Day 21 - Sunday 29th July

Having met up with the French the day before at the Burkina Faso border, we were now staying together in a diocesan residential centre. With us now were the French group from Guérande and Lamballe who had not come to the festival weekend in Mango as they had spent most of the 3 weeks working in the neighbouring country on Bénin. The Bénin "Frenchies" had proportionally more boys in them (like us) than the other French groups and perhaps because of this our group found in them some kindred spirits. This was demonstrated on the Sunday night (our last in Africa) when we had a final sing-song (justmissing a campfire). Team Win and the Bénin crowd were the last to leave for bed. I use the latter term loosely as "bed" actually meant for most of them Anglo-French socialising, playing cards, exchanging e-mails, etc... outside their chalets into the early hours. Fair enough... it was their last night and they'd behaved so impeccably all trip.

Chillin' outside their chalet (John E., Andy R. + Mikey Mc aka Michael the goat:-)

But back to that final sing-song... Us adults started to get just a tad worried when the Hokey-Cokey (very popular with the Togolese children, by the way) started to get a little violent during the chorus (hand in hand in a circle, all running into the centre). In the end it was all good natured... young men letting of a bit off steam rugby scrum-style. All smiles at the end. As a bonding exercise it was a shame that it happened on our last night. Our lads then suggested that they wouldn't mind linking up with the Bénin lads next year if they were to come back to Togo at the same time as us.
Before that on the Sunday morning we all went to Mass at a local parish. When we got there we were all taken aback by the number of bicycles, mopeds and motorbikes outside the church. There was a Mass going on and we had to wait till everyone came out and picked up their two-wheeled transport.

While waiting we had a photo call for those of us who were wearing our African clothing.






After Mass we were treated to a display of drumming and dancing from young adults who had been members of a youth centre in Ouagadougou that worked to save children from situations of abuse, forced marriage, rape, etc...

Lunch was followed by a visit to a couple of markets in the centre of the town, quite clearly aimed at European tourists. Our guide was Bro. François Milin, a French Brother who I know well having spent a few summers hiking and camping in the Pyrénees with him and other French Brothers. He was in charge of our overall finances in the months prior to the trip as well as during it through his role as director of our French-based Brothers charity ASSIFIC. This charity seeks to centralise all the fund-raising for the missions that takes place in our Province (France-England-Italy). See http://www.webzinemaker.com/assific.

Bro. François, honorary member of Team Win

Bartering with the market sellers proved a rather stressful, tiring experience. As we approached one rather narrow, crowded street of stalls, various sellers descended on us like flies, each trying to convince us that we just had to buy their particular carved wooden elephants, necklaces, djembe drums, or little model motorcycle + rider made out of sardine tins. Much of the products on sale seemed of a high quality showing a great deal of craftsmanship, but choices had to be made, sellers had to be left disappointed.... it's just that a few of them didn't actually leave us and kept pestering. Obviously some people would buy something just to get rid of them but we - and in particular Bro. Francis - were providing a rather sterner challenge, as much due to the fact that we had limited funds as anything. For the only time in the whole trip Francis switched into Headmaster mode and dished out a few choice rebuttals to the more vigorous advances that were made and also managed to get some great bargains for himself and many of the rest of the group who quickly cottoned on to the fact that Francis' skills at bartering far exceeded those of anyone else in the group.


One particular incident left us all in hysterics when the story was told later. A few of the sellers seemed to be showing more interest in the young women in our group than actually selling us their wares (which was just a little frightening). I think one said that he wanted to marry Sophie. To her relief (and not without a certain pride) Francis defiantly replied, "She's with me!" Our bags laden with souvenirs, Bro. François, our French guide for the day, then managed to find us a place to eat that was within the limits of our budget.

By this point in the trip almost everyone (yes, I know Paul, you never succumbed at all!) had endured at least one or two days of what we euphemistically called "African tummy". I, however, had been regularly affected by this ailment from about the 5th day of the trip onwards. I am well known for my sensitive digestive system... Just ask Sophie who used to have to stand behind me - ie. downwind, literally! - in our parish Music liturgy band on Sunday evenings after I'd been for a cycle ride during the day. It's a family complaint (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!).

For the most part it did not prevent me from taking part fully in our activities (just 2 half day absences). But with its severity increasing throughout the last week of the trip, I was having to beg other members of the group to share with me their supply of Imodium (mine having long since been used up). By the time we got back to Paris on the 31st after a night flight and very little sleep, I was barely able speak or think coherently ("So what's new?" Bro. Francis would probably say :-), let alone make decisions for the group...

But more of that in my final Africa 07 diary entry.
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