Wednesday, May 23, 2012

existential speculations or life in Togo

I was in Kouka the other day talking to someone on the street when this guy walked past me wearing a skin-tight University of Wisconsin-Platteville tshirt.  its a small world

I dont think that god wanted me to come home from Lome.  D and I spent some quality time on the ride up from Atakpame sitting along the road in Blitta while the brake line in our bush taxi was repaired.  At least they caught it while we were stopped . . .
The next day, I called Richard at 830 to come pick me up from bina.  Then i called him at 11 something- he said that his moto was broken en route.  He finally got there about 1600 and we left.  Then I spent 2.5 hours in Manga with Jenn while he fixed a flat . . . and finally got home at like 2130.  . . .

 . . . to find bags of rice and gari shredded on my floor and the discovery that the kittens are not as litter trained as I thought.

I think that tumbu flies are best argument both for and against the idea of the world as the product of Intelligent Design.  They are definitely a great argument against the idea of a Loving God who cares about His Creation.  Unless He has singled out dogs as special objects of His divine displeasure. 

I am happy to be home. People in the south, specifically the Ewe, are different than they are up here.  The Ewe are more abrupt than people in the north.  People up here are more laid back and respectful. 

I am still amazed by how fast stuff grows here when it rains.  Including my garden.  My tomatoes are like 2 inches high after 9-ish days.  I found sweet potatoes, some kind of native squash, and marigolds coming up in my garden.  The marigolds are especially exciting.

The kittens are really cute.  They have figured out how to get up on my bed, so now they like to cuddle.  Then I feed them fish and fear for my fingers.  Oh well.

One of my new favorite things to do is to sit out with my family in the evenings and shell peanuts.  The kids can do it really fast; they crack the shells on the pavement and break them open with their fingers.  Adjai can do it with both hands.  I cant do it at all.  Well I can, but I destroy as many peanuts as I shell. So I shell them with 2 hands and sit there and let konkumba swirl around me.

Im kind of amazed by how much I read here.  I read all of Asimov's "Foundation" books.  Now I am working through McMaster-Bjuld's "Vorkosigan" series.  Jenn is re-reading "The Wheel of Time" so I dont feel too bad.

My Facebook feed is full of graduation announcements.  MDs, MAs, PhDs, BAs. . . . its kind of depressing cause that would have been me in a different life.  But, congratulations to all the grads.

The longer I am alive, the more I appreciate, or perhaps discover, all the shades of grey that color life.  For example, child trafficking is a problem here.  The other night Jenn was telling me how she interviewed a zedman who had been "trafficked" at 16.  He went to Nigeria, worked for awhile . . . and came back with a new moto and English.  He has more education and experience than a lot of people in Nampoch now, plus a way to earn a decent living in his moto.  Going to Nigeria worked out for him.
The flip side to this is the guy in Nampoch who, last month, tried to send a junior-high girl to Nigeria.  I cant figure out if she is his daughter or a relation or what.  Anyway, the director of her school noticed she wasnt in class, threatened her brother with beating unless he talked, found out what had happened to her, and called the Minister of Social Affairs, the national one, who happens to be from Kouka.  Within a couple of days, a warrant was issued for this guy's arrest and another warrant was sent after the girl to fetch her back from Nigeria.  Jack, and the rest of my forced marriage committee, take great pleasure in retelling the story of how the gendarmes came and arrested this guy.  He was in prison in Bassar for about a week and a half before he paid his fine and was released.  I have to bite my tongue whenever I see him around village now lest I say something untoward.  The girl is back now too.  Justice was served, the bad guy chastised (apparently his wife had to help him urinate after the gendarmes cuffed him . . .), and the victim returned.

Two instances of child-trafficking, one that benefited the "victim" in the long run, one that was basically a kidnapping.  The latter case makes my skin crawl; the former case makes it hard for me to universally condemn something that I found easy to trash before.  I could argue that, here, 16 is basically adulthood so the zedman wasnt really a "child" when he was trafficked.  I think that works.  I think it explains the discrepancy.  The age of consent, 18, in the US is an arbitrary rule that has become a socially relative fact.  It hardly works here where the concept of "childhood" is abbreviated at best and in no way resembles that culturally mandated period of societal dis-responsibility in the US.  The 10-12 year old girls I saw working in the fields as I biked in today bear witness to that.  They contribute directly to their family's well-being at the sake of their own education.  I find it easy to condemn people who dont send their children to school, but what about when its the choice between education and hunger?  A preteen girl torn from her home and shipped to Nigeria is tragic.  But what about when she comes back fluent in English, like the woman I met in Bina a month ago?  Still as tragic? Yes. Maybe.  I dont know.  Shades of gray.

Every time I see a horizon here, I wonder what cool stuff is over it waiting to be discovered.

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