quickly as they are made in Togo. Somehow all of the people disappeared from Ashley’s house. Apparently they had all migrated to another part of town, so we decided to just meet up with everyone else at the Tech House. We would have to catch a funeral on another day. So here we were all again…The CHAP group of twelve and the SED group of twelve all gathering at the Tech House. I have no desire to relive my youth, so I often just stick around for a little while and let them get on with the partying, but “the kids” had other plans for me. They insisted I stick around because Lorena, the veteran had insisted we all walk down to the bar on the other side of town. We sat around the tech house until around 9pm. They were drinking a variety of alcoholic beverages…boxes of wine, rum in plastic pouches, sodabe, the local liquor, and beer. Music was blarin, everyone was laughing, and it was difficult not to get caught up in their youthful frivolity. Sooooo maybe I could relive my youth, just for one night!! It didn’t take that much coaxing to get me to go along on the walk to the bar. It was now dark, and off the twenty-four of us went walking, and stumbling down the rugged roads through the empty, trash filled (marche) market. It was quite a happy, festive, drunken group. We arrived at the bar, and there were at least a hundred Togolese milling about outside when we arrived. Togolese are always happy to see the Yovo’s (white people). They rushed us to the front of the line to a small window where we paid our cover charge (yes a cover charge) to get in, and we were just as quickly escorted into the walled off courtyard which was their version of a bar and dance hall.
One of these days I will write one article about all of the juxtapositions in Togo. Who would have thought there would be a bar with a cover charge. Not only that, they had karaoke, and a stage, and some of the best hip/hop dancing I’ve seen. The funny thing is that girls/women are looked down upon if they show up at a bar, (not the yovo’s) so it was 98% men. All the men were dancing together…quite close, and quite provocatively. Juxtaposition. Homosexuality is completely taboo here, and yet the men are very intimate and demonstrative with each other. They dance together, and they often hold hands walking down the street. It was so much fun, and so fascinating to be there. Dillon and I pulled up a chair, and just watched and laughed as everyone danced and partied. One Togolese man who was dressed in a long white coat, black slacks, a bright yellow neck tie and a hat came up to me several times and asked me to dance. “Oh mama” he said, “you must dance!!!” I turned him down three or four times, but after a beer, I thought…what the heck, so I danced, and I danced, and I danced. The “kids” loved that I was dancing and they formed a circle around me and clapped their hands. I am a bit embarrassed to be reporting some of this. I will be sixty in two weeks for godsakes! I do realize that I must have certainly looked ridiculous, but I didn’t care. It had been a hell of long two months, and this seemed like the perfect celebration of all of our hard work, not to mention what we were about to embark on….All leaving each other in a few days to go our separate ways to our individual villages. The Togolese man said..”Ohhhh mammmma, You dance like an African woman.” Woohoooooo! He also offered me something to smoke. Whatever it was smelled somewhat familiar, but I declined. I have not lost all of my good sense. At one point there was a dance train of at least fifty people going around all the tables. Togolese and Yovo’s all dancing together having a great time. Then it was time for the stage show where they had some great Karaoke, and the hip hop dancing on the stage. There were several sets of both singing and dancing. Again…all men. It all emulates the hip hop scenario in the U.S. The guys all have big, low riding pants on and big shirts, and baseball hats worn a little sideways, with the bill of the hat flat as a pancake. I could have sworn I was at a T.I. or Little Wayne concert. The dancing was as good as anything I’ve seen on any stage, and you had to wonder when and where, and how these guys practiced, but they were in perfect sync, and it was all quite impressive. Words could not possibly do this evening justice. So….one night of reliving my youth. Oy veh! I did only have one beer the entire night. I was high from the sights, the smells, the music and the camaraderie of my fellow PCV’s.
The evening eventually came to an end. We all left the bar at the same time. All twenty-four of us, louder and a bit more jovial than when we had arrived. I had texted (another juxtaposition) my host family on the way to the bar and told them I would not be home, and that I would be sleeping at the Tech House. I knew it would be too late, and I didn’t want them to have to wait up for me, so I decided to stay at the Tech house with the rest of PCV’s. Though I REALLY did not want to. They all had hammocks, or had claimed their sleeping spot early in the evening. I thought I would be sleeping on the bare ground, or cement, or on the floor of the Tech House. I convinced Solomon and Mark to walk me home to see if perhaps my host family was still up. I was holding out hope that I could crawl into my nice little bed, but the compound was all locked up, so the three of us trudged back to the Tech House compound. Mark and Solomon were good company, and kept me laughing the entire way. There are two bedrooms in the Tech House. Lorena, the veteran PCV was staying in one, and Damien another veteran PCV was staying in the other one. They had both come from their own villages and helped with training for this week. Lucky for me…Lorena let three of us who did not have a place to sleep (Ashley, Lizzie and myself, sleep in her room. Four of us in two twin beds, but we were under a mosquito net, and we weren’t on the floor. It was as if I’d found out that I would be staying at a 5-star hotel. I was so relieved. I had one more week of intense studying ahead of me, and losing an entire night of sleep would certainly obstruct my capacity to learn anything.
The next morning I awoke, as usual, early, and to the sounds of those damn roosters. Everyone else seems to be able to sleep through that. I got up, and was able to take a quick shower, and headed home, but first I had to navigate over at least six sleeping bodies stretched out and sleeping on the hallway floor. That could have been me!
I think I detected disapproval from my host family when I arrived home, as they were very quiet and didn’t ask me anything about the evening. I had to laugh to myself, that I felt like a teenager being scolded by my parents for staying out all night.
It was a great night. It’s not such a bad thing……reliving your youth….just for one night (smile).