View Full Version : What Chiagozie did to Me!

Jun 22, 2010, 06:00 PM
Okay, that?s freaky! I fired up my pc at work this morning and while my settings were loading, began thinking about when I lived in Lome, Togo for one school year! I specifically remembered Universite du Benin and its environs and that very pretty dark and chocolate-skinned girl in my class who lived with her aunt in the very exclusive neighborhood across from the university ? very similar to an IITA (in Ibadan) of sorts. The one who had those very rude, obnoxious, spoiled and rotten niece and nephew (her aunt?s children) who before my very eyes referred to their maid as an ?espece de cochon?! (awon omo nla)!This is what I remembered this morning and I can?t even for the life of me, attribute any reason to why I would all of a sudden remember Lome, Togo! Then I saw Chiagozie?s article about Togo on the home page! And I began writing??..

If I could, I would buy land in Togo, build me a house and relocate there in my retirement years. Togo for me though I was attending classes there, was more of a vacation. Everyday was simply a vacation for me. I remember always being happy! I longed to go to go for classes in the mornings, then couldn?t wait for classes to end, looked forward to my ice-cream and fan-ice treat between and after classes, longed to go and buy dinner at our favorite joint on Avenue de la Liberation in the evenings before which we would take nice evening walks along the avenue, bowls hidden in plastic bags and saddled underneath our arms, before finally settling for ground rice and a combination of dried fish-laden vegetable/spinach stew mixed with okro. (That was where I developed this unique habit of eating both mixed together and still do it till today. My husband believes that?s why I have so much gas.....sorry TMI)! Whenever we had ?extra money" we would indulge in a piece of fresh fish. That was some serious good cooking. There was ?Sous le Mangier? (Under the Mango tree) where we usually ate lunch if we decided against the meals served at the nasty University student?s canteen. Sous le Mangier always served this pear (more like guacamole) salad with onions and sardines which I disliked. But the rice and stew with fresh fish??always great! Other times, dinner was the good ol? fried yam (dundu) and dodo with a delicious ladle of ata swe-swe (fried stew) which we purchased from a woman who fried these goodies right in the middle of a park (or so it seemed). God deliver me from all these foods that I ate and didn?t even pray on before eating oh??..hmmm!:pray:

I call the University Canteen ?nasty? because being that many of the students at the University were Moslem, they had a religious culture of having to wash their feet, hands, faces, mouths before settling down to eat and also afterwards (absolutely nothing wrong with that but??..). What I didn?t like was the fact that the President (who BTW had his hands in the running/administration of everything in the country) approved a swimming pool-like structure (with no water in it) smack, right in the middle of the canteen with taps, etc. So you can imagine, MsWoman eating her food and seeing one guy gargling ?woosh-woosh-woosh? and spitting out the contents into this thing. Yuck and double yuck! :mad: I soon learned that if I wanted to eat in the cafeteria, I had to sit backing that indomitable structure with eyes away from what I thought was not a very pretty sight to behold while eating. I think the Togolese guys on campus hated we the Nigerian ladies because not only were we part of the few ladies on campus, we stood out and were too funky I guess??? Not that Togolese female students were that few, it?s just that when you determined the ratio of men to women attending the school, the numbers could be quite intriguing.

The food at the canteen wasn?t that great, but every meal was usually accompanied by however many baguettes your tray could hold, and most days we had fish. The fish was usually fried whole (sans the head) and at times, if you got a nice server, and asked for two fish, you got it (Oliver T). So on days like that, I would settle for the fish and it was usually pretty good (like anyone could go wrong frying fish)! At times with fish, we had couscous or yam pottage. I hated rice days because the stew was simply awful.

My memories of Togo remain fantastic. The beaches were beautiful (at least the ones I went to). Just driving on the highway that carried you from Republic of Benin into Lome proper was relaxing and serene. To the left, heading towards Lome, you saw rows and rows of palm and coconut trees that stretched almost right to the tip of the ocean (okay, maybe am exaggerating a little), but it was so scenic. Occasionally, you would see another car, or someone on a motorbike or bicycle. At times, on the right, stands of goods and fruits for sale were perched on the side of the highway. The one downside to Lome at that time was the fact that only the main roads were paved. Once you veered onto a side street, you were usually greeted by reddish clayish soil and bumpy roads that could be a disaster when it rained. For the most part however, they must have had pretty good drainage systems because I can?t remember anywhere flooding like I?m used to seeing in Lagos. There were no trash dumps or heaps that I could remember seeing and Lome was clean. The streets were always clean even these side roads.

