Saturday, November 25, 2006

Up and up we go

From Cameroon - Mo...

Today me and Mum and Dad went up Mount Cameroon. Joe did not come as he has a stinky cold and did not want to exacerbate it. We had an early start so you can start climbing before it gets too hot. Although by 8.00 I was really hot and felt the sweatiest I had ever been (nice!). We went very perpared, 1.5 litres of water each, plenty of food, sturdy shoes etc. Our guide turns up in his flip flops and no water or food. I have no idea how he managed to climb like that. I was very glad to have my water, food and boots. I suppose he does it everyday so its just a stroll in the park for him.

It was hard work, always climbing, climbing, climbing. There was a practice race in preparation for the Mount Cameroon race in February. Which was great as we got lots of little breaks while letting them pass. The terrain was pretty rough in places and we had to be careful especially coming down, it was really slippy in places.

We reached hut one in about 3 hours. The route up the mountain has three huts for resting and sleeping in. Built by the Germans in the 70's. For a one day trek it is common to go as far as hut one. We felt like we could go a little further once we arrived so asked the guide to take us up to the Savannah. This is where the rain forest ends and the grass begins. It gets colder and there is little animal life. We trekked for another 1/2 hour and reached the Savannah.

We were so glad we asked to go a little further as it beautiful, a complete change in foliage and fantastic views. It was pretty misty so we could not see much higher. This was the point that we turned round and headed back. The descent only took 2 hours, our guide was worried it was about to start raining, although it did not. I was amazed none of us turned our ankles on the way down it was tough going. I received a leki pole from Joe's Mum and Dad for my birthday. I tell you it was worth its weight in gold. We more than that as it does not weigh very much. Mum and Dad had to hire wooden poles for the day but I was so glad to have my Leki pole and from now on will never be with out it. I cannot decide weather it helped more for the assent or descent. Having something extra to hold on to and push up on was great.

Joe and I plan to go to the summit at some point, this will involve camping in one of the huts. It was great to get a taster and I look forward to going further.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Book Review: To kill a Mockingbird

To kill a mockingbird is the first book I have read that I purchased from Books and Things our fantastic local bookshop. I have never read it before, I guess most read it at school but we did not study it. I really enjoyed reading it and found it really absorbing. Set in America however many years ago so much of what they talk about reminds me of here. The simple way of life, the farming and the description of the black church. Of course there is not the problem of racism here that is described in the book but the day to day life is similar.

Narrated by a young girl explaining her family life and her relationship with her older brother as they grew up. She talks about all the things going on around her and gives a great insight to her thoughts.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

They have arrived!!

Well on Monday evening Mum and Dad arrived. I thought I was not going to make it to the airport on time as a lorry was on its side on the only bridge in to Douala. However, after walking about 2 miles to get though the traffic to meet our car we made it - just in time.

We spent Tuesday in Buea, seeing what few unexciting sights there are. We visited a school which they enjoyed. Yesterday we went to chutes d'Ekom. These are some amazing water falls. A little further away than I anticipated and down a terrible track road. They were amazing once we got there though. The scenery and the falls were all amazing. And I think worth the travel.

First impressions are from Mum that it is hot and poor and from Dad that they drive too fast. He thought 4 times yesterday his life was going to end and that was a good driver. Otherwise we are all having a great time.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The ups and downs of life

The last couple of days have been very up and down. It all started on Friday morning. Firstly Joe and I had planned to go to the local primary school to speak to the head teacher. She was out so we went up to the office. When we arrived there was 'no light'. So Genesis and I went up to visit the Provisional Delegate for Health to tell him of our plans to open a health post. He said health posts no longer exist as they had many problems with them. We would have to open a integrated health centre. Is there a difference - not as far as I can tell. So we have found out about the forms we have to fill in, how they have to be signed and stamped by about 6 different people, then we will have the approval to open - lets just hope I am still here by the time it is all done! Cameroon bureaucracy is just like that of the Vogons. We then planned to see the local lady in charge of AIDS, we have been trying to see this lady for 2 weeks now. She was out again.

