I have seen and experienced so many things it is hard to write about
the trip so here is a very short overview from day 1...
day 1 - Im finally here and Africa welcomed me greatly to say the least!! I flew into the Ghana airport and not knowing any French smiled at the customs man and he waved me right through. A girl who I sat next to on the airplane had her bags checked and some items taken! My parents should be thankful that my bags weren't opened as one was all for them with US food, etc. From the airport we went to the hotel to drop off bags and then headed to the center of town. We ate at Frankies which had hamburgers, pizza, etc as my parents said it was a good way to slowly be introduced to Africa. From there we did some shopping and then went to Savannas hotel right on the beach out of town a ways. The owner Beth is from the US and is opened up an Inn in Ghana. It was a cute place but the mosquitoes got the best of me.
day 2 - We woke up early to see fisherman bringing in boats by hand. It was great to see as the rest of the family had said such great things about watching and some participating in pulling the boats in. From there we went to the Ghana border to meet a Peace Corps driver who took us to Grand Popo, Benin. Entering and leaving African countries is quite an experience in itself. Lots of people hustling around, some selling things on carrying on their heads, some grabbin at you trying to get you in their taxi and some looking at us weirdly and the rest I who knows if they were crossing borders or what. Grand Popo is an old French military base on the beach with a refreshing swimming pool and a relaxing restaurant.
day 3 - We found a ride to take us to Ganvie (a village on stilts). One of the few tourist attractions in this region. We had to take a boat to get there and on the way saw many women and children paddling their boats with items to sell. Each family has 3 boats - 1 for fishing, 1 for the children to get to school and 1 from getting around. We had a motorized boat which many locals looked down upon it
seemed. We were told the locals didn't like it becoming a tourist thing to do. So we respectfully took pictures and didn't say much when the kids begged for money. On the way home the taxi took us to Ouidah. There we drove down the last couple of miles of an old slave route which at the end had a big monument (the point of no return) on the beach. It was the last spot the slaves passed through before loading on a boat to other countries.It is also the heart of Voodou center. From there we went to the Temple of Pythons. They do religious sacrifices and worship the 40 pythons living inside. They took us inside the room which the pythons live and to say the least it was creepy. We were inside a small space with most of the snakes sleeping but my eyes followed every snake that moved and I am happy to get out of there. That night we stayed at the Grand Popo hotel again.
day 4 - We woke up and headed straight back to Togo. We stayed at the nicest hotel in Lome and it had great air conditioning and a great Olympic sized pool. This was my parents 30 wedding anniversary so we spent half the day by the pool and the other shopping in the big market there. We (or Mom and I) had fun bargaining on "rip off row" buying all sorts of fun souvenirs. Since I don't know any french it was fun seeing Mom and Dad in action. I also spent most of the evening and night on their fancy toliet trying to enjoy the joys of international travels. It only lasted a short time and knock on wood I wont get sick again.
day 5 - Mom and Dad had a great/huge breakfast at the hotel while I was still recovering. We did a little more shopping at Jackies and then we bargained for a taxi to take us to my parents house in Atakame at the local taxi gathering. It only took 2 hours which is about an hour faster then ever before. Once we got to my parents house the neighborhood kids came out and carried my luggage on their heads. I feel pretty weak when I see a 6 year old carrying my 60 pound bag on his head up a steep hill. They were more then happy to do this and fought over my bags. Once we were here Mama and Papa came and introduced themselves. (they are the land owners where my parents are staying). Mom and Dad opened all their anniversary cards and decorated the table. A few Lundring tears where shed but all in all it was great to see their excitement and fun reading the cards. (thanks for sending them!)
day 6 - I woke up to the roosters crowing early and headed for a walk around town. We pasted a few schools already in session and many women with their goods for sell. It was a great walk being able to see what my parents have talked about and meet the locals they know who have built them furniture, sold them fabric, etc. The windy season is now over and the weather has become hotter. Many other volunteers stopped by the house to visit and catch up on work. It is great to put names to faces. I also got my first french lesson! Learning another language was never my specialty but it was fun meeting Innocent (their teacher) and learning the basic greetings. Mom and I later today headed into town for some fabric and and for me to see the market and town. On the way back a soccer game had just gotten out so it kinda felt like we were fish headed up stream. Tonight we looked at my parents pictures from their trips and just trying to keep cool.
Overall the food isn't as bad as I expected, the people are great, the kids are very cute and it is great to be with my parents. Sorry this isn't as short as I meant it to be, but even this doesn't come close to all that we or I have experience so far on this trip and its only half over!
Love you all, Claire