Saturday, December 22, 2007

A busy winter

I have to say I have become pretty slack in updating my blog recently. This is because I now see my life as pretty mundane and boring and nothing I think you will want to read about. While in Cameroon I felt almost everything was interesting from doing the washing to my day to day work and the people I met. Now I see that kind of stuff as pretty dull as it is no different to what everyone else is doing. So the end result is nothing to write about.

December has been a busy month. I have felt totally unprepared for Christmas as I am finding it hard it believe we have been back for over six months and Christmas is upon us. However time is running past and it is now pretty cold which most the time I am not appreciating although going out for walks in a woolly hat and fluffy coat with the beautiful winter sky and leaves on the ground is pretty good.

A few weeks back we went to watch Rich complete the Grim challenge. An 8 mile run across an army tank testing ground, I have to say a big well done to him. It looked really tough with loads of rain fall the night before and huge puddles/ lakes to run through. It was not warm that day and he did really well.

I have been very busy with my involvement in the organisation of the Christmas ball. It was hard work at times trying to get people to pay up but we had a wonderful night and Trinity college and everyone looked beautiful.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I make no promises to be any better at blogging next year!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Terracotta Army

On Monday I had a great day out with Mum and Dad, we went to London to see the Terracotta army. Joe and I would love to go to China to see the army in all its vastness but for now this is all we can do. The British Museum had about 12 whole figures, some horses and a few extra bits. Every face different it must be amazing to see the whole army. The display showed you how the First Emperor of China took over the nation and then prepared for his death by building his temple for his tomb and organising his protection. Not only did the army contain warriors but also civil servants to keep the paper work in the after life and some entertainment was also organised in heavy weight men and aerobatic artists. The man thought of everything no surprise he became the first emperor.

the queues were huge and it took ages to get round, and that was having booked the tickets in the Summer. It was well worth it though and I would love to have the opportunity to travel to China and see it for real.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Lean on me

I have been involved in a new project at work over the last few weeks. Its a quality improvement project where by we are using techniques from Toyota and bringing them in the NHS. Hmmm you may be thinking, well so was I. We have spent the last couple of weeks learning all about lean techniques , which is basically to eliminate waste and to poka-yoke (mistake proof) a system. Apply Lean to the NHS and it will, while using no more resources:
  • Improve the quality of patient care
  • Improve safety
  • Eliminate delays
  • Reduce length of stay
Sounds far to good to be true, the project will last six months so only time will tell.

The first thing we have been doing is using the 5 S approach to sort ourselves out.
Sort - remove unnecessary items from the workplace
Straighten - locate everything at the point of use
Sweep - Clean and eliminate sources of filth
Standardise - Make routine and standard for what good looks like
Self - discipline - make 5S second nature.

The first thing we attacked was the drug cupboard as it was organised chaos. We have now split the cupboards in two, one for stock and one for dispensing with one packet of each drug in use at a time. It is now a beautiful cupboard and lets just hope we can roll it out across the whole room.

We then move on to complicated things like process mapping, it took us two days to map a patient journey with right upper quadrant pain. The trouble with trying to apply processes used to build cars in to the NHS is the healing people is not as simple as making cars. everyone is different. We spent the whole days saying things like 'well that depends' and we have so much that depends on external departments that we can not control like theatres and radiology.

I hope we see improvement and are able to met the aims of the project to increase safety and give nurses more time to nurse instead of answering the phone or searching for equipment etc.

I am now very tempted to apply the 5S approach to our new house and get rid of all the stuff we don't need and find an appropriate place for everything that would be bliss.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Family Chronology

A couple of years ago Joe came across a website of a photographic family chronology. Each year the family gather and take a photo and catalogue it on this site. We decided this was a pretty cool idea so have started ourselves.

We set the date to 1st October as this is the date we met. The project began last year in Cameroon and continued in a rainy car park. We set on a head shot of each of us and a full length of the family together.

The Talbot photo chronology

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tell me a story

I have lived in Oxford for 10 years now and it that 10 years I never visited the Oxford Story. The Oxford story is a ride along thing telling the history of Oxford. How it grew as a University city and telling stories of all the famous alumni. From the literature from Oxford - Lewis Carroll, C S Lewis and T R R Tolkien to name a few. To the 25 Prime ministers and the first use of Penicillin.

The attraction has had to close after being open for 20 years as it needs so much renovation. I could choose to have commentary from Timmy Mallet or Magnus Magnerson as we rode through the back streets of historic Oxford. It was fun and I can see that every school child in Oxfordshire must have gone on a school trip there at some point. It is quite sad it is closing really, not that I ever went until the last day but at least I knew it was there!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Long time no blog

I have been very lapse at blogging recently. Life has been busy. I have been on a stinking long stretch at work so had no days off for ages. Then all my spare time in the last few weeks has been spent house shopping. Last weekend we accepted a offer on our house meaning it was all systems go. Today we have had an offer accepted on a house for us to buy.

We were a little worried as this house was a little out of our price range, also a little over priced if you ask me, so we put in a low offer. But after a bit of haggling an agreement was made which suited both parties and the plan is to complete in the new year. It is all so exciting :-)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Book Review: The Kite Runner

What an absolutely amazing book. This is the first book in a long time to really get my emotions going. It is just so gripping and so gut wrenching. At times it is certainly not pleasant to read but blows any other book out of the water.

The story of two boys living in Afghanistan who are friends but from very different back grounds. One very well to do with a good upbringing and the other the son of his father's Hazara servant. The story is set in the time of the fall of Afghanistan with mass exodus and Taliban rule. The main character after ending up in America is forced to return to Afghanistan to clear up a long lived guilt. It is very well written and whatever I read next will have a hard act to follow. Must read his next book - on the Christmas list me thinks!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

20 years ago today.....

...... there was a storm - it was a bad storm - I nearly died. That is my version of the storms of '87 that hit South East England. Joe always teases me for saying 'I almost died' but I only just found out that is because the storm only really hit the south east so bypassed Swindon.

I remember the night well, I was eight years old - it amazes me it was 20 years ago!! We had some of our neighbours children staying they were about the same ages as my and Rich. Their parents were away for the night. I awoke to an almighty noise outside my bedroom window which was inches from my head. My bed was covered in debris from the trees, that had blown through the frame of the window. There right in front of my face was the top of a tree, had the tree been taller or our house a little further back that tree would have landed in my head. This however was not the only thing going on in the house, the kids from down the road went screaming in to Mum and Dad's room thinking the window has shattered in their room. Dad went to investigate to find a tree had come through the roof and in to the bedroom. I to this day am so impressed how cool, calm and collected my parents were. If a tree were to fall through my roof right now I do not think I would be calm. They did not panic or begin to worry about how they will fix the roof. We all went downstairs and sat in the middle of the living room - deemed the safest place in the house and waited for the storm to blow over.

We used to have 12 huge pine trees in our back garden after the storm we had 6. The huge pine tree in the front was still standing and to this day is the only one that is. The council came to take down all the existing trees, our next door neighbour refused so her remaining trees still stand.

The neighbours whose children were in our house did not fare as well as us. A tree fell on the house and cut the roof in half down the middle, with the trunk sitting on the front and back walls of the house. The tree fell directly on top of the room of the girl who was sleeping in our house - it is amazing they were at our house that night.

