Our Home in Togo
Our Home as a Couple in Togo
by Neal Brinneman
Photo courtesy of Paul Meier
After I married Carol, we needed a house much bigger than my mud one. One located just across the street from mine—no more than bare concrete-block walls and tin roof—had been started over seven years before. I proposed a rent to the owner that would be the equivalent money for six bags of cement a month. This would repay what he had already invested. At the same time, I offered to finish construction of the house so that whenever our family left Togo, he would have a nice home. He happily agreed.
The concrete floor needed to be poured, but first I dug a trench the length of the house for an air tunnel, and put in electric wiring and plumbing. As with my mud house, I put in a Masonite ceiling with kapok for insulation. I installed an evaporative air cooler on one end of the house so that air came in under the floor and up into each room from the tunnel.
I brought over the kerosene fridge from the previous house. For a hot water tank, I had to use a pressure tank from a Caterpillar (from a wreck on the nearby mountain road) placed above the fridge. The town water pressure was by then too powerful to safely use a small jerrycan.
For plumbing, I used well liners for septic and shower soak-aways as in the mud house.
A dispensary, built by the Germans after World War I, had long ago collapsed and left a six-foot-high dirt mound a few feet from the front of our house. The dispensary’s three-foot-wide stone foundation and two-foot wide mud walls had provided insulation against the heat. Each morning before breakfast, I would spend about an hour digging out the stones.
The stones served as a foundation for our new garage and guestroom addition to the house. Later, we built a storeroom and office on the opposite side of the courtyard where the old dispensary had been. We then joined the two buildings with a concrete-block wall which gave us some privacy and kept goats and sheep out. We were finally able to plant a nice mango tree in the courtyard and enjoyed a couple years of delicious fruit before we finally left Togo.
When we were on furlough in Indiana, I was able to repair a malfunctioning garage door opener my brother had thrown out. We shipped it back to Togo, along with the track and hinges from another old door. Once in Togo, I built the panels for an overhead door and assembled them with the hinges, track and springs. Our young sons “helped” me complete the project over several months.
We finally got it installed—the only electric garage door opener in Togo! African children in town would run over to see how the door would open when the car approached. They also would put sticks under the door as it came down to see what would happen to them.
We wanted to grow vegetables in the back yard so I installed an electric fence to keep out goats, sheep and cows. When the town children discovered how it gave a mild shock, they would try to get their friends to touch it on their way home from school. One day Daniel, our 3-year-old, touched the wire and could not let go. That was the end of the fence; my wife made me take it out!