City Idiosyncrasies

City Idiosyncrasies
Kpalime, Togo West Africa
Monday, April 9, 2007

I search in a city for small quirks, habits or the usual and common that when grouped, categorized and realized are Idiosyncrasies of the City you are in.

I have exhausted all my small needs; there are these small needs, wants, and miscellaneous excuses to stay in a city.

I am trying to think, I know the way I travel is close to 80 percent different from the majority of travelers, backpackers or tourist on the planet.

The normal person touring a continent make this checklist as they read the guidebook, I want to see this, I want to see that, and the ones who travel like travel is a business write them all down. The others may underline or mark with a yellow highlighter the important places to visit.

I have never been a good tourist, and will continue to not be a good tourist, I do not like to go and look at tourist attractions. However, I love to look at what is of interest to me. This is where I differ from the other 80 percent, if it is mentioned in the Guidebook, I do consider going and looking, yet being listed in the guidebook is not a reason to go and visit. I try to find what I am would say is interesting and not rely on another person.

I keep thinking and returning to a quote in my mind in the book Timeline by Michael Crichton, which I just read a week ago again.

"If you don't know history, you don't know anything."

In the book, these University Archeology students are working in France, digging up, restoring, and a Castle, Monastery, Grain Mill from the year 1347.

Yes, I have discovered my inner thought, the true search here, I knew I was searching for an answer. The book Timeline is about time, it is about a line of time, the continuous flow of time and the changes that occur over time. There are ages, dates, specific actions that happened in time that are on a continuum.

Michael Crichton has this intuitive style of writing that in the book explains the underlying truths or reality, not fantasy.

I could take Kpalime, Togo and if I took the time, I could show from Artifact and may carbon dating the times when the city had it first concrete building, when the German, French or British, and I suppose also possible the Portuguese or Dutch were here. There is a history here, which could be marked on a timeline.

When I enter a city, there are clues to the city to discover. I will explain Kpalime, not the type of writing I prefer to do, because it would take hours for me to properly explain the city of Kpalime and what I observe.

KPALIME - Explained - Short Version, there is no long version.

Kpalime is a smallish city, and has a large central market that dominates the center of the village. The market appears to be in a depression of valley and the road leading in and out of Kpalime will lead down into this valley. In the valley as is normal, the water flows through by a small stream or in this case, closer to being a ditch. As you walk up the hills away from the central parts of the city, there are one both sides of the city Water Tanks.

This photo is a proof of my finding the small quirks of a city.

On the one hill, close, or adjacent to one of the water tanks is a temporary market that forms on Sunday and Tuesday, that seems to be, I am guess more of a wholesale market. This is possibly a market where venders come to from villages say less than one days travel away to sell or buy goods and provisions. There is also a big social element to the market.

The French I believe constructed a few building on the other side of the valley and up the hill from the Cristol Hotel, and turn right. The constructions of the building are different from the ones where the normal residences of Kpalime live.

In the distance from one of the higher points, and may locations in Kpalime you can see the Mount Kloto area or the smaller, yet big enough set of mountains that separate Ghana from Togo. If I wished, I could take a motorbike to public transportation and go easily to the border of Ghana.

There is a very large Catholic Church up near the Bafana Bafana Auberge. I walked by it yesterday, happy the clock is working correctly and tried to find a name on the church. This is a prominent landmark of the city and I believe the locals would know the name and the Taxi drivers would know it.

The city has a few landmarks, I have mentioned before, as all cities are a collection of common landmarks. Such as the Prefecture that is the government building, there is normally somewhere a Hospital and many schools. Then there are large open-air markets in Africa. These listed above are the landmarks of most normal cities in the world, they get bigger or smaller.

The city has others, which will continue to be landmarks providing the city does not have many. There is a Texaco Station, and a Fan Milk store that is a distribution point for the Fan Yogo I love so much. The Texaco Station and the Fan Milk if you notice have non-French names. There is a restaurant that is called the Cafeteria that is close to the Fan Milk and is a central gathering point for people to pay a hundred or two CFA to watch Football on the Satellite Connection, eat, drink and socialize. It I the center of whereby the locals go to meet, see, and be seen.

There seems be many white people there, I would guess it is recommended by the Guidebooks. Normally in a city, what is recommended by the Guidebooks is where the Tourist goes and eats. I for sure am different here, I read the restaurant about 1 in 100 times and then by accident, and maybe notice, yes, I know that restaurant. I eat where I am tempted to eat, because the establishment seems clean and good.

I found at the bottom of the market area, close to the ditch river yesterday a set of maybe 20 - 55 Gallon barrels. On top of the barrels were screen or grills set up and inside must have been charcoal or wood burning. Around this area is the butcher area of the market where beef, chicken and I would thing goat is cut into pieces to be sold to the locals. There is also a very interesting and busy water collection point there. I tend to avoid this area because there is also a set of large speakers where they have the volume too loud for my enjoyment of life and this area is hectic. I think the locals like the constant semi-physical sensation of loud music and chaos, as it is a simple for of mental stimulation that is reactive, not proactive and does not require thinking. I have see no newspapers, the only reading stimulation I see is the Bible and the Koran, and you do see them lying around reading this or being entertained by very large and annoying to me speakers.

