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Flashback: Togo Chronicles - Day 3 - Atakpame - Shopping, Girls Empowerment & More Dagbeneva

Updated: Mar 28, 2022

Originally Posted by Keri Chryst on February 2, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Earlyish rise - but not to rushed. We have a little time to swing by Chantal's workshop to look at her handmade fabrics and other trinkets. Our 15-minute stop turns into over 30, but we've managed to select some goodies for ourselves and the folks back home. I'm looking forward to seeing what Chantal does with the fabric I picked for a custom-made dress she'll be delivery on Monday!

So, the "best" road from Kpalimé to Atakpamé is under construction, so we take a roundabout dirt thoroughfare... it's a bit slower going than anticipated, and we arrive an hour late for our live radio interview at Radio Excelsior.

Still, we manage a 30-minute piece, including a couple of live performances on the air. Time for lunch at a local eatery where we start to experience some of the tourist price up-creep, when offered extra fish, that we hadn't ordered or been asked about, and then been told we'd be getting a "generous" discount on the total price.

The thing is, things are so cheap around here in general that it's hard to argue on the total price, it's not like it's expensive for our budget... but our hosts are getting irritated at this phenomenon they've been noticing all over lately... surprise upgrades, and price-hikes for the "wealthy" Embassy folk. But anyway... we're hungry, and we need the break.

Then we check into the hotel, and now that I'm forewarned, I notice when I hear the lady at the desk say something about a "suite" to the guys helping with the bags. I'm sure that the Embassy, despite public opinion, does NOT have the budget for an upgrade, so I give them a bit of warning that they might want to get the details. I'm shown to my room, and it is in fact a suite with two beds, two baths, living room and dining area! But it turns out this is their compromise for being short on rooms. They figure we can share the suite with 2 people for the same per-person price... Well, it's hard to argue that now, isn't it.

Anyway, financial considerations aside, we soon load up to head over to join the Peace Corps volunteers with their English club girls. They've prepared a few songs and sketches for us, and make us feel very welcome. We've been asked to do something related to Women's Empowerment and I figure that "Lean On Me" would be a good choice - pretty catchy and easy to learn, with a strong message of helping each other in the community. They take to that song like fish to water, and we still have time for another 1 or two, and get them chiming in on Sweet Home Chicago at the end. I think we've really brightened each others' days, but we have a concert to get ready for - so after a quick stop off to check out the venue, we go to the hotel for a change of clothes and rush back to the venue for the concert. D'agbeneva's already there - it's their friends doing the sound, so they trucked over from Kpalimé early this morning to get things set up. I can see on their faces that they're as tired as we are... but being the pros that they are, when it's their turn to hit the stage, they're all smiles and energy like the gig calls for. My esteem goes up yet another notch for them!

I've decided to stick to my own clothes tonight for the 2 minutes I'll be dancing with them on stage. Momo seems a touch offended by this, but I try to explain that I don't want to sweat through all their clothes and have to change twice again. A brief word on sweat and clothes in Togo - it is HOT here. And definitely a bit humid. Jeff and I are going through an average of at least two changes of clothes per day, not to mention trying to keep something clean and presentable for the evenings' performances. Thankfully, Brenda has offered to have our washing done when we get back to her house in Lome. Phew! Cause, though I planned for the heat in many ways - i did NOT expect this kind of clothing turnover, and am running out of essentials quickly!

So, anyway, we do the gig, but it's a much tougher crowd than the previous night. We still get them participating, but it's agreed that despite our and D'agbeneva's best efforts, they're just not as into it as the home-team crowd last night in Kpalimé. So, we do go all out - we even call up the girls from the workshop to sing "Sweet Home Chicago" with us.

Still, I'm not surprised when the dance troupe cuts their 2nd part of the performance a bit short. They're sweet and invite us back on stage for a final curtain call all together, and then we pack up to go get some much needed rest.

Brenda and I are rooming together in the "suite", and that's all well and good... until the power to our unit cuts out and no one seems to know how to fix it. A night without air conditioning in Togo is a challenge at best... but we manage, like a couple of world-traveling troupers (sleeping with a wet head helps, to be sure!).


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