Thursday, November 25, 2010

I'm Not Fussy

I said before that there is always a story, every time you ride in a bush taxi, and there is…always.  I could write a story for almost every time I’ve been in one.   Like the time I was leaving Tesvie to come home to Tchekpo.  I’d been at the Bush Taxi station waiting for quite a while.  There’s always a man there ready to hail one down for me.  Most of them know me by now.  They call me Tchekpo, because they know by now that’s where I’m heading.  On this day, I saw a bush taxi a few yards away, and the man called me over, excited that he had found one so fast.  I was happy too.  However he did have a hesitant look on his face, like perhaps he knew what was inside.  He opened the sliding side door, and to my surprise, two goats were standing there, staring me in the eye.  There was a Togolese woman sitting in the front seat, and she said…”oh no yovo(white person)….no, no, no….you can’t ride with the goats," and she cackled.   First, I looked at him incredulously, and then I said, “no…I’m not gonna ride with the goats, I will wait for the next bush taxi.”  I was even a little insulted that this man thought that I would ride with goats.  I thought, do I look like someone who would be ok with riding in the same compartment as the goats?  (It had been a long, very hot day, so I let that thought pass.) I’m sure he would have received a nice little commission from the bush taxi driver for getting a passenger to ride with the goats.  But it would have to be the next sucker.

Or there was the time, the bush taxi runner was entertaining the rest of the passengers with his banter.  He was facing them.  The taxi was full.  I was riding in the front seat…in the middle with my legs straddling the gear shift.  He was speaking in broken French.  I knew he was talking about me, because I picked up a word here and there, and I heard the word American several times.  I turned around and looked at him.  He looked at me, and said, “Est-ce-que vous comprendre moi,” (Do you understand me?)  I said,”yes I do”…though I didn’t.  He said, “you do?, you understand what I’m saying”?  I said, “yes,” and laughed.  He laughed too but looked a little embarrassed, and then he said “I was just telling them that you aren’t fussy.  I see you riding in the bush taxis many times, and most Americans are fussy, but you aren’t.  You are ok.”  Ha…… I’m not at all sure that’s what he was saying, otherwise why would he have been embarrassed that I understood him, but I decided to take him at his word, and was pleased that #1 they were getting to know me, and that #2 that I had earned a reputation for not being a fussy American.  It pleased me.  I agree, I’m not fussy.  It doesn’t do any good to be fussy or to complain, and the people riding with you do seem to acknowledge and appreciate the fact that you don’t expect any extra considerations just because you are white.  I do pull the white card out occasionally when a bush taxi stops and I see there is a place in the front seat.  There might also be plenty of room in the back seats, but I will motion to the front seat with a pleading look.  The front seat is a coveted position.  You only have to share it with two other people (though I have seen them pack four in the front seat on occasion.)  The front seat can kind of be a double-edged sword though……It guarantees a ride with more comfort, but you know in the back of your mind you will be the first to die if the taxi crashes.  To me….it’s worth the risk.

BIRDS EYE VIEW of a partially filled bush taxi. 
When the woman in the middle saw this picture she said
Tres Jolie!!!  Very Pretty!
Just recently I rode from Tesvie to Tchekpo in a taxi full of people, about fifteen.  The back was stuffed full of big bags of fertilizer.  I smelled it as soon as they opened the door, and thought about waiting for the next one….but not wanting to be “fussy,” I crawled in.  I was in the back seat.  The fertilizer was right behind me.  The bags poking me in the head.  The smell was SO bad.  Never smelled anything like it, really.  I had purchased two loaves of bread before I left Tesvie, and I kept putting my nose in the bag with the bread to survive.  Some of the passengers laughed when they saw my method of coping.  There were flies (big ones) flying around all of us, all the way home.  When I got home the smell had permeated my clothing, and even my bra and hat.  I immediately took my clothes off and bathed.  I threw my clothes in a pile in my bedroom to be washed, and that night while laying in bed, I could smell it, as if I were still in the van.  The smell was in my nose for days.  Gawd!

