Date: Sat, 29 Mar 2003 02:42:31 -0800 (PST)
From: becky binns <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: TNL #70
I recently had the privilege of sharing a meal with a couple of Europeans who were traveling through Togo. Jean Michael was a Dutch kid here on a photography mission for his final project at art school. Hans was a German journalist who'd been covering parts of Africa for 20 years. The three of us met on a bush taxi coming up from Lomé, and as we passed Bafilo, they convinced me to stay on the bus and accompany them to Kara.
Ten minutes into dinner, Jean Michael blurted out, "You know, you Americans are HATED in Europe right now!" I was the first American Jean had encountered, and it seemed he'd been holding this in for quite awhile. Hans leapt in and reminded his young friend that it was the government that was hate-worthy, not the people. Thank you Hans. I confessed that my friends and I often feel the need to apologize for our Americanness while traveling abroad. They said that that said a lot for my personality.
How easy it is to bash my country, especially right now. I just spent the day reading all the March Newsweeks. My mind is in a muddle. I've read about Bush's faith, the reasons the world fears the US, the banning of French toast in the capital, the comparisons between wars, administrations, between it all. It can be so tricky to weed through the propaganda of both sides, to stop the knee-jerk reaction to bash the US, and to try to see...SOMETHING, positive. I'm sure you all know this.
The BBC was interviewing a Kenyan man who said, "I hate Bush. If Bush were here I'd cut him like a goat...(long pause)...Or a cow!" I laughed at the man's afterthought. Then felt bad for the world's most criticized man, a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. A man who really seems to think he's doing the RIGHT thing... If I were home would I be marching in war-protests? Would I see things more clearly? Would I still feel the need to apologize for my Americanness?
I sit outside thinking in the fading light of Bafilo. A crowd roars in the distance as a soccer match comes to a close. The bats swoop by my head, always seeming to miss me by a hair. Flies buzz around the mangos, creating a calming hum in my yard, a peacefulness interrupted as my dog dashes around the corner and lands half in my lap. Einstein is not a small dog, and the effort of a moment of play sends sweat down my back. Its a 100° evening. A lizard passes over my feet and Einstein takes off after it. The electricity hasn't been working, and as the darkness closes in on my Togo day, I feel so far from all the questions of the world. And this is a blessing.
"Bon Soir Mariama!!" The cry startles me from my thoughts. Oh. "Bon Soir Yacabou." My crazy neighbor brings a smile to my face. He and I were wearing matching shirts today. Shirts donated by the last PCV. We were number 4 and number 5 on some Montclair child's sports team. I briefly wonder what Yacabou's
view on the war is. Then I realize he may not even know about it. I never thought I'd be envious of Yacabou.
Until next time, peace be with us all,
PS: Shout out to Leila Gilley who was not only the first letter I received in Togo in October 01, but the first call I received on my new phone too. Perhaps I should thank her mother, whose phone she was calling from.