East Anglia was not the worst affected area with the South coast getting the worst of the storm, many buildings damaged and 18 killed. I hope we never see another storm like it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

St Ives

To complete our little collection on mini trips away Joe and I went to St Ives (Cornwall) last week to spend a few days with Emily in her family's house. We had a fantastic time and with weather was brill. I have wanted to visit the Eden project for ages so as we were down that way we went. It was fantastic, especially as in the tropical dome they had a Cameroon section - so we spent ages looking at all the familiar plants. The domes are fantastic and the variety of plants they grow is amazing. I was taken by how well they use the space and you do not only walk around the floor of the dome but go up in to the top. We had a great day there.

We had some fantastic food - as holidays is all about the eating for Joe and I. I had some delicious grilled Mackerel to continue my reminiscing about Cameroon and it was so tempting to eat it with my fingers but thought better of it.

Emily and I even donned wet suits and went bodybording which was great fun, I rode some of the waves pretty well and at one point a seal even joined us in the sea!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Thai

Five years ago from now Joe and I were in Thailand on our Honeymoon, so we decided what better way to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary than with a Thai meal. That is after our plans went wrong as the hotel we planned on going to closed down!

We heard about this Thai restaurant in London with a Michelin star so thought we would give it ago. As our original plan included a hotel stay we looked at local hotels, the hotel attached to the restaurant was getting on for £350 a night to soon knocked that on the head and went cheap and cheerful from The meal was magnificent, we chose one of each of the five options, soup, salad, relish, curry and main dish. This was all served together after a lovely noodle starter. Then exotic fruit to end, some of which we were familiar with with from Cameroon others were very strange.

We then spent the next day in London (to avoid congestions charge and other reasons) went to both Tate gallery's and had a nice day hanging around in the rain.

All that is left is to say

"Cheers for a great five years"

Monday, October 01, 2007


Last week Joe and I went to Munich to visit Conny (fellow volunteer from Buea). We also chose this week to go as it is Oktoberfest in Munich. We had a great time, visited a castle outside Munich and saw all the sights of Munich.

Oktoberfest was like nothing I have ever seen before. Everyone goes in traditional Bavarian dress. The second time we went I borrowed one of Conny's so I would fit in! The first night we went we could not get in to a tent so we sat in a beer garden. We get served beer in 2 litre glasses and enjoy. The fest is basically a huge funfair selling lots of beer. Many drunk people on various rides, the oldest ride is this helterskelter ride where you have to go up a very fast escalator to get up (felix goes first, friend of Conny's then Joe then me with some help!)

The second night we went we managed to get in to a tent which was fantastic. A band playing a great selection of songs, everyone dancing on th benches and generally 100's of people having fun. The tents are amazing structures and to think they only have them up for 2 weeks of the year - only Germans could organise such an event! I am now very tired and could do with another holiday to recover!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Truck Festival

When telling my friends I was spending last weekend at Truck festival they all said they never thought I was in to trucks, truth is I am not in to trucks as Truck festival has little to do with trucks!

The first festival was in 1998, almost a year after I moved to Oxford and I think I remember hearing something on the radio. 10 years on and I finally get round to attending! Truck festival is held just outside Didcot, not far from us yet we have never got round to going
. So this year before we even had time to figure out what we were doing with our life Joe was offered tickets. Sadly Truck was called off in July due to the terrible flooding the area suffered. The festival was rescheduled for last weekend so we finally got to go.

Truck is a great festival just the correct size so you do not feel like you are camping on top of each other and you will never find your friends but big enough to have 5 stages. Most the bands are local or ones I have never heard of but the highlights for me were:
Schla la las
Foy Vance
Tommy Traux

So we had a great weekend and I would certainly go again, thankfully the rain stayed off - mostly. The only thing that bugs me is that whilst camping on Sunday morning I got woken up by a bunch of youths in the tents next door. I was certain Pete and Heidi's kids would be the first in there but oh no it was a bunch of 17 year olds that were the early risers - grrrr.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Drat and double drat

This week has been a week of calamities - and it is only Tuesday!!

On Sunday I had to pop in to town for a quick lunch and do a mystery shopper job. I left Joe in town and went to get the car to go to work. I promptly drove in to a brick wall and burst the tyre. I must add it was a very small brick wall that I could not see and did no further damage to the car or myself. So I phoned my husband to come and rescue me. We got the spare wheel from under the car and proceeded to get the flat wheel off. Got the wheel nuts undone no trouble but the wheel would not come off the car. We pulled with all our might - got some very nice, polite and strong me from the Old Parsonage Hotel but still it would not budge. I thought as time was getting on I had better get a taxi to work and leave Joe to it. A quick phone call to a friend - thanks Nick and the wonders of google they found the secret to releasing a wheel off a Ford Fiesta and Joe was able to collect me from work later. It has something to do with putting on the wheel nuts loosely and wiggling the steering 'till it releases.

So after recovering from my car troubles and spending yesterday in a garage having a new tyre fitted today I get a phone call from Satis House, a very nice hotel and Malaysian restaurant in Suffolk where we were planning on spending our anniversary is closing so we cannot stay there. Gutted. Now we need to find an alternative, any ideas? Nice Hotel and Restaurnt in the Suffolk area?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book review: Venus as a boy

This book was bought for me by Rich and Clare for my birthday - thanks. They got it off me wishlist, I put it there because it was one of those 'people who read this also read this'. So I thought I would give it a try. It took a little while to get in too but you found yourself getting to attached to the main character. A lad who grows up in Orkney and has a troubled childhood, moves to the bright lights of London and works as a prostitute. Maybe not my usual reading subject but pretty good all the same. Written as if it is Desiree himself was speaking who could never get over his first love. It is very raw but touching and very well written.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Cameroon movie

I have meaning for some time to make a film about our life in Cameroon, so here it is. A snapshot of life in Cameroon. Music by Tata Kingue our pop star friend. the film ends with a snippet of an interview with our best friend Didimus.

This is my first attempt at film making and it was fun once I got a hang of the software.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

For Sale

Our house is now on the market, it has been for about a month now. We decided while we were in Cameroon as part of our new 'perfect life' we would move to a similar house but in a nicer area.

This house has served its purpose, we were first time buyers desperate to get on the ever increasing market and went for what we could get meaning location was not important to us.

However after lots of inconsiderate neighbours parking their car in front of our drive and keeping us awake at night we have decided it is time to move up the ladder a bit on to pastures new. There is no better time for us to do it as we have only half unpacked our stuff and it is all in boxes in the loft.

I thought selling up and moving on would be a nice task for me to get my stuck teeth in to after Cameroon. So I got the house ready and on the market. I have enjoyed collecting particulars of houses and now I am just getting fed up. Nice houses come and go and we are still waiting. Estate agents talk the talk and say how sellable our house it - large rooms, next to the canal but still no offers. I am finding it difficult to look at houses now thinking we will lose one I love.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Week in Wales

From Wales
Rich and Clare very kindly invited us on holiday with them this year to a fantastic house in Mid-Wales. so last week we went with them and Steve and Kim.

We had a fantastic time, the house was right by the sea, evenings would be spend eating loads of fantastic food playing ring of fire or sing star watching the sunset over the sea.

Days were spent doing a variety of things, a great long walk in the hills, going down a cave, visits to Portmerion and Harlech Castle and even a day sunbathing on the beach. Then there was Steve's birthday where we decided to do a fancy dress in the reverse of our ages so I became 82 and Rich became 3!! Joe and Kim were able to swap ages with each other!

