Hi Everyone. This is Brandon. I just returned from visiting Ann and Nathan. I promised Ann that I'd post to report on my experience and perhaps to give you a fresh perspective since Ann has been in Togo for a while now and is no longer surprised by so many of the things that surprised me.
All in all, I had a fantastic trip. It was so special to see Ann and Nathan in their new home and to experience a little taste of what their life is like in Africa. Before I arrived, I didn't really know what to expect, per se, save for the fact that I had read Ann's blog and was terrified of death by cobra or scorpion during my visit. Luckily, no such event came to pass. Indeed, I never even saw either one.
While we're on the topic of unpleasant critters, I'd also read on Ann's blog about the time she ate termites. I feared that this might be on the docket for me seeing as Ann still complains about the soba noodles that she ate when she visited me in Japan. Luckily, though, Ann was not so cruel as to force termites on me and – in fact – I really enjoyed the food. There doesn't seem to be a wide variety of food in Pessare (Ann's village) and it doesn't seem to be overly nourishing, so I can see that cooking/eating could become tiresome/dull. But, for me, the visitor, it was great. It was made even better by the fact that we had dinner with three different families during my visit. The families displayed so much hospitality and kindness. To think that they took the time and money to have us over when they all have large families of their own to feed and care for. It meant so much. I've included a photo of Ann's student making fufu (mushed yams) for us.
Ann and I also had wachee (rice and beans) and porridge made my some ladies who serve their food at the village middle school. The best wachee I had in country was in Ann's village (made by Arriette). Here's a photo of me with the wachee/porridge ladies. I also included a photo of Ann and Arriette. I was forever amazed by the size and weight of the loads that the villagers could carry on their heads. Small children could carry loads that I couldn't even manage in my arms. And, that's not to mention that I can't even balance a book on my head!
By far the most overwhelming and unexpected part of the trip was the heat. I grew up in the South and figured I knew a little something about hot places. But North Carolina heat has nothing on Togo heat, even on the hottest days in August. I got off the chilly Air France plane and felt as though I'd been hit by a tidal wave of hot, humid air. Whew! Luckily, Ann showed me the ropes…stay in the shade, bathe often, nap in the afternoon…and so I got along just fine. I suppose if you're there for long enough, your body must adjust. For me, the visitor, it was HOT!!!
Well, I don't want to write a novel, so I'll wrap it up. Ann and Nathan have a beautiful house (hut compound). They seem to be surrounded by a welcoming and loving community. Their village, Pessare, is really beautiful. On the moto ride from Niamtougou to village the scenery was breathtaking and it was made even better by the Togolese children who waved and smiled as we passed by. Indeed, the moto ride reminded me of why people fall in love with Africa. The rural part, the part that surrounds Ann on all sides, that is what will stick with me.
Thanks Ann and Nathan for being wonderful hosts!