Miles from Mount Agou

The highest mountain is Togo is Mount Agou (3,235 ft), but Poker (pronounced: pok-eh) Kangi, 40, wearing a “2004 American All-Stars” T-shirt, has never climbed it. But, since he moved to the U.S. from southern Togo in West Africa about ten years ago, he climbs Stone Mountain (1,686-ft) sometimes as often as four times a week. I’ll confess, before talking with him, I knew next to nothing about his small native country, which is bordered by Benin, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. I didn’t even know it had mountains, much less that French was the primary language, or that there were indigenous languages like Mina. Or that Lomé was the capital. But I’m rarely embarrassed anymore to find out I don’t know as much as I thought I did. Sure, twinges of discomfort do strike when communication with non-native speakers becomes difficult, but going into a conversation empty—prepared to know nothing at the outset—usually eclipses any vulnerability with the reward of learning something new.