Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pies For Eyes

7:30 AM
On Saturday, March 19th we had an Eye Clinic Day in Tchekpo, Togo.  Our little staff of five volunteers saw over 200 people.  We fitted over 130 men, women and children with eyeglasses.  We identified over twenty cases of glaucoma and or cataracts.   People; young and old, lined the halls from 7:30 in the morning  until 5:30 that afternoon.  We examined every single person who came that day.

Pies for Eyes…This project was so named because the kids at Shawnee Mission High School in Prairie Village Kansas, under the direction of SHARE Director (and my good friend) Pat Kaufman  sold pies to pay for the shipment of the over 200 pairs of eyeglasses the  high school collected for the people of Tchekpo.  SHARE is a program that teaches High School kids the importance of volunteering, and matches projects to kids who are interested in volunteering.   The Peace Corps being the ultimate example of volunteerism, Pat thought this would be a good project for her group.

We began the Pies for Eyes project in October.  Over six months ago the wheels were set in motion.   It began with me letting Aloughba (my Tchekpo community partner) use my reading glasses to look up a translation in the dictionary.  She had been frustrated that she couldn’t read the words and then astonished that she could see them so well when she put my glasses on.  I relayed this story to Pat Kaufman and told her that I thought there was a great need for eyeglasses here in Tchekpo.  One sentence, that’s really all it took…..pat wrote back with a plan to collect and ship glasses to us. 

Lt to rt - Rachel, Jon, Mathew, David
All through this project I have encountered people who wanted to help.  I would receive emails from people I didn’t even know who strongly identified with the project because they had dramatically experienced the difference glasses had made in their lives.  There was absolutely no effort on my part to keep this project in motion.  No begging people to help, no recruiting reluctant people.   The project flowed effortlessly.  I myself had many doubts that this could really even work.  There were too many unanswered questions, too many obstacles.  Whenever I would have doubts there would be someone at my side who had no doubts… we would proceed slowly, until eventually all the i’s were dotted and all the t’s were crossed.  Over 200 pairs of glasses had been collected, shipped and had arrived in Tchekpo.  We found a doctor and nurse who would donate their time to measuring and labeling all the glasses.  They also agreed to work and administer the eye clinic day.  We had people collecting lists at churches and schools identifying people who needed glasses.  Aurelia, the Peace Corps Nurse Practitioner in Lome was a big supporter of the project and as busy as her life is, she volunteered her time and energy in working to find technicians to help.   It was the most organized effort I had experienced in Togo, much less Tchekpo. 

Claude - Our Doctor from the Tesvie Hospital

I didn’t anticipate that the Pies for Eyes project would be a huge deal.  I thought maybe if we could help a few people see a little better it would be a good thing.  When Aloughba tried my glasses on that day, I immediately identified with her frustration.  I know how painful it is for me to try to read without my glasses.  I quickly jumped from there to an awareness that there must be so many people here whose life would be a little easier if they could see better.  Pies for Eyes was a little side project that just had an energy of it’s own.  It took me along, instead of me taking it along.  This project didn’t save lives, or eliminate poverty, and suffering.  It was just a little, tiny gift that would make peoples lives easier, happier.  You can almost follow the trajectory path.  Imagine a feather hovering over Aloughbas’s head when she tried on my glasses and could see…..then an idea fluttered to me, and then Pat Kaufman, and then the kids at Shawnee Mission and all the other people who helped collect glasses.  The feather starts to rotate and the energy around it becomes stronger and faster, then back to Tchekpo to the nurse and doctor who immediately said yes they would help.   Back and forth from David who helped organize the day with Mathew the Tchekpo clinic director.  And Rachel...I met Rachel in a Bush Taxi one day on my way to Lome.  On the way we struck up a conversation; cemented a friendship and I had her down for Eye Clinic Day.   "For where two or three are gathered together in my name……."

