Togo to France. Lost in Transmutations

So, I’m still having trouble writing about the termination of my time in togo, but I will start my blog with an update from… Paris!

So, yesterday I arrived in Paris, complete with sandals and the only pair of jeans I’ve owned for the last and the sense of home one created. Of course before leaving I had some interesting mini-adventures.

First, upon arriving to the airport I was in the process of giving Reise a hug goodbye when I was told by a guard that we needed to take our ‘show’ elsewhere. So, typical of some Togolese, who look towards others who modeled power often see those individuals who just abuse it whenever they can, so they do too. The guard, who probably enjoyed the opportunity to tell off the usually more socially ‘powerful’ white individuals (this is more an assumptive set than anything, relating to perceived wealth) did not expect me to totally ignore him. In togo, demonstrations of affection are considered usually inappropriate, but in lome you often see individuals holding hands and even occasionally a kiss. Watching him persist and be entirely ignored, slowly reach the comprehension that these individuals didn’t blindly respect authority and if he wanted me to reduce to a handshake I should’ve better seen some legal basis. Yet, being harassed for hugging was by far the least felonious action that would follow me that night. I got into the airport, 2 am, and I wouldn’t sleep for the next 17 hours ( 38 hours awake in total), but I had extremely helpful and friendly individuals from that point on. Weirdly, I kept getting ask to show my passport, 7-9 different people demanded. I would turn a corner a bored looking individual would ask ‘passport s’il vous plait’ I would show and we would chat for a few minutes and then I would go on my way. Pretty soon, I realized, I was just being stopped because people wanted to talk, nothing to do but sit around in an airport that has maybe 1-2 outgoing flights a day (keep in mind this is the capital of togo). Even when my guitar went through scanning, the agents asked me to open it for them, and thinking that they found it rather suspicious I did. When one agent began to test the strings and the other agent began pestering me to play for them, I began to feel rather weird. This was fast becoming a very strange airport experience. Well, I squeezed away from the musically deprived custom agents and continued on to my gate. I was sitting down, when another customs agent comes and sits by me. He asks me what I did, where I was going, ask for my contact info, so I gave him my email that doesn’t work and ask for his. His sat for a few minutes absorbing my address into his head and then asked me if I was in business. Curious, I said yes. He asked me then if we could do business together. If I had things that I needed sent through, if he could send me things from togo. Very quickly it became clear that he was inviting me to smuggle with him. I don’t enjoy customs, but the the occasions where I have 4 pounds of cocaine and need to sneak it by are incredibly rare. Yet, it certainly would have been handy to have before I boarded, I had at least 12 people ask me to take them to the united states and they were perfectly content to rest in my baggage. I could have started selling duffel bag space at premium prices! Well, I thanked the agent for his interest and then asked him to send my an email. I was assured before I left that our ‘partnership’ was extremely common… Somehow, I really don’t doubt it.

Then on the plane flight to Ghana I had the lucky chance to sit by the Ghanaian soccer team for accra. They had just finished qualifying in rabat and their coach was very curious about Togo. Unfortunately, I was exhausted so I really don’t remember what I or he said.

So france…

Well, france is great. It’s been entirely gray since I’ve arrived. I’ve had some difficulty getting hotel rooms, my French is better understood usually than I thought it would be. I saw the basilica of Sacred heart, the Eiffel tower and the Asian, American, African art museum today. I snacked on delicious bakery goods, there is fresh croissants and pain au chocolat within 2-3 minutes of my hotel in any direction. The food, the sights, the public transportation is all so amazing. Everything is incredibly different, I feel rather shocked almost as if I can’t believe that I truly am out of Africa, I keep on thinking I’ll wake up to heavy, enfolding tropical heat and when I was in the garden of the art museum, modeled after African and Asian influences, the head high grass bordering some paths could have very easily been the same that borders paths in my village. To see something so evocative, yet in such an incongruous place, made me feel unexpected sad. I’ve left everything I knew, and now I’m in the land of the colonizers, in a city obsessed with past, 3200 kilometers away from a country that can only see the future.


About wwmaier

Me, my guitar, and a funky little place called Togo.
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