Category Archives: Douala

Anno 2011: Do’s and Don’ts in Cameroon

Much like its Estonian brethren back in 2010, I decided to provide you with some essential information about what and what not to do, eat, see in the rare case you ever make it to Cameroon, or more specifically to Buea and the South West region. Since I have only spent three weeks here, of course the facts mentioned will be rather superficial, but I am very unhappy to inform that due to severe health issues, I have decided to end my stay here immediately. I’d really love to stay, but with all the nightmares and panic attacks I have had during the past days and weeks, I cannot picture myself living here for another 4 months, so I will return to the Netherlands for now and will try to work out things to get a new placement as quickly as possible.

Anyways, as usual, don’t take my words below too serious and bear in mind that I tend to make false assumptions, unsophisticated conclusions and hasty decisions:

Do try the local cuisine. Especially Fufu and Eru are dishes you will never find in Europe. While I couldn’t find out the exact content of Eru, Fufu is made from Yams or Plantains, this banana alike vegetable.

Don’t ever again dare to try Fufu nor Eru! While it is really interesting to have one bite from each, that is as far as one should go with it. Even the locals don’t really eat Fufu or Eru. When it comes to using plantain, the much rather boil and fry it, to make local fries. Those are quite nice to be honest.

Do expect to taste the freshest and juiciest fruits in your entire life! Pineapples, Papaya, Coconuts have never tasted so good in my life and contribute a large part to my daily diet, also because you can purchase them at a really low prices, such as 45 cent for half a pineapple.

Don’t expect to find your “normal” food in any kind of store. In fact, “stores” might not even be applicable, rather they are “Provision stores”, where you can get the basics, such as bread, vegetables or beer. I haven’t had any cheese or milk here so far (as they are priced at a premium, since imported, level).

Do expect to spend a good amount of time leaning over the toilet, especially after having tried some homemade food. It tastes really nice for the most part, but the last few days I was troubled with stomach issues at a constant base.

Don’t underestimate the moderate weather climate. It may look like it’s gonna rain soon, but really it is burning your skin. I have used my sunlotion for most of the time, but those rare occasions where I didn’t I had some rough skin pieces the following day, not to mention the millions of bits I get every day, regardless of having used mosquito spray.

Do open your doors to all sorts of animals, such as snails, geckos, mice, cockroaches and spiders. Well, they find their way in anyways… 🙂

Don’t expect to be handled as a “normal” person here. After all, we are the “white people”, therefore we have money, lots of money to just give without asking. That is why I have been ripped off quite frequently by people in “shops”, bars or taxis. I try to take it as a rather normal experience, but you might wanna be cautious about how to position yourself.

Do get used to share a cab with 6 other people + the occasional driver. For the striking amount of 15-25 cent you get to be squeezed in your seat with no possibilities to buckle up or even hold on to something. You will experience detours all the time and the universal sign to get people’s attention as potential customers is the ever-lasting horn, which serves as pretty much any mean of communication on the street.

And now, since you probably only show interest in the pictures, here they are…

The best restaurant in town...

At a fancy hotel, nearby the Botanic Garden in Limbe - really beautiful, really expensive...

On the beach in Limbe, the Mt. Cameroon in its back...

Yet another stunning view at Mt. Cameroon, taken from my house's porch...

My favorite taxi slogan of all times...

