Less than two weeks left! Can you believe it? Me either! Time has really been flying this summer. I don’t have a whole lot to update you on regarding our project. Our PM Rosevelt has just returned from his two week long trip to who knows where and we have taken baby steps with the surveying. Since the rain has been in full force and we only have one full work week left, I am pretty sure that we may not accomplish this task. We have made it clear to the organization that we want to be of help over our last few weeks here, but everyone seems focused on their own work and do not have the time to bring us up to speed with the stuff they are working on. However, I am not sure how useful we can be considering many of the projects the staff handles here are concerning women’s and widow’s rights and gender sensitization workshops and programs. I am all about the rights of women, but I do not speak pidgin very well and so my help at the workshops and seminars they put on for local communities would be very limited. So, in short, the last week has been very unproductive in terms of our labor at work, yet, we did have a very interesting weekend in Kribi.
As I mentioned in my last post, we made travel plans to go to Kribi, a small beach resort town south of Buea, for the weekend. The three of us and our friend Mandela set out last Friday morning by bus with hopes of reaching Kribi in the early afternoon. Yet, without fail, we rain into several problems along the way that helped our supposedly 4 hour trip turn into an 8 hour long adventure. First of all, the bus we took, similar to a greyhound, was so mismanaged. We bought tickets about half an hour before the bus was supposed to leave. After boarding the bus it became very clear that they had either sold more tickets than there were seats available or people had snuck on without buying tickets. For the 5 of us there were only 4 seats left, and others were boarding behind us. What a nightmare! The bus was scheduled to leave at 10, and after about half an hour of the bus staff arguing amongst each other and kicking several people off the bus, we started on our journey around 10:45. About an hour or so into the bus ride, we were stopped by police officers that decided to do a random bus check. Security has been increased due to the threat of the Boko Haram, so this is not the first time that we had been stopped in a vehicle for inspection. (The first time we were stopped was within the first month here – all of us were asked to hand over our passports when stopped at a vehicle checkpoint on the way to one of the villages we were working in. Since we are instructed not to carry our passports on us in case anything gets stolen, we all had photocopies made and handed them over. The police officer was not happy about this; he said that in order for them to accept the photocopies as official documents that they would have to be legalized at the police station. He let us off easy, and following this we immediately went to the police station to get our photocopies legalized, that is, stamped with an official seal and signed by the police chief. We had not had any problems since.) The police officer boarded the bus and began checking everyone’s ID cards and was shifting through the luggage on board to make sure there were no concealed weapons or anything. Finally, he reached the 4 of us sitting in the back of the bus and we handed over our documents. Jose and Chinedum had brought their passports with them this time for some reason, so they were cleared with no problems. However, when Katie and I handed over our legalized photocopies there seemed to be a real issue. The police office started yelling in French and took our photocopies and then exited the bus. Thankfully our friend Mandela speaks French so he was able to go after him and we followed. When we exited the bus, extremely confused by the situation at hand, Mandela approached us and said that the police officer would let us go only if we paid him 2000 francs a piece (about 4 US dollars). Infuriated by this attempt at a bribe, Katie and I told Mandela to ask him what the problem was. After translating, Mandela revealed that the man said we were not able to pass through since we did not have our yellow fever cards with us as the others did. The only reason that they had their cards was because the cards are kept with your passport, and you need your yellow fever card to get your visa, which we also always present photocopies of, so we were unsure of why this was a problem. Katie quickly told the man (as Mandela translated) that she did have her yellow fever card, just not with her, and if there was a problem she would call the US embassy to clear things up. This quickly made the police officer quiet and after a few moments he handed us back our documents, allowing us to get back on the bus and continue with our journey. Our first police attempted bribery! I had heard of stuff like this happening before, but this was the first time I had experienced it. This police officer made a crappy claim just to make a few extra bucks. Well, we weren’t having it!
After returning to the bus and having everyone stare at us for holding them up, we resumed travel until we were dropped off about an hour out from Kribi. The bus was scheduled to travel to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, and Kribi is on the way. We had planned to take the bus as far as we could and then would travel by taxi or car the rest of the way to the hotel. We found a driver that was willing to take us to the bus park just outside the hotel area, but his car was already packed full. We told Madela that we did not wish to take this vehicle since there were already so many people in it, but he insisted that we would not be able to find another person to take us. Reluctantly, we piled into this minivan increasing the number of passengers from 9 to 14, probably more, I just can’t remember. It was insanely hot and packed tight, if you can even imagine, and we had made it about ten minutes into the ride before the car stopped working properly. Yep, the engine broke down and all of us were stranded in the middle of nowhere in the hot sun waiting for a mechanic. We waited over an hour and saw numerous cars stop and then continue on again. Empty buses would come by and we would get hopeful that we could continue on with our journey, but our bus driver would go over to speak to them to “make negotiations” and then once he was done talking, the buses would continue on without taking any of us. This made us grow impatient and angry, realizing the driver was up to something and just wanted to keep our money. Yet, since so much time had passed already with us waiting and no mechanic in sight, we asked the driver for our money back and began to walk back to the original bus park area where we started. Once we returned to the original area that the bus has dropped us off, Mandela was able to make arrangements with another driver to take us straight to our hotel. So, now over 2 hours later than we were originally dropped off, we set out to Kribi. We finally arrived around 6:30 in the evening and checked into the wonderful “Les Gites de Kribi” hotel.
We were so happy to see such a beautiful place after such a long journey. We booked a bungalow for the weekend, which was basically just a small, two-bedroom house. We had two bathrooms, with HOT WATER, and there was AIR CONDITIONING – a real treat! We were also very pleased with how close the hotel was to the beach. Right across the street from the entrance was a nice sit-down restaurant that served really good food, including pizza, which I was really excited about, and just behind the restaurant was the beach front. You could sit on the deck outside the restaurant gazing at the beach while you ate, it was marvelous! For dinner the first night we all had pizza, and then I had more pizza again for lunch the second day – it was just so good and had been way too long! They also had coffee, real coffee not the instant coffee they use in Buea, and so I had a few cups of that before leaving on Sunday as well. The weather was had was sub-par, but it did not rain, so we were very pleased! We were able to get some good time in at the beach on Saturday and then we relaxed by the pool for the better part of the afternoon. In the evening we went back to the restaurant to get a few drinks and watch the World Cup game, Netherlands taking 3rd place over Brazil, before heading back to the hotel to hang out and play cards before heading to bed. All-in-all, it was a very relaxing weekend, and it was nice to finally get away from Buea for a different change of pace. We ended up booking the same driver who brought us to our hotel to take us to Douala on Sunday morning. From Douala we were able to catch another driver to take us to Buea, making the trip in about 4 hours, as it should have taken us the first time. I ended the weekend on a good note by relaxing with my family and watching the World Cup final between Argentina and Germany. I was really pulling for Argentina, but Germany took the Cup in the end with a great goal. I was really enjoying watching the World Cup, but now that it is over I am relieved that I don’t have to be super interested in soccer again for another 4 years. Sorry Aaron!
This week has been slow at work as well, and like I said, the rain is in full force, but we are making the best of it! I know that our project may not be turning out as we hoped, we were warned about this before coming here, but I have learned a great deal about myself and about Cameroon since being here, and I am very grateful for the experience. I won’t look back on all of the things that I did not accomplish, but rather, I will remember all of the great things I learned and great people I met. So here’s to the next 12 days – I am gonna enjoy them best I can!
See you all soon!