Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Lomé, Togo, February 5, 2019

The day started with a lofty goal.  Could we possibly get 2 visas in one day?  That's sort of unheard of but we hoped.  We got to the Republic Of Congo embassy, a hole in the wall office on the fourth floor of a newer building and the haggling began.  They first told us we needed to pay 90,000 CFA ($206) but we follow an app called Ioverlander where travellers post information so we knew that wasn't correct.  We asked to see a price list but of course they didn't have one.  Thomas was insisting we should pay only 30,000 CFA and they were looking at him like he was crazy.  Finally I read the Ioverlander comments and saw that the information of 30,000 CFA was over a year old and the new information said 60,000 CFA ($137) and that's what we ended up paying.  We only needed to fill out an application and attach a photocopy of our passport.  They said they would photocopy our visas; I'm not sure which ones but they needed to prove to God knows who that we are tourists.  And, the best thing was they would be ready for pick up in a couple of hours!  

This break allowed us to visit the Marché des Feticheurs-

which stocks all the ingredients for traditional medicine - it's a pharmacy.  People come to see a Feticheur-

either at the marché or at their home.  They are given a prescription which they fill here.  The items prescribed are ground into a powder and usually other herbs are added, then it is mixed with water and drank and a small incision is made in one's hand and the powder is rubbed in, like a vaccination.

Some of the medicines included skulls of every animal imaginable: dogs and perhaps a sloth-


Impalas, dogs, cats, snakes and baboons-

Snakes, monkeys and chameleons-

Turtles and dogs-



Some kind of antelope-

an armadillo-

As well as rats-


Part of an elephant's trunk-

Monitor lizards-



A snake skeleton-

and horse and cattle tails-

Dolls representing the Feticheurs are for sale for tourists-

The skin of a boa-

Being in the market made me feel sick.  All of the animals are poached:  baboons, lions, snakes, monkeys, elephants, hippos..... all.   Our guide said the animals die of natural causes.  B.S. I say!  I'm not happy now!

There was a live eagle in a cage and freshly roasted parrots-

There was a baby lion skull-

As well as its hide-

Baboon heads-

Hills is standing in front of the mechanic's monument.  Those without work come to pray and when they land a job they return and sacrifice an animal on top-

Will wishful thinking-

Anteater hands-

If a woman has twins and one dies, she'll buy a small doll and look after it for eternity.  She will also wear it tucked in front of her abdomen-

After our tour of the actual market, we saw an apprentice Feticheur.  His father was in Benin, probably buying dead lions and elephants. First, he asked our names and then beat a drum while he said a blessing.  Then he gave us different charms and explained them.  The first one was a "telephone: it was a small piece of wood with a hole in it where we were to speak, asking for safe travels.  There was a small plug to put in the hole once the message is finished.  One travels with the truc in one's pocket.  The second object was an ebony seed that is used for sleeping well and remembering.  It's placed under one's pillow at night. The third was another small piece of wood that is used for relationships.  It is held in one's left hand, sprayed with perfume, then the other person in the relationship puts his/her hand over it and rubs it.  Then, either person asks if the other wants to have sex and the answer is always "yes"!  The fourth was a small bag filled with 40+ herbs.  It had two shells sewn on the front.  You wear it around your neck for good health-

It was a very strange experience for me because I could not believe anything I was hearing.  Then, I compared that feeling to the belief in Jesus and God and I realized that atheists must feel the same way about God as I do about Feticheurs.  Maybe the difference, at least for me, is that I've had interactions with God but not witih an animal prescription.  I suppose if people have been helped by using a "prescription", they are going to believe in that medicine.  Whatever works.

After the market, we found an outdated hotel with AC where we had a drink and waited until 1 pm to go back to the R of C embassy to pick up our passports, then we met the group at the Gabon Embassy at 1:30.  Upon arriving, we found everyone outside in the hot blazing sun.  We were given applications to fill out against the wall or on the ground and told that only 2 photos were needed and for an extra 15,000 CFA ($34), we could have our visa that afternoon!  Wow!  They only would allow 2 people into the embassy so I went in because I speak French.  When I handed the passports to the woman, (who had to weigh close to 500 pounds - her arms were as big as my thighs, I'm not lying), she said she couldn't issue a visa with such little information.  Ioverlander had said we needed many things:  copies of other African visas, credit cards, hotel reservations and on and on.  When I explained that the two guards at the front said we could get it with what we'd submitted, she grabbed the phone and gave them shit, then abruptly hung up on them.  One requirement she insisted on was our yellow fever vaccination so I went outside to collect them.  When I returned, she asked me where everyone was.  I told her outside.  She asked if they were in the yard, which was lovely, complete with a swimming pool, or if they were outside the gate, on the street in the blazing sun.  When I told her they were outside, she told me to bring everyone inside immediately where it was nice and cool and once again she picked up the phone and blasted the guys at the gate!  I had to laugh!  
By 6 pm, we had our Gabon visas and we went back to camp.  We tried having supper at a restaurant called Wings and Shakes but they had no shakes, the wings were covered in Tabasco and the frozen yogurt was sour.  I have decided to stop trying to eat Western in Africa.  They make an awesome grilled or fried chicken so I'm just going to stick with that from now on.

Coming home we saw this family on their bike.  Mom is nursing-

This seems so dangerous to me but it's their way of life-

The fan in my room is awesome, so I'm hoping for another good sleep.  We are off to Benin in the morning.

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