Togo | My Family Travels

              At only fifteen years old, I have been blessed to have visited a good bit of our amazing planet, from Russia and Scandinavia in Northern Europe, to Italy and France in Central Europe, to every country in South America, most of the islands in the Caribbean, and virtually all of North America. I’ve traveled by horse, car, train, ferry, cruise ship, airplane, boat, bicycle, sky tram, and foot. But, as exotic as my experiences have been, the trip that has left the most lasting impression was my visit to Africa. 

 

I had forced sun block, long skirts, and deflated soccer balls into my overflowing suitcase, nervously anticipating what was to be my most daring adventure yet.  After a grueling 24 hours of air travel we finally reached the Togolese airport (although, unfortunately, our luggage did not). Crowding off the plane into one of the most disorganized lines I’d ever seen (yes, worse than Italy!), weaving through airport security (sporting machine guns), we wound our way through the seedy airport and out into the tropical environment of coastal Africa. At the end of this trail we found our host, a grinning Pastor Francis – a tall African man, who not only had the sunniest disposition I’ve ever encountered, but also, as we would later learn, spoke a total of 14 languages fluently, and dabbled in about five more.  If for no other reason, my trip to Africa was worthwhile just to meet this amazing man.

 

Pastor Francis herded us into a dilapidated green van with four rows of leather bench seats (and no seatbelts), for our wild midnight ride (think a New York taxi ride on steroids over bumpy dirt roads) to a gated mission house. We were shown to our rooms, where we collapsed onto air mattresses, the last “real beds” we would see for the duration of our trip. After a short stay in the small town near the capital of Togo, and visits in the villages and with the tribes fairly close by, we packed our bags and traveled into the mountains to reach out to the more secluded areas.  A “short” eight hours drive in the same “luxurious” green van, and only one bathroom break later, I was beyond ecstatic to finally reach the first stop towards our destination where we spent the night sleeping in huts without windows on wet, mildewed mats, draped in mosquito nets and covered in a nearly lethal dose of Deet. The next morning, we left the van behind and walked about a mile over the river with baskets of toys on our heads. We finally reached a remote village where my long brown hair seemed to be a point of fascination for the little girls, as did the fashion magazines I had brought along in my backpack. We distributed our small gifts to the children and then participated in one of the rowdiest games of soccer ever played (making me very glad no one was wearing cleats). I guess that’s how soccer is played in Togo, with joy and complete abandon!

 

While in Togo, we helped build houses, dig wells, bring water from the river for washing clothes and cooking, pass out food to the starving.  In return, we received love, peace, precious memories and grace from the beautiful people of Togo. The simple beauty and quiet majesty of the country and its people were awe-inspiring. My trip to Togo was an adventure and I will forever remember the sights, sounds and people, while looking forward to my next visit to discover more of Africa.

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