I am not a student of the bible.  I hold onto a very few passages that strike me as being key to a universal truth.  I also tend to give them my own interpretation.  One such passage is:  Mathew 18:20  "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them"  (King James version)  I will occasionally ponder this passage.  I innately believe this philosophy as being true and logical, interpreting it as meaning there is a force of energy that can manifest and allow anything to happen when people come together to do something good just for the sake of goodness.  Anything is possible at these times.   Miracles.  But more importantly it is possible to feel the spirit of God at these moments.   To understand the meaning of life, to experience the aha moment, at a level without thoughts.  Just feelings.
Claude, David, Rachel, Dove - The staff

And so it was in Tchekpo, Togo on the day we had our Eye Clinic.  This was a day that I felt an energy swell up in myself and my colleagues through a collective and pure force of goodwill.  It was more satisfying than any drug, or any amount of money.  It was addictive.  I would want to duplicate the feeling.  My collegues, I know felt the same way.  They each texted or called me, several times after our day had ended,  just to tell me how happy they were, and that they wanted to do this again.  No other explanation was given.  I could feel their joy.

We had done everything we could think of to be ready for our eye clinic day.  Hundreds of people in Tchekpo were ready.   I wasn’t ready though.  The night before, I felt disaster looming.    I wondered if anyone would show up.   I wondered how we would really be able to determine who needed which glasses.  I wondered if and how the doctor had gone through over 200 glasses…measured them and labeled them.   I wondered if he would show up.  I wondered and worried, and worried and wondered.  I just had this feeling that fitting eyeglasses was too much of a science for us to be able to really do this effectively, and I knew by now that both the workers and the potential recipients expectations were very high.   I didn’t sleep very well the night before, and when I woke up I felt a kind of foreboding.  That feeling completely went away when I entered the Tchekpo clinic.

Even the Chief and his Wife got new glasses!
The Doctor was scheduled to arrive at 9:00am.  We had told people who wanted glasses to start coming at 8:00am.   When I arrived at 7:30am there were over a hundred people waiting, quietly, patiently, expectantly.  Adjowa, they said to me…Adooooooowahhhh is how they say it.  They always say my name with a little sense of humor to it.  Kids and adults alike.  Adoooooowahhhhhh.  Their eyes met my eyes as I walked down the hall.   I stopped occasionally to shake the hand of someone I knew.  I went into the examination room and greeted Mathew, the Clinic director.  Mathew is a very serious young man who cares deeply about his clinic and about the health and welfare of the people of Tchekpo.  Adoooooowahhhhh he said shaking my hand and smiling.  Adjowa, this is a great day!  The Chief and his wife came early, and greeted many of the people waiting.  They were excited and set an example by having an exam and getting glasses for themselves.  The Chief was visibly happy about this event.  I have seen over time how much he really cares about the people of Tchekpo.

All day long..person after person would come into the room where we gave the eye exams.  Dove wrote down the name of each person we examined.  Rachel, the nurse would ask a series of questions to determine which eye exam to give them…and Claude the Doctor would proceed to give an eye exam.  After we found the best match of glasses Dove would then record the strength of the glasses we had given out, next to their name.  We started the day with a little twelve year old girl; Leah.  Leah lives around the corner from me.  She is the daughter of a Gendarme (policeman).  He and his wife have three children and they are such a sweet family.  Her father told me on numerous occasions that his daughter was having a lot of trouble with her eyes, and that she couldn’t study.  They had taken her to a doctor in Lome, had a prescription for some glasses, but could not afford to buy them.  We gave our own eye exam to her.  We were able to match her prescription with some glasses we had collected.  She was our first patient.  She could see.  Her parents were so happy and relieved.  After that; one by one people filed in.  It was so fun to see the look on their faces as they tried on glasses and could see better.  I had thought that the reader glasses would be the easiest to fit and that they would just end up being the most beneficial, but we found that the thick, coke bottle-like glasses were often extremely helpful to really old people who hadn’t been able to see much of anything for maybe decades.  They were the most fun to watch.  We’d do the eye exam and try on a couple really thick glasses and you could just see them being able to see things they hadn’t seen in a very long time.  People left very happy, very excited.

