the tail of the uninvited visitor

Greg, Dario – VSO Cameroon’s Country Director – and I were chatting about the latest photovoice project with MDDHL and apparent criticism that the results are being perceived as too negative.  We were talking about how hard it would be to do a human rights related project that was entirely positive – there would be no need for human rights defenders after all if everything was peachy and keen.

Deep into the philosophical debate, I had to excuse myself to go help Fernand, who is in charge of office maintenance and security.  I was writing down a phone number for him, when all of a sudden, Fernand wretched the form out of my hand and ran like the devil out of the reception area.

My first thought:  Sheesh, I didn’t know this was an emergency!!!

But then Fernand ran back inside, into the closet, and grabbed the big squeegee (also known as a mop in Cameroon, if you must know).  Then he ran back outside the front door at mach speed, then back inside again just as fast.

My second thought: what the &(%@# ???

A large lizard, believed by locals to be venomous, had made a dash for the office.  Did he want to volunteer?  Become a new local partner?  Land a job in the Participation and Governance team?  What? What?

the uninvited visitor

The hunt, lead by Fernand on the inside and Big Joe on the outside, lasted about 10 minutes as the lizard in question hid behind the bookshelves and computers desks, then under the door and around power cords.

Cheered on (with a couple shrieks mixed in) by Greg, Dario, myself and a few more staff alerted to the intruder’s presence, Fernand eventually managed to end this VSO home invasion.

Fernand and the squeegee

We’ve searched the internet for references to this red spotted amphibian.  There is no evidence of any venomous lizards in Cameroon –although he might just have been an African red sided skink, in which case we might have killed someone’s pet!.  But we understand, from other stories told by locals, that some lizards are believed to also carry curses and spells.

So with no evidence to the contrary, I vote that Fernand be promoted to “Grand Wizard of Maintenance, Security and Defence against the Dark Arts”.  Just in case.   🙂

In the end, we didn’t finish our discussion on how to present human rights abuses in a positive light, but I suppose we proved a point instead.  Not even animal kingdom rights were respected on a fundamental level…  dead and displayed like a trophy in the driveway.


No happy ending here either.  For the lizard anyway – the rest of us will sleep quite soundly tonight.


NOTICE:  Visitors to VSO’s office in Cameroon are usually greeted in a much nicer way.  Honest!



~ by Caroline Spira on December 17, 2010.

One Response to “the tail of the uninvited visitor”

  1. Maybe the lizard just had measles or the pox.

    In any case you lost the chance to grab it and put it to use, beneath the mosquito net!

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