We found out the power cut had been planned and announced so shut up shop for the day. Joe was supposed to be teaching his final lesson but rearranged for tomorrow. We went back to the school and had a nice chat with the head teacher. We are hoping to open a text book library as each school child needs about 10 books for school and the parents cannot afford to buy them. We were telling her about this and getting book lists.

We then went to see the tailor to get another suit made for Joe. On the way back down the hill we noticed that there was writing over the doors of HINT. It had been closed by the taxation office as we had not paid the tax on our profit. We are however a not for profit organisation so Genesis thought we did not have to pay tax. So the doors are sealed closed - with some string. We are not allowed to enter the building for anything until it is sorted out. Genesis tried all afternoon to get it sorted but of course in that Vogon way he had to get a million forms stamped in a million different offices, so it will not be sorted out until Monday. Joe's class was postponed again until Monday. My parents were arriving on Saturday so he did not really want to be teaching while they were here - but needs must.

We then arranged to met Auntie Becky in the bar for a drink and to arrange world AIDS day. We arranged to met at 6 as we have plans for the evening. So we got there at just gone 6 and waited till 7:30. No sign of Becky so we left and got ready to go out. We had been invited to a Bach night as in bachelor night. I was very excited as it will be my first stag do. The invite said 6pm till 6am. So we arrived about 8:30, we were greeted by a member of staff from the hotel were it was being held. She informed us it would not start till 10pm. Four hours late - that's Africa time. So we went to Figaro's and had a couple of drinks with Didimus and Sylvester. We thought we would go there later, however we ended up coming home. Very unsuccessful evening - did not do anything we had planned too.

So got up on Saturday morning, very excited as my parents were arriving. I have really been looking forward to seeing them and all the treats they are bringing us. I received a text not long after we got up saying they had missed their flight do to some problems with shuttle buses at the airport. Gutted. They have rearranged their flight to Monday. So I will be going down to the airport on Monday afternoon and Joe can finally teach the last class of his course. Their trip will a little shorter, I need to rearrange some of the stuff we planned to do.

And now the office is open again, on Saturday as a friend of Genesis came to visit and it turns out the people that closed us down are over-eager students of his from University of Buea. He made a call, Joe cut the string and the doors are open. So although Cameroonians are Vogons, its all about which Vogon you know.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Four Months!!

Well we have been here four months now. Its just amazing how the time has flown by. That's one third of our time gone. Life is trundling along well, we are in a pretty fixed routine. We have made a few friends, especially Joe's football lot, which has given us a bit more of a social life. We have had a few invites to various parties and occasions. Life is fun.

I feel this month we have really been making some progress. Joe has almost completed his 3 week web design course. Many people are eager to learn advanced computer skills as it will help them find employment. The course has been pretty successfully, though stressful at times I think with the students occasionally being totally clueless. There has been a great demand for it and he will be repeating the course in a few weeks time.

I completed my house to house interviews I was doing when I wrote last month. When collating the data I saw that the local people have a real need for a health centre in the local area. If people are sick their only choice is to go to the local hospital, which ends up being pretty costly. So we have decided that HINT will open a health post. It will be small, to begin with anyway. We will offer free consultations and advice. Drugs will be at cost price and we will also offer basic health care, dressings etc. It will be nurse led (that's me) and I hope over the next few months to train staff so the health post can continue once we leave.

Most of this month has been spent making preparations. We have found a building and hope to open in the new year. I have been writing proposals, I feel like a business woman more than a nurse at the moment. So we will be applying for a grant to help fund the centre. We have also been able to donate some of the money we raised before we came here. I am very excited about the prospect of opening a health post as I know it will really benefit the local people and make a difference. Genesis wanted to name the health post after us - but we declined. So it will be the Bonduma Community Health Post (BCHP).

