The Dead Yovo Market

Have you ever wondered what happens to your old shirts? What ever happened to that free t-shirt you were given when you ran that marathon back in ’92? Or how about the shirt that you were given when you helped elect McGovern to the State Senate in ’88? Or how about that stint you pulled working at Best Buy. Are you saying you didn’t continue to wear that classy blue polo?

My guess is that like many Americans, you threw those cloth pieces of treasure into a box until you or your significant other got fed up at how much space it was taking up and took it to Goodwill or some other charitable organization. Did you ever wonder what happened to what was in that box? Did you ever ponder the idea that someone else in the US or wide world would somehow end up with your clothing?

I know where your shirt is…

(I plan on writing a full entry on this next subject. But I need to include a brief summery here to tell the rest of my story.) Here in Togo all foreigners are called Yovo. Loosely translated (and depending on who you talk to) it means outsider, foreigner. (Again, I will talk more at a later time on this wonderful wonderful (SARCASM) word and its many uses.)

No one here can afford to purchase clothes in a store or buy clothe to have them made. To fill this gap in affordable clothing people get there hands on large quantities of second hand, donated clothing. My guess is that they are either purchased by the truck load in the US from Goodwill and shipped here or are “given out” by local NGOs for distribution. Either way piles upon piles of used clothes end up on plastic tarps all over the country. It is known that this abundance of clothing comes from the outside world. The Togolese can not understand why some Yovo (there’s our new word for the day!) would ever give this stuff away. The thinking goes that to have given away something so great the giver must have died. Thus the markets that sell this stuff are called Dead Yovo Markets. Who still living could ever part with these wonderful expensive treasures?

It is a fun game among Peace Corps volunteers to compete for weirdest shirt seen. Now remember, the people buying this stuff don’t read English. They buy it because it doesn’t have holes (usually) and will protect them from the sun.

Here is a nice selection of shirts that I have seen in my short 5 months here.

•Young boy with a shirt that said, “This is what 40 looks like. Jealous?” I doubt he was 40, but I have to say I was a little jealous at how youthful he appeared.
•“Elect Thompson to City Council.” Wait a sec… there are no city councils here!
•Small Girl, less than 10 wearing pink shirt that read, “Sexy Bitch.” I thought she was cute. Not sure she was a “sexy bitch.” But who am I to judge?
•Countless McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and UPS polos. What? It’s a polo shirt with a small logo on it. That works for a business meeting!
•“I’m PMSing” Now my knowledge of biology isn’t great. But, I didn’t think a 45 year old male carpenters could PMS. But who am I to question.
•“Buy Malidu from Me!” I almost asked for a shot. Then I remembered that due to the lack of electricity it probably wasn’t cold. Who wants warm Malibu from a 10 year old at 8:30 in the morning?
•“I’m not easy. I’m just popular.” You know what. I’m happy that that 11 year old boy has friends. Good for him!
•Black shirt with three pictured panels and the heading, “How to Grow a Mullet.” I looked a little more closely and you know what? If the kid wearing the shirt ever wanted a mullet, he was set!
•Countless Graduating Class of ’91, Class of ’89 Reunion, ’93 Soccer Champ shirts and the like. Who knows? Maybe the kid wearing it really did go to Middlebury Middle School in the late 80s?

I’m thinking about casually sneaking my CS@GW shirt with “It’s ok! I’m a computer scientist” written in big yellow letters on the back into one of the piles. If I create no computer scientists through the classes I teach I know that there will at least be one in name wandering around this country.

12 comments:

Benjamin said...

How funny you should write an entry somewhat linked to the reason I most recently thought about you.

I'm moving and cleaned out my closet in the process - the dead yovo market just got five extra-large trashbags full of clothes donated - and wonder of wonders, I found your red winter jacket. I think I have had it since 2003. Do you still want it? :)

I kept it from the market for now.

Little Brother said...

Ahh Big Brother...Your writings are getting better and better. I can't tell you how much I enjoy them.

I am so sorry I have not been able to get a hold of you. I have been trying to call for sometime, but always get a busy tone. I will keep trying.

I miss you loads man!!! Can't wait to come visit you! My boss has told me to take six weeks off in the summer so that is when I shall make my journey.

Love you tons Aaron!! I am so proud of you, I can't even begin to express myself.

Tell we speak again. Hope all is well.

Much Love,

Eric

Gary said...

This was really good and really funny.

Lindsay said...

Ha...sorry to beat you to it, but I donated my GW CS t-shirt to the Dead Yovo pile in '04! Maybe you'll run into the computer scientist disguised as a 12 year old boy soon...heh

Thanks for the insight into where the bags of t-shirt I have collected for donation from my closet in the past week will go! I hope someone enjoys them!

Lindsay

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