Togo is not like Uganda. It’s not that I thought they’d be the same, but there just seems to be more here that makes me uncomfortable.
For example, it bothers me that my Kabier (the local language) hasn’t improved, that everyone speeds down the middle of pot hole filled roads swerving to avoid people but not dogs (they’re acceptable as pets, food, and roadkill), and that babies are fed beer to chase away demons. It also bothers me that we spent the whole day yesterday at one hardware store trying to find the right pipes for our project. And this was after finding out that the electric generator is missing a fuel pump, the water tank isn’t correctly sealed, and that iron pipes greater than 5cm in diameter don’t exist in northern Togo. You have to go to Ghana for them.
Moreover, the last time we were in Kara, a boy with a sunken face came up to our group asking for food. We gave him a loaf of bread and half a can of coca cola. He sat down on the street and downed both, taking huge mouthfuls and hiding his loot when another child walked by. I couldn’t take my eyes off him and I can’t explain exactly how I felt. Yesterday we saw him again and gave him 250 francs. When he replied “Merci Merci” it sounded like mercy to me… I don’t know if I’ve been so blatantly close to hunger before.
I know that we didn’t come here to save the world. We’re here simply because the community asked us to fix their latrines and that’s what we’re going to do. But all this other stuff matters too. The culture and lifestyles of the people are very, very different between us and the Togolese and among the Togolese themselves. Sometimes we talk about how this program or that policy could help Togo improve, but then we realize that we’d just be imposing American ideals on them… It’d be better if the Togolese led themselves.