Across the street from the ?villa? (every house was referred to as a villa BTW) where I stayed was one soft drink/beer parlor where we purchased the infamous ?Cocktail? (pronounced cocktayi). It was an orange-yellowish blend of carbonated juices with a tangy twist to it. There were small-sized bottles and the big one likened to a big Guinness bottle only it was clear in color. Again whenever we had ?extra money? we would indulge ourselves and get the bigger bottle as a treat! Those were some of the things I looked forward to daily, getting a nice chilled bottle of ?Cocktail? after a hard day?s work abi classroom lessons de ni!

Once, my geeky self decided to go out with the girls and we ended up at a downtown night club inside the Hotel Sofitel. Side from the fact that I was not crazy about the night club music (I guess I was expecting the American hits of that time), all we were listening to and forcefully dancing to was a collection which comprised the makossa, akwaaba, etc. tunes and others. In any case, those were good and I liked them but not in a night club setting. Needless to say this was my one and only time of going to a nightclub in Lome after living an experience I have seen only once and pray to God to never let me see again. I wouldn?t even bother to share the details with you, it was too disgusting!

Music ? that was another thing that I liked about Lome ? everywhere you went you were twisting and turning to music. They liked to play their music loud, it seems there was ongoing competition for who could play music the loudest.

The fashion, the main fabric was Guinea brocade fabric and those tailors could throw down. I wasn?t into ?styles? back then but remember seeing some really nice outfits. The men wore the Senegalese, but they were worn very long, as in dragging on the ground when the men walked. They were sewn a little different from the way our Naija men wore theirs. They had some unusual finesse stating ?I have arrived? to them and were mainly worn by the rich.

I never had the opportunity of going back and it ?pained? me. I just couldn?t find anyone who would want to go back with me and I certainly wasn?t ready to go through the border hassles (two of them) on my own. A close uncle of mine used to go and retreat there with his family at one point, but he hasn?t mentioned going there any time recently, but he used it as a period to just get away from the hustle and bustle of Lagos.

I would return to Lome in a heartbeat if I planned my vacation to Nigeria well enough and could find someone to go with me. Building a home in Lome is certainly only a wish, but if it comes true one way or the other, it will be one of the best things that could ever happen to me.:clap:

Jun 22, 2010, 10:03 PM
Me like ur reminisce....i also did travel the Cotonou and lome route some light yrs ago...and had a very interesting experience then..i could recall thier fresh fish soup...we had something close to farofa...i.e, gari with the fresh fish soup poured on it(close to what some of my people back home in lagos use to make..f)...it was delicious.i've not visited of recent, i love to...but might have to get a tour group to arrange it for myself and some friends.....i'll like to experience a group tour...a friend of mine who owns a tour company actually just got back from a trip with a group to Ghana and Senegal...am likely to go as far as Ghana(on the west coast)....then Senegal will be another go to place on my itinerary...:cool:

Am yet to read Chiagozie's article....ur write up is quite refreshing and very interesting...i like ur style and flow.....hmmmm..well done babes;)

Jun 23, 2010, 07:11 PM

So we are both Alumni of Universite du Benin! Your piece was extremely well written and reads like a tender caress. I tend to write more dramatically and lose the beauty and the flow of the brook as it bubbles down the meadow naturally.

I suspect I was there slightly earlier than you were. We were made to stay in the Lycee de Tokoin which had much nicer eating arrangements than the main cafeteria. I enjoyed being introduced to the "ragout de pomme de terre" (Potato pottage). I discovered and enjoyed the fun of olive oil on salad too. I liked the Aloko (Plantain fried in coconut oil) It has a unique taste second to none. I discovered that Hibiscus leaf makes sweet vegetable soup as that was what was served to us. We did not have any unpleasant surprises as in Abidjan where we were told that the hard meat we had been eating in the "Restau" was horse meat!

We had come from six months in Cote d'Ivoire where the Student's Union executive were charged with accommodating students. Unlike the practice here were we give precedence to foreign students, we were the last to be accommodated! I finally got my room at the Cite Yopougon, five months after we got there! The money the University spent on accommodating us in Deux Cents Vingt, (220) Hotel was more than they would have spent taking us to France which was where we were to have spent our year abroad anyway. So the school made an arrangement to move us to Togo and that was how we arrived at the Universite.

It was too late and complex to draw up a programme so it was decided that our Year abroad would no longer count towards our final degree results. Ah bliss! It was one looong holiday! Sebi all they wanted was "perfectionnement linguistique", (easy to figure out). We went to school during the day, retired for siesta, came out for games in the evening. we would then retire to the host for the day's room. Drinks were so cheap! I learnt how to drink and hold my drink during this period. Year Abroad was such fun! we used to go to the Beach and ride horses, galloping around like we wanted to break our necks. I have a 16 foot Shark\s Jaws complete with5 rows of razor sharp teeth I bought there hanging in my den. I also have a polished giant turtle shell beside it!

