Saturday, February 28, 2009

Haute Couture du Togo..How to rock the Pagne

So you want to know who the Marc Jacobs of Togo's the haute gamme of pagne and Vlisco is where it's at. Here's a few window scenes of their boutique in the capital city of Lome. This is where I seek inspiration for the many ways one can construct meters of printed cloth into a work of "complet" construction.
Here is thier site if you are interested in learning more of who dresses the wealthy Togolese. Based in the Netherlands, this company has been in the African fabric business since 1847 (way back in colonial times) and have shops in Togo, Benin, the Netherlands, and soon Nigeria.
Handprinted Vlisco fabrics at a factory in Ghana.

The Vlisco location in Togo, West Africa.

Some images from their ad campaign.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Togo Joe

When you need a buzz...
When you live in a place that grows and harvests the real stuff yet there isn't a coffee house around where you can get a good cup of take matters into your own hands.
I have mentioned before my work transforming cocoa beans into chocolate, now I will like to take a moment to show you what is neccessary for a girl who loves a strong brew in a country that grows the real stuff yet only offers instant coffee. Granted the pace of life here does not demand that I power up on coffee to get through the day, as well as the fact thatit is so hot here one more steaming cup of something is not needed. But I miss the taste of a nice brew from time to time so I decided to take matters into my own hands...
I took the robusta (yup 2x the caffiene with a taste that is not as rich and bold as arabica, but its all that grows well here) green beans from my agricultural cooperative to roast at home. There is only one local roaster here who, by the help of a former Peace Corps volunteer started bagging and selling the goods locally. Cafe Kuma is the name and Togolese coffee is thier game, yet I still wanted to give it a shot myself. Here is a couple photos of me back in my little den of a kitchen brewing up mischeif.
the coffee cherries or "peaberries"
Here is the coffee on the tree, the red “cherries“ turn dark brown after drying in the sun. The course is then removed to reveal the green grain of coffee.
After drying the beans are taken to the mill where the husks are removed revealing the green grain (bean). The beans are then taken and poured from pan to pan, removing any remaining parts of the husk.

Here is the method Cafe Kuma uses to roast thier coffee. It is similar to a whirly pop popcorn maker. The constant agitation is what keeps the beans from burning and creates an even roast.

I just used a pan rasting method to roast the beans to the richness I liked. This of course caused a lot of smoke and soot as the beans cracked and popped thier way to a dark brown.
Here is an image showing the different levels of roast, from green to “cinnamon“ to dark rich and bold (well with hints of a smoky aftertaste)

From start to to brown.

I will be posting more of the behind the scenes process in the coming days. I recently went up the mountain, through a winding dirt path in a cargo truck to collect sacs of coffee from the members en brouse. To be continued...cheers!

got coffee? Togo does....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I cant wait till Mango was just beautiful last year...cant you see?

monkey business

Hey everyone in the cold cold US... this is what Im up to in Hot Togo
I ran into this monkey on my way to market yesterday and thought I may stop to chat a bit with him. He seemed to be a bit stuffy in that damn jean jacket so I gave him my water sachet and wished him a good day... wow life is charming here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Togo likes to party

When in as the Togolese. So when the Togolese party it's all about good friends, good fun , and matching outfits. Not to mention stuffing your face at the end. Here are some highlights from my Valentines day festivities. There was a huge region wide fashion show where all the seamstresses, tailors, and their patrons partied on the mountain top. Which involved each village in the region constructing matching outfits, parading out, dancing, singing, and then...PICNIC TIME!! After all the marching around everyone got down and dirty.... Who brought the sodabe? My friend Chrissy and I, upon being notified of the festivities a bit late threw together a matching pretty in pink ensemble and hit the town. It was wonderful. I love my village! We REPRESENTED!
Abra, Togoto and Aglame cleaning up the couscous bowl
Zoro stuffin face with s-getti salad, water sachet on hand for a quick clean up
When not a table left in site..use chez Eugenie's tete.
Yup, that one there..on the left, he stole the biggest drumstick.

So you think this one can dance, oh boy can he, just look at that face..kid can boogie.

If you're good enough someone will slap a coin on your forhead, paper bills are a bit too cher to be stuffing into pants.

Beg and the bottle...don't worry this kid works nights at a bar.
She didn't want to do it but Precious here made her do it.
If you find a video of this on know it was really me...and I though pressures of drinking in college were bad.

How do you get down..well stick your butt out and do the chicken dance..shake it shake it

yo? eh? enyo ento!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Final Project: The return of the once glorious community center of Adéta

A marker noting the development of a new building on the other corner of the lot, yet the old ruins of the former community center lie untouched.

The former site of Adetas grand community center with library, offices, center of distribution of health aids and supplies and a grand center for learning techniques and formations as well as holding meetings.