Due to us being away for Rich's 30th we decided to treat him to a day of fun whilst we we were on holiday. All did not quite go to plan, we had decided on mountain boarding as he is a fan of snow boarding and mountain biking - out the two together and see what you get! Unfortunately all the local centres to where we were staying we closed - boo so we had a mammoth drive to get there. We all got on he boards and had a few trial runs, soon after Rich sprained his ankle but he jumped back up and carried on. To break up the journey home we stopped for fish and chips on the sea front - a true British holiday!

OUCS save the day again

Again we owe many thinks to Joe's colleagues at OUCS. This time it was not my fault! On Sunday our beloved computer would not turn on - grr. I was annoyed as I needed to check something on the internet. Joe had a look at it and still it would not work.

Then we realised if the computer was dead we have lost everything - we backed it up before going to Cameroon but had not yet gotten round to it since our return. that would mean we would have lost all our photos of Cameroon, all the work did there, it was a very depressing thought.

So Joe took the computer to work this week and the wonderful staff not only saved all our data but also restored and updates the machine - yippee!!

We then went to back up the machine and our external hard drive would not turn on - why do all these bad things happen to us! So thankfully it is under warranty and Joe has to get it sent back.

We will now remember to back up all the time!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Book review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

What can I say, what a book. Life has been busy so I have been struggling to find time to read Harry Potter, every spare minute was spend with my nose in this book.

The seventh and final book certainly did not disappoint. Harry and co. have a great adventure in the final battle against he who must not be named. I will not give anything away but the book gave a very satisfying finish to a fantastic series. It will be sad to think no more Harry Potter books will come but we still have the films come.

So this is a fond farewell to a fantastic series of books - bye Harry!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Lost photos

I have mentioned before that whilst in Cameroon I stupidly deleted all my photos of our send off parties from my camera without putting them on to the computer - doh! Well Joe told me to fear not they will just be marked for deleted and as long I did not over write them they can be salvaged. So i started to use my other memory card and left that one well alone. Once Joe started back at work he set a couple of of very nice computer people to work and they saved them. yipiee, the videos and a few photos were lost but most are there - my husband is great. So you can view the album on Picasa.
From Send forth

Thanks Joe and the great staff at OUCS

Friday, July 27, 2007

Scissors sisters

Last night I went to see the Scissor sisters in concert by accident - you may ask how I accidentally ended up being in the O2 arena going to such an event. Well on Wednesday Becky and I were on an admin day and up pops this email from charitable funds saying they have 2 tickets to the concert first come first served money to Sobel house hospice. We often get these emails but as we are ward based it is always days after the event so as we were there at the time we thought we would give it a try thinking they would have gone already. I phone them up and the tickets are ours - bargain. Only problem Becky was doing a late the next day so many frantic phone calls to other staff and the lovely John swapped - thanks John you are a star. We then figured out how we would get to the arena which is the old millennium dome and Becky said she would drive.

So last night we pootled down there, straight through the middle of London past St Paul's, the Gherkin, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square it took just a mere 4 hours! The arena is great loads of restaurants around the outside then once inside loads of fast food places. We missed the support act who we had never heard of and got our seats ready for the main act. Pretty good seats in the first tier right by the stage. They did a bunch of stuff off the new album I do not have but played all the old faithfuls also. It was a great show but I did expect more costume changes! I did love the guitarists half black half sequined suit though and the stage was shaped like the logo which was pretty cool. all in all it was a great show. Then we had great fun driving home through the middle of London taking a wrong turn and driving over Tower Bridge twice - satnav is rubbish - well I already knew that but now I have it confirmed.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

mmmm Starters mmmmmm Deserts

It has to be said that the two best bits of a meal are the starters and deserts. So when Mum told me about this pub in Suffolk that has a starters and puddings evening we were desperate to go. They run the evening in The Lion Inn about once every few months so she got the dates for us and we planed a trip to Suffolk to see the parents and have a feast. We have been planning this for ages as they first told us about the pub before we went to Cameroon!

The evening did not disappoint. you get four courses, ordering each one one at a time. You can choose how many starters and how many deserts you have. Paul, a family friend went for one starter and three deserts where Joe and I went three starters and one desert. The food was delicious and there was a great choice, which made it difficult to narrow it down to four in total.

It was a great way to spread an evening as the staff did not rush you from course to course. So I have brie squares, then butterfly king prawns and breaded mushrooms (shared half and half with Joe) then chicken tika rolls. Then for my desert toffee lumpy bumpy. What a wonderful evening.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

five course cheese meal!

From 5 Course Chee...

Thursday was my birthday so to celebrate I cooked a five course cheese meal. You may think this is a little odd but if you remember back to some of the posts I wrote whilst in Cameroon, cheese was one of the biggest things I missed. I have been planning and fantasising about this meal for months - no really I have!!

So it went like this

To nibble - (whilst opening presents) Baked Camembert with french bread
To start - Feta with asparagus, parma ham and salad
For main - Salmon with almonds and Gruyere with rice
For desert - what else buy cheese cake
And of course to end cheese and biscuits.

It was wonderful I spend the morning getting the stuff together, lazy lunch in town with Emily then cooked in the evening. I only felt too cheesed out by the cheese and biscuits. It was my first attempt at cheese cake and as I forgot to add the lemon juice (oops) it did not quite set!! But tasted yummy!!

There are photos to come but we do not have the computer set up at home yet so watch this space.

PS My husband is so fantastic that he recovered my deleted photos from Cameroon of our send off parties so they will soon be on Picasa.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Nun's on the run

Last weekend I went on a hen night to Spain - i know this sounds very glamorous after spending a year in Cameroon and being skint but my friends and Joe offered to pay my flight and we stayed in the hens Grandma's apartment so I could not say no!

It was a complete reversal to the life I had become used to, out every night with so many drinks to choose from I got quite lost in it all!!

We had great fun spending each day on the beach, now I really look like I have been in Africa for a year. the big night out was in Benidorm which i was dreading. It is really not my scene and I am far to old for this sort of thing. We arrived and I really did not want to get out of the car it was terrifying. We were dressed as nuns which attracted lots of unwanted attention but we all took it on the chin and soon put the men in their place. We actually had a great time. Tessa and I were completely lost trying to dance as she too has been out the country. I just went for the good old Cameroonian shrug of the shoulders - goes great with dance music. Louise was a star fulfilling all her dares and we got home at 8:30am.

The rest of the week was a little quieter staying in Calpe few drinks and a bit of karaoke. A great time was had by all and a special well done to Frankie and Tessa the two non-nurses, especially as I was being filling in on so much nursey talk all the time! (photos to follow)

Life as a nomad

We are currently living as nomads, I worked out over the space of a month I would be sleeping in 10 different places. moving round trying to see everyone filling in time before we get our house back on the 7th July. Living out of a suitcase is not easy and trying to remember where we out everything before we left - Joe cannot find his battle of the planets t-shirt and is gutted.

Soon however we have the mammoth task of driving around the country collecting our stuff from various family members - thanks guys and trying to unpack our house. It has been tough feeling we do not belong anywhere and cannot completely settle, I look forward to relaxing again in our own house. but it will not be for long we hope to sell up and move away from the chaves. We would love our Cameroonian neighbours to come and live next to us as apposed to the noisy neighbours we have now - but we cannot have everything.

We have pretty much settled in to life in the UK, it was not too hard. starting work on Monday will be strange but i am looking forward to it, getting my teeth in to some acute nursing will be fun!