A good days work - the entire staff
I went home near the end of the day and prepared some food for the workers, and brought it back to the clinic.  I sliced bread with peanut butter and honey.  In addition someone had sent me tortilla chips and salsa in a care package.  I had been waiting for the perfect occasion.  This seemed to fit the bill.   We were all ravenously hungry, and ate everything in a few minutes.  They loved the tortilla chips and salsa.  It was quite a treat for them.   We were all in a very good, festive mood.  Exhausted but exhilarated.  We gathered out in front of the clinic for one last picture…..and then to our respective homes to contemplate the days events.

David and Rachel - They worked SO hard

Some moments in life are so beautiful and so pure that the presence of God or the presence of a power greater than ourselves becomes indisputable.  Most, if not all of us have been lucky enough to experience moments like this.  These moments of revelation cannot be planned and seldom do words do them justice.  Rather than a destructive force of a tornado or hurricane this energy comes from  collective action and thoughts of good will.  This day helped us and the people of Tchekpo to see and experience the world a little more clearly.  A collision of unselfish and loving actions that gathers momentum.  It is powerful.  A truly perfect storm, one might say.

My thanks to all the people who helped and were part of this energy.  Especially to Liz DeBacker, Pat Kaufman and the students of Shawnee Mission High School in Prairie Village.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

La Femme Groupement Marche Association

Tesvie Market
This and That About Village Markets
Every Monday (chaque lundi) is market day in Tchekpo.  Each village has a specific market day and each market sells a little bit of everything, but each village has a specialty.  Tesvie’s market is on Friday’s.  It’s one of the biggest in the prefecture (county.)  Tesvie has everything.  The market is huge, and people come from far away to buy and to sell.  Tesvie’s specialty is it’s bread.  They have sucra (sweet) bread and salle (salt) bread.  I love their bread.  My preference is Salle bread.  I buy at least two loaves a week.  I usually don’t buy my bread at the market.  I almost always buy it from a vendor on the main road as I’m leaving Tesvie.  The woman I buy my bread from is a big, robust, friendly woman.  She knows me now.  It’s a pleasureable moment when I see her.  She smiles and her eyes light up when she sees me coming.  Just for me, she pulls the loaves from under the table.  Under the table is where the freshest bread is kept.  Occasionally she will give me a cadou (a
 gift) of a free loaf of bread.  She’ll throw an extra loaf in the sack, look at me and smile, and say, "a cadou…for you, mama.”  There are at least twenty or thirty bread sellers along the main road.  They sell to people going to and from Lome.  Practically everyone who travels anywhere in Togo drives on this road.  Probably a hundred bush taxis a day drive by.  The bush taxis are conditioned to slow down at this fork in the road, and five to ten bread vendors charge the taxis….pushing their loaves of bread in every open window.  Most passengers have their money ready to buy.   Friday is the biggest day for the Tesvie bread vendors because of all the people who travel into town to go to the market.

Ahepe is twenty minutes east of Tchekpo.  Ahepe’s market is on Tuesday.  It’s a smaller village and it’s market specialty is fruit and vegetables.  Taglibow, another thirty minutes to the east is a large village, and has a large market.  It has the best Salle bread.  It tastes like sour dough bread from San Francisco.  Taglibow also specializes in batik fabric.  Handmade, tye-dyed.  Beautiful.  Another thing I like to buy in Taglibow is their avocado sandwiches.  It’s street food, but it’s so good.  Basically it’s guacomale on their Salle bread.  There are a half dozen other villages within an hour of Tchekpo…all with different market days and times.  There’s one village (Zafi) that has only a night market on Thursdays. 

