Archive for February, 2007

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 18-02-2007

Our friend Eddie Arthur (him again!) has posted this cool video of life in Togo on his blog.  Have a look – it’s not unlike Benin (but less like Cotonou!)  Click here to get to the video, if you’ve got a fast-ish connection.

Malaria update.  Ruth cooled down, Mads burning up (39.9).  Keep praying.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 18-02-2007

…and that’s not a referrence to the Chinese New Year!

Yesterday, Ruth was running a temperature and complaining of a stomach ache. We took her for a malaria test but it was negative. Later in the day, Madelaine had the same symptoms but her malaria test was positive! As a false negative is more likely with the thick smear test, we decide to begin treating both girls.

What I didn’t tell you was that Madelaine’s test result (usually ready in 2 hours) was delayed due to a power cut. In fact, her finger-prick test had to be done by the light of 3 mobile phones. I did politely suggest that the clinic purchase a torch or two, should this happen again! So, we had the result at 11:15pm. As fast diagnosis and treatment are the key with malaria, we woke the kids immediately and gave them their first treatment.

Today, Mads is doing much better. Ruth is okay, but did hit the dizzy heights of 39.7 C this morning. She’s now down to 38.3, which is good. Of course, she’s taking longer to respond because of the delay in treatment due to the false result (the malaria parasite multiplies fast once it starts, so every hour counts). Click here to find out how malaria develops and is spread. Meanwhile, if you’ve not tried the malaria quiz yet, have a go. If you’ve tried, but are stumped, the answers are here: 1c 2a 3c 4d 5a 6c 7b 8c 9c 10d

Meanwhile, Brian and Jean are enjoying their stay and we hope to take them to Grand Popo (NB Germans love this name!!) for a couple of nights, provided the girls are well enough.

Thanks for visiting/praying.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 17-02-2007

In spite of having 7 stitches in my head and malaria, a lot has happened in the last week or so!

First off, here are some photos of Lois’ 40th Birthday Bash. These are the guests arriving (see if you can spot Lois and her parents).

… and here are some of the guests enjoying the Thai food:


After the meal, it was time for a delicious birthday cake:


Here we are with the cake:


(That’s Jean’s left ear, by the way!)

On Mondays, Madelaine has Karate club after school.

The children are enjoying having two of their grandparents here. This is Brian reading “Were going on a Bear Hunt” to Micah:

Storytime with Granddad

On Wednesday, we performed the show “Rats” to parents. It’s a great show – based on the Pied Piper of Hamelin, but done in a witty and contemporary way. Mads played the part of the crippled boy who got left behind. Here she is singing her solo:

Pied Piper show Mads

And here are the whole cast singing the finale:
Pied Piper show 1

Friday was the last day of the half term. The girls had the Valentines Disco at school and Micah had a party. Also, the Beninese musical artist Dag Jack came as usual to lead the children in some singing. Here he is (can you spot Micah too?)

Singing with Dag Jack

Today, Saturday, Rob’s feeling much better (see next post) and we’re having a restful day. This afternoon, we’re hoping to take the in-laws to the pool.

Other news…

  • Jon Assheton is arriving on Wednesday for almost 2 weeks.
  • He will be accompanying Rob on his next ethno trip – a song-writing workshop with the Nawdm people of Togo.
  • Birthday curry on 23rd.
  • Brian & Jean leave on 25th (evening of)
  • A further workshop the week after Jon leaves.
  • The Vickers family come to visit on 30th March.

Wow! What a busy time!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 17-02-2007

Our friend and Eddie Arthur used to say:

“When you first get malaria, you worry that you’re going to die.
After a few days of malaria, you worry that you won’t!”

I certainly got to the first stage but not quite the second! Thanks, Eddie (even if we differ on our Blutak opinions!)
If you don’t know much about malaria, read on to find out first hand. Otherwise, try this test (previously posted a few months ago) and see how you go.


My bout of malaria this week was the worst so far in Benin (but not as bad as in Côte d’Ivoire in ’94). The main reason was that my head injury masked the malaria symptoms for a day or two and the trick with malaria is always to diagnose it quickly…


Tuesday 9:30am: Just finished the dress rehearsal of “Rats” at school, but feel totally exhausted. Go straight to clinic for blood test. So sure it’s “The big M’ that I take a treatment with me to take as soon as the test is done!

Sure enough, it’s positive, with a count of 250 (I’ve previously had 200, but this feels way worse). I spend the rest of the day lying on the sofa or bed, doing very little! At bed time, my temperature is 39.9 degrees C and, although I’m baking hot, I’m shiverring uncontrollably. I take a cold shower, cold baths, paracetamol etc. and by about 1:00am, my temp is down to under 38. I sleep reasonably and get up early to take my second dose of Artesunate with Fansidar and get a few more hours’ sleep. The combination of these two drugs is one of the most effective treatments.



Feeling better. Have a good lie-in, then time for another rehearsal, which I get through okay (the Artesunate works fast and you feel better quickly. However, you still need to remember to rest lots!) Show in the evening, and I’m shattered by the end! Temp up to 38.5C, but no higher (that’s progress!)



Feel better am, but then exhausted after a trip into town (who wouldn’t be??? Have you seen the traffic here?!?) Headaches continue, temperature still a bit up.



Temperature back to normal, but persistant headache all day. Ouch! I hope it goes away soon.



After a decent night’s sleep and a couple more Ibuprofen, I wake up without a headache and even feel up to writing a blog post! Thanks for reading!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 11-02-2007

…and has a surprise visit from two very important people!