Have more photos and stuff to post but will wait till we are set up at home with broadband again - any suggestions of a good provider?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Keep a weather eye on the horizon

Last night Joe and I went to to see Pirates of the Caribbean, At worlds End. We were very excited about it as we got a little obsessed with pirates while we were in Cameroon and watched the two first films about 5 times each.

when we got home everyone told us the new film was pretty rubbish but we had to see it for ourselves and just watching Captain Jack was bound to be fun.

Well we enjoyed it, some parts were very silly but that is pirates for you we expect it. Captain Jack did not let us down and at points there were loads of him of screen at once. the story line was complicated but easy enough to follow especially if you know the history of the characters. It was great to watch it on the big screen, just like film night at Bills place but the pop corn cost way more!!

All in all a very enjoyable evening.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Book review: the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

I have read quite a lot of American literature whilst in Cameroon, this is because our great local book shop - books and things mostly sold American books. I have really enjoyed them all and also enjoyed Huckleberry Finn. Once you get used to the dialects people are speaking in it becomes an easy read with a charming story.

The book is as you would expect full of adventure and mishap as Huckleberry Finn and Jim make there way down river. I guess I should now read the adventures of Tom Sawyer to find out what antics he and his friends get up to.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hanging around

We are currently spending a week with may parents then on Friday we move to Watchfield to be with Joe's parents. It has been pretty busy, lots of people want to talk to us and catch up with us which is great but pretty tiring.

Over the weekend we have managed to fit in two of Joe's greatest friends - which is funny as we are in my home town. So Sunday we went to a medieval fair to see James and Sonia who were working there doing puppetry with their company Theatre of the Small. It felt like going from one end of the scale to the other, Cameroon to medieval England! We wondered round and watched the puppet show then enjoyed a beer together.

Monday we went to Aldebrough, a lovely seaside town up the coast from my parents. It was a cold day but we sat of the beach. Bill here is a picture of an English shingle beach for you - not quite Batoke! We then shared a delicious meal with Devi and Chris. Each meal is like an adventure at the moment eating is even more fun that usual.


Many people have said to us return culture shock is one of the hardest things about living away from home. I however do not really feel I have experienced this. Coming home everything is as I remembered it. I can remember what Ipswich town centre is like and do not feel out of place being there. I remember that there are tons of clothes shops with loads of clothes and do not feel shocked about it.

Maybe we were not away for long enough or maybe I am just shallow but so for I do not really think I have experienced a culture shock. Yes it is very clean and there is so much to choose from which is difficult but not shocking.

Maybe it will hit us more when we return to our own house or work. currently we feel like we are on holiday going here and there dossing around at my parents. Maybe once we start work it will hit us. I think however you adapt pretty quickly to whatever surrounding you.

so here we are in the UK and in some ways it feels like we never left. Although choosing a new phone was difficult as there were just so many to choose from. And when looking in the clothes shops I had no idea what to like!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

We are home!!

Well are trip home went so well. We were so worried we had a suitcase full of masks and were sure we would be over weight and get mega hassle at the airport explaining my pacemaker and the flight would be late etc. etc. Oh there was so much to worry about. It all went very well, check in was easy, we paid 5000 francs (£5) for our masks at customs. The airport staff have to be the friendliest I have ever met and were so helpful. Once I managed to explain my pacemaker (Don't think they get many through Douala) there was no problem, in fact they did not even do a hand check at either of the two check points - naughty. The flight was on time and we even arrived early! We did get our water taken away at the gate once we were unable to buy any more air side which was a little annoying.

the plane food had to be the best I have had, situational rather than tasted I think, anything would have tasted good - we got cheese!! Did not sleep much so were very tired.

We then had our day in Brussels apart from really tired we had a great day. It is a beautiful city, apart from the fact it took 1 1/2 hours to get breakfast as everywhere opened at 10! We had waffles and beer and of course and ham and cheese toasted sandwich. We visited the comic museum and got back to the airport in time for our flight. Our final flight was great it was a business class only flight - not sure why we were on it! It arrived on time and we were out the airport within 15 minutes with all 4 of our bags.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Will life be boring back home?

So tomorrow we go home, I cannot believe it after almost 11 months in Cameroon it is time to return - eek! This will be the last blog entry I write from Cameroon as we are very busy over the next two days. I have spent lots of time with Helen handing everything over. This evening I complete my final HIV educators' course. Tomorrow we still need to pack - there is nothing like being organised. Then we leave tomorrow evening and take an overnight flight to Brussels.

Life remains interesting right to the end of our stay, this afternoon we are appearing in Tata Kingue's music video. Not sure if it will happen or not but its all fun! Life will apper boring once we are home!

So we have a couple days more of goodbyes and then we are off. Saying goodbye is hard, when we left the UK we knew we were coming back and would see everyone again no we do not know if we will ever see these people again it makes it very difficult. These people have been our friends and 'family' for almost a year and now it is goodbye.

I have very mixed feelings about going home. There is so much I am looking forward to but so much from here I will miss. I have recently been feeling work is progressing well so it is hard to leave it. I know it will be in good hands with Helen but I feel I am leaving just as everything is established.

When we came here we did not really know what to expect, what it would look like, smell like, feel like etc. Going home we know what to expect so my feelings are very different. Coming here was exciting going home is also exciting but in a different way. It does not feel like an adventure this time but there is plently things to look forward to.

Life is all about new beginnings coming here was one so going home will be too. I look forward to what it will bring but I am sure life will not be quite as interesting!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Send off

This week has been busy. I collected Helen from the aiport after a six hour delay as her plane got struck by lightening, don't worry she was fine at said it was very pink.

We then had a few days of showing her around Buea and explaining the work. I have not pretty much handed over so am just tying up the loose ends.

We have had a week of parties. Wednesday was our send off at the house. There were speeches, ours were short and the Cameroonians were far to long. We were presented with a matching outfit as out gift. Unfortunately I have just managed to delete all my photos off my camera so I have no to show you - grrrrr, very annoyed.

Friday night was our whiteman send off along with Jerry a Peace Corp who flies the day after us. We went out to a local bar had fish then went to the French Cultural centre where there was a band playing. We had Tata Kingue with us (the local pop star) so he was asked to sing and we all had a great time dancing (again no photos lost them all, I am sooooo annoyed!). Helen has kindly given me her photos so here is us having a bogie with Tata Kingue himself.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Day trip to Brussels

I am after some advice from any well travelled readers of my blog. One week from now we will have a lot of time to kill in Brussels. Our flight home causes us to land there about 8am and leave about 5pm. We tried to change the flight but will loose our 46 kg luggage allowance down to 20 kg and I am telling you we can not do that! So the result is a forced day in Brussels. First we were none to chuffed about it. We have an overnight flight from Douala so will be tired, we will have heavy hand luggage to carry about but then we thought of beer and chocolate and decided not to fret. So dear readers any advice on what we can do with a day in Brussels to help us absorb and adapt to European life?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Where is my own?

There are a few sayings that people here in Cameroon say that
I must remember not to use in England. For example when asking for something in a shop or ordering a drink etc. it is usual to say 'give me so and so'. I think if I go out for a meal in England and say 'give me four cheese pizza' the waiter may be a little put out!

Another thing they say is 'where is my own', this is used if you are with someone buying something or giving something to someone else then this other person wants one. Most the time they do not really expect you to give them one but you sit there trying to find an excuse as to why you do not have one for them.