So….keep in mind, I go to great lengths to not be “fussy” in the bush taxis.  Usually I greet the other passengers when I enter.  Occasionally I’ll strike up a conversation with someone, but on most days I put my earphones in my ears, and listen to music on my ipod until I reach my destination.   I simply go into a kind of comatose state of mind, try not to think of my cramped surroundings, the bumpy road, or the smell of the bush taxi.  I think everyone has their limits though, and I reached mine the last time I left Lome.

Swearing in party!! 
There were four of us leaving the Peace Corps Headquarters on this particular Sunday.  It was 2pm.  We were all going to Tesvie, though that was not our final destination.  In Tesvie we would get out of the bush taxi from Lome, and maybe wait a while for another one, or if we lucked out, there would be one just ready to depart that would take us to our individual villages.  When you leave Lome, you have to take a regular taxi to the bush taxi stand.  Because it’s cheaper when several people ride in the taxi, we had all decided to depart at the same time, and share the cost of the taxi.  We had been in Lome for the swearing in of a new group of volunteers.  Having partied the night before we were all tired and cranky.  It was an especially hot and humid day.  So hot, you could see the vapors and the steam rising from the sandy roads we walked on.  You could feel the heat of the sun burning the flesh on the back of your neck.  Hot.  We were all carrying our backpacks and heavy gear.  We hailed three different taxis before we got the price we knew we should get.  There is always, always a lot of disquitering (bartering) when you ride in the small taxis in town.  I personally don’t like to disquiter, so when I’m by myself I usually take at least the second counter offer, but these taxi drivers saw three tired young women and one tired old woman (that would be me) carrying a lot of baggage.  They thought we were probably desperate enough that they could persuade us to pay twice as much as we should.  The young women didn’t give an inch.  I was saving my energy, and let them do the work.  Finally on the fourth taxi we agreed on a price. 

Wading through the marche in a bush taxi
We got in the taxi, and were on our way to the bush taxi stand, and then to Tesvie.   Or so we thought.  I remember texting my friend from the taxi, telling him we had just taken off, and that I was hot and tired, and hoped for the front seat.   Well you get what you pay for…right?  So yes we got a good price for the taxi, but he didn’t take us to the bush taxi stand.  Instead he drove down some back alleys, and stopped in one of them where there were three men standing outside of a bush taxi, putting various items (cargo) in the van.  Various items being a car engine and large sacks of something.  Obviously the taxi driver was going to get a monetary kick-back for bringing customers to this bush taxi.  The men looked and acted nice enough.  They were smiling, and appeared very happy at their good fortune to have their bush taxi already partly filled before they even departed.   All the bush taxi’s are pretty horrible inside.  Hard seats, dirty, windows that don’t open.  This one was worse than most.  You just take what you get here, so we piled into the bush taxi.  I wondered what adventure awaited us.  I didn’t get the front seat.  I was in the back seat, in the back corner.  The window by me didn’t open.  Once we started I immediately noticed the lack of shock absorbers.  I just prayed for a quick trip.  My computer was in my backpack.  I held my heavy backpack on my hot lap, so that the computer would not be subjected to the bumpy ride.  There’s always a bright side.  Ok, so I’m in the back seat.  The advantage of the back seat is, it gets filled up first.  At least you don’t have to get in and out of the taxi while they readjust who is riding where every time they stop.  Getting in and out of the bush taxi with your backpack, and usually a bevy of other items, crouched down, and crawling over people is not easy.  I know within the first fifteen minutes what my ride is going to be like.  I know if I’m going to be sitting with chickens, or drunks, or preachers, some nice Togolese woman who offers me a bite of her bread, or a sick child.  I know, and I can prepare myself.  On this day, my consolation, even though I was in the back seat. was that I knew at least I would be riding in the same seat as three of the four women I had left with.  There would be no chickens, or drunks or in and out of the taxi to deal with.  I also had the added comfort of knowing I probably wouldn’t be the first to die, and might even survive a crash.  Who needs the front seat with those benefits!   Off we went. 

