It is our 8th day here in Togo, and we have already made our way north to the city of Kara (by way of several less than comfortable van rides).
We began in the capital city of Lome where we visited several UN offices to get an idea of what their work looks like here. A fellow Juniata alum from Cameroon was the director of the UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament some years back. We spent some hours reading in the Center's library and spoke with UN staff. In general, the office deals with arms control throughout Africa on a political level. We also spoke with a World Health Organization project manager and learned that their focus is on remedying the malnutrition of children. We are planning to visit some of their projects on the ground in the north.
From Lome we traveled to Kpalime, a small city in an area known for its mountains. We spent a day hiking with a botanical guide around Kluto, who showed us coffee trees, coco trees (that produce the beans we make chocoalte from), mango and avocado trees... and most interestingly a carnivorous plant that upon touching it with your finger closes its leaves to catch the presumed bug that has just landed on it. We luckily found shelter in our guide's village just before a tremendous rain strom came through, with lightening that was red (at least thats how I saw it) and thunder louder than any we had heard before. After nearly two hours of solid downpour, and thinking we may have to spend the night in the village, a taxi came driving through despite the rain and brought us back to the bottom of the mountain.
We also hiked up Mt.Agou- Togo's highest point at 986 meters. It was a five hour journey to the top and back, through dense forest, corn fields planted on a steep incline, two mountainside villages, and under the shade of the large banana tree branches. The view from the top was mediocre, but the view from the highest village is one to appreciate. We walked on narrow paths, past mud brick homes built on terraces, up and down steep inclines that would quickly get anyone in shape. Our legs were trembling when we finally got to the bottom, and honestly my calves are still a bit tender.
We then made our way here to Kara by way of one night in Atakpame. Here we were very warmly greeted by the family of a Togolese friend of Ray's from seminary. We spent the day visiting the Tamberman villages (I may be spelling this wrong). They are a people who still live in a remote part of the mountainous countryside of the North in homes constructed uniquely of materials they find around them. Their homes are small fortresses with multiple levels, traditionally built in a particular way to defend against intruders or dangerous animals (which have all been killed off at this point anyway).
We plan to be here through Sunday before we move on north to the city of Dapaong.