Now that we are leaving next week everyone wants a bit of us. Almost everyday I get 'what will you leave me?' or 'give me your phone when you leave'. I have about 4 people after one phone. I think I will give it to the one person I know needs a phone but has not asked - our dear friend Didimus. Then my UK phone I will sell to the prison guard and I will be off to the vodaphone shop as soon as I get home to get a new one for myself. People also ask for my clothes or bag or shoes. The best I had was 'give me your camera when you leave, I really need one, I am sure they are cheap you can get a new one as soon as you get back'. I explained I only bought my phone last year and it was mighty expensive and yes I need it so no you cannot have it. It is times like these when I am so happy to be coming home. I will happily donate money to people, let the shop keeper keep the change but I do not like constantly being asked for particular things.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Today I am mostly.....

...... Going to collect Helen from the airport!!

Yes Helen my replacement comes today. I am off to the airport to collect her in 5 mins!

It has felt like ages for her coming so I am very excited. I work with Helen in Oxford and when she said she was looking for volunteer work I suggested HINT. I will spend the next week or so handing everything over to her then I know the project will be in good hands.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Beware of the Witchdoctor

Many people believe and use traditional medicine in Cameroon. Many are sceptical but give it a go if all else fails or they cannot afford conventional medicine. This is what caused the orphanage to take Achiever to see the Witchdoctor. The diagnosis given was that Achiever has four eyes. This means his spirit has reincarnated whilst it is still alive in another person or animal. This is why he is not growing and so week. They think he is an old man some place else where in the world and when the old guy dies Achiever will become strong. Or the other theory is that he is a snake (but Auntie Grace things this is just because of the trousers he had on that day). During my HIV seminar we have long discussions about traditional medicine. There is a Catholic priest who says he can cure HIV. Many people pay thousands of francs on his treatment. I have been told each one is not negative and cured. I am sceptical it has to be said. However one student of mine did make the observation that here in Cameroon they can not scientifically prove the medicine cures HIV so it will never be recognised by the western world. Meaning it will never be used worldwide. So maybe this priest is healing Cameroonians of HIV one by one but I am sure if he really did have a cure scientists would be at least interested in knowing what he does. It is true many drugs are made from plants, so it is possible a witchdoctor can use plants as a remedy for many ills. Whilst in Kroup National Park we saw Quinine growing if the villagers have Malaria they just chew some bark and get better. However it is the crazy diagnosis they make. Achiever cannot just wait for the old guy to die hoping he will then get better. The boy needs to be fed well to get better. What amazes me are the number of Christians who believe in witchdoctors and black magic. I met a lady at church who was reluctant to tell me her babies due date in case I put a curse on her that day, I would not even know how to go about putting a curse on someone!

Mum's are great!

I have decided since we go home next week I will stop washing. I really hate doing the hand washing so thought I could start saving it up for a washing machine to do for me. Well I will do the small stuff and Joe's sweaty football kit. So I started thinking about going home with all this washing and the joy of putting it all the in washing machine to take care of it for me. Then I started thinking how my Mum would never let me do that and how she will willingly offer to do all our washing for me. I love my Mum, she is great!

PS, not told my Mum this yet, but I am sure she will not mind!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The last two weeks

Well here we are with two weeks left. I have mixed feelings. I am really looking forward to going home and having all those home comforts, living in our own place and seeing all my friends and family. However I am really sad to leave. When we left the UK it was exciting, we did not know where we were coming and what to expect. We knew we would see our friends and family again so goodbyes were not too hard. Now there is little anticipation and excitement, we know what to expect in England. Saying goodbye is hard, we know we may never see most these people again. These people that have been our friends and family for a year, Naomi who we have watched grow and develop since birth. Once we say goodbye that will be it. We would like to come back but do not know if it will be possible. I am sure they would love to visit England but that is not easy.

So our final two weeks will be a mixture of emotions, excitement about eating cheese again and the sadness of goodbyes. Helen should be arriving on Tuesday so I will be busy handing over to her for a week or so. Joe will soon finish teaching then he has some loose ends of the website. He then needs to train Elvis so he can continue with the teaching after we are gone.

We will miss so much about Cameroon, the experience has had its ups and downs but has been well worth it. We are very grateful to all those who have supported us financially, with emails and comments. We look forward to seeing you all very soon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

National Day

20th May was national day here in Cameroon. This means it is a public holiday. We have just had a 5 day weekend (although we kept working as usual). Thursday was Ascension, Friday was declared a day of national mourning for the victims of the plane crash (although because Thursday was a public holiday no-one would have gone to work on Friday as there is no point for one day!) Then Sunday was national day so Monday was a public holiday in-lieu. So all government workers have had a nice long weekend. So National day is like many other public holidays in that there is marching to celebrate. This time the police/ army/ gendarmes/ prison officers march first, followed by schools then associations and political parties. so my group HINT-HED went to march with the associations. We got there early so we could go round talking to people first giving out flyers about HIV and red ribbons. It went well, we were only 10 but made the most of it. One member marched with the prison guards then did a quick change and joined us.

After the event I made a bee line for the beach to join Joe and the football boys for a party on the beach. We had a whole pig on the BBQ and the president got the snout to eat. The pork was delicious and with a beer it was almost perfect. The ants meant it was not perfect. The grass was full of these evil ants who had a vicious bite. You had to pull their nasty little teeth out of you foot to get them off, it hurt.

I then had great fun trying to teach the boys how to float on your back in the sea. Not many of them can swim (there are no public swimming pools, so you can only swim if you came to the beach) so it was not easy. I kept hearing calls of 'madam Joel, teach me how to float like that'. I tried and in most cases did not succeed but it was fun.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Book Review: Joy Luck Club

A collection of short stories each told by a member of the Joy Luck Club. The Joy Luck Club is a group of four women who have moved from China to America and formed this group. The book begins after one of the members has died suddenly and her daughter has to take her place in the Joy Luck Club. The meetings involve each member telling a story, the book is made up of these separate stories. Two stories from each of the mothers about life as a child in China. Then each of the daughters tell two stories of their life in America in relation to their mother.

Some of the stories are pretty crazy but all are lovely. The mothers have very traditional views that their daughters do not share. The book shows a lot about Chinese culture and belief. The book has also been made in to a film so I would like to watch that now.


I went to the HOTPEC orphanage again yesterday. Hannah had asked me to go and speak to Mama and Auntie Grace (two of the staff who care for the the children) about first aid, disease prevention etc. However when I got there I ended up talking to all 60 of the children. so I quickly rearranged what I was going to say to aim it at the children. It went well and we had a good time.

While I was there I spent some time in the nursery. There are four babies at HOTPEC although one of them belongs to Auntie Grace. The room where they sleep is small and there are only two cots so they share.

Pictured is two of the babies. On the Left is 8 month of Harry, who is Auntie Grace's Son, on the right is 18 month old Achiver. He is skin and bones with a pot belly. He has terrible malnutrition. He can not walk or even stand. Also he cannot talk, he is very behind in his development. They have taken him to the hospital and can only afford the treatment because Hannah offered to pay. He has various intestinal infections which mean he is not absorbing his food well. The woman who cares for him cares also for the other three babies so it is hard for her to give him the intensive feeding regime he requires. The orphanage do their best to care for little Achiver but this may not always be enough.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tenth Month

This will be the last monthly review I write as we will not quite make it to the 11 month mark. I know we said we were coming for a year but as we had exactly one year break from our jobs it means we can not quite do a whole year here. So we come home on the 7th June making our time here a grand total of 10 months and three weeks.