Tchekpo Market (selling Piemont)
Tchekpo is best known for it’s palm oil.  It’s made from the cassava plant.  Farmers in Tchekpo grow a lot of cassava.  Every morsel of it is used for something.  It’s a huge potato looking vegetable, about five times bigger than a potato.  Primarily it is used in the making of Sodebe.  The local liquor.  I was told that the Sodebe sold in Tchekpo is the finest liquor in all of Togo, Benin and Ghana.  Well that’s what the people in Tchekpo say.  They export their Sodebe all over Western Africa.  The making of palm oil is a time intensive, completely non-automated, very messy process.  It’s also a bit dangerous when they cook it.  Combustible. The family compound down the road from me had an explosion since I’ve been here. The compound exploded while they were processing the Sodebe.  It flattened the entire compound, leaving the family homeless.  Luckily and miraculously no one was hurt.  Tchekpo also specializes in growing and selling piemont….a very hot and spicy pepper.  You can’t find potatoes or vegetables in Tchekpo though.  I have to go to either Tesvie or Taglibow for those.

The Weekly Gathering
La Femme Marche Groupement Association
There are over seventy-five women in the Womens Group Market Association.  They all sell their products every Monday at the weekly market.   They all have their own little patch of land where they grow their products.  They walk the however many miles to the farm every day and tend to it, then on Mondays they load everything up, bring it to the market, and set up their booths.  Monday’s you see streams of women and children walking to the market carrying a variety of huge items on their heads. I love market day.  It has the feel of a county fair.  The vendors set up early and many sell late into the night by candle light.  It’s especially interesting to walk through at night by the candle light.  People are happy, and busy.  When I go to the market everyone greets me, and they ask me to buy something from them.  They are perfectly fine if I don't.

Every Tuesday morning the women from the women’s market association meet to clean and sweep the market, using palm branches.  Much to their delight, I join them at 6:30 A.M.   I sweep the market with them.  When we get there it’s a mess.  Trash and food and garbage everywhere.   The market is located just off the main road.  The ground is dirt and sand.  It’s bumpy and rocky and rutted.  There are numerous thatched roofs (paillots) that give the vendors some protection from the sun and the heat on market day.  For the Monday morning sweep everyone is working, no one is telling anyone what to do.  No one is complaining about anyone not carrying their load.  Everyone just works.  I sweep the market every week so that the women can get to know me and trust me.  They’re not quite sure why I’m there, but they very much like it that I participate.  The first few times I went to sweep the market they refused to give me a palm branch broom.  Now I have my very own broom.  There is a technique…an art to sweeping dirt and sand with a palm branch.  I still don’t have it down.  It has not escaped my notice that someone always follows me and sweeps where I have swept.  They work in unison until the job is done.   I have to say that Tchekpo has the cleanest market of any I’ve been to. After sweeping the market they gather around the table where the President of the Women’s Association is sitting.  They hand her their little accounting books, and she records how much everyone has sold, and how much money they have made.  Then they have a short meeting to discuss any issues.   They are on there way home or to their farms by 8 A.M.

In Togo there are local savings and loan associations called Tontines.  Tontines are banks set up for associations to save money collectively, and to loan money to it’s members when needed.  This Women’s Group Market Association belongs to a tontine.  I go to the tontine meeting every Thursday at 8:30 A.M.  The group is 99% Voodooese, so there are voodoo rituals mixed in with everything they do.  The meeting is held at one of the primary Voodoo Sanctuaries in Tchekpo.  This particular sanctuary is also where people go when they are sick or they go here to perform any rituals or offerings to the gods.  The weekly Tontine meeting  is a smorgasboard of activities.  Many women go through a healing ritual before and during the weekly meeting.  There is a semblance of an altar inside the sanctuary structure.  There is a fountain and plants.  The women who are receiving a healing or a blessing  stop in front of the door to the sanctuary, bow for more than a few seconds, and cross themselves.  A greeting to the gods.  They sit on a stone bench just outside of the sanctuary.  No one from the meeting is paying any attention to the women who file by one by one for their blessing.  They disrobe from the waist up.  The voodoo priest talks to the woman for a few minutes.  I think to find out why she is here.  What does she need? After he’s talked to her for a few minutes he goes in the sanctuary and quietly says a few prayers.  He comes back out holding a primitive small bowl, stands over the woman, chants a few prayers and dabs her with white dots and white squiggly lines on her shoulders and back and neck.  They must have this ritual fairly often because I see men, women and children walking around the village all the time with these white dots and squiggly lines.  I find it very fascinating that voodoo rituals are performed simultaneously during their business meeting. Voodoo is intertwined with everything they do.

