Saturday, May 31, 2014

Learning the Words

         The Oxford New American Dictionary defines an escarpment as, “a long, steep slope, esp. one at the edge of a plateau or separating areas of land at different heights”. I only learned that word recently, though I’ve been searching for it since my service’s start. Living in Tandjouare, which literally means “pile of rocks” in Moba, I was near several rock formations’ exciting edges. For all the climbing and hiking I did of them, however, I never knew what they were called: asking locals was fruitless and searching the dictionary for cliff, mesa, butte, plateau, and ridge left me without a match. They were the highlight of my wanderings, a sanctuary I ran to when stressed, and, since moving, the roadside reminder that my first post wasn’t all bad. I recently learned escarpment while visiting friends in Northern Ghana, who said we’d pass some en route to their village. As the surrounding savanna began rolling into hills, I began feeling nostalgic. As those hills came to sharp edges, I felt at home. My friend’s map revealed that their Gambarga escarpments actually end around Tandjouare in Togo; they’re a natural series losing their name but no majesty between borders. It took me leaving Togo to learn the word for something I loved about being there. I hope that my service’s oncoming end illuminates other truths about the jagged, lovely place that’s become my second home.

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