travel vignettes

While climbing Mount Cameroon was decidedly the highlight of our latest trip south – Greg’s 3rd, Caroline’s 1st since arriving 4 months ago – there was an actual reason for the journey. VSO Cameroon holds yearly national meetings in each of programme areas; we were heading down for the HIV-AIDS meeting where VSO staff and volunteers would get together to discuss priorities and activities for the new year.

just another bah-bah sheep getting a ride into town

On top of the business side of the trip, we had a few entertaining experiences we didn’t want to simply let pass by.  Here are a few vignettes of the trip south:

–   We shared the four-person train couchette compartment on the ride South with the head of the Emigration for the North.  His office issued the Residency Cards we all have to carry as ID.  We’ll remember him, though, from his well-intentioned lectures. Eating chicken with a fork and knife and not chewing the bones is a waste and therefore bad.  Oh yes, we certainly agree that we lack Cameroonian manners.  We’ll try to be better next time.

–   The same night we arrived in Yaoundé was an open house BBQ at the Canadian High Commissioner’s residence.  Hamburgers, fries, kabobs and Canadian VQA wine enhanced the experience of being guests at the residence.  A little piece of home.  The High Commissioner – a jolly and unassuming man– was a welcoming sight in a foreign land.  Go Canada Go!

Catherine, Bronwyn, Greg and Caroline: hockey enthusiasts in Cameroon!

–   With no TV up north, we’d missed much of the Olympic coverage.  However, in Yaoundé four true Canadians caught the men’s gold medal hockey game late in the evening.  With only 3 minutes left in regulation play, the Eurosport channel lost signal.  Argh!  Quickly, we found a German-language broadcast and finished watching the game.  The switch in languages was amusing and entertaining – the style of commentating a blast to listen to.  Luckily, the game spoke for itself.  Go Canada Go!

–   We journeyed by bus south to Buea at the base of Mount Cameroon.  About 2 hours after leaving Yaoundé, a man carrying a little green suitcase hopped on the bus and immediately started “educating” the passengers.  After a little while we caught onto his intent:  he was selling ginseng powder to prevent HIV and cure everything from erectile dysfunction to the diseases women get from peeing after a man has peed in the same pot.  He was also peddling an ointment made of garlic and ginger that he claimed would make skin stains disappear and cure any other fungus.  During 1 ½ hours of his hard sales pitch he sold almost everything in his suitcase.  Quite scary.

–   We elected to book ourselves into a nice hotel the night before the mountain climb as a way to get a good start to the hike. It turned out to be a dump and Buea was under water restrictions. No water until the early morning hours.  The power was also on an off for most of the evening, so no fan to cool us down.  Our room was directly above a nightclub, so when the power was on the boom boom boom of the music echoed through the night.  Fan or music… Couldn’t have one without the other.

Catherine, Caroline and Karine for IWD

–   Back in Yaoundé on March 8th for International Women’s Day, we made our way to the centre of town to observe the festivities.  Dressed in our commemorative pangs – hand tailored back in Maroua – Catherine, Karine and I, accompanied by Greg (who got teased for having too many beautiful women with him) got in position for the start of the parade.  For an hour we watched hundreds of women march to celebrate advancement, achievements and hopes for the future.  Awestruck by women marching in 4-inch high stilettos, we were also amused that some women tried to carry their purses in the parade.  “No-no” presidential police would tell them: “you have to leave them behind”.  Apparently Chantalle Biya -the president’s wife – was somewhere down the street.  So piles of purses were dumped on unsuspecting journalists and other passers-by for safekeeping.  We still wonder how the women found their bags again after the parade was over!

All in all, a good trip with many memories.  Glad we could mix business with pleasure.

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~ by Caroline Spira on March 13, 2010.

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