The President of the Tontine
The meeting always begins the same way.  The President of the tontine (not the same woman who is president of the association) stands up
 and chants a prayer.   Half singing, half talking.  I like the sound of voodoo chanting.  She’s very dignified.  People come over to her throughout the meeting. They bow to greet her and say a few words.  She emminates intelligence, dignity and respectability.   She has a very quiet and noble demeanor.  Everyone sits on benches, or little stools they have brought with them.  In the middle of the meeting area there is a table which six people sit around.  Two men and the rest women.  This is where the money is collected and officially recorded, and where dues are paid.  It’s all done in Ewe (the local language.)  Every bit of it, so there’s still a lot I don’t understand at depth.  It appears to be extremely well organized, and the money very well accounted for.  One by one, each woman is called to the table.  She hands her book and her money to the money counter.  Two women count the money, and the counters hand some money back to the woman.   Everything is double done.  Double entry accounting, I guess one coul
The Accountants
d say. The money is counted twice, by two different people, both when it is received and when it is given back.  The amount is entered by one man and double checked by the other man.  The women who count the money have several different small clear plastic bags of money they are working with.  They also have a bucket of money under the table.  Part of what I can’t figure out is that I don’t know how they determine how much the woman gives to the association, and how much she keeps, and I’m still not sure how they decide what to do with the money that goes into the association, but they all seem quite satisfied with the way it works.   Eventually I will learn the entire process. 
The Beauty Shop

Selling Cocoa Nuts
Tontine Social Hours
The meeting is every bit a social couple hours as it is a business meeting.  There is a bucket of water in the middle for anyone who is thirsty.  There is always a woman selling cocoa nuts. Almost everyone has one or two.  The cocoa nuts appear to be part of the ritual.  I think possibly the cocoa nuts have the capability of putting everyone in a festive mood…..a burst of energy.  There is a woman just outside the perimeter of the meeting, and she works on half a dozen womens hair during the meeting.  Braiding, coloring.  Their hair-do’s are an art in itself.  I find myself not only studying the intricate hair styles, but being in awe of how they so quickly and artistically do it.  A few women bring snacks to sell.  Clacko is my favorite.  It tastes like hush puppies and is served with spicy hot sauce.  And then there is a woman who gives pedicures.  I kid you not.  She sits on a tiny little stool at the women’s feet, moving the stool from person to person as she completes each one.  She has a very professional, mobile nail polish rack.  The rack works very efficiently for the woman.  It’s kind of like a stacked/layered lazy susan.  She has at least a hundred different colors.  On the top layer there is a bowl with cotton and something like nail polish remover.  She’s very quick, and can easily do a dozen womens toes in an hour.  It costs one cent to have your nails done, which is less than an American dollar.  I have mine done.  She doesn’t just do one color, she usually adds a couple colors and a little design.  It’s really quite artistic, and quite innovative.  The women love it.  She also cleans the toenails well, and cuts the cuticles.  Isn’t that something??  All of this variety and activity at their business meeting.   Talk about multi-tasking!  I think this business model has merit!
Pedicures of course (my feet)
There is one woman who comes to every meeting.  I’ve never seen her at the market.  I think she must be a voodoo priestess.  She dresses in a deep raspberry colored cotton dress that is wrapped around, shoulders bare.  On each arm she has the same color twine bracelets wrapped around her upper arms.  She has closely cropped hair.  She’s very beautiful.  Her dress and her arm bracelets would be a hit on any chic Hollywood starlet.  She seems much more serious than the rest of the women.  At one meeting I was taking notes, and she sent someone over to tell me that I could not.  After weeks of gaining their trust, I was allowed to take photos of the meeting.  She again sent someone over and I was told that she was not to be photographed.  Aloughba told me it had something to do with a voodoo superstition that photographs violate the soul.  I’d like to learn more about this woman.

