“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

Today is glorious. The sun is bright, the sky a lovely dark blue and it’s warm, in the mid 50’s. The morning is loud with the songs of birds. I stopped out front with papers in hand just to smell the sweet spring scented air. The daffodil buds are bigger, closer to blooming. Purple croci have bloomed in the front. I swear my grass has shoots of green instead of just winter brown. I finally believe in spring.

The Globe had a column this morning in the travel pages about a woman who went to Togo to visit her Peace Corps son. She described where it was in West Africa, that it is a Francophone country and you spend French African francs (CFA). She was struck by the poverty, the trash and the lack of infrastructure. Many of the roads are unpaved red dirt which covers you and everything you’re carrying in red dust when your bush taxi takes you away from the coast. She went to the Grand Marché In Lome and described it just as I remember it. The building is concrete. The cloth market is on an upper floor. On the bottom floors are the food markets. The Grand Marché was always one of my stops during my frequent visits to Togo, an easy bus ride from Accra along the coast. You rode to the border at Aflao, got off the bus and walked across to Togo under an arch which says Bye-Bye Safe Journey. The other side of the arch says Welcome to Ghana.

In Lome I ate ice cream and pastries and rock lobsters from a grill on a hotel’s patio. I ordered bifteck and pomme fries using my halting high school French. I burned the bottoms of my feet running on the hot beach sand. Once I was swimming and a dead pig floated beside me. I took my life into my hands by renting a moped and driving on the crowded city roads. I went up-country on local busses.

I never thought of living in Africa as an adventure. It was home for 27 months, and always felt comfortable. I was never lost but easily found my way from one place to another. My French got better, and I could give or ask for directions, order more than steak and French fries and bargain in the market in French. Without realizing it, I became a traveler. That has held me in good stead all of my life.

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12 Comments on ““Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.””

  1. olof1 Says:

    Strong winds here today, so strong in easter Sweden that roofs flew of buildings. The rain, if that is what oine can call a few drops, came in the afternoon. It was sunny most of the day otherwise. It’s a long time since my laundry dried so fast 🙂

    It’s amazing how fast that school french gets better when being in a french speaking country. I remember that especially the cursing went fluent 🙂 For some reason that’s necessary when being in Paris because the Parisians are the most rude people there is 🙂 and really doesn’t care until one stands up for one self and get just as nasty as they are 🙂 Still I love that city and those people 🙂

    Have a great day!

    • katry Says:

      Wow, roofs flying off is really an unbelievable wind almost like a tornado. That wind made the day chair than it would be without it.

      I also loved Paris, especially at night. The City of Lights is the perfect description. The taxis used to think and shut their lights off at major intersections. Scary!

      Enjoy your beautiful day!!

  2. Bob Says:

    Unfortunately, Africa is an unsettled continent where I would rather not visit. Between Islamic radicals in the North, abject poverty and corruption in the Equatorial middle, South Africa is the only place where the races and tribes sort of get along under a sort of democracy. The colonial powers have left us with a bigger mess in Africa than in the Middle East. Tin horn dictators and ruthless tribal war lords seem to be the norm in Africa.

    You were fortunate to have been in a quiet country fifty years ago to help them develop their resources and culture. How much development has occurred in Ghana since your Peace Corp. days? Is there a thriving middle class with cars homes and businesses?

    Thirty years ago I asked a student who was a German working as a pilot in Nigeria which side of the road do they drive. He replied, ‘since independence they drive on which ever side they want’. I wonder if things will improve politically and economically in Africa by the turn of the next century. The legacy of the 20th century has been a big failure in Africa compared to China or Vietnam. African immigrants are everywhere I’ve been in the US, Canada and Europe with many being illegal immigrants. People don’t just pick themselves up, dust thenselves off and leave there family and homes when peace and economic opportunity knocked on theor door.

    Today the sky is overcast with a chance of rain in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Allergy season is in full bloom along with warm temperatures.

    • katry Says:

      Poverty is in the eye of the beholder. There are many countries where everyone gets along just fine. Ghana is one, Togo another, and I could also name several more. Northern Ghana is heavily Moslem compared to the south, but there are no issues between them. Tribal lords are more indigenous to places like Afghanistan. The African dictators quickly rose to power at the end of colonialism but most countries are democratic now. They had to grow up a bit after they became independent.

      In Ghana there are the rich people who live generally in the big cities. The country has a market economy represented by women. Other than the remote villages most places have electricity. The south is filled with cars but the north has motorcycles. Businesses are different than here. There are kiosks everywhere selling more things than I can list. If you need anything made, you can find someone who will make it. They don’t throw as many things away as we do here. They repurpose. I had the bottoms of my sandals replaced by pieces of tire which lasted far longer than the original soles. To judge anywhere by American standards is to shortchange where you are.

      Don’t think one Nigerian represents all Nigerians. Forty years ago Ghana drove on the left. Because they are surrounded by countries driving on the right, they made the change. My students said it was an easy change and there were every few accidents. People generally obeyed the rules of the road.

      I think Nigerian is the best example of a country gone amok. It is the most populated and one of the richest because of oil, but they haven’t really seemed to get along even as far back as Biafra. Most people live hand to mouth. They don’t share bounty in Nigeria.

      China is the poorest example of a free economy. People do as they are directed, as they are told.

      I seldom meet any Africans here. The ones I do know have either citizenship or green cards.

      Few flowers, no grass here yet!

      • Bob Says:

        An interesting perspective. I only hope that you are correct because in Africa as in the Middle East your tribe is much more important than your country. Yes, there are bright spots but there are many failures such as Somalia and Liberia. In places like Nigeria corruption and income disparity is rampant.

      • katry Says:

        Liberia ended its civil war and returned to democracy. The Peace Corps believed the country was safe enough to send volunteers back into Liberia. They only left because of the ebola epidemic.

        It is the same with Somalia. In 2012 they passed a constitution which names Somalia a federation. The first permanent central government in the country since the start of the civil war was also formed. The country is now under massive reconstruction.

        The tribes in Ghana are not more important to Ghanaians than their country. They are quite proud of Ghana. I suspect it is the same in many African countries. I told you about Nigeria being a poor example of Africa given its lawlessness and how the bounty from oil is not shared. They are the exception rather than the rule. I think your information was true about the other countries but is now out-dated.

        This is a perspective based on fact.

    • katry Says:

      Happy Birthday, Bob

      I always think birthdays are the best celebrations. People share holidays but our birthdays are ours alone!

      Best wishes and many happy returns!!

    • Bill S. Says:

      instead of condemning a whole continent based on what you read or see on the news, you might want to visit some of the more stable and developed countries. I’m sure it will be a real eye opener for you, as it was for me in 1969, 1992 and 2013.
      …..Wiliam and Margaret Sandford
      Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Ghana 1969-1972

      • Bob Says:

        Africa is a long way down on my bucket list. It’s a least one step below India. I’m one of those who considers roughing it Motel 6. 🙂

      • katry Says:

        I totally understand. I have friends who would never go either even if the whole trip was free.

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