Sunday, June 6, 2021:
I have been in Togo for a week now and have gained many new exciting impressions since then. On 30.05. at 22:30 I arrived in Lomé, the capital in the south of the country, to work together with Johannes on the project CenRES (Center for Renewable Energy Systems) between the TH Wildau and the Universitäté Kara. Johannes has already been here for 3 months and I will now support him until his return flight at the end of June and then spend July here alone.
After I was picked up at the airport of the capital Lomé by Johannes, Elias (project manager in Togo) and Ako (our driver), we went directly to the hotel. Already on the meters between the airport exit and the car I noticed the warm sultry climate, which would remain my biggest challenge during the first days. However, from day to day I get used to the weather better and will hopefully soon be able to sleep without air conditioning. On the way to the hotel I was allowed to try bananas, which are grown locally and taste worlds better than the imported bananas in Germany.
The morning after my arrival, we went to the University of Lomé, where we had an appointment with the DAAD representative for Togo. On this trip, I already noticed the chaotic traffic. There are hardly any traffic lights, and between cars and motorcycles, the one who honks the horn more often gets through. At the university, we first talked with a Togolese German teacher about the challenges of teaching during the Corona pandemic, that especially the limited access to the Internet and laptops make teaching via online media enormously difficult. In addition, he lamented Africa's negative reputation and wished more academics would pursue development in their own countries rather than pursue careers in Europe. Nicolas Leube from the DAAD then told us about his current projects and gave us valuable tips and advice for our stay in Togo. Afterwards, we explored the city and went to the Independence Monument, which commemorates the independence from France starting in 1960. Afterwards, we went to the big market. I have seen a few markets before, but none were as busy as there. It was full of people, you were approached from all sides and the market was so big that we would probably have gotten lost without Elias. After all the hustle and bustle, we continued in a much more relaxed way and went to the public beach where we watched some locals play soccer. In the evening, the first day was rounded off with a delicious Togolese meal, where I invited the guys and paid only 5.60 € for 3 meals and 4 drinks.
The next day we had spent quite relaxed on the beach, before it went on Wednesday to Kara , 420 km direction in the north, once almost through the complete country. On the way we visited a war memorial site where one soldier each from Germany, France and England were buried, all three having died during the battle of WWI in 1914, when Germany lost its colonial power over Togo to the other two countries. Next to the memorial were about 40 women who were sewing clothes sitting under an open pavilion. When I took drone pictures of this place, several small children were totally amazed by it and so I let them fly once, which caused an incredible joy in them. The stage design was also created in the process. That was a really beautiful moment and it made me happy to put a smile on the faces of these children.
On the way we stopped again and again at small street stalls and bought baguettes or fruits from the car. I didn't know that from Germany either, but here people prefer to buy from such stands than from the supermarket.
After 8 hours of driving we finally arrived and I was allowed to move into my apartment. Just like Johannes, I have my own apartment with living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen and am very satisfied and with the facilities.
The campus of Kara University is divided into Campus North and Campus South.
The day after my arrival, Elias showed me around the South Campus, which seems like its own village. 10,000 young people study here and the teaching is spread over many small buildings instead of a few large ones as I am used to from Wildau. Mainly linguistics and economics are taught here and that's how I will spend most of my time here, as I will also support the German classes. The level of development of the buildings is much lower here, but I still like the campus because of its village-like character and the many green spaces.
The next day I visited the North Campus, where mainly the technical courses are located and Johannes is working on his projects. We went there by bus, but there is no timetable for the buses, but according to Johannes' experience, the first bus should arrive around 7:00 am. But it left right before our eyes, the second bus at 7:30 was too full, but we got the third bus at 7:40. The bus driver was playing reggae music at that hour and wanted to take a picture with us after the ride.
While the South Campus is in the middle of the city and close to our apartment, the North Campus is 20 km outside the city The campus is completely surrounded by nature and you have a beautiful view of the surroundings.
When we arrived at the campus, a student worker beckoned us to his office and gave us an extremely hospitable welcome with coffee and cookies. After this great meeting, I got to know the lab director and dean, who were also very open-minded and friendly. When the power went out for the first time that day, the lab director said with a touch of irony, "Bienvenue au Togo." (Welcome to Togo) Power outages are common here, but usually only last for a few minutes. Otherwise, it could become problematic, especially if the air conditioning fails.
From the very first day, I was particularly impressed by the hospitality of the Togolese people. Only because of me, our responsible Elias and my colleague Johannes took the trip to Lomé, 8 hours away, to pick me up personally from the airport and to bring me a little closer to the main city.
But I was even more grateful when I got infected with malaria after 3 weeks. I had called Elias and told him that I was not feeling well and complained of a high fever. He then immediately picked me up and drove me to the nearest clinic, which made me feel much better after a few days. Out of concern for me, he even spent the first night in the clinic together with me. Elias, I will be eternally grateful to you for that! But also his colleague Martin supported me terrifically during this time, visited me several times and asked again and again how I was doing and if he could do something good for me. I also thank you very sincerely Martin!
The third positive experience I had was in Kpalimé, where I spent two nights in the jungle with Johannes before he went back home. One evening we were desperately looking for an open restaurant and when we asked two guys if the restaurant they were sitting in front of was still open, they unfortunately said no. However, they immediately jumped up and led us to the next village where a lady was selling food and preparing food in a very small shed. The lady then prepared noodles for us and when we wanted to pay, the guys insisted that they invite us. Not only that, they even bought us a bottle of water and gave us a bottle of freshly ground coffee from their village. Although they don't have much themselves, they like to share what they have. Afterwards, the boys even invited us to their home, where we talked with the father about his time in Germany. That was a great evening and showed us how many good people there are here!