I’ve had some poignant moments sweeping the market and attending the tontine meetings.  For lack of a better word, it feels like a spiritual moment sometimes, or raw truth.  There is a collective contentment that can’t be suppressed, and possibly may even be enhanced by the poverty and hunger they experience.   It impacts and impresses me the way they work and play together. I sit and I watch, and participate when I can.  There is a rhythm and beauty in how they work together towards one goal.  It’s very Walden-ish….their world.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I went to my first African soccer match last week.  Well, actually it was my first soccer match ever.  Except for the notoriety of David and  Victoria Beckham….I don’t have a clue about soccer. 

The Tchekpo Lycee (high school) was playing Taglibow Lycee.  I’d been hearing teachers and students talking about this match for weeks.  I’d been wanting to see a game.  Tchekpo and Taglibow are about thirty miles apart, and they appear to have a friendly yet fierce competition with each other both scholastically and in sports.  I likened it to a game between K.U. and Kansas State.  This game was the championship for the entire Yoto prefecture (county.)

I arrived at the school about 1pm on Friday.  When I showed interest in going to the game, I was invited to go and invited to ride down on the student buses.  The student buses being a caravan of bush taxis, bursting to the seams with hyper, sweating, excited teenagers.  When I arrived at the school kids were gathered around in various groups, waiting for the taxis to arrive.  The team was sitting in a circle under some trees, seemingly having  some sort of team meeting.   I’m used to seeing the kids in their uniforms, which is khaki colored skirts and trousers and white shirts.  I see them around the village, but they don’t dress up, and kind of blend in with everyone else.  For this game though, they dressed to the nines!  The girls and the boys showed their teenage individuality, and there was definitely a good attempt at western hip-hop influence with low riding jeans and big shirts, hats sunglasses.  The kids were playful, excited and enthusiastic. 

The Hip Hop Cheering Section
It became known in Tchekpo a few weeks ago that I could “wolf” whistle.   This whistle is non-existent in Togo, so the first time I did it in my English class, they were amazed at my talent.  They wooped and hollered, and many have come up to me and ask me to teach them how to do it.  They really had never heard anyone whistle this way.  My sister Jody taught me to wolf whistle.  I remember it well.  For weeks, one summer when we were teenagers, we would sit on the porch steps, and she worked, and worked and worked with me.  She had infinite patience with me (one of the only times.)  I remember the first time it worked.  The first time I whistled.  It was a real accomplishment.  I think I went around the rest of the summer whistling at everything that was whistle appropriate, and I’m sure many things that were whistle inappropriate.   I was often a valued member of the audience for my kids, and nieces and nephews, plays and sport activities because of my whistle, and while my kids sometimes begged me beforehand not to, I did it anyway.  I couldn’t help myself.  It was my way of letting them know I was there, and I was proud.  After a performance or an event, I would go up to them and ask them if they heard me whistle.  They would roll their eyes and say godddddd yes!  So now the Tchekpo highschool kids want me to whistle all the time.  A little bit of Americana hoopla!  When I arrived at the school Mr. Tomekin one of the teachers took me over to where the team was meeting.  He told me on the way over that he was going to give a little pep talk, and then he wanted me to whistle.  He did, and I did!  God, it’s so easy to impress people here.  They yelled and hollered and loved it.  At the game I was commissioned to stand with the little unofficial pep club and to whistle on cue whenever Tchekpo made a good play.

