Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Don’t Let It Be Lost

            I just got back from Togo, Africa.
A few years ago, I didn’t even know what Togo was—it could have been some sort of exotic animal as far as I was concerned—but now, I have been there. I was privileged to spend six weeks in this tiny nation in West Africa.
I went there on a medical missions trip with some fellow pre-med and pre-nursing students from my college. We got to work in a third world hospital run on a shoe-string budget and I got to see things that I never thought I would see.  Because many of the villagers are so poverty-stricken, they avoid the expense of the hospital at nearly all costs, so many of the patients we got to see were nearly perishing. I got to see my first birth only minutes before I witnessed my first death.  Before my eyes, one life entered this world and another one left it, and all in a matter of minutes. It goes without saying that I was thoroughly shaken. We also got to participate in a mobile medical clinic in one of the very rural outer villages (we’re talking mud hut status here).  I got to take vitals and, because we took a mobile pharmacy with us too, we got to prescribe and fill prescriptions on the spot. It was truly an amazing opportunity and I saw and learned so much.

(Street scene near Lome, the capital)

(Houses near the village where we stayed)

(Me in the hospital with Togolese nurses)

Now that I am home, I don’t ever want to forget it.  I don’t want any of what I saw to be lost on me.
When my uncle died, my aunt was describing to me how she was coping with such a terrible loss.  She told me that she just let it “penetrate” her.  Going to Africa is vastly different than losing a loved one, but in a way, I want my experiences to penetrate me also.  I don’t ever want to forget what I learned there. I don’t want to forget the first time I saw a lady with a baby on her back and a basket of mangos on her head, or the crazy insane traffic, or the red sand roads, or the jungles with wild pineapples, or the huts with no air conditioning in 127 degree weather, or the chickens who have been dyed pink so their owners can differentiate them from the other 96,857,432 chickens in the streets, or the little children who followed us everywhere, or the girls at the sewing school nearby who have been saved from a life of prostitution, or the patients we saw, or the doctors who are often on call three or four nights out of the week.  I want to remember all of it always.
So I have started writing it all down and am attempting a feat I have never before attempted: travel writing.
Travel writing has always been a bit of a black hole for me, but now that I am learning, I am finding that there are stories all around us.  We don’t have to go to a foreign country to find them.  Oftentimes, the best stories find us.  We just have to keep our eyes open so that, when the stories do come, they are not lost on us.
And in the case that you are interested in learning about travel writing along with me, here are some links to helpful tutorials that I have found so far.  What stories are around you?


Hannah Lokos is an author and a pre-med college student.  Her book, Labyrinth of Lies, is a suspenseful historical fiction that is a new twist on a classic Greek myth, and if you ever get the chance to go to Togo, you should go. Hannah hates Twitter, but she has a website,, or you can follow her on Google+ or Facebook.


Liz Fountain said...

Welcome back, and thank you for sharing the beauty and importance of your experience, Hannah.

I look forward to reading more.


Big Mike said...

Nice post. Linda, a friend from my writer group just came back from the same area on missionary work. She too was moved by the differences between here and there.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

olgagodim said...

Fantastic post. Travel always inspires me - not necessarily to write travel pieces but to write in general. It brings new experiences, and new people, and new stories. But you're right to wait a bit, let it "penetrate."

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

A meaningful post, and an excellent way for you to share your travel experiences with the public. (Doctors without borders?)

In 2007, we were stuck on the road between Nairobi and Mombasa. No one was there to help the residents. Machete-wielding natives surrounded us, and the "regular" inhabitants had no real homes. They didn't look at our busload of over-privileged old folks with hope, but with resentment. We don't know how lucky we are in this country.