It was about 4:00 in the morning when I left home and headed to the Tampa airport to begin my journey to Togo. I flew to New York City with five other people from the Tampa area. We had a long layover in NY so a few of us decided to go to the city. We boarded the subway to Penn Station the came out into the city on a cool autumn day.
There was some sort of festival going on involving Koreans. Seeing all the Koreans in their brightly colored clothing took me back to the late 80's when I lived there for a year.
We were hungry and found a nice little pizza shop around the corner from Time Square. The pizza was very good.
Of course, I had go pose for the obligatory shot in the city.
After the excursion to the city, we rode the subway back to the airport, met the rest of the team, and then left NYC that night on a direct flight to Accra Ghana. We arrived in Accra early Sunday morning Africa time. This photo appears to be taken in the fog, however the lens just fogged up because of the temperature difference from the cool dry airplane to the warm moist air outside.
We had arranged for a bus to carry us to Togo. Here is the bus loaded with our baggage on the roof.
This photo was taken while crossing the Volta River in Ghana. Just up river is the dam that forms the largest man made lake in the world, Lake Volta.
The lines across some of these photos are from the back window of the bus, they will appear in several of the next photos. We drove several hours north and east through Ghana. Once we crossed the Volta river the roads became less traveled.
We stopped to stretch a little and grab a soda in this town. I don't recall the name.
We then headed east, toward Togo. The roads became less and less traveled the further we drove.
We came to the town of Nyive, just up the hill from the small river that separates the countries of Ghana and Togo. Here we had to have our passports stamped showing we left Ghana.
Here are a few shots from there.
Me posing with three local boys.
We drove down the hill, across this bridge and were now in Togo.
We immediately came upon this checkpoint. You can vaguely see a small rope across the road.
I don't know what the real purpose of this checkpoint is, but our driver was from Ghana and spoke English, and of the fifteen of us, none of us spoke any French, which is the official language of Togo. After a few minutes of talking and no-one understanding anything, the guard let down the rope and we were led to the next town by two men on a motorcycle.
Here are a few photos from along that road. It was a good distance to the next town.
We came across another checkpoint, this is actually where you have to stop on the way out of the country, here are a few photos from that stop.
We then drove some more and finally came to the town of Kpadape. This is where we had to get our visas to enter Togo and do all the immigration paperwork for entry. It took nearly two hours. It was all done by hand, writing in a book. There were no computers here.
After finally getting through the border crossing, we drove a short while to the town of Kpalime' .
I was able to catch a few photos before the sun went down.
Monday morning as is usually the case, we loaded up the trucks and drove to the jobsite.
We pulled up to this church, the block neatly stacked on the site of what will be a school building for these kids in just a few short weeks.
Here is a photo of the old classrooms that we are replacing. If you look closely you can see kids sitting at desks inside.
I took a few photos before we started work.
Notice the large lizard in the photo below.
We set up and began working right away.
Kids were all around and watched us work while not in school.
It didn't take long and the building was coming to shape.
Across the street, a woman is sweeping the dirt outside a bamboo shack, while two boys plane a board. Look at the size of that termite mound to the right.
Another woman stops to watch us work.
At lunchtime a few kids play in the schoolyard.
A couple of women walk by with a load of bananas.
While breaking for lunch I took a few more photos of some of the kids, and one with me.
Shortly after lunch, it began to rain, it rained really hard and we took shelter in a storage room. We came out after the storm and worked a little while longer.
Several of the guys went back to the house after work, some of us waited behind because there wasn't enough room in the only small truck we had at the time. The driver was suppose to turn right around and come back to get us, we wound up being there about two hours, so of course I took some more photos.
I think these girls lived in the house next door, they were selling whatever that was in the plastic tub, I think it was some sort of pastry. Look at the smile on the girl to the right.
As the week went on, the building went on, and people came by all week.
Tuesday evening, Ron and I decided to take a walk toward town. As we left our compound, we were immediately met by these two boys. At first they just walked behind us.
As we continued walking, the group of kids became larger. At one point, Ron said "Kevin, were being followed by kids with machetes". Ron is from Germany and had studied a little bit of French in school. We were able to do some basic conversing with the kids. Here is a photo of the larger group.
We walked about a mile into town and then a mile back. We never really made it all the way into town though. This photo was taken at The Blind Center, that is where we were staying.
I don't have any photos from Wednesday, just after leaving the house in the morning, I realized that the batteries in my camera were dead. Wednesday evening we asked Harry (the missionary) if he would drive us to the center of town, he did and Ron and I walked around town a little bit then walked home. It think it was about two miles. Here are some photos from that evening.
Thursday we worked more on the building in the morning..
..then went to the market up the street during lunch.
After lunch we began putting the trusses on the building,
then of course I took more photos of kids.
Do you see the little white bus up the road, the one with all the baggage on the roof. One day while working I saw one similar to it pass, and on the roof in front of all the baggage stood a goat. I wish I'd had my camera ready for that one.
Friday morning, we just had a few more trusses to put up, so while some of the guys did that, a few of us hauled the tools and scaffolding over to the site where the second week's crew would be building another building just like the one we did. Here is Lonnie relaxing in the back of the truck on the ride over.