48 hours in Cameroon: First impressions and my first day at work

I finally arrived, Cameroon! Days ago it seems so distant, but now I have made my way to this exotic and totally unfamiliar country. The flight from Paris to Douala was a first indication about the new life I am going to live for the upcoming 5 months: a big plane, food served, TV’s in the seats (of course I could watch Bridget Jones’s Diary, which seems to be any airline’s favourite…) and me being a minority. Having arrived in Douala, I quickly made millions of new friends who would help me get past the custom control for the moderate amount of only 50€ 🙂
Having succesfully avoided that, my guides were waiting outside for me, quickly driving me through a city which is so…. I cannot even find words for it. All life is taking place outside, with people trying to sell literally everything, from freshly chopped pineapples over car tires to cell phones. Being a white guy, I caused immediate attraction, but thanks to my guides I was being taken care of. I was put to rest into a hotel, but rest wasn’t what came next. In a nearby bar, I met one of my housemates (actually, since the house I live in is only partially finished he will be my roommate for a while) who, without saying a word, gave me a locally brewed beer, a cigarette and insights into the life I will face. We had some drinks, many laughs and I turned out to be extremely happy I had met him immediately.
After only a few hours of sleep, I met one of my guides the following day to get shopping, I expect going to shops, but it turns out that shops are rare in Douala. Rather, any business is being taken out on the street. So instead of going to a bank to my €’s changed, we stopped at a street corner, gave the money to a large guy dressed in a white something and got the franc in return. With an exchange rate of 1€ = 656 Franc, I now am carrying several thousands in my wallet 🙂
After having bought a new simcard for my phone, we went by car to Buea, the town I live and work in. That I am still alive is quite a miracle, taking the driving style of both my driver and the upcoming cars and the road. Putting it in words won’t do the job; one has to see it to believe it.
In Buea, we went to the house I am living in. As mentioned, I am currently staying in a room with a really nice Scotsman, who has been here for 6 weeks already and seems to know all important authorities in the area. Along with him there is a Canadian couple that will stay for another 8 months minimum, which also work for the same organization as me. The house is really nice with, an oven, a stove and a microwave. We have drinking water delivered to the house every other day and we use it to cook, drink, flush the toilet and have a shower. Having a shower? Yes, since we don’t have running water, I am showering using a bucket to wash myself. It’s quite and experience to be honest and the fact that we would have to boil the water first if we would prefer warm water sort of increases the entire living-in-a-completely-new-environment experience. Each morning at 6am we have someone cleaning the house and doing the dishes and once a week our clothes will be washed. Other interns are supposed to come in a few months so for now it’s going to be the 4 of us. On my first night we went out for dinner to a local restaurant, which is rather rare, as most food is being served from small huts on the street. I ate Fufu and Eru, two African dishes, but I am sad to announce that it really tasks awful. Just awful!!! Fufu can best be described as smelly mashed potatoes-alike something, with a really strange bitterly taste. For Eru, I cannot even find words to describe it. It looks an awful lot like spinach, but tastes an awful lot like a bathroom cleaning soap. Including the little pieces of meat they couldn’t pick out of it before serving it to me as a Vegetarian, my first African food experiences could barely been more disappointing. Yet, I still have about 5 months to have many more, hopefully more convenient, experiences in the local cuisine. When in Douala, I ate the sweetest pineapples and bananas of my life, amazingly tasty!
As for uploading pictures, I first need to see the Internet connection, which was supposed to be set up on my second day in Buea, but will soon be done…hopefully! I would pay roughly 38€ per months to get what the locals call “high speed Internet”, so I might be a little modest with putting pics on my blog. Despite this being a ridiculously big amount of money, it surely will be spent wisely, as otherwise I won’t be able to remain in contact with home.

My first night in my – way to small – bed in Buea also came as nothing ordinary. I slept roughly 4 hours, being awake due to a late night coffee, severe thunder at 4am and an ever-present heat in my room. I had to use a small flashlight to read as we only have one big light at the ceiling and two people with different sleeping schedules. The books I brought to read along are being perceived as absolutely cool and worth reading and the fact that all four of us are having Mac books kind of makes me feel safe… 🙂
My first day at work was another experience. After having taken a couple of taxis (max. 7 people in a small Citroen!), I got my passport copied and legalised by the local authorities I returned to the main office, had tea, waited for some hours, had a initial talk with the chef of the NGO, attended a workshop about HIV/Aids and tried to figure out what I am actually going to work on. No idea! As nice as the NGO3 is, it seems obvious that they put their focus on almost a million different projects. I reckon I will be working on expanding the network of the NGO, help getting funds and eventually working on the company’s web appearance, which is currently non-existent.

New Destination, new haircut, new layout…

After my time in Tartu, Estonia is finally over and my internship is about to begin, I decided to change the layout of this blog. All old entries will remain, just the appearance will alter. In addition to that, I have changed my own appearance: “All gone”! My hair disgusted me in the end and taking into consideration the extreme heat I will have to face once in Cameroon, it has been a reasonable decision. But my hair will grow back and eventually I shall look the same…

Currently, I am busy with collecting everything I want to take along on the trip. Since I have booked 46kg of luggage for both flights (Hamburg-Paris-Douala and return) I can take plenty of stuff. However, with an average degree of 35°C each day, my wardrobe won’t be too heavy. That is why I will bring a bunch of books to read, as well as my Russian papers to continue learning that wonderful language. Since I will be living somewhat close to the only English-taught university of Cameroon, hopefully I could explore their library as well.

In addition to clothing, books and the obvious laptop, a lot of money has to be invested in having all sorts of medical precautions, such as sunlotion (level 50!!), spray against mosquito bits or disposable gloves, not to mention the 150,00€ to be spent on malaria pills. Furthermore, I am doing my own fundraising right now, trying to get friends from my local community to collect some minor gifts, such as writing paper, pencils or toys for kids. Hopefully, I will receive plenty! Also, I have changed the SOCIALVIBE activity on this blog. Now you and me are supporting CAMFED, an agency that is aiming at empowering girls and women in rural areas in Africa to overcome poverty. So in a way, this is what I will be doing soon! Please take some minutes to help me raise a few bucks!

This will be my last post on European soil. Next time you’ll read something about my being, it shall come from the brand new location of Buea in…wait for it…Cameroon!!! 🙂