Last Saturday I went to the women’s prison. It was some distance away. There is a closer one, in Lome. It is visited by other Christian groups. Mercy Ships was told that the prison we went to rarely got visiting groups. I don’t know the name of the place. It is hard to understand what is being said. Most of the time Ewe, the local language, is spoken.
There were guards who greeted us as we entered. I didn’t see any guns. They were probably out of sight. There were three women. They were dressed neatly. How they managed to keep clean is a mystery. The compound also has men. Our men visited with them. We stayed about an hour. The women were kept in two rooms. One was about 20 by 15 feet and about 20 feet high. There was no roof except a ledge that they can stand or sit under when it rains. The bottom half of the concrete wall was blue, and the paint was flaking off. The floor was dirt. Sun light did come in through the roof. There were two benches and a small clay cooking stove large enough for one pot. It must be heated by charcoal. A faucet came out of the wall about two feet from the ground. There were three posters on the wall having to do with AIDS prevention. Nothing else was in this room.
There was a door to the sleeping room, which I didn’t see, but it probably only had cement platforms for sleeping. The only light to that room was from a one foot opening along the top of the wall. The interpreter said there was a toilet. One woman has been there for a year with no idea of when she will be set free. She and her two brothers, who are also there on the men’s side, were blamed for causing a man heart attack by the man’s children. We don’t ever ask about how they came to be in prison, but this one woman had spoken to the interpreter on previous visits. For a while she was the only female prisoner. Women in Africa are rarely without the company of other women. There are very group oriented. I was difficult for her. We brought a few products and some fruit for them. On the way out I saw a large pot of some kind of grain mush which the prisoners were having for lunch.
I don’t know how safe the women are within the prison.
On Sunday I went back to the Fishing Village Church. They made a big deal about us being there. Visitors or guests are always treated very well and respectfully. Sometimes it is a bit much because it is not something we do to such an extreme. Last week I went to some of the ministries that I have already described. The clinics continue to wind down operations. I actually have no ministry to go to today. I may go to the market with a dining room co-worker. I made a brief trip to the craft market last week with co-workers and bought some material. The material is mostly made in China, but they have the beautiful African prints and colors. They sell wood carvings, instruments, bags, jewelry, etc.
Some of the crew members are getting the opportunity to spend the weekend with a local family. The families are all church members known by a professor who is talking to us about Tongolese culture. This is my weekend to work, so I can’t participate. I may have a chance to do that in Guinea.
Greetings are very important here. They are more than a casual hello. And if you are greeting someone you know, you must ask about their household as well. The type of greeting depends on the age of the person: younger, equal, elder. Here everyone over thirty is considered an elder. There is body language involved as well.
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