On the way we passed the slaughterhouse, do you think this cow knew that he was next?
As we arrived back at our construction site, some kids were out cutting the grass. I am told that one day a week, the kids bring their machetes and cut the grass. They also pick up trash around the yard, sweep the floor and who knows what else.
Here is the building as we left it. The second crew will build one just like it, then the third week crew will come in and put in the electricity and a roof on each of the two buildings. In three weeks, there will have been two complete, four room school buildings built and ready for immediate occupancy.
We finished before lunch on Friday and headed back to the house to eat. The Blind Center where we were staying was located at the base of a small mountain. Ron and I had discussed walking up the mountain one day if we had the time and it looked like today was the day. We spoke to Harry about the idea and he told us that there was an old German castle at the top that was vacated during World War II. We decided that we would rent a couple of moto-taxis to take us to the top, then walk down. We asked if anyone else wanted to go and and it turned out, there were four more that liked the idea. Since Harry was about to leave anyway, we asked if he would drive us up and then we would walk down, so he did.
As we arrived near the top, Harry dropped us off at an intersection. There was the road we came up on, two roads that led to Ghana, and one that continued up the mountain. The one going up was roped off to keep out traffic. A man met us there and said he would guide us up to the castle for 2000 franks each, we thought that to be a bit steep, so Jeff asked what it would cost for just two of us, the man said "2000 franks each". I asked if he would take 500 and he said no, so we decided to try to find the place ourselves and began up the road.
The man that offered to guide us followed as did another man. As we came to an intersection in the road, we started to go on what looked like the most traveled road when the guide told us we were going the wrong way. He told us that the castle was in the other direction. We reluctantly followed. In the back of our minds was the thought that the guide was leading us into some sort of ambush since we didn't want to pay his price. We decided to follow anyway. We soon came upon a house on the mountainside. There was a man out on the porch asking us to come in, the guide insisted that we go in also. We wondered, ambush? I looked in the house from outside and saw a bunch of artwork hanging inside. We followed the man inside where he showed us his work. He did what is called Batik. He puts wax on the cloth, the dyes the cloth around the wax to form the images. Here he is showing us how it is done.
We had planned on walking, not buying souvenirs, so we had very little money among us. The work was nice but we didn't buy anything.
We continued up the mountain, all the time the guide was showing us interesting things we wouldn't have noticed on our own. There was a plant that closed it's leaves when you touched it, and another that when put on a black mans arm, and then hit with the palm of a hand, would leave what looked like a painted impression of the plant on the arm. It didn't show too well on us Americans, the skin was to light in color. As we reached the top, this is what I saw.
As it turns out, it seems that the castle was actually a chalet built and occupied by a German Lawyer during WWII. After the war the countries of Ghana and Togo were split up between the British and French. The Chalet was abandoned. In the late 1970's it was renovated and occupied by the then President of Togo as a retreat in the mountains. In the early '80s it was again abandoned and has sat basically untouched since. It still has the 70's furniture and all inside. Here are a few photos from the chalet and of the view from it.
It was about this time that my memory card became full on my camera, the rest of the photos had to be taken with my cell phone.
This, we were told used to be the stable. As you can see it is overgrown with trees.
The guide told us to follow him. He led us into the woods behind the building and again we began wondering what he was up to. We were led down a small path that eventually came out onto the road below.
We walked past this building. According to the sign outside, it was a Baptist Church. This pool of water is the baptistery.
The guide's tag along caught a butterfly.
As we came back out to the main road, it began to rain. We paid the guide a fair price and then Jeff and Ray hailed a cab, (motorcycle) and rode down the mountain, the remaining four of us decided we were going to walk, rain or shine.
We were soaked with rain, but I did get some good shots.
After a few hours of walking, we finally made it back to the house. As it turns out, including the walk to the chalet, the total walk that day was about 8 miles. Four of us walked it, one in cowboy boots and one in sandals (aka African work boots). We're glad we did it.
Early Saturday morning we boarded the bus and headed north to the ABWE Hospital. It is run by missionaries from the US, I think there are three doctors, a maintenance person and many others. Don't quote my numbers. I admire that these guys give up what could be a lucrative career here in the states to serve people that have almost no ability to pay. The don't do it for the money, they do it to serve others. Here are a few photos from the Hospital.
Saturday afternoon we loaded up our luggage and began the trip back to Ghana to catch our flight Sunday morning. As we reach the western edge of Togo, we get out of the bus at the checkpoint and are invited to sit down while they stamp our passports. Again it was very time consuming, so I took some more photos.
Finally we were on the road again, here we are crossing the river Volta in Ghana. You can see the rain in the distance.
We spent the night near the airport in Accra Ghana at the Southern Baptist Guest House.
We flew back to JFK in New York where after arriving on time, we sat on the tarmac for about an hour because Delta Airlines didn't have a gate for us to park at. The unloaded us on those giant people movers. Since they had us delayed so long, my connecting flight had left before I even had a chance to get my luggage off the Ghana plane. The airline was very difficult that night and uncooperative. We had so spend the night in New York then try to get a flight out Monday morning. I finally arrived in Tampa just before noon, got in my car and sped home. From the time we left Kpalime' to when I arrived home was 51 hours. That's by far my longest travel record. It felt good to be home.