tales from the northwest

Might as well be the wild west the way things are going.

OK that’s an outright and blatant exaggeration.  The work we have been doing for a week and a half has been going well.  Greg’s even calling this almost like a vacation because even though we have worked nearly every day since arriving in Bamenda, the pace and intensity of the work has been very different.

The entire month of July we were running ragged getting back in the swing of things in Yaoundé.  There was a full week of “Program Planning Process” to develop a new strategy for VSO’s work in Cameroon.  Then Greg was on the writing team for the PPP proposal, while I was on the “meeting the other NGOs” team checking to see if there were potential partnerships to accompany this proposal.  Finally we had to catch up on the work we hadn’t been doing.  I had to write a post-mortem on the less than stellar ending of my local-partner placement (don’t ask).  And then we had to plan for the 2 photovoice projects we are currently running in the NorthWest.

All of this to say that it’s been crazy and most of what we were doing would have made for very boring (over)work blogs.   Although we’ll be very happy to share some of the amazing photos and stories of the 2 photovoice projects we are now facilitating, a few random things have taken place which, hopefully, will amuse a few of you enough to forgive the long blog absence.

Here are three of the latest tales from beneath the mosquito net:

Where’s the beef?

Riding in a taxi cab last Tuesday, we came up behind a very laden yellow taxi ahead of us.  Nothing unusual with that.  Except of course that the taxi cab was full… of cow parts!!! Sticking out of the trunk was, at least, two cow heads with horns, a couple legs and what appeared to be enough meat to feed a small village.

Bumpers of taxi cabs here are usually painted with a slogan or prayer.  In this case it was: “Not what you think”.

Yeah… not sure what the people riding in the back seat were thinking either.

Then today, we were once again – by pure luck of course – riding in a taxi behind the cow-taxi.  This time it was a little less loaded… only the cow stomach was hanging out of the trunk!

Our love-hate relationship with power outages and floods

Some weeks ago, back in Yaoundé, we were lazing around (yeah right!) when, as often happens, a large thunderstorm came through and knocked out the power.  It was dusk at the time, and so we didn’t need candles.

However, within seconds the sheets of rain became too much for the still unfinished roof of our apartment complex and rain started to pour in.  The water started to pour into the hallway, then into our apartment – flooding the entrance, the kitchen and the pantry.  Without any light to see how successful our mopping efforts were (not a good time for the headlamps to be out of juice!), we did the best we could.

So we thought that would be enough for our “power-flood” adventure in Cameroon.  Until 2 nights ago.

A friend let us know that the next day would be a region-wide power cut.  The power company had announced that it would be from 7am to 5pm.  Great, we thought, no problem.

Only, of course, it wasn’t to happen that way.  Sometime between 1am and 2am, the power disappeared and we were left in total darkness.  Not a problem in the middle of the night really… until…

Yup, you guessed it… the flood!  This time it wasn’t rain but an overflowing toilet in the guest room next to ours.  Our friend Aysha, also in the NorthWest working on the photovoice projects, woke up around 6am (still in pitch dark) and had a rude awakening when setting her feet down in over an inch of water and raised the alarm.  The flood had cascades along the tiled floors from the toilet in question, out in the hallway and into our two other rooms.  The rooms are quite small and we had (which we will not do again!) placed much of our photovoice equipment on the floor, plus our own computers and cameras.

None of our equipment was damaged – except for one of the project’s participant notebooks which are still attempting to dry out.

Sh*t happens, but in this case we were a little extra annoyed.  The occupant of the room where the flood emanated from – a worker of a well-known development agency – had not only noticed the problem at least an hour earlier but said nothing.  When the three of us awoke to the consequences of his silence, he made a speedy escape… driving away in his big NGO SUV before the sun even made an appearance.

We spent the rest of the day – without power while drying out the casualties – taking a rest from a rather eventful early morning rude wake-up call!

Forgive me all Buddhists

After the events of the previous early morning, I thought I would sleep like the dead.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite the case.  I had only experienced a few “saut-de-crapaud” for most of the night.  Sometime around 5am, I’d manage to curl up in a little ball and was starting to feel some proper zzzz.

All of the sudden I felt something run across my arm. I bolted upright, screamed and shook Greg up while going into undignified hysterics.  With the light switch on the other side of the room – I grabbed the little “buddy light” and scanned the perimeter where my arm and face had been.

You’d think that sleeping beneath a mosquito net would be a safe haven, but that’s a bold faced lie.  Whatever it was (we think a very large spider), Greg bashed the thing with great force (the kind used in the middle of the night when you’re not entirely awake). Then my knight in sleepy-shining armor carted away the humongous (only slight exaggeration) carcass.  After an appropriate amount of time, with significant coaxing by my hero and all bundled back up on the opposite side of the bed, I managed about an hour of sleep.

When I made the bed in the morning, I found two LARGE legs of the obviously dismembered nightly visitor lying on what had been my sleeping spot.

Still grossed out.

~ by Caroline Spira on August 8, 2011.

One Response to “tales from the northwest”

  1. Cow-part taxi? Gruesome. Water and electrical chaos? Horrible. Night creature? Downright paralyzing. I may have problems going to sleep tonight with that anecdote still in my mind. Reading about your July was exhausting! ! And here I thought I needed a vacation. So sorry for you guys but glad your enjoying a “pseudo-vacation” right now, relative to before. Just think of all this excitement you’ll be missing out of once you leave this country!! Very much looking forward to seeing you this weekend and hearing some more of your recent adventures.

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