Yes, Lois’ parents secretly flew into Cotonou on Friday evening, then appeared on our doorstep on the morning of Lois’ birthday! This was a complete surprise and one which Rob had known about since November and had kept a secret since then. They’re here for two weeks and this is their second visit to Benin. Here they are with Lois on the morning of her birthday. She was, needless to say, delighted to see them.

Lois and her parents

In the evening, we went out to a local Thai restaurant and there was another surprise for her: about 20 other friends were waiting there to celebrate. A good time was had by all and Lois had a lovely 40th birthday.

Unfortunately, Rob had a fall the day before Lois’ birthday. He was just leaving our front yard, when he somehow fell over and hit his head into the edge of our heavy, wooden door. When he noticed he was bleeding, he sent for Lois and rushed to a mirror to look. Eeek! Looks a bit deep – better get it seen to. So, Lois (who had arrived by then) drove him down to the local clinic and he was given 7 stitches. Here’s what he looks like now:


Feeling fine, just a few headaches.

Other news…

  • Our internet has been down for a couple of days, so we’re relying on dial-up (hence only 2 photos this time).
  • We now have an ‘ethnomusicology’ album on the photo gallery, with various shots of Rob’s work. Click here to have a look at them.
  • Madelaine has taken up karate after school and enjoys it.
  • Our junior school show, ‘Rats’ is being performed on Wednesday. Mads sings a couple of solos in it.
  • The Harmattan is well and truly over, and it’s around 34C outside in the middle of the day!
  • Our friend Jon Assheton is coming out to visit on 21st February and will be coming to a song-writing workshop in Togo with Rob. As he is a talented percussionnist, this will be a great experience for him. Jon was the drummer on the Creation CD, which Rob produced a few years back, and it will be great to see him again. Lois’ folks leave on 25th Feb, so there will be a few days’ overlap.

That’s all for now,

Take care.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 02-02-2007

Sorry for such a long delay in posting a post!

However, when there is such a delay – be encouraged! It means Rob’s been too busy to do the blog, which means he’s been hard at work doing the stuff he’s out here to do! So, even though you may not feel satisfied blog-wise, at least you’re getting your money’s worth in other areas!

Talking of which, see the post below about last week’s workshop and stuff…

Filed Under (Ethnomusicology, General) by Rob on 02-02-2007

Last week, from Thursday to Saturday, Rob ran an alphabet song-writing course in Togo, amongst the Tem people…

The idea was to compose songs to aid literacy in the language. As music is such a prevelant and powerful ressource in Africa, this is a great way to get a message across!

We started with alphabet songs, to familiarize folk with the letters and sounds in Tem. As there were 14 on the course, we split into 3 groups, each composing a song in different genres. The wording was different for each too: one choose to do: ‘A is for Apple, B is for Ball’ etc (but obviously not in English!), whereas another group did one which elicits a response from listeners: ‘The first letter of Apple is….A’ etc.

Following the alphabet songs, we did 3 tone rule songs. Tem has two different tones a high tone and a low tone. The songs were to help people know which tone is which, with examples of words which go ‘high-low’ then another song for ‘low-high’ and finally one for ‘high-high’ and ‘low-low’.

The final category of songs were to do with verb tenses and the tones used which, frankly, I didn’t fully understand (but didn’t need to as there were plently of Tem literacy experts present!)

At one point, we were checking through the songs to see if everyone understood them and if they’d be clear in their message. ‘We all understand them, because we know the rules, but how can we know if anyone else will?’ they asked. One of the participants suggested we get a ‘man off the street’ to come and listen, so we did just that – and the groups sung songs to a 26 year old electrician who could neither read nor write in his language. He was very helpful and was indeed able to understand the information in the songs!

We began recording on the Friday afternoon. African halls or large rooms are seldom good for this, and the paillotte where we were working (round gazebo, often with a straw roof) was too near the main road to be any good. So, I found a quite place under a tree in a meadow-like area behind the buildings, which was great, appart from large crunchy leaves on the floor. However, we had to plan our recording schedule carefully, as the call to prayer from several local places of worship kept sounding! Here I am looking pensive, with the choir and soloists in the background:

Literacy songs 3

On the Saturday, we had a later start, checked the orthography (that means spelling!) of the songs, then set up for recording again. I’d just about set everything up when a loud chainsaw started up on a building site just behind our compound! Eeek! A couple of guys go round and ask ‘Can you stop as we’re recoring soon?’ The guys reply that they have to do the work today, but that they’ll be on lunch break from 12:00-1:00. So, we get the choir set up by 11:30, run through the songs then, at midday – when the silence returns – we begin recording. Thankfully, we’re all done just a few minutes before the saw starts up again!

Here are some photos taken on Saturday (different shirt is the only way I can tell!) In this one, I’m giving the signal to start recording a song:

Literacy songs 1

You’ll notice the percussionists are placed a decent distance away from the singers so as to get a better recording.

Here’s another one of the choir:

Literacy songs 2
After recording, it was back to a colleague’s house to upload and edit the songs, make a master cassette and then copy 80 C60 cassettes using my super-fast machine.

Tape copying

All done by about 9:30pm.  Back to my hotel for a sleep (disturbed, however, by mosquito bites!) then up at 5:00am to drive back down to Cotonou!  Phew!
There are more pictures like these in the newly-added ethnomusicology album of the photo gallery.
That’s all for now!