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We left Lome and travelled along the well-maintained highway for quite some time, still slightly shocked by the sights and sounds of Africa. People on the roadside mostly stared as we passed. The odd one waved or shouted a jovial “bonsoir”.
The girls watched for a bit before settling into their seats for the car ride. Randy and I just watched and took it all in. There were ladies carrying a myriad of things on their heads; water, firewood, or food, many of them with babies strapped to their backs. Kids of all ages played barefoot on the side of the road. The street was lined with many “front-porch” businesses that were filled with everything from furniture, to tires, to clothes. We were definitely in Africa.
After about an hour we turned off the paved highway onto a dirt road. We bumped along while our guide and driver waved and greeted everyone we passed. Pulling to a stop at a small roadside stand, we picked up drinking water for the next three days and some cookies for the girls.
We were hot, sweaty, and I was starting to feel ill! I was hoping it was just the heat and the car-ride. We made our way down the last stretch of road to Isaac, our guide’s village – Davedi.
We had arrived for our village stay in West Africa.
On our arrival it didn’t take long for word to spread that there were Yovos (white people) in the village. Soon all the children were coming by to check us out. They were especially fascinated with the girls.
According to Isaac, the children usually come for a short visit then leave. However, since we had kids with us they pretty much stayed the whole time! The girls were a bit wary of all the attention, at first. Once the novelty wore off they relaxed a bit. It didn’t take long before Calais had given out all the cookies, and they had pulled out their toys to share. They played marbles, made up games in the dirt, and showed the village children how to play Lego. Lego was the biggest hit by far. The kids would sped hours playing with our two little travel packs of Lego, and they’d only stop because it got too dark to see. If you’re ever stuffing a shoe-box, a small Lego pack would be a great addition!
Isaac explained to us that many of the children visiting were related to him.
Isaac’s father had 10 wives and 28 children, with lots of grand-children and great-grand-children. Many of them still lived in the village and frequently stopped by to visit or help out. Polygamy isn’t as common as it used to be, but some men still have two wives. Apparently this really only happens when the man doesn’t like the attitude of his first wife. He’ll choose to take a second wife just to spite the first. Typically, the wives don’t get along and will often live in separate houses or even separate villages. It’s definitely not like Sister Wives!!
By the first evening Randy still wasn’t feeling very well. I decided it was time for antibiotics as it had been well over 48 hours since he got sick. He started on the Cipro and went to bed. The girls and I went for a small tour of the village.
There’s no electricity or running water in Davedi.
The neighbouring village has electricity, but so far it’s been too expensive to bring the short distance down the road to Davedi. There’s a water treatment plant nearby that pumps water to a tap in the center of town. Any time we walked past there was someone filling up a bucket of water on their head to fill the small cisterns buried in their yard.
We had two water containers in the yard. One was by the bathroom and one by the kitchen. They were each filled at least once a day. It would take three bucket-loads to adequately fill one of the cisterns and it was about a 1km one-way trip to the water tap. That’s a lot of trips back and forth, in the heat, with a heavy load on top of the head. It made me very thankful that all I have to do is turn on one of the multiple taps in my house and I have potable water.
We didn’t drink the water in the village, but the villagers drink it without a problem.
There’s a very specific bucket system for the water. The only thing that gets dunked into the clean water is one small bucket. It’s then used to fill a larger bucket beside the cistern. Water is poured from that bucket into whichever bucket you’re going to use; shower or cooking. This series of steps helps to avoid contaminating the initial water source, keeping it clean and drinkable (for the villagers).
The girls had a blast filling up the water container for our bucket shower!
The water jug is half-buried in the ground to help keep it cool. This meant that the bucket showers were a bit chilly. It was lovely and refreshing as the days were so hot, but it didn’t last long! By the time I had dried off and changed I was usually already sweating again.
By the second morning the Cipro had kicked in and Randy was starting to feel better. I, however, had been up a few times in the middle of the night and my stomach was in knots. I didn’t wait 48 hours and started myself on the antibiotics right away. Randy had the luxury of air conditioning and a normal toilet in our hotel in Lome for his first 48 hours of being sick. I didn’t have that same luxury so I wasn’t wasting any time! I went back to bed and tried to sleep in the heat, and Randy got his tour of town. Amazingly, neither of the girls got sick. They ate and drank all the same things we did. They must just have stronger stomachs compared to us!!
Aside from a lack of plumbing and electricity, the village wasn’t a bad place to get sick.
We had a couple relaxed days doing only as much as we were able. The food was also easy on a sick stomach!
Breakfast was bread with jam and “cow cheese” for the girls (which apparently doesn’t need to be refrigerated), and coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Lunch was rice of in-refrigerated leftovers from the night before. Dinner consisted of rice, spaghetti, French fries or couscous and a tomato and green pepper sauce. We didn’t eat meat for three days! (I think Randy was almost going into withdrawals by the time we left).
The villagers will occasionally slaughter a chicken, goat or cow and share with their neighbours, or the whole village, depending on the amount of meat they have. When they slaughter a goat they’ll boil some of the meat to eat the next day. Because of the intense heat and lack of refrigeration, it doesn’t keep longer than that. Meat is definitely a rarity and something we take for granted. I felt a bit guilty, and very lucky, that we often eat meat at all 3 meals during the day.
On our third and final day in the village everyone was finally feeling somewhat back to normal.
We walked to the neighbour’s house in the morning to watch her make brooms that she sells at the market. 5 days a week she sits in the shade and cuts the palm leaves away from the stem, and gathers the stems together to make a broom. She can make about 100 brooms a week! On Friday, she’ll gather what she’s made and bring then to the market in the neighbouring village. She’ll sell them for anywhere from 10 to 50 cents each depending on the size. It’s a lot of work for a little reward but it’s easy to keep her fed and happy.
We learned about the pineapples that are the primary source of income for the village.
And watched Isaac’s sister-in-law teach her grand-daughter how to pound palm nuts to make palm oil.
In the evening we partook in a small ceremony to pay tribute to Isaac’s ancestors since it was November 1, All Saints Day. The girls each lit a candle on his Dad’s grave. Calais was waiting for a grand celebration that never came. It was interesting to be a part of.
We also visited a lady and her twin dolls. Twins are very special in Voodoo/Traditional African Religions.
In Togo, when a twin passes away, a doll is made that is believed to house the spirit of the person. It’s kept by a family member, usually the matriarch, and it’s her job to take care of it. She will wash the doll every evening and “feed” it supper at the table with her. Once the other twin passes, another doll is made with an identical dress and the two are kept together. The twin dolls are then passed on from the grandmother often to her daughter. If there is no one to pass the dolls on to, they will be buried with her.
Multiple times a day we were asked if the girls were twins…I was pretty good at the auto-response “Pas de Jumelle”. It was interesting to see the twin ceremony prior to experiencing the obsession with twins!
It was unfortunate that Randy and I both managed to get sick during our village stay or we would’ve had the opportunity to experience a little bit more. The girls didn’t even try carrying water on their heads! It was still a great glimpse into a different culture and another way of life. It always amazes me at how easily the girls are able to adapt to different situations. I know a lot of people who would have a hard time without electricity or running water, but the girls didn’t really think twice about it. Plus, as long as there’s baby chicks to chase, they’re happy!
Our Village Stay was made possible through Jolinaiko Eco Tours .
Could you do it? Three nights with no electricity, no running water, and no meat?!!?
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