Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Small Vacation: All-Vol, Togo, Deng Festival

So recently in my life I did some traveling "small small" as we would say in Ghana. So I'd like to share. Since about Thanksgiving my friend Derek and I have been talking about going to Togo and finally, Derek being assertive and probably annoyed of our hypothetical plans said, "Pick a date and lets go. Lets stop talking about it and just go!" So that is just what we did. We took offical vacation and planned to go to Togo. We would go to Togo right after our All Volunteers conference in the Volta Region.

First of all All Vol was great. Literally ALL of the Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana got together in a city called Ho (at a hotel with yeah, a POOL!) to share projects, ideas, learn more about HIV/AIDS and to well...socalize. Because lets face it we all become a little isolated and lonley so its nice to relate to your fellow volunteers. But, it was sort of overwhelming being around so many white people. So, I could talk about the long workshops during the days and all the magical things we learned but I'd rather mention the night time activties planned by volunteers.

We had a Texas Hold Em night. Thanks to my InCyte crew back in Spokane and playing poker everyday I feel my poker skills are average to intermediate but sadly I lost Derek's 5 Ghana Cedis that he was so nice to lend to me. Sorry Derek!

There was also a Peace Corps Prom. Which was probably the best prom I've ever been to. Fantastic! Minus the fact that being next to a pool gets you thrown in no matter what you're wearing. Derek was my prom date. He may be one of the best dancers in Peace Corps (photo as evidence). We danced til...we were pushed in the pool.

We also had a Peace Corps Talent Show because we are all such talented individuals. Singing, dancing, acting, more singing, and even some synchronized swimming! And then naturally everyone was thrown in the pool. We're not used to pools so it was exciting to say the least.

After the craziness of All Vol Derek and I added a member to our Togo trip, Lawyer Liz (a very important member) and we headed to the land of "Travail, Liberte, Partrie"! So with my sort of French skills, Derek's Ewe (the local language in his region and in Southern Togo), and Liz's math skills and ability to keep track of all our money we made a good trio.

So we had 6 goals when we went to Togo:
1. Wine
2. Baguettes
3. Cheese
4. Cascade
5. Coffee
6. Croissants

This was not a pleasure seeking trip at all, no. In our defense we eat large quantities of startch and drink box wine in Ghana so it was time for some luxe (That's French for luxury)! Well I am proud to say we completed ALL of our goals, going a little crazy on numbers 1 and 2. This was actually the only plan we had for Togo which ended up being a great plan. Because we always won. I think this pizzeria we went to left us not knowing how to act. We're used to eating fufu with our hands out of a communal bowl and now we had to taste wine (honestly we had a hard time not chugging it) and eat hour d'oeuvres. Colonisation faults aside the French brought some beautiful things to Togo. Observe the cheese here----->

We decided our second day in Togo to go to Kpalime which is about an hour North of Lome to see some waterfalls another volunteer told me about. Using my incredible French I got us directions to the station and somehow we got to Kpalime in a tro with a small girl screaming the entire hour. I didn't know someone could scream without even taking a breath but I think we loved Kpalime just because we got away from the screaming child. The path to the waterfalls was incredible through winding roads up mountains and after a short hike we swam in some of the most refreshing water.

After an incredible time at the waterfalls we got back to the hotel and realized...we don't have our key...mother*#$! You would think, "Oh, it happens no big deal" but when the owner of your hotel is a stereotypical old French man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and you're young Americans who he hasn't been that fond of anyway AND you're the only one in your group that knows any French you have to get yelled at in French by the angry French man. Brought me back to high school French class. "Monsieur, Nous avons une probleme. Nous pardons le cle..." Then "YELLING IN FRENCH!!!" Then he changed the lock and yelled, "VOILA!" So the next night in Togo we went to a nice place on the beach away from all angry French people.

The last part of my small travels involved my return up to Jirapa. I decided to stop at Mat's site, Bole, along with 3 environment volunteers (Casimir, Sam, and Megan-all good company) and check out an annual festival called the Deng Festival in a nearby village Sonya. Going to Mat's site is great because well, he likes to cook. So we had steak sandwiches. I think I like food too much. This village is amazing for a few reasons. All of the houses are connected through their rooftops. So a walking tour on top of everyones homes was something new. Lack of privacy maybe but a really cool communal way of living.

Most of the festival involved dancing, pito, and asking the gods for things for the future by sacrificing a chicken. They slit the chicken's neck and depending on how the dead chicken falls determines your prophecy. Head up, to the side, face down (that one is not good). Mat and Casimir almost bought a chicken to sacrifice but we're poor and getting your future predicted by a dead chicken is kinda pricey. Dancing continued ALL night followed by a rabbit hunt in the morning.

So after the festival I finally made it back to Jirapa and work took over. But the break was so nice and much needed. Nothing like some French influence and time with brilliant, fun, wonderful people to prepare me for setting up a 5k race for 100 people....
To be continued...


  1. I am so happy you didn't sacarfice a chicken to find out about your future. As you know, I'm good at predicting the future and to save a chicken, I'll tell you yours. You have a bright, successful future. Full of honarable friends and favorite aunts. Most importantly, you have a kind heart, since you saved the life of a chicken. Your favortie aunt's chickens thank you and will lay extra eggs in your honor.

    As always - you look beautiful and I'm counting the days until I see you again.

  2. I'm happy too that you did not sacrfice the chicken. I have killed many a chicken in my life & I don't recall which way they fell or if it affected my future. The important part was how they were served at the dinner table & your Grandpa always likes the neck as one of his favorite pieces. Love your pictures and blog entries. Stay well and we love you lots.

  3. I love the list of six things to do while on vacation. Somehow one can't go wrong with bread and wine. Nice to see you in the pictures. Thanks to the individual taking them. Did you coordinate your prom wear? I'm thinking best dressed for African colors--bright! Your hair is gorgeous! How did Mat get steak? I'm hoping that is what it was--beef? Anyway love you lots and even more! Mom

  4. Just like to add a little correction...
    for a limited time only there is one other place I know of to find hippos in Ghana, Bui National Park. A huge dam is being built right now that will soon flood the habitat of a group of about 350 hippos. No plans have been made, as far as I know, to facilitate their relocation. They are on their own to figure it out. Going to see them is a fantastic adventure.