So the last month has been pretty busy. I am now based at the health centre every day so am finding it harder to keep up to date with the blog and emails - sorry. Things have been slow to start, I have had a grand total of 12 people come to visit me. With various problems, I have correctly diagnosed a couple of people with malaria and sent them to the hospital for treatment. I have helped people suffering with small niggling problems advising the correct drug to take. And I have had a few long chats about disease prevention. As yet I have not had much in the way of people with HIV. I am due to visit a lady tomorrow and have had many people tell me they are going to send someone to see me but no one has come. It will just take time and I am sure over the next few months it will get very busy. In a couple of weeks Helen Savage will be here. Helen is one of my friends from the ward I work on in Oxford and I am very excited that she will be here to continue to project and watch it grow. So soon I will be handing everything over to her.

HIV education work is going well. My last seminar had 28 people attending. Many keen to join HINT-HED our group of educators. Plus Hannah got a few from the orphanage to come along as currently they have no HIV education in the orphanage school. HINT-HED is also forming well, we had our first even on 1st May and the next is planned for 20th May. They are an eager group of volunteers who give up their free time to come and teach others about HIV. They are all very passionate about stopping HIV and very willing.

Joe has been busy teaching is photoshop course and is currently on his final batch of web design students - his best yet he tells me, which makes teaching much more enjoyable. He is busy doing the final touches to the HINT website also and teaching Genesis how to use it.

So our time here is coming to a close, we are very grateful to all who have supported us and look forward to seeing you all over the coming weeks. The next 3 weeks will involve tying up any loose ends, handing over to Helen and getting the last few events done.

Monday, May 14, 2007

How can I help?

I had a visit from a patient last week. She is in her 30's and overweight. Last week she was sick and sent to Douala to see a Cardiologist (we get one once a week in Buea). She had to pay so much money just for the hospital stay and consultation that when the doctor told her she should take what I assume to be GTN. The drug however will cost her 15 000 CFA (which is £15 but is little more than she gets in a month) so she cannot afford to buy them. She is a widow with 6 children, one of her daughters has HIV and is at a special school where she receives treatment. This takes most her money so there i little left for herself.

She comes to see me because she still has the pain in her chest. She wants to know if there is anything else she can do. I suggest eating healthy and exercise. Also buying aspirin could help and should be cheaper, however she has gastric trouble so they will not work. Really I am at a loss of how to help her. She needs to buy the drugs but has not means to afford it. People always moan about the NHS and you just cannot compare it to the third world country but come on. If you had angina in the UK you would not have all this added stress of travelling to see the doctor who tells you to buy a drug you cannot afford as you have spent all your money seeing him in the first place. What can she do, I fear for her. I fear she will have a heart attack, then who will look after her children?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

That was close

We often get woken by noises early in the morning. Sometimes chickens or crows, sometimes it is the local church singing out of tune through a loud speaker. Sometimes it is the neighbours playing really loud music. Interestingly it is never Naomi, she is such a good baby. However yesterday we were awoken following a really loud bang. We are used to hearing cars backfire or their tyres blow out but this was way louder. We looked out the window and could see people staring down to the bottom of the road and a few running down there. Must have been an accident we thought. I thought about going to help but decided not to as there is not much I can do and I was in my pj's. So we went about having our breakfast and a normal lazy Saturday morning. Genesis returned from seeing what the noise was about and it turns out it was our dear friend Sylvester whose car had been driven in to by a taxi going far to fast.

Nor fortunately (I never thought I would say this) Sylvester was not wearing his seat belt. This means that he got thrown in to the passenger seat which meant as the car caused the drivers door to fold in he was miraculously not hurt. He lost consciousness a few minutes but regained it on the way to the hospital. He not no broken bones and not even a scratch on his body. It was absolutely amazing he had not injures, the car however did not fare so well. He has insurance but they will find every possible way not to pay out.

Being in a car is pretty dangerous here and I have felt my safest with Sylvester. I blame the road layout as he was in the middle of the road waiting to pull out, the taxi came down the hill at high speed and did not pull over out of the way.

More top tens

I got thinking about top ten lists after the last one I had to make so decided to make a few to round up how I feel about leaving Cameroon. Some have more than 10 and some less so actually they are not top 10's!

Things I will miss about Cameroon

The friends we have made
The fresh fruit especially, avocado, pineapple, mango and pawpaw
The beach at Batoke
10p taxi rides
50p beer
Having the freedom of working when we want
Spectacular scenery, not that England is not spectacular it is just so diverse here.
The dry season
Roasted fish
Palm wine

Not miss

Being called Madam, Whiteman, Auntie, Mama or Hilda
Cold showers
Mice and cockroaches scurrying around the bedroom
Police checks on the road causing bribery and corruption
Bureaucracy and the obsession with stamping everything
Vague plans, never quite knowing what we are supposed to be doing, when and where
Hand washing clothes
Painfully slow Internet access
Everyone thinking I am rich because of the colour of my skin and asking me to dash then something
The wet season
Cramming more people than seats in to buses/ cars

Looking forward to at home

Driving where I want when I want
A nice cup of tea with FRESH milk
Chris and Louise's wedding
Seeing my family and friends
Roast dinner and many other types of food including cheese

Thursday, May 10, 2007

But I am not interesting

I have been tagged by a close (in friendship, far in miles) family friend of my parents to play a game of freeze tag, thank you Ann. So I have to list 10 interesting facts about myself. When I saw the task I could not think of one interesting fact about myself (apart from the fact I currently live in Cameroon but you all know that) let alone 10 so I sat and thought really hard until my brain hurt and this is what I came up with.

1) I had a pacemaker implanted at the age of 3 and am now on my 7th, they should last about 10 years each so I am looking pretty fine for a 70 year old.

2) I fulfilled my two life aims of being a nurse and working in Africa.

3) I wore trainers on my wedding day, very nice white Nike's with a purple tick to go with the colour theme.

4) I loved being in hospital as a child.

5) Everybody thinks their Dad knows everything and grow up to be disappointed - my Dad does know everything and if you ask him something he does not know he will be sure to find out and tell you. He has not disappointed me once.

6) I have been to 5 of the 6 continents and do not really fancy the Antarctic.

7) At every stage of my life I have had a very good friend who's birthday is the same day as me or the day after.

8) I can turn my belly button inside out.

9) I know the alphabet backwards (which came in very useful for pass the parcel forfeits).

10) I really cannot think of a tenth, maybe someone could suggest one for me!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I will beat you

There are many aspects of Cameroonian culture and life we have had to learn to accept or get along with. These include lateness, disregard for personal property, being ripped off for being white, being told what they think you want to hear rather than the truth and using children as slaves.

However there is one part of Cameroonian life we find very hard to cope with, we can not even think of conforming to it. This is the beating of children. Often you hear a mother, father, grandparent, aunt or uncle shouting 'I will beat you' to the child. This is not an empty threat, they mean it and if the child continues doing what ever it was doing (which mostly is doing what kids do) they will indeed get beaten. This may be a slap around the thigh or bum or can involve whipping of the hands or legs. Then afterwards the child will get told to stop crying because they are making too much noise.

