without a mossie net

It’s been two weeks since we left Cameroon – 14 days since we zipped the bags, mentally stored our memories and headed for the airport amidst an oncoming rainstorm of biblical proportions.  Just Cameroon’s way of reminding us that it is a powerful force that we have not, even after two years of living and working there, completely figured out.  And it won’t let go too easily either!

As we sat in the deserted airport terminal, we could see the deluge going on outside – sheets of rain, spectacular lightening and roaring thunder to break the early evening sky in half.  It was a crazy day.  And a crazy 2 years.  And now it was ending with… yeah… thunder and lightning!!! Was that a message???

Nah.  It was just a way for us to have a little of everything on our last day – what we loved, what we’ll miss and what drove us up the wall!!!  Here’s how it went down:

5:30am – Wake up.  Eat first breakfast.  Get tennis clothes on.

6:30am – Arrive at Yaoundé Tennis Club.  Meet up with Coach Bruno (a.k.a. Paracetamol – although with a nickname like that it’s a wonder why the workouts still hurt!).  Have hour-long lesson.  Forehand, backhand, volley, volley, smash then serve, serve, serve until Coach Bruno says we did well enough to bring the session to an end (because you have to end on a good shot, yes?).  Give onlookers (sheesh, are there even more today?) a final bow. Get pictures taken with Bruno and Hervé – the only ball boy dedicated enough to show up at that ungodly hour, but smart enough to know that’s how to make money to pay for school.

Greg, Hervé and Caroline pretending to hit a bonus ball

8:00am – Get home.  Shower.  Greg heads to office –grabs second breakfast (last spaghetti omelette!).  Caroline gets nouriss soy yogurt (last one in Cameroon!) for second breakfast and finishes the packing.

Rest of morning is a blurr… Transfer the last electronic files.  Pack the running shoes.  One more e-mail to write.  Grab flight itinerary.  Put final touches on that last report.  Passports, check.

Circa 1:00pm – Head to favourite lunch place:  St.Tropez – Chez Patrick.  Place is full as always.  90s music playing on the radio – fellow volunteer Calla sings along.  Plates arrive.  Man, that’s a lot of food!  Hand over the little green sauce.  It feels like the last meal.  Wolf it all down. Get pictures with Patrick, the staff, and Patrick’s mom!  Chuckle, chuckle.  All the customers are left waiting for their meals while we’re playing… sorry folks.

2:00pm – Go back to office.  Pack up.  Can’t say goodbye.  Run around the office serving everyone some nice natural pineapple juice (thanks to Patrick).  Staff smiling now.  That’s better.  Last hugs.  (Keep Menge away from Caroline, he’ll make her cry)  Front office staff filled out the in/out board with new information:  out is today, back in: May 5, 2012.  (Keep EVERYONE away from Caroline, she’s only pretending to be strong).  One more laugh.  OK… let’s bolt.  (Pull Greg away, he can’t let go).  This is too hard.  On est ensemble.  We are together.

Greg's plate of smoked pork roast and Caroline's mega vegetarian plate

the St-Tropez Staff - out of the kitchen

2:30pm – Grab one last souvenir from the craft shop on the way home.  See if our friend is working at the newsstand at the grocery store.  It must be his afternoon off.  Good, can’t handle more goodbyes.  Keep walking home.  The banana lady is not at her street corner today.  Don’t need bananas anyway.  Don’t need to think about any more “lasts”.  Keep walking.  Pick up the pace – watch for cars.  Today not a good day to test if they will stop before they hit you.

3:00pm – Take shower – can’t stink on the 30+hours flights back.  Zip up the last of the bags.  Do the dishes.  Try to clean up… total failure.  (Sorry Calla!!!)  Why did time decide to accelerate now?

3:45pm – Félix, the taxi driver, calls.  He’s early.  Can we hurry it up?  He’s kidding, right?  Nope.  And what Félix says is law.  Better ramp it up a notch. Urg.

4:00pm – Call Honoré, the caretaker/guard, to please pretty please come help carry the bags into the taxi (are we going to be overweight?) and grab a few things we were giving to the family. Rose, his wife, comes down.  We’re given blessings of protection – the BIG guy is watching after us.  We’re told to come back.  We’ll be missed. (especially Greg, but that’s an entirely different story to be told at a later date)

4:15pm – In the taxi.  Headed to airport.  Did we forget anything?  No matter – there is no turning back.  New horizons ahead (literally and figuratively)… looking stormy (literally)…  it’s going to be a bumpy ride (hopefully restricted to plane ride).

6pm onwards –  A furious texting frenzy to our friends and colleagues while waiting as we discussed the best way to say goodbye without being sad, making others sad or rubbing it in (because Caroline is 30 hours away from the first bubble bath in 2 years and everyone knows it!).  Good thing they all have a good sense of humour… or forgive us for ours.  Or ignore our antics.  Option 3 seems a good one now.  Still not hungry (thanks Patrick)

Patrick, the man responsible for a few too many lunch-time over-feedings

Nearing 8pm – Run over to the waiting area.  We needed to cross security in time to wave hello/goodbye to Pat, a fellow volunteer returning from vacation on the plane that will whisk us away in an hour.  Security officers don’t seem to mind the craziness of waving, dancing and otherwise acting really goofy.  We lose nothing in the final search.  Yeah!  No bribes, no fuss.  That was a very nice gift.

8:30pm – Use up the last of the phone credits by calling our parents just to be sure they remembered we were on our way back.  Just in case.  Never know.

8:35pm – The crew announce that our seats are boarding.

8:36pm – Last received call:  Coach Paracetamol.  Wishing us a good journey home.  Ending our day with the joy of how it began.

Coach Paracetamol - keeping good form even on the last day!

9:00pm – Plane is airborne.

So really, it’s no wonder we got a little hyper yet melancholic when we got onto the plane.  The day, the week, the month, the years.  It all starts to come into a strange sort of perspective.  We’re still mulling it all over.

Just doing it without the benefit of a mosquito net.

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~ by Caroline Spira on October 25, 2011.

8 Responses to “without a mossie net”

  1. The end. And a new beginning…

  2. Who said parting is such sweet sorrow?

  3. I hope you come an educate the Club with your adventures

  4. So what are you planning to do when you get back to Canada?

  5. You have been now on a whorl wind month of seeing old friends and family and realizing that you shall forever be part Cameroon. Others like you who have given part of their lives to another culture know that secret spot in their hearts where only they can reach that says, I am nolonger just a Canadian. It is this epiphany together with other past experiences and the future that will mold the two of you into exceptional guids for the many who will know you in their lives.

    Please keep us informed of your future, you two are a ray of light.

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