It was just plain fun to ride with the kids to Taglibow.  It would be difficult to distinguish any differences between them and American teenagers getting ready for “the big game” with their biggest competition.  There were fight songs, and laughter, and joking around, and flirting between the boys and the girls.
We arrived at the soccer field in Taglibow.   They have a little grandstand, that looks like it was built a  hundred years ago.  The field has ‘some’ grass.  It’s hard to find any grass in Togo.  Tchekpo doesn’t have a soccer field, so they have to play all their games away.  Last night I dreamt that Yoko Ono read my blog and donated a soccer field to the Tchekpo Lycee.  Where did that come from???  So Yoko…if you are listening,  Johns song, Imagine, is a constant inspiration to me.  Picture this…the John Lennon Soccer Field in Tchekpo West Africa, dedicated to all the “dreamers” out there!  Yoko?  Yoko?

The Tchekpo Team and Principal
Back to the game….The game was great.  Very professional.  There must have been at least 1000 very enthusiastic spectators.  After the stands were filled, people stood shoulder to shoulder around the entire filed.  Tchekpo held it’s own up to half time.  That’s really good considering Tchekpo is half the size of Taglibow.  Taglibow players looked a little more polished, a little more sophisticated in their green uniforms, and they ALL had matching socks.  Tchekpo had nice uniforms, but the team didn’t have matching socks.

There were vendors set up selling
The Pep Club after a great play
food and drink, and everyone was in a very festive, happy mood.  There was very friendly rivalry between the teachers for Taglibow and the teachers for Tchekpo.  They sat next to each other in the stands, and joked and elbowed each other.   There was even halftime entertainment, and entertainment everytime a good play was made by either team.  There were several kids dressed up in crazy outfits, which I’m sure signified something, but I didn’t know what.  Everytime there was a break in the game, these kids would parade in front of the stands, and around the perimeter of the field, and they would incite the crowd to laughter and frenzy.  There were also the horns.  The horns that you hear during the World Cup.  Both schools had them, and they would blow them long and loud after a good play.

There were several injuries during the game, at which time medics would run onto the field with a makeshift gurney, and carry the player off to resounding applause.   During halftime the teams went to their designated corners.  Taglibow was ahead, but not by much.  The Tchekpo team was sitting in a circle on the ground looking tired and dejected, most with their heads hung low, and arms curled around their knees.  Two coaches were yelling at them simultaneously, supposedly trying to inspire them, to give them hope that they could rally, that they could DO THIS.  “DU COURAGE!!!”  (YOU CAN DO THIS!)
The award ceremony

In the end, Taglibow won.  Dammmmm I wanted Tchekpo to win.  Immediately after the game the two teams lined up and shook each others hands with the Togolese handshake…which entails a snap of the pointer finger after the handshake.  They then had an award ceremony.  Taglibow was presented with a nice trophy.  Tchekpo spectators and team were very good sports.  They applauded a game well played.

After the game we all walked up to the main road and waited for our bush taxis.  We waited, and waited and waited.  An hour and half after the game our bush taxis finally rolled up to get us.  By this time there were a few men who had a little bit too much to drink.  They climbed on top of one of the bush taxis and proceeded to ride home in the open air.  I wondered if they would make it.  We squeezed into the bush taxis and rode home.  The taxi was much more quiet than the trip down.  The driver had the local Taglibow radio station on (there’s no radio station in Tchekpo.)  The announcer talked about the game, and the kids were excited about that, and became energetic again.  We left for the game at 1pm and we got back to Tchekpo around 9pm.  A long day for everyone. 

It was a fun day.  I couldn’t really detect any differences between this game and a championship game for any sport in America.  It made me think of Nelson Mandela and how he knew that South Africa winning the World Cup could inspire the nation and the world.  And it did.  And this game…though Tchekpo lost, brought the kids and adults of Taglibow and Tchekpo together.  It inspired the kids, It inspired the two villages, and it inspired me.  Rock Chalk Tchekpo!