Part III (The very last month)
In the next months that passed me by, I spent most of my time going out for long strolls around what I liked to call “the diplomat’s compound.” This was because there were a lot of embassies situated close to where we lived and partly because a lot of diplomats resided there. I remember glimpsing a fair few embassies and consulates along the way such as, the Brazilian consulate, the Egyptian, the Chinese embassy, the American embassy, the Nigerian consulate, and so much more! The diplomats’s compound was probably one of the most safest places to live and to take your walks, mainly because it was securely guarded by guards and partly because the president of Togo resided nearby. Hence my parents had no problems or grudges in letting me take those walks alone.
I can still remember that distinctive smell, that smell that usually filled my nostrils the moment I got out in the open air. That acrid and metallic smell of the red-earth soil mixed with Togo’s hot and humid/polluted weather. No matter what time of day it was, no matter whether it was during the day, evening or night, I always ended having my forehead become moist with sweat after a few minutes of walking out in the air. However, it was nice to get my daily dose of vitamin D, something that I needed and lacked in Tasmania.
During my walks I’d experience ordinary little things, things that you would normally see in Togo but not in Tasmania. I saw chickens and chicks crossing the road, employees who worked around the area singing and laughing while having their lunch break at a nearby wooden stall, men and women sprawled on the pavements having their afternoon siestas, and muscular men in uniform casually relaxed under an enormous tree, basking in the hot open air. Having taken those walks for nearly two months around the area no one really bothered me nor spoke to me. I probably was just seen to be a casual bystander walking around. A year has passed by from my trip to Togo and I still have the relics of the red-earth soil planted on my sneakers.
The African wedding:
I was invited (along with my father and sister) to attend an African wedding. I was probably even more excited about the wedding than the bride and groom. I’ve met the groom a few times and he was an articulate, witty, well-read and a very hard working man. He was also very inspirational, well, to me at least. He was fluent in Arabic, English, German, French, and in the 36 dialects spoken in Togo. “Wow” were the only words I could muster from my mouth when I learnt of his knack for languages. He also loved poetry and had no trouble reciting Khalil Gibran from the top of his head during our conversations. This was a win-win for me.
I did what every girl does, when given the opportunity to attend a wedding; I got dolled up and got into my long silky cocktail dress. I did regret this decision later on because I did overdress for the occasion. Note to self: Next time I attend an African wedding, I’ll try not to rock up looking like I am attending the Grammy’s.
The African wedding was quite different to any wedding I have ever been to, and it was quite different to an Egyptian and/or Western weddings. But it was quite an experience for me!
We were led to sit out in the open where there were rows of chairs stacked horizontally for us to sit which was filled with members and friends of the groom. The women were secluded in another room which I suppose was an ordinary ritual practiced at African weddings. I scanned my eyes across the room trying to catch a glimpse of the groom, but there was no sign of him. I thought that maybe he was just late for the occasion or I maybe, just maybe, I actually was sitting at a place where I could not see him. However, an hour later when there was no sign of the groom I began to wonder where on earth was he? Surely a groom must be present at his own wedding? Right? I asked his half-brother for his whereabouts and his answer astounded me. “Oh” he said. “The groom doesn’t attend his wedding. It is a celebration between the families.” After that I couldn’t help but wonder what the groom did at home while his own wedding was taking place. I did not dare ask to him that question when I saw him next.
Epilogue (the very last day):
As my holiday honeymoon was coming close to an end, I couldn’t help but feel sad that we were approaching the end of our holiday. Truth to be told, I did get attached to the place, the people, and everything that surrounded it. Deep down, I knew this was going to be the first and last visit to Togoville and hated knowing that it was unlikely for me to go back unless, of course I did make another visit alone. I was going to miss Jane, Paul, and the beautiful and amazing people that I had the pleasure of meeting. On my last day, being that emotional sod that I normally am, I cried when I was saying my goodbyes. I hate good byes. I always have.
Yet, the reason I’m writing this blog is because: a) to share and reminisce a beautiful experience that I had and b) because you can learn a lot from the different cultures that you encounter. I believe there is no such thing as a superior race, we all can learn from one another, and I happy and grateful to have learnt a lot about myself and about the world around me. My travel to Togo had been a positive one and the only physical evidence that remains today from my travel is the red-earth stained sneakers. Fills me up with warmth every time I see it.