We had all taken this same trip often enough to be able to discern if we are at the very least, headed in the right direction….and we were not.  We talked and complained amongst ourselves, wondering where we were going, and how long the detour would take.  The Togolese men were chattering, and pleasantly laughing with each other, probably discussing the errands and the trip they were about to embark on.   We did ask them right away, where they were going.  “This isn’t the road to Tesvie,” we said.  They told us they needed to drop off the engine that was in the back of the van.  Well first they tried to tell us that the other roads were bad and they were taking a shortcut, but that didn’t fly, because this road was worse than any other we might have been on, so they fessed up and said they had a few errands to do.  First stop was the Togolese version of a machine shop.  The men got out of the van, then pulled the heavy engine out of the back.  They then acted like they were going to wait for it to be repaired.  We were there at least fifteen minutes, sweltering until the four of us started complaining rather loudly.    The men begrudgingly got back into the van and left the engine behind.  I think at this point they determined, we were going to be a handful.  We thought we were finally on our way.  Soon, we realized they were still going in the wrong direction.  They were headed towards the marche(city market) One big, chaotic mess, that I only go to if I have to.  The four of us again started complaining loudly.  “Where are you going?  This is not the way to Tesvie.”  They said they had to pick something up in the market, which was pretty much where we initially started the trip in the little taxi.  We were all complaining, and the men good-naturedly tried to ignore us, which wasn’t easy.   We were now in a very, very congested part of the marche.  Honking horns, people dodging cars, motos and bicycles, Street vendors selling their wares.  Women carrying things on their heads, people everywhere.   There is really no delineating line between the space for pedestrians to walk and cars to drive in the Marche.  They all meld together.   Total chaos.  It was an area of the marche I didn’t recognize.  The car traffic was going at a snails pace, if it was even going at all.  All of a sudden I reached my limit. There was no one thing that occurred.  It was simply a combination of everything.  Like a dam bursting,  I snapped.  I broke.  You might say I got real fussy.  I said, “Let me out of this van!”  I obviously was not thinking rationally.  All I knew is that I had to get out of that van.  The men tried to talk me out of it, but the women I was with instinctively knew that I would not be dissuaded.   They probably had each hit this wall themselves at one time or another in Togo.  Tamara, one of the women, told the drivers to stop, and let me out.  They did, but very reluctantly.  I heard later that after I got out, the PCV’s I was with wondered if they’d ever see me again, and they talked about how really nice it was knowing me.  You might think they should have tried harder to stop me, but really everyone is on their own in Togo.  They knew I had to do, what I had to do. 

