Map Reading

Landmarks on Maps

Landmarks on Maps
Kpalime, Togo West Africa
Friday, April 6, 2007

Everyday I have been in Kpalime, Togo I have gone to the Prefecture building of Kloto, Kpalime, Togo. I think maybe Kloto is the state, district, province, or tax district. The allotted area of land given to the bosses that be to collect money from their people… Hehehe

What is a Prefecture?
I have not gone at least 20 times and I do not know, I am not sure I care. I do think it is interesting to know, the word in the French language is Feminine in gender.

f prefecture, local government offices; préfecture de police police headquarters plural (2)

Ok, it is somehow the local government office, I somehow knew that in the back of my brain.

The Prefecture is my landmark, it the major, place, location of a building most of the Motos - Motorcycle Taxis know. I am in the Auberge, Mandela the Landmark is the Gomido Bar, but you should only say. Gomido.

For me to go to the Market, but first stop at my Citron or Lemon Juice stand, I walk out of the Mandela, look lost, a Moto beep, I try to find one that does not beep, I am doing Moto civil disobedience. I want them to stop beeping at me, so I try to find the ones that do not beep.

Stand for a second and some Motorcycle stops.

I say one word.
- Prefecture -

Preh Fech Tour

100 to 150 CFA later I am at the office of the Prefecture and I walk down the hill; pay 50 CFA for a cold extra big glass of Lemon Juice, sugar and some water.

I am at the Market, to go home. I say,
- Gomido -
GO Mee Doh

And for 100-150 CFA, I am back home.

I can say Marche or Mar Shay, this is French for Market, but that could mean many things, I want to go the far end of the market, away from the Mandela, and drink Juice, I do not want the walk through the market. I will walk back from the Citron stand, through the market, hunt for vegetable, buy some carrots, and apple etc and go on home by foot,

I live .73 Kilometers from the Market.
This means almost nothing to me.

I live about a 10-minute walk, this is important to know.
I live 100-150 on a motorcycle taxi ride from the Mandela to the Prefecture or from the Prefecture to the Gomido.

What is a landmark, I suppose it is literally the mark on the land, but to be easier to understand:

1. something prominent that identifies location: a prominent structure or geographic feature that identifies a location and serves as a guide to finding it (2)

What is a Prefecture, to the Kpalime people it probably where they go to see government people. Maybe it is the place, where they go and pay the fines, taxes, slide money under the table. It is a concept that has a word to use.

I look for landmarks to travel too and from, not much point with all the rest, the most tiresome thing in life is to constantly study maps with no landmarks.

I live on? what street? I have no idea, in fact, I do not know the name of one street in Kpalime, I have never seen a sign saying the street name. I may live near Fo Nono, whatever that is, or that is what Mawuli tells me, however he intuitively is blind to understanding anything but on and off switches or 0 and 1.

I travel more by landmarks than by maps, but a good map will have the landmarks, the Roughguide Guidebook, map has the Fan Milk and the Texaco Gas Station, thank you. I know someone on that one, had a clue, but maybe they are driving a car… hehehe

Cars need to know gas stations.

Ok, when I walk out of a Hotel, I try to find a landmark, a big something every taxi would know, then I grab a business card, walk away and hope I can return in this lifetime. I can say to the Taxi, take me home James, and say the Gomido here, or I can give a Taxi driver a Hotel Business and hope. Reading, can taxi drivers always read?

The will call the number sometimes now in the new world of cell phone and ask how to get to the hotel if there is anyone at the phone of my Mom and Pop hotel. But, if I know a well-know landmark, I would already be home.

I purchased a map today in a bookstore, it cost me 11 US dollars, this is about 1-3 week pay for many people here in Togo and out of sight expensive. Trop Cher

I am looking for a small village and the guidebook and the Encarta map in the computer is not detailed enough, and hard to show a person on my computer a map, the get too obsessed with the computer to help or stay focused and the guidebook is leading me from tourist place to tourist place where there is not really tourist.

It is interesting and fun to whip out a map and show locals, they will look at it upside down, sideways and after a long time, they will figure out with the help of a many opinions. Yep, that is Kpalime, most have never seen a good map of the country, and often cannot tell me the names of the very close cities. I use the map with a guy or girl wearing glasses.

Landmarks on Maps

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

Tearing up a Map

Tearing up a Map
Lome, Togo West Africa
Friday, July 27, 2007

This is a save for a rainy day photos….

I paid 11 US Dollars or 5400 CFA for this map of Togo. It is not 90 percent trash, and 10 percent ok to use.

I have torn the map up into four sections; I am tearing up the map. Why, because I wanted to preserve sections of the country I have not visited. Every time I open the map, fold the map, stuff the map into my backpack, I slowly destroy the map. In an effort to save the portions for future use, I decided I need to tear it into pieces.