We have found this very hard to cope with, watching a child being beaten is not nice. There is nothing we can do, we have tried to tell people it is not correct but they do not agree. Answers include 'I was beaten as a child', 'a child will not learn unless he/she is beaten' and 'it is part of life in Africa, you Europeans do not understand'. Because it is accepted by everyone the beating will continue. Many times it is for something very minor but the adult is having a bad day or even something that may not be the child's fault but they are too scared to answer back so take the beating.

Many children live with Aunts and Uncles in order for them to go to school, or because their parents cannot afford to feed them. It is these children or come off worse in the beatings and in many other parts of family life. The parents will favour their own children before their extended family that they possibly begrudgingly care for. We often hear on the radio how these children run away because they just cannot cope living in that house any longer. And the way many are treated, I do not blame them.

I do not have children so maybe I should not judge. I will not beat my children when I do have some though I am sure. I expect there will be times when I want to beat them but I will resist and find another form of punishment.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Bank Holiday weekend

Labour day is 1st May in Cameroon, this year it fell on a Tuesday. That means that Monday and Tuesday are both public holidays, as there is no point it going to work for just one day. So we thought we would make the most of the day and do one touristic visit. so we went to the crater lake in Kumba. Kumba is not far from Buea but because of the terrible pot-holed road it takes about 2 hours. When we got to the bus station the bus had one last seat meaning we were the first two on the next bus. We then had to wait over 2 hours for the bus to fill. During this time we kept thinking 'if we had just got up 1/2 hour earlier', 'if we had not got to the bakery to get lunch, we would have been on the last bus'. This of course does not make the bus fill any quicker but passes the time. We took the front seats of the bus as we were first which means that we get a whole seat each instead of cramming extra in and we get a great view of the scenery.

Once we got to the lake we got a taxi to the lake, the gate was shut and the gate keeper did not have a key so we had to walk the rest of the way. We were told it was not far but did not believe them as Cameroonians always tell you what they think you want to hear and never tell the truth. But it was not far and within about 10 minutes we arrived at the stunning Mbo Barombi lake. It is a crater lake, one of Cameroon largest. Measuring 2.5km across and gets up to 100m deep. We went for a stroll around, then a swim and then a local fisherman gave us a ride in his dug out canoe. We had a great time, not long enough really but we made the most of it.

Book Review: The lovely Bones

This is a book I have been wanting to read for ages, Joe brought it along time ago for 1p of Amazon Marketplace. He was not too impressed which put me off a little. I brought it to Cameroon with me but Sheila borrowed it for ages so I have only just got the chance to read it. The book is narrated by 14 year old Susie. the second line grips you, I was 14 when I was murdered. She is speaking from heaven. After the explanation of the gruesome murder and talking about how her family are coping I began to wonder who the book would keep up the tempo. In the middle I did get a little board as Susie spends her time watching her family move on from her death. Her father becomes obsessed with finding the murderer as the police can not. Her sister grows up and is doing things Susie never had the opportunity to do. The book gets a little weird(er) near the end where Susie comes to life in another girls body for a while. So I would say this book is alright to fill in time but not a 'must read'.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Labour day

The 1st May each year is Labour day in Cameroon, on this day many business and organisations come together to march. Mainly it is a way of advertising, hence the registration fee I spoke about in a previous post. We went along as an organisation with the aim to sensitise people about HIV. We had t-shirts made and a banner, we had 200 flyers and ribbons to give out with the hope to collect a few donations. The event was being held in Limbe so we all got a bus down together. Soon after we arrived it started to rain so everybody hid and took cover. The rain soon cleared and we waited for the marching to begin. During this time we went round chatting with people giving out the flyers and made a few francs giving out ribbons. Most people were very receptive to us and asked what we were about etc. Many though said they do not need to know about AIDS as it will not affect them. These people are the ones who need to listen most but there is not much you can do.

The marching was of course disorganised chaos with no order and people trying to push in front of each other. Bit companies took various cars, trucks, buses which caused trouble in the lining up. But we found a slot to march in and did our bit. I was very pleased with the group, we had 20 turn up and most of them on time. The late-comers had to find there own way down to Limbe as we would not wait for them, but they followed. So our next task is 20th May, National Day. That should run a bit smoother now we have completed our first event. I really did not believe they would do anything before we left. So many groups form and talk about who will lead the group, the constitution etc. and never actually do anything. but this group said we will worry about things like that later and actually get something done first. That is what I like action not just talk.

My Answers

OK here are my answers to the questions posted. You are welcome to leave more.

Do Cameroonians ever go abroad, or to other parts of Africa, on holiday?

Cameroonians do not really go on holiday, I expect the rich ones do but I have not met many of them. Most people travel around the country to visit family or to find work. Both of these often result in a person disappearing for months at a time it is not often they will go for a couple of weeks. If you work getting annual leave is not easy, it appears you do not have an allowance like we would but you must ask permission for any time you require off. In writing if it is for an extended period. You are usually not entitled to any leave (even one day) in the first 3 months and could find yourself without a job when you return. However most people do not have jobs, most people just appear to hang out doing the odd job, selling at the market etc. So if these types of people take leave then they lose earnings.

Everyone is desperate to get to the West, we often have people approaching us asking us to help them get a British visa. So I tell them honestly, I have no idea how to go about getting a British visa, all I know is it is not easy and it costs a lot to live in the UK. Everybody knows we earn a lot of money in the West but they forget it costs a lot to live also. Many people say if they get there they would never come back. Or some people may have other family members who live abroad they will have the opportunity to visit. I have not heard of anyone going on holiday just to explore, relax, for activities etc. like we would do. It is always for money or to visit family.

What part of African life will you miss the most when you get home?

There is so much I will miss and so much I will be glad to get rid of. I will miss the relaxing pace of life, no deadlines, arrive at work what ever time I like, go home when I like. No one gets annoyed when stuff is not done. This was hard to adjust to and is still hard when people let me down but it does make life much more relaxed once you get into the correct frame of mind.

I will also miss Saturdays on the beach followed by cheap beer and fish in town.

Oh I will miss the mango season also, we have mangoes coming out of our ears at the moment that have come from a tree in our compound and they are delicious.

I will stop there as there are so many great things about African life.

...and any good surf out there?

The waves are pretty good down in Batoke, here is a picture courtesy of Bill taken in November of some pretty good surf. We have not taken surf boards out but seen others doing it. We have had some fun with body boards but mostly just ride the waves with our bodies. Which is great fun and we can get some fantastic waves taking you right in to shore.

Did the rain come, if not then you can have some of ours!

The rain is teasing us at the moment. It is the sort of weather that you never know what will happen. You wake up to a glorious day, do the washing then it rains. Or the rain is really heavy overnight then brilliant sunshine all day. Last week the rain was so bad I got soaked to the skin within minutes of being outside and our road was like a river I had to wade home in. By the end of May/ beginning of June the rain will really start, but we will be leaving then for sunny England. And no we will leave your rain with you thanks.

What advice would you give someone who is considering an overseas volunteer position similar to yours?

DON'T DO IT!! No not really it has been a fantastic experience and I would recommend it to anyone.

firstly I would say if you cannot get a placement with a big organisation such as VSO, Peace Corp do not be discouraged. There are so many NGOs that need help. Going this route may cost you more as there will be no one to foot your bills but it is better than not going at all. Another problem with doing it alone is there is no support network that you may have with big organisations.

Before you go try to get a clear idea of what the NGO want from you so you can prepare yourself.

