Neal's House in Togo

My Bachelor Pad in Togo

by Neal Brinneman

Photo Courtesy Paul Meier

Please read Neal's Call to Wycliffe before reading this article.

After living in the governor’s house for my first six months in Kande, Togo, I moved to a Lama family’s compound. There I rented an empty two-room mud house—200 square feet—and immediately made some improvements. I poured a concrete floor and front porch. The house was then plastered and whitewashed inside and out. Two wooden shutters were placed on the windows. Screens were added to the windows and door. I constructed a ceiling with Masonite hardboard and then stuffed the space above it with a 6-inch thick layer kapok (like cotton) to provide insulation from the hot tin roof.

With no Home Depot nearby, I found other means to provide what I needed. I discovered a cracked bathroom sink and an old toilet in a trash heap behind the governor’s house. I asked permission to take them, then installed both in the mud house. For a septic tank, I buried a three-foot-diameter concrete well liner.

The kitchen sink was fabricated with a wide, shallow, aluminum pan (often used to transport water—on a woman’s head, a “headpan”) with a hole cut in the bottom and a trap attached with gaskets to stop leaks.

For the kitchen and bathroom sink drains, I buried large, old clay pots upside down and knocked a hole in the bottom where I inserted a plastic drainpipe. The water would then soak away into the ground without drawing flies.

I needed a water source for the six months of dry season, so I built a massive, six-foot-high concrete water tank next to the house. The top of the tank was 14 feet from the ground, matching the height of an eaves’ trough installed to catch the rain from a tin roof on a neighboring house. The pipe connecting the neighbor’s house uphill and my water tank came from an old abandoned well. The bottom of the water tank rested on five, high, concrete pillars so that my shower would work from gravity.

Since this eight-foot-wide tank had to fit between two houses, I make it oval-shaped to insure a 2,000-gallon capacity. The tank was built in five stages. (At the same time, I helped build a tank 30-feet tall for the Catholic mission. They furnished the lumber and I did the design and work. Their tank was also built in five stages but held only 1,000 gallons.)

An abandoned kerosene fridge at the governor’s house met my needs too. I was able to get it working and installed in my kitchen. (Kerosene is poured weekly into the fridge’s long, flat tank at floor level and a flame lit at the back of this tank heats the fridge coils that produce cold.) In order to provide hot water for the shower and sinks, I placed a jerrycan (a five-gallon metal container) on a shelf fixed to the wall directly above the fridge chimney. The kerosene-burning fridge heated the water in the jerrycan which was hooked into the water line.

March 2005