2011 January 10 Enter Togo leave Ghana
A few places on the planet have special status for me, and after returning to Lome, Togo in West Africa, I realized this city has joined a small group of cities. These cities for some odd reason become my bases of operations, places that feel familiar and almost like home. In these locations, I can find, buy, eat, and do things faster, and my life is easier than normal.
I live in a home in Lome, Togo where the owner rents two rooms to travelers; it is in the Kodjoviakope neighborhood.
List of places that feel like home:
1. Panajachel, Guatemala on Lago Atitlan
2. Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand
3. Robinson Mall Area of Manila, Philippines, however shifting to Bwang, La Union.
4. Lome, Togo close to the Galion Hotel
5. Pie de la Cuesta, Mexico eight miles North of Acapulco
6. Platypus Hostel in Candalaria area of Bogota, Colombia
7. Orland, Indiana. USA (Home)
Here is a link where a group of professional travelers is pointing out our favorite places to live for a couple of months:
Ok for Travelers to Live
Be careful, we do not all agree on these destinations, for example Robin like Cairo, Egypt and I consider it a hole.
Lome, Togo West Africa --- Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I Learned an Important lesson about Cynthia Yesterday
I am often frustrated and angry with this woman, this morning I pushed her to explain. Maybe I can understand both her and Africa better after our conversation.
1. "If I am talking with five people, and all of them are smiling, only one is good."
2. "If a person is smiling at me, I cannot trust them."
3. "The person to trust is the one not smiling."
She speaks French, and I am not the best at French, her English sucks, but between our mutual knowledge, we can both communicate if we want. Although this is the also the problem when we are around other black Africans, she goes into this state of ignoring everyone, and when I say ignore, I am also saying she ignores me. I can be extremely forceful with African people when they ignore me, and do not listen, I can be radically forceful. For example, yesterday we crossed the Aflao, Ghana / Lome, Togo border, as soon as we cleared the Togo border gates; I flagged down two motorcycle taxis. Well, a group of touts, the normal groups of jerks that hangs around at all borders on the planet, and they started talking too much. They wanted us to exchange money, take their taxi, or buy whatever they could sell.
This groups of jerks is screaming, pushing and even pulling at me, I am very patient, but do lose focus, while Cynthia’s brain was way off track, she was a prime target for theft, she is an Ivory Coast tourist in Togo.
I line up two Moto taxis, I put Cynthia on the back of the rear motorcycle Taxi called a Moto here in Togo, and tell the driver to follow me. I then walk up and load up my front backpack on the front Moto taxi. I look at him in the eyes and say,
I have said this phrase to hundreds of taxis, I am positive I am saying it correct. Well the small boy has a group or people watching, so he is paying attention to the group, not to me. He looks at me, saying, I do not understand. I grab his Helmut with both hand, make him look at me, he is laughing, I scream,
I shake his head, and say it again.
Please do not think I lost respect, the world respect force, I got two thumbs up from the rear Moto driver.
I started to pull my backpack away from him, and find another taxi; the taxi in the rear starts talking to him in Ewe, and tells him Kodjoviakope. I found out later, the man recognized me, I have taken so many Motos in Lome, many of the drivers know me, and know where I live. They know they can trust me, I know Lome.
The problem of the small boy on the Moto is common, he assumed I could not speak French, (He cannot speak French really) and assumed he could not understand me, therefore his brain not open to listening to me. I have had many people say,
"I do not speak English."
And one of the people close says.
"He is speaking French, listen."
There is little need to concentrate in West Africa, life is simple, and there is seldom a situation where they are required to learn or to focus. While in the modern world, I am tested often, and people are strict, my parents demanded I listen and obey. Here in Africa, I believe and feel the focus is more on doing, and less on listening. I can listen much better than Cynthia, she is angry after I ask two questions, which is normal, I seldom ask more than two-questions of any person in West Africa, because after that, they close their brains, it is too much. They are smart enough, but it becomes stressful, and they want to stop.
Two Problems - Two Question Limit, and No Trust
I smile at Cynthia and she does not trust me, if I scream at her, she trust me, If I ask more than two questions, she stops listening, this is truly a cluster --- F###k. When we are surrounded by African people, then communications ends, but her list of wants increases, she goes into selfish mode and stop being the least bit lovable.
In a Hotel room, nobody around, she become human again, this is not a good situation, I must find a compromise to continue. She leaves on January 14, so in one way or another the present condition of things stops.
I learned today, she trusts nobody, including me, and when you trust nobody, there is only one reason to talk with someone, that is to take something from them. It is natural for her to take, it is unnatural for her to give, and she is only going to give after she receives.
I am cynical and know the African people are not to be trusted fully, but I do talk with them, I say hello, how are you, and try my best to trust them with extreme care. But then again, I am capable of grabbing them and forcing them to focus. Cynthia is not big enough or dominating enough, therefore she ignores them until they say what she wants to hear. She does the exact same with me, truly a disgusting custom or habit. I must continue to offer up idea or things until she finally says something.
"This is how we do thing in Africa."
"I am not going to become African."
The final option is to just not talk to her, this is the same with photos, there is no way to work around to simple compromise, she is just constantly controlling with anger or ignoring, communication is not valued.
