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.