I am sure I will keep you up to date with my progress. I will also be continuing with HIV work. Many people I spoke to while doing the questionnaire were quite clued up about HIV in many respects, I have to be careful how I approach the subject so that people are interested and learn something new. I will use the health post as a central post to run HIV education from.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I wondered what happens after death

I have often wondered what happens to people's pacemakers after they die. I have been told they are given to dogs or to developing countries. You can be buried with you pacemaker but if you are being cremated it must be removed - unless you wanted to take your family with you. I often looks at the pacemaker club website. I can often give advice or support to pacing newbies. Especially those who are younger feel they are the only one. Today when I looked at the site there was a piece of research talking about pacemaker life after death.

They interviews a 100 morticians (which if we are being critical is quite a small sample) and these are the results of what they do with removed pacemakers.

44% Threw the device away as medical waste
18% Donate for human use in developing countries
10% Return them to next of kin
8% Store them in the mortuary
4% Return them to manufacturer
4% Return them to hospital where patient died
3% Donate to veterinary school for implantation into animals
24% Did not know

The research suggests you have a 'device living will' and that the pacemaker should be removed and returned to the manufacture for analysis. I do not feel I need a device living will (bit to American). So I am announcing publicly that I want my pacemaker donated to a developing country or returned to my next of kin to be added to my collection. I already have 3 of my old pacemakers,imagine how many I will have by the time I die. It could be worked in to a great piece of art!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Remembrance Sunday

We had an invitation a few weeks ago from the British High Commission to a Remembrance Sunday service. The service was being held at the war graves in the Limbe Botanical Garden. We decided to go along too meet some other English folk and to attend the service. We did not really know what to expect and it ended up being a pretty good day.

We arrived early so had a little walk around the gardens and watched as the English arrived with their drivers in their huge 4X4s. We went over to the graves collected our poppy and sat down. It felt strange being amongst so many English people doing something very English.

The service was short, led by the high commissioner. A collection of Cameroon veterans laid poppy's on the graves. We know that after the service there would be 'small chops' - food, served at Dick Scott's house. We had no idea where this was or how we would get there. So we stood about looking a bit lost. Then some guy asked us if we were coming and did we want to follow him, we answered that we do not have a car so he told us to jump in to his.

It turns out this man is Dick Scott himself, a Scottish ex-pat who has lived in Cameroon about 20 years. You can tell he is Scottish not by his accent but by the St Andrews flags he has painted on his gate.

We arrived at his house, it was amazing. On the sea, you could walk from his garden down the rocks and swim in the Atlantic Ocean. We sat in the garden under palm trees eating lovely food his Cameroon wife had prepared. We chatted to one English woman and many Cameroonians. Most people there were a lot older than us. Rich ex-pats who probably all live in amazing big houses with lots of staff. No really the type of people we are used to socialising with. So we sat and ate and had a couple of drinks. Generally we had a jolly nice time and felt very English for a few hours.

Book Review: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - 'Trilogy of four'

I have always wanted to read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. When I was younger I used to watch the TV show with my Dad and brother. I am sure I did not really get what was going on but I enjoyed it. We bought the 'Trilogy of Four' with us. It contains

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Restaurant at the End of The Universe
Life, The Universe and Everything
So Long and Thanks for all the Fish

As you can tell by it being called a trilogy of four, the books are pretty silly. But good fun and very enjoyable. I read all 4 in a row as they were all in one book. I think this was a mistake. It was a bit too much silliness to take in one go.

I really enjoyed the first book. I know the story well from the film and the TV series. Although each is different the basic story is the same. I read it in just a few days while we were in Kribi. Restaurant at the End of the Universe was good but kept jumping about the place, loads of tangents and they did not get the restaurant till ages though the book!

I found Life, the Universe and Everything really hard going and the least enjoyable of the 4. It had too many things going on at once, I got a little lost, confused and bored at times.

So long and thanks for all the fish is viewed by many people as the worst of the books. I enjoyed it though. It has a nice girl meets boy story too it and a bit of reality comes seeping back. Although not entirely, it is still pretty silly in Douglas Adams style.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bon House

From Cameroon - Pe...

