“Yova! Yova!”

February 14, 2010

I am sure that the next few months hold some sad days, but Friday was not one of them. At the break of dawn, we packed into a car and, for the first time, headed out of the port gates into the reality of Togo. Guided by Joan, an Advance Team member who has been in Togo setting things up since November, we scouted out our four eye field clinics. Each clinic is within a church complex, and it’s quite an ecumenical mix: one Presbyterian, one Assemblies of God, and two Catholic(!!). Here are a few favorite scenes from the day:

Presbyterian Church (Monday clinic): Pulling our safari-equipped Land Rover into the compound, giggles and shouts greet us from around the corner, followed by the tiny faces producing them. A pack of thirty 3 year-olds, each with button-up shirts or sun dresses made from the same red and white checked cotton, race towards us in a scuffle of sandals pitter-pattering on sandy concrete. What joy! As we tour the church, a stout Madame gathers up her chickadees for some mid-morning exercise. She taps a small drum with a stick, and with each metronomic beat, the children first run, then jump, then frog-hop back and forth across the sand, all the while sneaking the most beautiful smiles in our direction.

Missionaries of Jesus (Friday clinic): Father Victor sits with a pleasantly rotund belly and every few minutes bursts out in a wonderfully cherubic laugh. He has generously made almost the entire facility available for our use, including a tidy break room and the Adoration chapel. The long table in the rectory is adorned with dishes atop a pressed table cloth, delicately prepared for morning tea. We pour dry peanuts and crunchy tubular cookies out of glass bottles, and Father Victor tells us about the church and its seminary. The chapel is beautiful, but far too small for weekend services. At 7:00 every Sunday morning, more than one thousand people pour in for Mass, which is celebrated outside in the open air. I glance at Lauren and can tell she has the same thought: We’ve found a church!

Catholic Cathedral (other Friday clinic): Behind the chapel are huge, shaded sports fields which we will use as a waiting area for the hundreds of patients seeking help each day from the clinic. Rounding the corner to survey the space, we pass by a primary school classroom. One voice rings out, quickly gathering momentum from tens of other voices joining it: “Yova! Yova!” (i.e. “White person! White person!”) Arms poke through the latticed concrete wall, each with fingers waving and grasping. Handshakes all around, and then we are off, leaving the poor teacher with a room full of chanting students.

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2 Responses to ““Yova! Yova!””

  1. Jon said

    Hah, that’s just what they WANT you to think. “Yova” actually means, “Holy cracksmoker, it’s Alana (and some other cool people, but mainly Alana)! I can’t believe that she’s come all this way to see us. Truly, the entire continent of Africa is blessed this day. Indeed, when recalling all of the amazing people that have visited our small nation: Yvonne, Julia, Frank, Neil, […], the nineteenth Anthony, and the seventeenth Paul, no one has such a radiant smile nor joy of such depth as the incomparable Alana Elizabeth.”

    There may be more faithful translations, but this is what Google Translate spit out. Go figure. Why on earth they would need to say this twice, I don’t know.

  2. Leah said

    I though Jon was nuts. So I had to google it myself. ….UNCANNY.

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