Some of you must have been wondering where I have been this past few weeks. Well, I was off the grid. I was learning about my country and meeting amazing people. I really had an awesome time. I was on the field and I was discovering the central region of Togo. It is a beautiful place, with beautiful people. I visited six villages and I was warmly welcomed in each one of them. I spent wonderful time with the villagers.
At first, I was a little scared, I was not sure what to expect and I have never lived in rural villages. The first village I visited was a sweet small village of about 700 habitants. There was no electricity and no clean water. I was hosted by the village chief who nicely offered me a room to sleep in. The village chief was very nice and he was very excited by my research. When I first reached the village, I realized that my phone did not have any signal. When I asked, I was told that I would have to go on a hill to get a signal. My assistant, who knew the area, promised me that it was a short walk from the village to the hill, but it was actually a 45-minute walk. For them that’s a short walk (I told myself that I will never complain again if I don’t get signal in EH basement when I have to get things from my locker.) On the field anything can happen. I was going to another village and our car got stuck in the mud for more than an hour. I really thought that we were going to spend our night in the forest. Luckily, after pushing hard, we finally made it out. I had mud all over me. It was fun, though. It was raining most of the time and the roads were muddy.
In some households, the topic of the national park was a sensitive issue. I conducted my surveys by randomly selecting the household that I interviewed. I was nicely welcomed into people’s homes. They were open about sharing their experience of living next to a national park and also how they perceived conservation. Some people saw me as the solution to their problem. I had to keep reminding them that I was just conducting a research as part my Master’s project. I met families that were incredibly nice. People that I could never forget. I could not explain the connection that I had with each person that I met on these trips.
These trips were not only to collect data for my research. I discovered something that I was not expecting: a new side to my country. I was saddened by the standard of living of my people. I lived all my life in cities and I am a little embarrassed that it took a research trip to visit this side of my own country. However, I am glad that I got the chance to experience this. It felt a little weird not to use my phones at all and to live with no electricity. But after a week, it was ok and it was refreshing. My friends know that I could not talk about a place without referring to the food and on this note I would like to add that the food was amazing.
I left Sokodé with a heavy heart and a promise to myself to come back. When I went back to Lomé, it felt new. I was not connected for almost two months and I felt disconnected to my world but connected to a new world. Then, reality kicked back in very soon. I had a lot of mail to catch up on and I had to plan my trip back to the U.S.
I could not have imagined my research trip going any better.