We the men had the most fun because schools like Queens college Lagos and FGGC Abuloma and the University of Benin sent their own students for short to medium term courses. The young ladies were in awe of us but we behaved like gentlemen and spared them the anguish of regrets of a holiday romance. Some of those friendships still endure to this day, 30 years later.

As for going back, you may want to keep the memories you have and not spoil them. From about 1994 to 1996 I had cause to go to Togo every fortnight. It was still beautiful then. I went back again two years ago on a driving adventure with my family en route Accra. The Streets are still clean but there is poverty everywhere. The Rich Lebanese have all left and taken the Exciting joints with them. The streets are pot holed and Hotels Tropicana, Sarakawa, Hotel De la Paix and that new one on the Beach front I forget its name are all a shadow of their former selves.

I do not know if Eyadema Fils has as much control over the entire country as Eyadema Pere had, but there is the uneasy calm of underlying conflict without open warfare. Citizens walk in silence distrusting everyone, worse than in my days as a student. Buy a house and settle there? Well you may wish to confirm what i have said personally before you go back.

I went back to Cote d'Ivoire last year after a 30 year break expecting things to be as beautiful or even better. I was sorely disappointed because the country is almost at war although the authorities deny it and there is also an uneasy calm ever since Papa Houphouet Boigny passed on. my memories as a youth far outstripped those i came back with.

Sorry to rain on your parade, but its the truth. Je te jure! (i swear).

The Count

Jun 24, 2010, 08:25 PM
Wooowwwu, Oga Cant1, Thanks for the compliment.

Na so you pour san for insai my garri so?! Actually more like you did me a favor…….you know like the earlier I start dreaming of/wishing for other things the better instead of expending my energie on stuff that may not materialize! Well, I could still hope right? Considering that is where I am with Nigeria….hoping things get better. Perhaps someone with vision and who can think outside the box (let's start with such a person not being a kinsman of the Gnasingbe Eyadema clan), could take over and change things around and make that place what it once used to be. Even when we were there, we were warned to not ever mention that name and to be careful because he supposedly had spies lurking out and about and everywhere! I heard it was even a crime to not have his picture in your establishment. In essence even if you ran a kiosk, his picture had to be in it……I know for a fact that all the joints I visited certainly did. His cabinet comprised his family and village people.

Now you are bringing some terms back……..like Restau pronounced Resto. I do remember the Aloko for the fried plantain……didn't know it was fried in coconut oil sha oh! Eeeeh, what did I even know sef? Me, I just used to put everything in my mouth! Omo oran (careless child) like me! I do remember the Avenue de La Paix (seems it was that major road that you turned off of to get to the villa where I stayed).

See how ajebota you are, na so you come tok say na olive oyel they used to put in that salad, here I was thinking na regular ororo (vegetable oil) they used to douse that pear salad! Come oh, you never went to Sous Le Mangier? After having seen what you wrote about horse meat, it is very possible that the meat they served in that cafeteria was probably horse meat just as they did in Cote d'Ivoire. It was the nastiest tasting thing I had ever eaten and the pieces were so large and unmanageable even when you attempted to eat them with your hands.

I loved your write-up too! Great.

Jun 24, 2010, 08:27 PM
@sis emj:

Thank you as usual! Perraps we could go together, but after reading Oga Can't's accant, me not too sure anymore oh! Ko ma lo gbe wa lo (make dem nor come kidnap us)!

Myne Whitman
Jun 26, 2010, 04:01 AM
Ms woman, you just took me to Lome, in such beautiful prose. I enjoyed reading that and now I look forward to visiting that part of west Africa and maybe some others.

ps, I hope the mosquitoes are not biting anymore? You had me laughing over there.

Jul 3, 2010, 04:50 AM
the 1st three paragraphs read like a hemingway.
the piece lost energy and intensity as you played with the fish head and never fully recovered the magic.
perhaps, staying in the 3rd person would have kept the impact.
your short stories will be a hit.

Jul 6, 2010, 06:30 PM
Thanks Bob! I appreciate the constructive feedback! I will keep that in mind for next time. Have seen you around the square, but didn't think you had time for us at Inkpots! :lol:

Jul 6, 2010, 09:55 PM
@sis emj:

Thank you as usual! Perraps we could go together, but after reading Oga Can't's accant, me not too sure anymore oh! Ko ma lo gbe wa lo (make dem nor come kidnap us)!

Ma worry MsWoman dem no fit:)