I am going to stop with this never-ending explanation of Kpalime, Togo. I could write a book and that is not my intention.

When I arrive in a city, I am studying the city from the moment I enter; I will study the map before I come, if there is a map in the guidebook.

The map has road that come and go from the city starting more or less at the Texaco station and the Fan Milk Landmarks.

The central market is in the valley and the temporary market is on the hill next to the big water tower.

The row of more trendy hotels, not listed in the guidebook but like the Aaron City Motel and the Suisse Something are up by the older colonial building and the military area where they have guards for something.

The central bus or transportation area is on the opposite side of the ditch river and somewhat hidden, it I gut through this area I will return to both the Sunday, Tuesday market and can go the back way to the Auberge Mandela.

This one girl, Cafri, a girl Mike and I were chatting at last night said to Michael in the Mina language.
- This is the Yeh Bow (white man) that walk one day to those streets, then walks another day to that neighborhood, every day he walks a different direction looking at this area.-

I am learning the lay of the land.

She has observed me, she has seen a pattern, and she knows I go on exploratory walks to understand the city.

I am trying to discover all the City Idiosyncrasies. What a confusing definition from the dictionary. I will go for the Encyclopedia and see if there are better words. No luck, the Encyclopedia does not see idiosyncrasies as being of value. Habits, this may be easier to grasp, there are habits or specific quirks of person, or the usual way to doing something. I tend to say, or use the word - Basically - or - Therefore - when I write, I can repeat or be repetitive with these words, and it is a habit of my writing. I have discovered I write in a riddle fashion. This the habits of my writing style.


1. quirk: a way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is peculiar to an individual or group, especially an odd or unusual one

2. unusual response to something: an unusual or exaggerated reaction to a drug or food that is not caused by an allergy

A best I understand and more or less, I am tired of thinking about idiosyncrasies it is what I find in a city or a person.

I find in the city the small quirks, habits or the usual and common that when grouped, categorized and realized are the City Idiosyncrasies.
(I am developing a new writing style, I finally defined what I am thinking about, and so I will take this sentence and put at the beginning. It is the theme of this blog, and I discovered it when it finally arrived, I discovered by writing, how to clarify my thinking and know what I am thinking about in the abstract. It is clear now, so I can put at the beginning.)

I can tell you that most travelers could give a bar tour easy, or where they like to eat, however ask them to describe the water and sanitation and they will say something like,
- What a mess, this city is dirty. -

That is extremely simple and does not say anything, to notice the two water towers, and I am looking for more, the city could maybe have up to five. I need a motorcycle or car to explore this or to live here for a longer time.

I would guess about 90-98 percent of traveler have no clear understanding of their location, yet I do believe they study the map, however do they understand the dynamics of a the city.

- Location -
- Location -
- Location -

The three reasons that determine value of real estate. However, the truth is transportation. This is my annoyance with the guidebooks of West Africa, they have an allowed there modern need to use a car, the main roads, the highway and to live in modern hotels to define West Africa.

The history of West Africa I think can be ignored because it is subtle, the locals wish to hide it, the ditch river in the city is not beautiful, and the collection of water is old fashion, to eat in the market makes a white person nervous. I am told they have AIDS, dysentery, and people in Africa are dying of this and that, this negative overview tends to envelop and cover the beauty of the place.

Somehow, the modern society of Africa people and the world is putting up a smoke screen and stopping me from see normal Africa.

Prior problem dominate today.

I cannot just look at the Slave Trade as a business that flourished and helped Africa to thrive for years. We much put this… IT WAS SO BAD option on this trade, and always analyze in a bad frame, and not a real frame. I read yesterday in the Encarta Encyclopedia how after the ending of slavery, West Africa suffered and had money problems.

African black leaders, traded people for provisions from the Europeans, therefore after the slave traded ended, they had nothing to trade. I tend to think the Germans came and took the trees, paid the workers a salary, and the real value; the trees may have been free, as how do you put value on firewood when everyone collects free.

The history of logging in Africa should be an epic of the history of Africa, as dominating as the slave trade. I think the slave trade change Africa in a small way and I predict in time, the cutting down of trees in Africa was the worst problem. I cannot even say that slavery and logging was a problem. It was a negative reason why the modern world came to Africa, and brought enough money to develop Africa to the present level. Sugar Cane, Cacao, Palms and a few crops are here, I am not seeing anything do well, and the Cacao production is a leader in the world.

Primitive is not fun, Michael in the book Timeline explains. The present day West Africa is often more developed than South America.

What is West Africa good at? Sadly, the most obvious things seem to be a great poster child to raise money for donations from nice people. Who then often say they are working on problems that not in my opinion major problems. They can raise money for drinking water, and they are managing their water very well compared to Asia or South America. I only know a few countries in West Africa.

I would guess South Africa could be in a mess because of too many people in one place. I am not looking forward to the millions in Nigeria.

The learning about a city is to first question, then answer, then learn, then relearn the truth, then in the end, you continue to realize you really do not understand, and there is never ending fodder for curious people. Just when you think you know, you are positive you are not sure.

City Idiosyncrasies

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