So if you all want to know what I have been up to lately well needless to say TONS. Those days of wasting away the hours reading and baking dreaming of pastry chef stardom have been saturated by canvasing the town in 100 degree heat and generating participation in it's revitalization. I always knew I could be an activist for change due to the fact that I can't sit still and always need to have my hands in something.

So...amongst my other work assisting in Fair Trade certification and computerization of the Coffee and Cocoa Cooperative, as well as development of aklala batik du Togo and it's upcoming second debut at an international trade show and cinema festival FESPACO in Burkina Faso in the next few weeks I decided to leave my village with some lasting reminders of what they can achieve. Therefore, with constant insistence by a few of my trusted friends and community colleagues, I decided to share my time once more for the realization on the basis of revitalizing the once glorious community center of Adéta.

I may have discussed the desire to realize other community projects in my site of Adéta. I have filed an application with Friends of Togo to start phase one of the project that works towards the rehabilitation of the Community Center of Adéta which has been closed since the late 90’s. With the help of other community members we wish to hold a talent show, allowing participants in all trades from seamstresses to carpenters to musicians to promote their talents through a competition in creativity. We canvased the town to generate excitement through participation in the “Spectacle de Créativité.” In Americanisms…it’s basically like Project Runway meets Togolese Idol meets Star Search in hopes for Extreme Community Center Makeover.

I am currently applying for a Friends of Togo small project grant of $400 to hold the two day event and hope to receive word shortly thereafter to plan to host the event in May. There will also be two soccer matches and one final between the middle school and high school classes that can generate a small amount of revenue to use towards the rehabilitation of the community center.
Phase two of the project is to build a small exposition hall/boutique to promote all the winning pieces and also open up to other community members who wish for an outlet to promote and market their businesses.

With a growing population of over 20,000 and its close location to Kpalimé, the prefecture capital which is the center for handicrafts in the region, Adéta lacks a place to exhibit its skills and promote the local trades. This building with be used as a centralized place of meeting and promotion for all the residents of Adéta. It will also serve as the primary location where many tourists and volunteers who frequent the city can purchase souvenirs and learn about the culture. The revenue generated from sales could be used for the upkeep of the boutique and rehabilitation efforts of the community center. There is a plot of land donated for the installation and we are hoping to budget the construction to under $1,000 in order to apply for the CAPCA (Chicago Area Peace Corps Association) small project grants.
I will post the entire Project Proposal soon, for any of those interested in reading the whole story once I have completed the final budget.

I am also working on the proposal for the construction of the technical center for aklala batik in Kpalimé. We are currently restructuring the association of local artists working alongside Chantal who will occupy its development and promotion. So far we have found a temporary location to display aklala's products in Kpalimé in awaiting the completion of the center and storefront. Here is Chantal on the plot of land she purchased last March....the future site of aklala batik du Togo Boutique et Centre d'Apprentissage et Technique.

Cheers! Megan

Friday, February 6, 2009

Poorly Executed Brush Fire Nearly Burns Down Neighborhood

Two little boys pass by like all is normal
A view from top over the charred landscape I call my neighborhood.Flames rose as bystanders took action. (those two tree tops are in my back yard)

February 3, 2009
Togo, West Africa~ Villagers responded to a brush fire that went out of control on Tuesday evening nearly harming small children and goats as well as damaging nearby homes. "I was in my house entertaining my friend as I noticed the smell of something burning and heard the wind gusting outside. I thought finally, some rain, it’s been hotter than the devil lately. Unfortunately to my disgust, I looked out the back window and saw flames shooting in the air on the other side of my compounds walls." Commented Adjovi, a PC volunteer posted to the village. "Instantly I knew someone had carelessly executed another attempt to clear their fields. I quickly closed all the windows as the ash and soot entered the house and ran outside to see what was happening, the heat was immense and I thought there may be a chance my house was going to burn down."
Respondents on the scene concluded that the blaze was set by a neighbor who was frustrated that the public continued to use her field as a toilet. "I was sick of them hiding in-between the cornstalks and taking a dump. So I burnt it all down, now they can’t sneak around anymore." Stated the woman responsible for the blaze (she asked to not reveal her name)
Neighbors and passersby stood around and watched as some of them decided to take action to clear a path around the flames. Their quick action may have prevented the fire from spreading, though it is something that should have been done in advance to properly control the perimeter. Pierre, the student who lives in the same compound as Adjovi, was severely upset at the destruction the flames were taking on the flowering bushes and plants in his yard. He took matters in his own hand and began to throw buckets of water over the walls, distinguishing the fire. « Oh? Eh? Ce n’est pas bon, vraiment. Ça va déranger les fleurs. Oh, cette gens, ils ne connaissaient pas faire ça. Dommage ! » Exclaimed Pierre.
Luckily no animals, children, property or persons were hurt during the blaze. The village of Adéta is demanding the appearance of Smokey the Bear in hopes he can train their population the importance of fire prevention and control. In Togo, "only you can prevent brush fires."■