Published: February 14th 2011
February 14th 2011
In the past 3 weeks we have broken our personal records for most people in a car, twice! On both occasions there were 9 of us altogether, Daniel, myself and the driver and then 6 children from the school. One of the drivers has a long stick to poke them with when they start getting rowdy in the back, it is pretty effective.
Most of our days are taken up by work, however on the weekends we have managed to get away a bit. Last weekend we travelled to Buea, not too far from Douala but a lot more rural. We went with our exchange manager and the other volunteers. The Humanity Exchange has recently built a house there for the volunteers to stay, mainly for people based in the village itself. Buea is just at the base of Mount Cameroon and a lot cooler than Douala which was very welcome. We also visited Limbé for the second time and ate fresh barbequed fish by the sea, probably the best meal we have had here so far.
On the return journey our driver tried to make it back to Douala without stopping for petrol…we didn’t make it and broke down. Daniel and the driver then had to push it to the nearest station. The driver had initially suggested that the women stay in the car, there were 5 of us (some packing a few pounds), Daniel wasn’t so keen on this suggestion so we got out. Bearing in mind that the driving here is the worst we have ever seen in our travels, which is saying something, they had to push it across 4 lanes of traffic coming in both directions. The fear of being hit prompted Daniel to put all his energy into this part of the push and he was devastated to find that once they had crossed the road they had a further 50 metres to go UPHILL. When we arrived after our leisurely stroll to the station Daniel was bent over the bonnet gasping for air.
Last week I got given my first African dress by Odette who is a social worker here and helps find the home stays for volunteers. It is extremely colourful and large so great for the heat! Maman also bought me material for a dress that we are going to get tailored for International Women’s Day on 8th March. This day seems to be a big deal here and lots of preparation goes into it, we all have matching material for dresses and then march in the street. Much to Daniel’s surprise Maman then presented him with some material which is bright yellow, with an African maps allover, smiley faces and the words Western Union everywhere, he is having trousers made out of it!
The weekend just gone we travelled to Bangaloup, a tiny village near a town called Banganté. We had a long weekend because Friday was a public holiday to celebrate "Children's Day"! Carlos, the man who deals with finance at Le Caméléon has a house there so we went with him, Gisella (the founder of Caméléon), her French friend Nelly, Nelly’s daughter in law Annick and Annick’s two children. We took the school minibus and it took 4 hours to get there. The house he has there is really nice and big but the village is really small and most of the houses are extremely basic.
Carlos is from this village and whilst we were there we went to a ceremony for the third wife of Carlos’ father. Polygamy is quite common here, for example, Carlos himself has 2 wives that we know of and one of the teachers at the school, her father has 7! Anyway, she was being given what we have decided is the village equivalent of an MBE by the chief of the village. Each village has their own chief ‘le chef’, who resolves disputes and dishes out awards such as this. When we arrived we congratulated the old woman and waited for the chief’s arrival. Once he had arrived, she was dressed in traditional clothing and jewellery and presented before the whole village. They did some sort of ritual thing where they drank out of horns and then all the woman started singing and dancing.
The next morning we went to the market in Banganté, all I will say on this is that the butcher’s counter was not particularly pleasant. On the way back to Douala our tyre burst and the youngest child was sick so we were pretty happy to get home.