So….I’m out of the van, but I feel no relief.  I’m still angry, and very hot, and thirsty, and when the van pulled away, I remembered I didn't have much money.  I had no idea where I was.  Stupid, I know, but as I said I was not thinking rationally.  At that point, I couldn’t even find my phone, and thought for sure I had lost it, when I was getting out of the van.  I started walking, or I should say maneuvering through the throngs of people, cars and bicycles, and watched the van slowly drive off.  The women also told me that a few minutes after I got out, the men were talking to each other in a very animated way, and stopped the van.  They seemed very concerned about me getting out, and didn’t know what to do, but they could really only go in one direction at that point.  There was no turning back, for me or for them.  It took me a few minutes to compose myself, (I was kind of throwing things around, left and right, mumbling under my breath, ignoring any onlookers.  You who know me well might recognize this scenario)  I decided to find another small taxi to take me to where I was supposed to be the first time.  I only had so much money, so I knew I would have to disquiter, which as I said I’m not good at.  I talked to three taxi drivers (best I could, with my French) and tried to get them to take me to the taxi stand.  After bartering for several minutes with each of them, they pretty much said…”no way….I’m not taking you” and turned their back on me…just went back to what they were doing.  I do believe that I might have had the attitude (or one might say fussiness) I described above.  My “attitude” did not inspire good will.  I determined if I was going to get help, I was going to have compose myself.  I did, and so-doing finally found a taxi driver who took pity on me.  He wasn’t going to drive me anywhere, but he listened to my sad story, and said I could just walk a few more blocks and catch a bush taxi.  He even got out of his taxi, and started to lead the way.  We walked a few blocks, and turned the corner.  He said, “See that white bush taxi way up there stuck in traffic?”  That taxi is going to Tesvie.  He walked with me all the way to the white bush taxi he was referencing.  By now, it had been an hour since I exited the first bush taxi.  As we approached the white bush taxi I noticed something curious.  I noticed the back of the head of a white woman in the rear window.  I squinted.  I thought to myself, NO, IT COUDN’T  BE!  But it was.  It was the exact same bush taxi I had gotten out of an hour earlier.  Still stuck in traffic, still carrying my friends.  I went to the front door of the taxi, and because life in Togo is so insane, everyone including me, and including the Togolese men  just started laughing hysterically.  Everyone in an instant could comprehend the insanity of the situation.  Tamara, one of the PCV’s….I think she laughed all the way home.  They did let me sit in the front seat this time.  After sitting in stalled traffic for about another half hour, we were finally on our way to Tesvie.  The bush taxi driver kept looking over at me and smiling and shaking his head.  The man in the middle said, “Togo is bad.”  I said, “No, no, Togo isn’t bad…today was bad, but Togo’s not bad.”  He seemed surprised, and smiled.

To all of you,  who after reading this, might be worried about my welfare, or my sanity.  I just want you to know that I will never, ever demand to get out of a bush taxi again, by myself, in some unknown swarming city or even on a country road.   In fact, wherever I am, and I start to reach my limit, or feel “fussy.”  I will remember this day, and I will go through my meditations, of praying to God, Allah, Buddha, Ron R. Hubbard, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and all my dead relatives, and ask them for patience.  Then I’ll make the sign of the cross.  I’ll put my in my earphones, close my eyes and not be fussy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pies for Eyes Update

Pat Kaufman, Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas, and friends have collected over 300 pairs of eye-glasses to be sent to Tchekpo in a few weeks.  Shawnee Mission East baked pies and sold them to pay for the shipping.  Thus...Pies For Eyes!

While we are waiting for the glasses to arrive, we have teachers in the primary schools, and high school identifying kids who need glasses.  We are also going to the library and churches to identify adults.  In addition we are going to have an optomotrist travel to Tchekpo from Lome, to help us determine a way to most accurately fit the right glasses to the right person.

I will be posting pictures and information about how this gift will help the people of Tchekpo when we start distributing the glasses.

This is an amazing response!  Many people in Tchekpo know that we are doing this, and they frequently ask me about it.

My sincere thanks to Pat Kaufman, Shawnee Mission East High School and to the many friends and acquaintances who took the time and trouble from their busy schedules to respond to this need.

And...thanks again for helping the People of Tchekpo see the world and Americans more clearly.


It’s funny how things work out, how things seem to fall in place, how solutions to difficult questions and issues often present themselves almost effortlessly if you don’t panic or stress or perhaps you just know(because you’ve lived longer than anyone who surrounds you) from experience the solution will eventually be evident.

At any rate..there’s not much I sweat about. I know if I keep working towards a goal, all the barriers will eventually be busted through in one way or another. Things will work out.

And so it has with my biggest challenge…..speaking French.

Language has been my biggest challenge in the Peace Corps. It’s possible learning French has been my biggest challenge, ever. Well certainly it has been the biggest challenge for my brain since long division and percentages. Not just French, but the local language, Ewe, as well.

