Tuesday, January 21, 2014

You know you live in Togo when...

A few weeks ago a friend of mine posted a comment on Facebook hilariously lamenting the things that are no longer strange to you after living in Togo. This sparked a comment frenzy which I followed intently, laughing as each member suggested something new and unique to our lives in West Africa. A few times I typed in an additional comment, but then wavered before hitting the send button with a lingering thought in the back of my head: What if nobody likes it? WHAT IF NOBODY THINKS I'M FUNNY? So, I remained silent.

Several weeks later, I finally found my contribution. But it would have been weird and kind of stalker-esque to dig through her profile and re-initiate the thread, so I decided to blog about it instead. I only Facebook stalk with subtlety, thank you.

A few weeks before Christmas we took a trip with a couple of our good friends to Ghana. Our itinerary was fairly lax, with plans to meet at the hotel around sunset on Friday and to visit a monkey sanctuary the next day.

Through a series of awesome events (leading a bar full of drunk Ghanaian men in a few cheers for Chelsea while searching for more milk stout supplies for the weekend, meeting a random guy on the side of the road who lived in Massachusetts, teaching him how to spotlight, and getting a tree frog tangled in my hair) we were a little late to the hotel. Lucky for us, we have good friends who like beer and frogs, so we started at a not-too-early hour the next morning.

We made it to the monkey sanctuary just before lunch. The guide handed us a few bananas and lead us into the forest. After walking a few kilometers, we heard a rustling in the trees and looked up to find ourselves surrounded by a large troop of Mona monkeys.

What's that?
To facilitate their interest, Mr. Kate put a banana on top of his head and continued to walk, enticing the monkeys to come down from the higher branches, closer to us.

In the moments that followed, we were suddenly inundated by monkeys. They surrounded us from each branch and descended to the forest floor, circling us. "Give us those bananas!" their beady little eyes screamed at us.  In an instant, monkeys were jumping through the air, from branch to branch, trying to snag the bananas from our hands as we walked. Occasionally, one would land on our heads, arms, or shoulders, confidently take the fruit, and sit there and eat it, knowing the other monkeys were too scared to follow suit.

Eventually we ran out of simian bait, and the monkeys quickly retreated back into the dense foliage, leaving us empty handed, flea ridden and stinky.

We walked back to the car and I got in the back seat. To avoid the lovely aroma of monkey permeating our car for the rest of our time here in Togo, we rode back with the windows open. I grabbed my hoodie and wrapped up for the ride back to our hotel, since it was starting to get cooler outside.

Stinky monkey

When we returned home from our weekend trip, my nanny nicely gathered all of our dirty clothes and washed them. When she came across my sweater, she must have thought that it had accidentally fallen out of the closet-- there was no way I would need to wear a hoodie in West Africa! So she nicely hung it back up.

Several weeks later, on my way home to America for our R&R trip, I took my seat in the airplane, wrapped myself up in my sweater in preparation for the blazing air conditioners and greeted the man who sat next to me. As we spoke I thought "My god. This man smells like a monkey's ass. DISGUSTING." I cut our conversation short, turned my head as though I was incredibly interested in what was happening outside the window, as we were flying over the Indian Ocean. At night. Seriously. Take a shower, dude.

Sitting in my seat waiting for the rest of the plane to board for my next flight, I was relieved to see a man in a suit heading towards the seat next to me. Usually people in suits don't tend to stink quite as bad. He sat down and we greeted each other. We busily put our things away, and I pulled out my sweater. As I wrapped it around myself I once again smelled an obscene odor. I looked at the man next to me, and as I tried to figure out how a homeless man got such a nice suit, the dots slowly connected in my head. It was not he who stunk, but me. It was the same sweater I had worn after letting the monkeys crawl all over me at the sanctuary. And it had not been washed. I ripped my sweater off, disgusted and distraught. I started itching-- how long do fleas live? I wrapped the sweater in a plastic bag and quickly got up to stow it in the overhead bin where, I swear, I still smelled it for the rest of the flight. I also may have given fleas to several people's carry-on suitcases.

So here is my contribution: You know you live in West Africa when you can not only recognize the unique smell of a monkey's ass, but you can recognize that the smell is coming from you.


  1. Here are words I have never seen hooked together in ONE sentence before: "My god. This man smells like a monkey's ass. Thank you for that.....

    Sr. Brad

  2. really funny. I stumbled upon this blog, and loved all your great stories.

    Hang in there, and write more!

    Cheers from Houston,


  3. Funny! I live in Washington DC area, and heading to Togo in a week or two (I am originally from there, but been based in DC for ages). I will be there for an extended period of time with kids, and looking for a community to plug into. Any tips would be appreciated. Any runners somewhere?

  4. Missing your funny anecdotes and gorgeous pictures!! Please blog more!

  5. Miss reading your posts - hope all is well and that you return to blogging soon!