We woke up Thursday morning for breakfast at the hotel, French style (coffee/tea, pineapple juice, croissants, bread, apricot jam, and an omlette made ham and Swiss cheese). Pastor Samuel was to meet us at 10am for us to go to the local radio station and do a live interview promoting the conference on Friday and Saturday.
There’s something about high unemployment and young men with time on their hands and no vision who just create trouble. Protests had been scheduled on Thursday (CNN news) , basically to protest the current law that regulates public protest marches. Ever since the presidential elections in March 2010 that were supposedly rigged, there have been protests every Saturday in Lome, the capital city. The Togolese people have demanded that current president Faure Gnassingbe step down immediately; perhaps following the example of all of the North African countries’ call for government reform.
On the street outside the hotel all the traffic suddenly disappeared. The “zimis” (motorbike taxis for one passenger, extremely unsafe, but the only way for people to get around in all of the traffic here), the ladies selling odds and ends from the baskets on their heads, and the shop owners all disappeared. About ten young men set up a pile of used tires in the middle of the street and with the help of a little “petrol” set it on fire. They also lined up stones to block the intersection and set up a makeshift roadblock for the few zimis with passengers bent on getting to their destination.
(from my window)
A few minutes later the “gendarmerie” or police followed the plume of black smoke to the scene and proceeded to remove the rocks and separate the burning tires to put out the fire. Only a few minutes after they left the young men ran out to the street and set the tires on fire again. The police returned, put out the fire, fired rubber bullets into the air, and—according to the news reports—fired tear gas canisters. Check out these after-the-fact news reports: AFP News and CNN News.
Needless to say, we waited a few hours for everything to clear before Dad and the pastors went to the radio studio!
(Leo on the right, translating for Pastor Samuel)
Afterwards, I wanted to take Mom and Dad to Coco Beach, a popular beach/hang out spot for Mercy Ships crew this past summer. Pastor Samuel said it was not safe for us to get a taxi there and back alone so the translator Leo accompanied us. Neither Leo nor the driver had ever been there, but I was sure I would recognize the large sign on the main beach road… or not. I guess in Africa I shouldn’t count on signs to still be up 7 months later! We drove for about 4km past the correct turn and finally I said, “I don’t remember any of this, I think we have gone too far!” Leo jumped out to ask a taxi driver and we finally got turned around and found the correct turn. Coco Beach is a little hotel/restaurant tucked back behind a petroleum pipeline, several industrial buildings, and a slum. :)
But the food (we all got “poisson du jour”—fish of the day. It was a lovely carp served whole with a side of “pommes frites”—French fries) was amazing and I was glad that my years in Singapore had taught me to be OK being served an entire fish! Then we HAD to have some of their amazing homemade ice cream made with real cocoa nuts and vanilla bean. :)
(chocolate ice cream)
(Dad and Leo)
(I love Chacos!)
(panorama image... click to see the large picture)
(sand crab found on the beach)
We only had a few minutes to walk on the beach before we had to catch a taxi back to the church to meet with a few of the leaders of Pastor Samuel’s church. We had a chance to ask what their struggles were with leading within the church, how we could help, and what they were doing to grow personally.
(the leadership team at Pastor Samuel's church)
On our way back home, Pastor Samuel wanted to show us the Bible school that is attached to his church. Here, by the light of one single florescent bulb people (adults and children alike) are taught the Bible straight up. As we walked out, Dad noticed a French Gideon New Testament. :)
Then we stopped by a local supermarket to get a few snacks for dinner. We were so tired from the day that we were happy making a meal of pineapple juice, chocolate “biscuits” (cookies), yogurt; using plaintain chips (similar to banana chips) as a spoon.