Now, I thought, I should have done this day one. I am going to tear my map up before I destroy them and not after. I can store the good portions of the map until I need them.

The daily usage of a map destroys a map, by cutting into separate sections I think I can elongate the time of a map.

Note, any person traveling for two weeks does not have to worry. I like my digital on the computer maps, but they are next to worthless when I am in the middle of the road and lost, I need paper. One good option is to print out copies of sections of a country and carry.

Tear it up before you destroy it. This map cost one third the price of my guidebook, this is a travel budget expense, the guidebook has maps also, and the reason to buy a guidebook.

Tearing up a Map

The World Compared to What

The World Compared to What
Lome, Togo West Africa
Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Peters Map and The Mercator Map
FIVE STAR look at this...

Our maps are deceptive, they do not allow us to compare correctly.

I need a map…
I now need the People Size Map.

If you had a conversation in person with me, I would say comments like,
- Why is everyone listening to a dinky country like France it only has 60 million people. -
- Holland or the Netherlands is amazing; they really make a big noise for 16 million people. -

Eric has clarified the mystery in my brain, and a reason I got hate mail about 7 years ago. I was in Europe and I commented that Europe was dinky, about the size of the Eastern half of the USA. Some European person, they have this myth, which is false, they believe Europeans know Geography better than American, just not true. Both are equally ignorant, however the man wrote a hate mail to me tell me how stupid I was, and I continue to try to measure distances across Europe and the USA.

Erics comments explaining map problems.

This link is EXCELLENT, I just cannot copy the maps because they are copyrighted differently.

NOT a good perception! This is our traditional map, and takes a ROUND world and put into a box, making adjustments that helps sailboats and planes and navigation.

This is a true size map, as I understand this, sort of in a hurry as I am riding the motorcycle from Lome to Kpalime, Togo today.

Whatever the case, you can see the sizes when shown compared to what correctly show the world in a different way.

Ironically, I was having a conversation yesterday about Togo, and was commenting that the many Volunteer Agencies are very naïve.

I hear comments from Volunteers, and I think,
- You are F -king nuts. -
I do not think, they could be wrong, I think 99 percent they are wrong, but to give notice to myself, it is hard to want to jump up and down when there is still the 1 percent chance they are right and I am wrong.

The world is a comparison, compared to what? Togo compared to the USA is poor, compared to Bolivia it is rich.

The roads in West Africa are excellent, I mean these roads are great, when I hear comments about the roads of West Africa I do come un-glued. There is a road from the bottom of Togo to the top of Togo that is outstanding, and then Benin has the same. Ghana has people in the way… hehehe

However, compare to what, compared to the USA, the road sucks. However, the roads in Europe are horrible compared to the USA. The USA is small, compared to the world because the road system is great.

I need a map of people. The people make cities, the cities get in the way of a bus, they slow the bus down and it takes longer to travel.

I keep trying to figure out a map of the planet according to travel time in a bus, this is the real map a traveler needs. If they have a helicopter they can ignore the bus, the trains are jokes, just some anal, I want to be European Colonial way of thinking that prevails, the world does not have trains, I will admit England did a great job for India and that country should be kissing the Butt of England and saying thank you forever for those trains. Nevertheless, Africa does not have Trains, South America and Central America does not have trains. Asia has trains, but the Buse are winning.

The bottom line, a bus is the way the world travels; you want to judge true what the size of the planet is then figure out how long to travel from coast to coast with a bus, this is the size of the country. If you want to know what a pothole looks like, then figure out the number of people. The travel pothole are the cities, the cities get in the way of transportation. This is Europe, every small city is in the way, nothing is just simple, and you need a train to get through the mess of people.

To quote a very astute observation of a fellow traveler,
- Buses enter places from the front door, while trains come in through the back.-

A good read, he is trapped in the USA, earning money to hit the road and leave the West behind.
The World Compared to What
To touch the planets surface, get into a bus, to know the people enter the front door, not the back door. The world is best measured by taking a bus from coast to coast.

I was speculating, the Volunteers in Africa make could get their heads of their A … ss faster, if they took the bus, car, truck on an overland trip from Europe to their Volunteer country. They need to learn about what they want to fix, before, not after the fact.

What they do now is they Volunteer, knowing nothing, and then after they are done, the go travel around Africa. After they think they fixed something they know nothing about. Better to go travel around before, so when they tell me about Togo, I do not want to say,
- Compared to what country? -

Thanks Eric, the world is making more sense today.

You want to fix the planet, I want to know the 20 countries you know, and Europe does not count, if you want to fix a poor country, I want to know the 20 similar countries you have visited. If you want to tell me about Geography, I want you to tell me where Indiana is, in the USA first, then I may listen. It is bigger than the Netherlands.

It is starting to rain, another travelers transportation pothole.

The World Compared to What

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