HALEan Pedro Ruiz is now visiting Africa. He sent us his photos and comments on that wonderful continent. But let's let him tell us about it:
Today I attended mass in the Catholic Cathedral in Parakou. People were wearing their best clothes. Thirteen priests celebrated the mass in both English and French, as there were many people coming from neighbouring English speaking Niger. The preacher was the main priest, who acted like a real showman, moving in front of the altar and alleys, warming up the people, who answer hysterically in the way he apparently expected. I can remember his words: I know you came here with more than a thousand franks in your pockets, but let's suppose they are just 1000: how much will you give God? A hundred? Two hundred? Five hundred? Then some children on the first row said: Five hundred! The priest is fast to react, inviting everybody to give at least five hundred, because that is what the children said. There are a choir and an orchestra there, and they sing songs which everybody sings while a man comes along the centre corridor to the desks and leaves the money noisily and with great ceremony. After that a glass of mineral water is auctioned. The orchestra encourages bidding by means of a loud drum roll. Everybody bidding comes along the alley with a bank note in his or her hand high up, under a hot clapping. They reached the amount of 259,725 franks. After that, the main priest summons the three greatest bidders and offers them drink from the glass of water. The remaining water is poured into two pails, which two priests take along the alleys watering the audience. Then the pious society Saint Joseph go along the central alley as far as the altar bearing hens, food, drinks and other things. A women's society does similarly, and also some families and groups do. Then I can see a woman using a cell phone, so I defy the rule not to use it inside the cathedral, and get mine and take some photos. After the mass is over, everybody came into the cathedral yard and a they made a party with music, food and drinks. Also raffles were made.
I come to the Togo border. This picture on Africa is the only one I am allowed to take at the border. Policemen also tell me that my multiple visa, which I bought in Benin to go into and from Togo, is not valid in their country, so I must buy a new visa there. The man next to me whispered That money you paid is not for the State, but for those policemen's pockets. I also realised that many voyagers have no identification cards, but they give money to the policemen to be allowed in and out of the country. Collective taxis go through the border without any formalities, and when they arrive at the first Togo town they sell their clients to local taxis so that they get to the destination they arranged in Benin.