We know when it’s time to go. Unlike the guest who stays at your house too long, travelers reach the intuitive destination called, “move on.” Not only do we see the countries of Ghana, Togo, and Benin, but we taste them…feel them. Surviving the initial shock of over-population and people defecating along the streets, as they have nowhere else to go, we calm their aggressive manner of communication, by smiling. We then find a warm, welcoming people. Probably the best part of West Africa lies in the friendly people. We have little worry of being robbed or car-jacked, but still take precautions. After all, we’re from the United States.
Harsher conditions in the French-speaking countries of Togo and Benin make Ghana seem like West Africa “light.” Still, we feel like we see all there is to see. We pass on visiting the waterfalls, and canopy walk, been there and did that in places from the Amazon to Multnomah Falls, Oregon, to Havasupai Falls in Arizona. We are hot, exhausted, and totally filthy. The open sewers become resting spots where folks sit and talk, and sometimes sell wares, including food, which continues to assault our senses.
After one month of utilizing public transit, from seven people in a tiny taxi, to fifteen folks in a Tro-tro (small van) to three on a small scooter, we tire from sucking in the dust, smoke and relentless heat/humidity. As Mare says, “The only time I feel good is when submerged in water.” I agree with her.
Experiencing West Africa in this manner, including witnessing a genuine Voodoo Ceremony, will stay with us forever. Eating goat, and the rodent, “Grasscutter,” with Fu-Fu, along with Banku, Okra Stew, Red Red, and other culinary delights remain a highlight as well. But we have our fill. We could live here, eat and drink well, for about $300 US monthly, but why would we want to? We seem to be the only tourists in these countries. The only other non-Africans that we encounter are volunteers, or here on business. And they are few and far between.
Still this is a culture of proud people, friendly despite primitive conditions. They teach us the power of the human spirit, the choice of attitude we all make to either whine and complain or celebrate and enjoy. I feel like a fraud to despair over taking a “bucket-shower,” which is much better than nothing. At least I can wear shoes as I walk through the sewer streams in the streets, unlike most of the children here. It’s one thing to see the images on television of poverty, but to walk among it for one month changes us forever.
So where do we go next? Our plan is to head north through Burkina Faso, into Mali. However, we receive numerous emails from the US State Department, warning against travel to Mali, especially the northern region, including Tombouctou, which is of course where we want to go. This is due to the increased threat by Al- Qaeda to kidnap US citizens. So, while it is time to “move on,” maybe not to Mali.