If I have to raise my voice, if I have to repeat myself many times, I will stop a relationship or friendship. I do not care who it is, I do not sit around talking loud at people, I do not scream at people. If I do scream, it is only after I lose respect, and know they need slapped to function properly; the person can only deal on an operant conditioning level, negative and positive reinforcement, no learning from a discussion. I am always wondering if anybody can learn, without a slap on the head to reinforce it. (Please be intuitive here, I do not literally slap them.)
What is must it feels like to not trust anyone, I do not understand, I trust most people, I am not worried about them maneuvering me, I worry that I am going to control them. I try to listen, because I know listening and trying to understand is respect. Think about it, if Cynthia does not trust anyone, there is no reason for her respect anybody, and for sure, there is no reason to listen or reply.
She has asked me 100 times,
"Are you married?"
I have answered 100 times,
She tries to trick me, tries to word things in way to be clever, she tries her best to make me somehow expose that I am married. There is problem, I have never been married, and she is looking for an answer that is not there. I finally had to give her an ultimatum.
"If you ask me again, you are going to need to leave, this is not respect."
I needed to scream this at her, like a small child, I am losing respect.
Do I trust people in Africa?
No, but I do not trust the people in the USA, so what is new? I think there must be some level of respect here; there are different levels of respect for different cultures. I know when I am talking with a German person, what the person says is probably the truth; I respect the culture enough to believe what the people of the culture says to me. I trust simple questions of an American, I know if I ask them directions, they are going to try to answer, or say they do not know.
Do I trust Africans for directions, no, but more than Latinos, in most underdeveloped cultures questions are of little value. If I want to know about a product to purchase, that question is not important to the vendor, they will say,
"Do you want to buy it?"
I will often bluntly and brutishly say,
"Maybe if you are willing to explain it, if not, then no."
Africans and Asian are not going to steal, but they will lie without remorse. While Latinos will steal your shoes if they get a chance, and lie too, so I like Africa and Asia better, however Latinos are happier. North Americans and Europeans are too serious and looking for an argument, one wrong word, and they find fault, they have shut off their ability to intuitively understand, they want perfection, it does not exist, therein lie the argument.
All relationships need to be close to 50 / 50 in benefits to proceed in a functional manner. I on the other hand accepted long ago, that two dysfunctional people can entwine their lives simpler than two sane and well people can. Two needy people can mutually exchange needs, while people who do not need, have to work hard to find common ground.
I often ask myself, do I need people, the answer is yes, and I want to be surrounded by people with smiles on their faces. However, I do not need anyone to validate my existence to be ok, I self validate; this creates a problem, because I need real respect. Many people feel they are respected because people listen to them, I can maneuver many a person by having good listening skills.
Warren Buffet talks about this validation as the "Inner Scorecard" in his book ‘The Snowball."
--- The Inner Scorecard is the set of criteria and standards by which a person judges himself. In contrast stands the Outer Scorecard, which is a picture of self-worth predicated upon the judgments of others.
2011 January 10 Enter Togo leave Ghana
I am stressed, and easy to just give her the boot.
I have many relations and this one is more baffling than normal.
Poor countries have cultures of never ending selfishness and self centered behavior. 85 percent of the planet is going to cut line if they can. I keep hope to find a more noble spirit under all this rough exterior.
She prays in the morning, prays before meals and refuses to say thank you to the woman selling bananas.
I am setting up now to go to Nigeria.
I refer to the cultural tendencies in the impoverished 75 of the planet as the "survival ethic" and in some ways it also applies to the wealthier countries' most wealthy,elite,and powerful and the bottom end of the population living below the poverty lines which varies among the wealthier nations. What we who grew up in the middle class wealthy "democracies" know as morals or "right and wrong" or proper behavior does NOT apply to most of mankind. The world's organized religions help keep the greatest majority of the human race subdued discouraging them from "CUTTING IN LINE" in all facets of life with the promise that the "meek shall inherit the earth" type of brainwash.
I think the natural thing we choose to do regarding other people is to judge them by our own character traits therefore if one is hardworking, ambitious, honest and maintains self respect and self confidence one tends to treat others like they share the same traits. This, of course is naive and immature as we grow older, experience interaction with greater number of people and cultures, get ripped off, burned, broken hearted, mislead, cheated, conned or disappointed. So some of us learn from experience and adjust our trust and respect choices while attempting to maintain our own original idealistic character traits, some develop self immunization protecting themselves from further pain and suffering caused by other people and still others allow themselves to switch over to the "dark side" adopting the behaviors of those who betrayed them.
My FIRST gut reaction when reading the first half of your post was CYA ( a slang abbreviation I just learned from my daughter ), "cover your ass" to make sure your companion along with your most important possessions don't disappear while you're asleep or in the shower whatever.
I know what you mean about the resistance for people to listen, participate and join in constructive conversation because their basic needs and pleasures dominate their actions rather than intellectual reflections and interchanges. But then again like you mentioned when each of two persons sure of themselves and centered in their own "universe" cross paths why would they spend time together or what could they learn teach or gain from one another??
I disagree with the above comment about your "return to a bit of sanity" as some of your best writing has occurred since Cynthia entered your blog.
I am a recovering alcoholic, therefore I always try my best to accept my crazy side, that works in contrast to the steadfast and stable.
But it would make life easier, if I was perfect. I am sure I will wake tomorrow and write.