On Saturday we were invited to a Bon House. This is a party to celebrate the birth of a new baby. The party was at Ivo's house, he is the bar owner of Figaro's which is the bar Joe's football club is linked with.

We were running a little late due to the fact we had to pick up Joe's new suit from the tailors. They told us it would be ready at 5. So like good English people we arrived a 5 on the dot. The tailor looked at his watch and laughed. They were still finishing the suit. Sewing on the buttons and making the button holes etc. They finished about 6:30 and the suit looked rather dashing.

So we were supposed to be meeting at Figaro at 6, we got there at 7. Met a few of the football guys, Ransom, Willy and loads others I cannot remember the name of. They told us we would head to the party about 8, so we went at 9. We are still getting used to Africa time. Ivo's house was behind the bar, we figured it would be just behind but oh no. We had to jump in to Ransom's car and drive up a rocky road to the middle of nowhere.

We went in to met the baby, Ivo Junior. He was so cute. We then had a few drinks and some food. It was a great evening. I spent a large proportion of the evening taking photos of cute kids and groups of kids as they all shout 'snap me, snap me' at me.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Why can people in Oxford not drive?

Just about every day I read the BBC news web site. I start with the World pages, then England, then Oxford. We have noticed a few trends in the Oxford news. One is lots of stabbings. Unsurprisingly in the Blackbird Leas area. The other trend is road traffic accidents.

Almost everyday when I load the page there is a story about a road traffic accident, an inquest in to a road traffic accident or a funeral for someone who has died in a road traffic accident.

I think the number of road deaths in Oxfordshire for the year stands at 57. That's 13 more than last year and we still have the Christmas drink driving season to get through.

This week we had a bit of a scare when we saw a story about a fatal crash killing a woman in a red polo just near Bicester. I have a friend who lives in Bicester and drives a red polo. The mind goes on over drive. The accident was at 8:10 am. She finishes nights at 8 am so it was possible she was on her way home from work.

We kept going over arguments for and against. The news had not released a name so we had no way of knowing. Just waiting to hear from her or from a friend. I decided to stop thinking about it.

Then today she sends me an instant message and we have a conversation - she is not dead. That's a real relief. Its a very strange feeling thinking one of your friends could be dead with out having any real evidence.

So we are very happy she is fine and well. However our feelings go out to the family and friends of the woman in the red polo.

Driving is dangerous here but at the moment it seems just as bad in Oxford. I just hope over Christmas they take the advice we saw one day. 'Drink Tea and Drive'

Thursday, November 09, 2006

More musings

I forgot two of my favorite musings about the Cameroonians.

So here they are...

The only ambulances I have seen are actually hearses. The company they operate from is called 'final destiny'.

You can buy almost anything you want from the top of someones head for example...
Groundnuts (peanuts)
Fish Pie
Meat on a stick
Snails on a stick
Pot of hot food
Shoes (well they balance one on their head and carry the rest)
Sandwiches - Deli style, they carry bread and a host of fillings and condiments
And the most impressive - A coffee Table

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

With a shower in the garden

I am currently preparing a plan for when my parents visit in a couple of weeks.

I have been emailing hotels to enquire about prices and facilities. Yesterday I got this great email back from a hotel in Limbe which is just down the road from us in Buea in the English speaking province.

Goodday Mrs Heather Talbot
It was a pleasure reading from you,the variouse prizes of our rooms ranges from;
23 000f cfa = a double room with a shower in the garden (with a veranda)
26 000f cfa = a double room with a bath and view on the sea
29 000f cfa = a double room with a bath in the garden(with a varenda)
29 000f cfa = a double room with a bath view on the sea.
All these prizes is included with your continental breakfast,taken as from 6 am to 10 am.

I think we will go for a room with a shower, in the garden. Being the cheapest and I am not too bothered about sea views. We will not be spending much time in the room gazing out the window, we will go and sit by the sea.

I wonder what the prizes will be?!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

parlez vous fran├žais?


