I landed at Gnassingbé Eyadema airport in Lomé, Togo, almost two weeks ago. It was around 1 p.m. and I could feel the sun gently burn my skin. My first thought was the heat. I always tend to forget how hot it can get in the summer in Togo. I have not been home in two years. Many things have changed since then. In fact, the airport I landed at is new. I have heard so much about it – how beautiful it is and how it was a Togolese pride, and indeed it was.
Driving back to the house from the airport, I was lost. It didn’t feel familiar, I could not recognize the streets and then it hit me again. It always does. I felt like a stranger in my own country again. Since I have been abroad, six years now, I have been home twice and this third trip was no different. During the short ride home, I had a mixed feeling of excitement and anxiety. I have not seen my family in two years and I was not sure what to expect. Although I talk with my mother almost everyday, thanks to an application called WhatsApp, I still didn’t know what to expect.
From the car, I could see the house that I grew up in. That street hasn’t changed much. The garden was still filled with birds and lizards. When I pushed through the front door, there was my dad sitting at the dining table having lunch, I could smell those familiar spices that I so long craved for. He was eating what’s called in the local dialect “Akoumé”. He stood up and for a second I remembered how tall my dad is. My brother was right behind him and he was just as tall as my dad. That was a surprise. When did that happen? He was so young when I left – he was then almost the same height as I was. My mother, my sister, my uncle, everyone looked the same – but also different. As my dad used to say “an adult grow old but a child grow up.”
That same weekend I was out and about in Lomé. The city streets are filled with people, and honestly, I have missed that. The merchants selling their product on the streets, children playing and screaming and a lot of motorcycle taxis everywhere. What I missed the most is obviously the food then the beach. My house is 20 minutes away from the ocean, so I went to the beach that Sunday, just to feel the sand between my feet, the warm sea water and also to take a nap.
Although the first few days were full of mixed feelings, today I can feel “home.” I am happy and very much looking forward to leaving the capital and heading to the research areas in the central region of Togo, where I’ll be conducting surveys about conservation as part of an internship with Agence Nationale de Gestion de l’Environnement.