Greetings to you. Thank for keeping me informed with the news from PNG SVD Province in the WORD/PNG. I enjoy reading them. I am just two months and one week in the country. I am fine here. I would like to share my experiences in Togo. The climate is similar to PNG; hot with high humidity. So far we had no rainfall but perhaps later on during next year. I haven’t seen thick forest near the capital city, Lome, where our SVD Provincial House is located; this where I live. The place is so dry with lots of dust covering the buildings. A lot of hot air so I miss the cool breeze of the forest.
Similar diet as in PNG such as bananas, taro, taro kongkong, tapiok, fish, pork, rice, corn etc.. that people have. Except that they are differently prepared. Saksak (sago) mi no painim yet, nating, i nogat long hia.
Life in the capital city of Togo, Lome, is calm and peaceful. People seem to be friendly. The city is smaller than Port Moresby. The road condition is worse; lots of pot-holes and most areas not sealed. Rubbish everywhere and it seems there is no general concern for cleanliness in the city. Traffic is not so much, however motor bikes are many which share the same road with cars.
I live in one of the sub-urban areas called Kegue, approximately 20minutes drive to the city. Myself and three companions; (two OTP Indian seminarians and one Indonesian priest, also a missionary to Madagascar) drive daily to Lome University for French classes. Then we have three hours lessons again in the afternoon in the house. So far I am speaking a few words with confreres, our workers in the house, the cook and kids.
After two months and I was challenged by Fr. Provincial to celebrate Mass in French in our community. I said " I cannot since I haven’t learnt much French". He said " it is a challenge, take it". I took it and now I am celebrating Mass in French in the community. I will go to the North of Togo during Christmas time to help our confreres working there. So far I am preparing in advance homilies for liturgical celebrations.
A confrere told me that there about 300 or more (church) denominations in Togo. Around our residence there are about 5 churches; 500m to 1kilometre distance apart from each other. Celebration in the Mass is full of life; good music and dances. Once I attended a 5 hour celebration (na klostu mi ai raun, laki mi kaikai gut ya...) and it was really alive, so I enjoyed it.
My suffering and pain is learning French; grammatically different from English. In the house we are encouraged to speak French not English. No PNG man or woman in Togo except me, so I cannot use tok pisin. Mi wanpis ; nogat wantok. Once a German confrere told me that I am PNG ambassador to Togo, so he asked me to work in Togo not in Madagscar.
I believe that patience and interest, not giving up, is very essential to learning a foreign language and culture. Putting aside one’s own culture, status, etc and becoming a child, willingness to learn, adjust and cope with new changes or surprises.
Above all, mi nogat wantok but I have God who is with me always. Thanks to all confreres in PNG who have assisted me while I was there.
Thank you all for prayers.
WISH YOU ALL MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR.
Yours in the Divine Word,
Fr. Gabriel Kokon SVD