There were times during my nine weeks of training that I firmly believed my French was better before training than after training. This is not a slight to the excellent formitures (teachers) we had, because they were excellent in every way…knowledge, teaching skills, patience, assessing a persons needs. And, as tit for tat would have it, I believe that I might have been one of their biggest challenges ever. Near the end I think that I was the subject of many discussions.... “what do we do with her?”

PCV’s from my group of 29 came to Togo with a wide variety of language proficiency. Some came having grown up in a bi-lingual family and could go toe to toe with President Sarkozy if necessary. Some came with 4 years of College French, a few had Spanish and no French (they say knowing Spanish makes learning French much easier). I came to Togo with one 5 hour semester of French that I took at the local community college. I finished the class two weeks before I came to Togo, and to my surprise I got a B for the class, which I repeatedly told my dis-believing teachers in Togo. Oh, I deserved the B, for effort alone, but I don’t think I could speak a B’s worth of French. God how I struggled with that class. My version of index cards were large poster boards set all over my house with conjugated verbs, articles, and etra written all over them. My son, Eric, who is a whiz with languages counseled me often. First, bless his heart, he kept saying…you can do it mom. You can do this! He kept telling me to put everything I know about language out of my mind, and just pretend I was learning a language for the first time…like a baby. Uhhhhh. Who can do that? A baby, maybe. I understood the concept he was trying to get across, and some people may have thought emptying my particular mind might not have been that much of a struggle, but I could not empty it, not in that way.

As it turned out the French Class was a great foundation for me to learn the language. At least I had a fairly, fairly good vocabulary. I understood the theory of etra and avoir and the articles, and how they all worked, but I still have a lot of problems with structuring my sentences, conjugating verbs, and pronouncing lias
Da-veed and his future wife, Emily

ons in a way that would be understandable to a French speaking person. I’ve gotten quite used to people laughing (with) me at my attempts, and also in seeing very confused looks on their faces when I say something; which brings me to the subject of Da-veed.

The Peace Corps pays for ongoing language tutoring for PCV’s once they get to village. I have heard that even the best French speakers have a lot of trouble when they get to village, because the French is so different. That gave me a little consolation. It took me six weeks to find just the right tutor in Tchekpo. My next door neighbor, Fidel, is a German teacher at the highschool. He introduced me to Da-veed. I knew as soon as I talked with him that he would be an excellent teacher. I told him I wasn’t a very good student, and he said, “then I will ask God for patience.” Ha!

Da-veed is not only a great tutor for me, he’s a fine young man, and he has become a good friend. He now partners with me on several projects. He is a gifted teacher. He is helping me teach my English Class for adults, and brings a lot of fun, and good teaching techniques into the class. He is having me help teach English to his highschool students, and he’s going to help me form a committee to get aid for one of the primary schools that is badly in need of a building, books and supplies. He tutors me for an hour, twice a week, but he always mixes it with other things, so I don’t feel like I’m in school, and yet, he gives me homework, grades it, and even writes very good (in red) on my papers, only when they are very good. He’s very religious, but not obtrusively so. He says God bless you when he arrives, and when he leaves, and when he says it, I feel like I’ve been blessed. One Sunday he dropped by with his French Bible, and he had me read a parable, Then we discussed it in French. Somehow, he doesn’t make it seem like such a struggle. It just finally clicked!

Several people have said that my French is improving, and I feel that it is. It’s workin out!

By George…..I think she’s GOT IT!!! (My Fair Lady). Almost.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Sunday morning has become my favorite part of the week in Tchekpo.  Sunday has always been my favorite day.  Back home I had a routine of waking early, going to Starbucks for a white chocolate mocha, read the newspaper, watching Meet the Press, and I usually had a weekly telephone chat with Pat and Leanne.  It was my Sunday ritual.

