Days 3+4, July 11th-12th (updated with photos)
... It turns out that King Lawson great-grandfather (one of the 3 local Kings at Aného, not 2 as I first thought) went to study in England (London) in the 19th century. His 2 favourite cities in England were London and Liverpool, so he named his bedroom and private quarters New London and another part of his palace Liverpool. I felt a bit sorry for the 40 or so young French people who came with us to see him because they must have felt rather left out with him making such a fuss of us.
King Lawson is the 8th King of his line and so was highly delighted when we gave him a "Liverpool 08 Capital Of Culture" t-shirt and a Liverpool 800th anniversary commemorative medal. He thought we had this planned all along. Some things I suppose are just meant to be!
King Lawson with some of his council members and advisors
I knew a bit about Togo's history but had no idea there were links with England. Togo was first invaded by the Germans in the 19th century. A treaty was signed between the main Togolese kings (King Lawson's ancestor refused because he favoured the British but he was out voted) and the Germans who then passed over control of the country to France after the 1st World War.
Meal time at Aného
Had a lovely evening walk along the beach (palm trees, sand, local fishermen... no swimming due to strong currents, big waves and a very steep slope into the sea) rounded off with a nice cold drink at a local bar.
Today we were taken for a walk in the morning by a 6th former from the Brothers' school, Edgar, a big basketball fan and player (ha was very big himself). We learnt a lesson... when someone here says it takes 20 mins to walk to the frontier with Bénin, read 1 hr! But Edgar was so helpful and friendly, we didn't hold it against him. By the end about half the group had exchanged e-mail addresses with him. During the walk he took us to see the local Major, and wanted to us to go and the King of his own clan, having seen Lawson the day before. I politely refused, given that it already looked as if the walk was going to turn into a bit of an epic adventure.
Some impressions from the walk:
Taxis - most of them are motorbikes or mopeds and they carry 1 or 2 passengers.
Dress sense - people here are immaculately turned out in highly colourful clothes and take great pride in their appearance. We must seem rather slovenly in comparison in our sweaty t-shirts and shorts.
Being in the minority - many of the group spoke afterwards about how awkward they initially felt as we approached the border (from which we turned back). The road was packed with motorbikes, lorries, bikes... and lined with stalls and shops selling everything from hot food to electrical appliances and offering bike/motorbike repairs, haircuts, taxi services, etc...
In the evening Bro. Philippe, a French Brother who is the Headteacher and Brothers' community Superior, took us to a traditional village about 10 miles outside Aného where the Brothers have helped construct new classrooms for the village school. The welcome we received was almost overwhelming. The people all seem so happy despite (or perhaps because of) the simple lifestyle they live. But don't be fooled. They are well aware of trends elsewhere in the world. Many people have e-mail addresses and go to a local secondary school to use their internet cyber café.
With members of Fio Kiondji village