Jessy Bernard is a 31-year-old proud Haitian American who works in marketing. When she lived in the United States, she enjoyed being surrounded by the lively Haitian community and lived in cities like Boston, New York, and Miami. Having relocated to Accra, Ghana, today Jessy still lives among beautiful Black faces. She enjoys exploring the region, and venturing to other West African countries, including Togo.
“One of the perks of living here is the chance to explore more of western Africa. Since The Year of Return, Ghana has now been put on the map as a prime tourist destination. However, there are many other beautiful countries in West Africa that also merit a visit.”
One long holiday weekend, Jessy and a group of her local friends found themselves with a few extra free days. They jumped on the opportunity and decided to go visit their neighbor to the east, the small nation of Togo.
They traveled there via car, and the journey took around five hours of continuous driving. Upon arriving, Jessy and her friend noticed Togo shared some similarities with Ghana.
“A lot of my Ghanaian friends were saying it reminded them of Ghana and I would agree. It did remind me of Ghana regarding some of the aesthetics, yet it still had its own style and pace. For the most part, the locals were also quite friendly and hospitable just like Ghanaians are also notoriously known for.”
In Togo, Jessy spent much of her weekend at a beachside resort in Lomé where she had the opportunity to do something she hadn’t been able to do for a while–relax.
“I got to sit under grass huts, sip on coconuts, and eat fresh grilled fish kebabs on the beach. I also did make an excursion into the busier side of Lomé because I couldn’t have gone to Togo without going to the country’s infamous Independence Square. There, I wanted to visit the beautiful Independence Monument, however, it was closed for cleaning during the holiday weekend, and so was the national museum.”
Despite some of her plans being foiled by holiday closures, Jessy was still able to make the most of her trip. A serious foodie, she dined on various local foods, including Djenkoume served alongside grilled chicken. Djenkoume is a type of cornmeal, a West African “swallow” food that Jessy says reminds her of a much more flavorful version of polenta.
“One thing about me is I’m a very serious foodie, which probably stems from the fact that my mother owned a Haitian restaurant in Miami. In fact I say I’m a professional international eater. I love trying local foods. While in Togo I also tried Gboma Dessi, which is essentially a tasty simmered down spinach and chicken dish. Both dishes were excellent.”
Jessy looks forward to returning to Togo soon and trying some more unique dishes like Ablo and Akume, two other maize-based Togolese dishes. After further research, she has also learned of many more interesting places she would like to visit on her next trip there, including Palais de Lomé and Maison des Enclaves, the Slave House of Togo.
Rich in culture and history, and with a diverse terrain that includes mountains, jungles, savannahs, waterfalls, and rivers, there is no shortage of things to do in Togo. Other popular attractions are the adobe villages of Koutammakou–a UNESCO World Heritage site, Akodessa Fetish Market–a superstore for all things voodoo, and numerous national parks full of wildlife.
“I plan to go back and visit not only to enjoy some more but also to share information so that others may plan their trip to Togo more efficiently. Although this West African nation is small and you rarely hear about it, there’s so much beautiful but hidden and unique culture there.”
“I think that Togo is often overlooked and shouldn’t be for many reasons. There is a very sizable amount of the Black diaspora that came from these shores. It shouldn’t be left out as diasporans explore and enjoy places that could possibly be their ancestors’ point of departure from this continent. If anything, at a minimum I believe smaller countries like Togo and Benin should be pegged to your Ghana or Nigeria itinerary.”
“I also want to go to the northern part of Haiti, as it is a lot safer than the capital, and it holds not only Haitian history, but history that is important to Black people in general. Haiti is home to stunning, pristine beaches. I look forward to showcasing my country along with photographer @ishoot.ghana, and hope that the project will also strengthen bonds between Africans and the diaspora in the Caribbean. When I’m done with that, I will focus on creating and funding my East African tour.”
Jessy is currently working on her website, “Onyva’s BlogSpot”, where she speaks about expat living in Ghana and her travels within the Pan-African world. You can follow her on Instagram at @onyva2015.