Children I pass on my way to church.
 There is a ritual evolving in Tchekpo.  I still wake early, but now I have a cup of instant coffee with powdered milk, eat oatmeal, get dressed up in my very best African Complait and set out for the mile walk to the St. Stephens Catholic Church.  The walk is beautiful and serene, through narrow winding dirt roads lined with African flowers and foliage.  I pass huts with thatched roofs, children playing and neighbors visiting with each other.  I also pass a couple other churches along my way, some with services already in progress.  I hear singing and occasionally what sounds like an evangelical preacher warning his tiny flock of the perils of sin.  The churches I pass are small one room  
Not my church, but a church along the way.
buildings with only wooden benches, but they are so picturesque, in their secluded African setting.  Before I get to the Catholic Church I veer off of the path and walk through a wide open field.   The field is bright green.  Wildflowers and butterflies are sprinkled all about.

Finally I reach the open doors of what I now call my church in Tchekpo.  The church sits down in a valley, with many huge trees. I’m never quite sure when church will start.  It’s different every Sunday.  The priest from the neighboring village of Ahepe, comes to Tchekpo to say mass.  He then returns to Ahepe to say Mass. My neighbor or Moses, or both stop by my house on Saturday night and tell me what time church will be on Sunday.  By the time I arrive, there are already people gathered in a myriad of clusters outside of the church.  Some clusters are praying, some are obviously in a meeting of sorts. Many are just little groups of villagers visiting with each other.  At the entrance of the valley that leads to the church there is always food being prepared by a group of women.  The women are cooking rice or porridge over a wood fire in big caldrons, and there is fresh fruit; bananas, pineapple, oranges, mangoes.  In another area, to the side of the church, the choir is practicing their songs for the days service.  The most beautiful music I’ve ever heard sets the mood to celebrate.  Just for a few hours this African village experiences hope and sense of community.  They are so poor in all material ways, but their Sunday Church is rich with color and music and laughter and faith in God.   Everyone is happy on this day.  The sun is shining, kids are laughing and playing, mothers are carrying their sleeping babies in papooses on their backs and there is a large circle of teenagers dancing and singing.  As poor as they are, they are all dressed in stunning, crisp, clean, colorful African complaits, the women wearing coordinating head dresses.  I’m filled with happiness and contentment when I experience this scene.  I savor it.   It’s also the time that I contemplate the fact that often….people seem more joyous here than at home, and then for a fleeting moment (because that’s all I make time for) I question the meaning of life, and I think the world is topsy-turvy, and I think about them all yearning to come to the United States.  I wish that they knew that they are as happy, maybe happier than the people I see in the States.   They are not content though. There are too many of them who are hungry, and sick and dying.

St. Stephens Catholic Church

The church is modest, the roof peaks out in the front.  Inside the church is filled with wooden benches, and has a concrete floor.  There are no windows per se.  In place of windows there is a graphically pleasing pattern of openings along the walls in the shape of crosses that let the breeze flow in.  Africans must have discovered a form of airflow dynamics out of necessity.  In the few buildings they have, instead of large windows, they are built with small openings, strategically positioned.  It’s as if the breeze pushes its way through these openings and creates a natural wind path.  It’s an unexpected reprise from the African heat.  A cool breeze inside, when there seems to be no air moving outside.  The openings also allow for natural light to filter in.  Rays of lights going this way and that way.  Upon entering the church you see the altar at the front.  There is a stature of Mary on the right side of the altar, and a rough lecturn on the left.  The room is painted in pretty, bright colors.  The colors of the church and rays of light mixed with the colors of all the African fabric people are wearing is a sensory delight.

On this Sunday, when I entered the church I saw a group of ten to twelve women.  They had moved the benches to form a circle.  It was early; about an hour before mass was to begin.  There were a few people sprinkled about sitting on benches in quiet contemplation or prayer.  The women who had formed the circle had a table in the center with a white cloth over it.  A Statue of Mary, flowers and two candles were on the table.  One woman would speak in a rhythmic cadence and the other women responded in unison as if it were a response to a prayer, and then there was silence.  Their heads were bowed and their eyes were closed.  Outside the choir was still practicing in melodic  African harmony.  Their singing needed no instruments.  It is that beautiful.  Suddenly there was a loud bell.  I caught a glimpse through the window openings of a women walking through the church yard with a cymbal and a metal stick.  A loud, echoing, clanging of the cymbal signaling to the whole village that it was time for church.  All the people who had been lingering outside now began to spill into the church.  The women in the circle ended their prayer group, dismantled the altar, and moved the benches back to their original positions.