Today I started and dropped French lessons. I do not usually give up on things that quickly. The majority of Cameroon is French speaking, just 2 of the 10 provinces are English speaking. So I thought while I was here I would brush up on my french skills. Before we came Joe's dad kindly lent me (well I sort of kept it) an instant french CD. I was getting on quite well but was terrible at keeping it up. I thought attending lessons would be stricter.

So last week I went for a placement test to see which group I was suited too. I got a shocking 11 out of 50. So I was put in the elementary class.

Today I attended. The lesson was 8-10 am. So I was up early and arrived on time - just. However the teacher was 45 mins late - why do I rush?!

The lesson started and I did not understand a word. If this is elementary I dread to think what intermediate or advanced is like. They were waffling on about verb endings and tenses. I did not even know what the words were let alone the tense.

After the lesson they decided I would be better in the lower class. That lesson is 10-12 which will interrupt with my work at HINT too much. So I decided to not bother attending. Oh well I tried. Back to the CD.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Na this God He breeze been make all thing

I have spoken before about pidgin English. It is the day to day language used by so many. However there is now a act against it. Marceline's youngest brother and sister do not know pidgin, their father decided it is better to speak English properly. So when they grew up no one in the family was allowed to speak pidgin to them. They are called modern children. I think it is great to move away from pidgin however it gives Agbol a disadvantage as he cannot understand his class mates in the play ground, once the bell rings they all revert to pidgin.

The older generation especially those with little or no education only speak pidgin. This causes me great difficulty trying to communicate with them. I am beginning to understand people when they speak in pidgin. However I do not think I could every actually speak it. When ever I am working with these people someone has to come with me to translate!

To give you a taster of pidgin here is the 1st book of John. And so you can understand it a pidgin/English dictionary.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

They just keep saying how good red wine is

I do enjoy a nice glass of red wine. Now I can enjoy a glass or two of red wine and eat as much food as I like with it. This story on the BBC news website explains how a chemical in red wine counteracts the effects of a high calorie diet and increases life span. Well it does in mice, and there are some cute little pictures to prove it. Lets just hope it has the same effect in Humans.

Musings on Cameroonians

I thought I would share with you some of my observations of Cameroonian people.

They are very friendly, welcoming and helpful - although if you are not careful you have to pay for this helpfulness.

Anything can be settled with money.

Nothing costs the original price, you usually get it for half.

They hiss to get your attention, it amazes me when Genesis can stop a cab by hissing at it.

They love Eto'o (Cameroonian footballer, plays for Barcelona) When ever Joe wears is t-shirt with Eto'os name on the back we constantly have people shouting ETO'O at us.

Genesis' view of America was that 'the drivers actually stop at stop signs'.

There is no such thing as time keeping.

As mentioned before, they eat everything.

There is great respect for elders.

Most people speak 3 or 4 languages (English, Pidgin, their own dialect and some French).

The Anglophone people hate the French.

No one ever has any change - when you give them a 10 000CFA note (£10) they look at you as if their world is about to end. Thankfully there is no 20 000 note.

Half the time I cannot understand people when they are supposed to be speaking English.

No one appears to have a job - they all just do stuff.

There is only one anglophone University. This is because they fear that if there were two, the anglophones would take over the country! However many francophones are desperate to learn English as it is the language of the world.

People are desperately entering the DV lottery. This is a lottery for a US residency visa. I never knew such things existed. Are the the streets of the US really paved in gold? they just think about how much they could go and earn. They cannot comprehend the cost of living though.

They think that westerners eat lots of raw food.

Because we are white we are rich. Yes we are rich, we are millionaires in their currency. But we are earning no money and do not have the infinite supply of cash they think we have.

They have no comprehension of it being really cold. Sheila was amazed when I told here we have to heat our house.

Many people do not have water in their homes. But they piggyback electricity so they can have a telly.

They do not want water in their homes as then they will have to pay for it. They would be happy with more public taps.

It is very important to greet people when you see them for the first time in a day.

In the wet season they think it is too cold do drink cold beer. When you arrive in a bar you are asked if you want it warm or cold.