Try not to feel discouraged, we have been thorough stages when we think we are doing nothing to help, or no one is listening to our suggestions. These times will pass but they are difficult. Try to think of each thing you have achieved no matter how small. You may have times like this weather or not you are with a big organisation. It is a common feeling I have met amongst many volunteers here.

Try to hunt out the other 'whitemen', any other volunteers in your area. It will stop you from going insane, especially if you are alone and not working for a big organisation.

Remember you are living in a different culture and do not be quick to judge their own ways. You may think the way they deal with many things is not correct or not sensible but respect they way they do things.

And mostly, have fun and enjoy your time. You may never get another chance. Oh and make sure you have someone to send you packages of home comforts, they brighten up the worst days!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Is it coz I is white?

I have formed a new group under HINT called HINT - HED we are the Helps International HIV educators. Our first event is planned for May 1st, which is Labour day. Various organisations, and businesses march and advertise their services etc. We plan to go and do HIV sensitisation, hence the red ribbons. So I went to the labour office to register, I was under the impression it would be free so wondered up to the office with only a taxi fare on me. I arrived and the man had to phone the boss in Limbe, he spoke French but I heard him say I was European. He came off the phone and told me it was 15 000 francs, As I did not have the money I left. the rest of the group was outraged at this price so we decided to send a Cameroonian down to Limbe to pay. Quenter went and she was asked to pay 10 000 francs but she pleaded since we are a charity could we pay 5 000 francs, so the woman in the labour office phoned her boss. I am told the conversation went a little like this.

Labour office - where are you from?
Quenter - Buea
Labour office - Did you go to the Buea office yesterday?
Quenter - No
Labour office - Are you sure?
Quenter - yes quite sure
Boss on the phone - Is she white?
Labour office - No black.
Guy on phone - Are they in the same group as the white?
Quenter - No (telling anti corruption lies)
Labour office - OK you can pay 5 000, do you have a t-shirt for me?
Quenter - No they are in production
Labour office - OK bring me one on Tuesday, and if we find out you are in the same group as that white we will make trouble.

So there we have it proof they wanted 10 000 extra for the colour of my skin. It is so annoying getting charged whiteman prices all the time but this is just blatant. As long as Quenter was not in a group with this white man it is OK for her to pay 5 000!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Red Ribbon Day

Following one of my HIV educators' seminars we have decided to form a group of community educators. This group will visit schools, attend public holidays etc and educate people about HIV. I was very excited when they suggested this and am helping them run the group but not running it for them as I will not be here forever. We decided to get hold of some red ribbons to give out at these events so I went about trying to get some.

I went to visit the PTG (Provincial Technical Group)this is the local government office in charge of HIV control. I have been to visit them before to let them know about the HIV training we were doing. After about 4 visits I was actually able to see the controller and she was not interested. So I went up it took two visits to find her in office and I asked about getting red ribbons or other resources for our work. She told me 'those days are gone, we no longer give out resources you have to get your own'. This left me wondering what they do actually do as they were not interested to hear about our project or help. In fact the only thing I have seen them do in almost one year is create stickers to go in taxis to encourage testing.

I decided I would go about making my own red ribbons. So off I went to the market bought some red ribbon and some pins and off we go. I have enough ribbon to make about 200 which is a good start but I think I will never want to see a red ribbon again when I have finished.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Book Review: River Town

This is a book Bill lent us, a book about a Peace Corp Volunteer spending his two years service in China. He worked in a small town on the Yangtze river teaching English and Literature in a teacher training college.

Many of his stories I can relate too from our time here. Being treated differently because you are white, never quite being able to fit it no matter how hard you try. Although I think he had it much worse than we do, there are a few whites in Buea, Hessler and his fellow volunteer were the only waiguoren (as they were called) in Fuling and the first Americans to visit in 50 years.

There was a lot to learn about living in China, he would often say something in class that would cause all the students to go silent and bow their heads. Everything was very political, there was no escaping it.

It is a fascinating book about China, a country I would love to visit but maybe not live in.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ask a question

As we havea few weeks left I thought I would give you the opportunity to ask me a question. Is there anything about life in Cameroon you want to know that I have not covered? Anything about our work or HINT? Anything you like. Leave a comment on this entry and I will do my best to answer them over the next week or so.

PS you do not need an account to leave a comment, post as anonymous or other and you can leave the URL section empty.

Evangelism gone wrong

The area of Cameroon we live in is very Christian and people are very open about it. They will ask you to your face 'are you a believer?' Then go about converting you if you say no. Taxis drive about with slogans like 'Jesus Saves' and 'Trust in the Lord' etc. painted on the bumper. However the one type of evangelism I really cannot tolerate is the middle of the night mic'ed up singing and services. I tell you this would drive people away, far away from the church - not bring them in.

Whilst in the North we were woken up about 4am every night by the Muslims call to prayer. This however only lasted 15 minutes or so and we soon went back to sleep afterwards. The local churches and their singing at times goes on all night here. They either start about 11pm and finish about 2am or start an early service sometime before 6am. It drives me mad the distant constant singing or droning of a preacher. They preach for hours - I do not know how they come up with so much stuff to say, I do look forward to the 30 minute sermons by Graham (Kidlington) and Mark (Woodbridge) when we go home! They will be short, to the point (and will have a point, which sometimes here I fail to see) and most importantly not be in the middle of the night audible in my bedroom whilst I am trying to sleep.

Thankfully Genesis does not hold all night services, rallies or crusades at the church I attend here so I feel free to moan about them. Grrrrr to that noisy church down the road, it would help if that sang in tune at least.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Visit to the orphanage

Last Friday we went to visit the orphanage where Hannah is volunteering for a few months. It is a couple miles outside Buea in the middle of the bush. The orphanage is called HOTPEC which means Hebzibah Handicapped, Orphanage Training Production and Estascy Centre.

There are 69 children at the orphanage ranging from about one year to 18. They have a primary school on site and the older children go to the local secondary school. The children sleep two to a bed in bunk beds, so four to each bunk bed. They have 3 changes of clothes, two for day to day wear and a Sunday best. A couple of the children are handicapped but most are orphans of one parent or both. There are some very sad stories about how the children came to be in the orphanage and regularly people bring more children but there is no more space. The few who are handicapped still have both parents but are often abandoned as they can not help on the family farm, they cannot bring anything in to the household only take. This results in parents deciding it costs too much to have them at home and someone else can look after them. Many of the orphans who have lost one parent cannot be placed with another family as their parent will want them back once they have been through school and can come on work on the farm. In other words they do not want to have to feed them while they cannot work but are happy to take them back once they are of use.

The children were very happy to see us and soon were hanging off our arms. One small girl Esther was really sweet, Joe had to help her up the hill on our walk around the farm. She then sat with me while Joe played football with some of the boys. We bought a football to give them but the valve fell in to the ball while we pumped it up. This was very annoying as we really wanted to leave them something. I plan to post out some clothes to them once we get home, so if you have any unused children clothes send them my way and I will send them on.

The orphanage is run by a family of brothers and sisters. One brother lives in London and works in Sainsbury's as a shelf stacker. He sends nearly all his wages to the orphanage and that pays for food, clothes, teachers (they get about 20 pounds a month) and everything else. It amazes me this man can live in London on his wage let alone feed 69 children and the workers in Cameroon. I dread to think what circumstances he is living in. However I am sure it is better than most here.

We had a great time visiting them, the children all appear quite healthy and happy but life is hard and the staff struggle.