At 8:15 I could see a procession of people lining up outside of the church.  There were three tom-tom drums and drummers.  Moses is one of the drummers.  There is also a small, tinney sounding, silver instrument  about the size of the palm of your hand, shaped like a canoe.   It’s like a tiny cymbal, but is hollow.  It has a very African sound that compliments the drums.  The choir outside began singing,  and moving into the church.  Llittle by little everyone inside was singing  the same song.  African voices and musical instruments filled the church in harmony.  As the choir processions in, they are swaying and moving to the music, and so is the rest of the congregation.  Swaying, and kind of dancing, and clapping their hands to the beat.  First the altar boys enter, carrying a cross, then the choir; next, a teenage girl balancing a bowl of smoking incense on her head, and finally the priest.

I am intrigued with and enjoy watching the children who are in this church.  The small, under seven years of age children.  They are always so well behaved, not squirming around.   They appear confident, and secure.  I’m not sure why that is my impression.  What makes them seem different than children I see in American churches.  I guess it’s the way they carry themselves.  They are not shy, they stand up very straight, they sway with the music, and they look me right in the eye.  They don’t appear to be confined to a pew.  Sometimes they just get up and walk around, and look at everyone and everything.  They are as cute as they can be, all dressed up.   Very, very rarely do you hear a  baby cry…anywhere, not just in church.  The phenomena of the quiet, sleeping babies will be explored in another blog.

After the choir has taken the front row seats, and the music stops, mass begins.  The mass has the same structure and formalities as a catholic mass in the States.  The music is different, and the Offertory and Offering of Peace are different.  During the Offertory there is yet another procession, people walk, dance and sing up the aisle with large bowls of a variety of food on their heads.  Kassaba’s, fruit, rice.  After church this food is distributed to people who don’t have enough food.  The offering of Peace is lovely, and lengthy.  While the choir is singing; men, women and children get out of their pews, and make their way around the church, bowing to each other  and warmly taking  each others hand, wishing them well.

The priest is lovely.  He gives the sermon in Ewe, so I unfortunately can’t understand what he’s saying, but he comes down from the altar and walks the aisles while he is preaching.  He interacts with the congregation, asking them questions.  They often laugh at something he’s said.   I’ve been impressed that he seems to wear a perpetual smile.  He looks happy to be doing what he’s doing.  He radiates.

On my second visit to the church I was introduced to the congregation by the priest and asked to say a few words.  I gave an Ewe (local language) greeting, which they all appreciated, and said 'unconn-nya Adoowah'…which means my name is Adoowah in Ewe.  That name was given to me by the people in Tchekpo because I was born on a Monday.  I was not prepared to speak to the congregation, and didn’t really know what to say.  Moses was by my side and translated.  I told them that I was raised a Catholic, and that my uncle was a priest. I told them I was very happy to be here, and that they have a lovely church.  Moses whispered in my ear that I needed to give them some advice.  I looked at him astonished.  Advice??!!??  He said yes, “they want advice.”  I was speechless for what seemed like a long time, and then I said, “I don’t really have any advice for you right now.  I think I will learn more from you, than you will learn from me, but maybe with the help of God we can do things together to help the community.”  They seemed happy and surprised that I could learn more from them, than they could learn from me.   I believe this to be true.

I have felt welcomed in such a warm, genuine way throughout Tchekpo, but never so much as I do on Sundays, when I go to St. Stephens Catholic Church.  My faith is renewed.  Father Dougherty would be pleased.