Saturday, January 27, 2007

To the North West

Last week we all went to the North West, by all I mean the families of Talbots and Tinshus. The North West is the other English speaking province and where Genesis is from. It was a long six hour journey up we were hot and sweaty by the end. We had one whole day to visit and two travel days.

We went to Genesis' village to visit his mum and see where he grew up. The terrain in the North West is very different to here. The soil is red and there are many stones. Genesis village is called Babanki-Tungo which means village under the stones. We had a beautiful journey there, we went the scenic route to get a good view of the stones. We also stopped at Genesis' old school which was fantastic. Once in the village we were lucky to be there the day of a memorial party of a woman that had died 4 years previously. There was lots of dancing and gun firing (Ted got invited to fire the gun).
Also boys in masks dance, they are called Ju Ju. It was great to see masks in use after we look at so many in the markets.

After this we went on to Genesis mothers house. We had a nice time sitting in the compound playing with the children watching them chase a chicken around which turned out to be dinner. They cooked us a great meal then we had to be on our way.

The journey home yesterday was pretty rough. Took about 9 hours instead of 6 in a small bus with 5 people sharing 4 seats. It was squashed, sweaty and long. We were glad to arrive in the lovely hotel in Limbe, such a contrast to the day before. So day we took a well deserved break by the sea. I have many more photos but do not have the time (cannot be bothered) to process them all and up load them so You will have to wait another week for that.

We are legal!!!

And breath out......

So after weeks of stresses and a few bribes we finally have our visa's in our hands. The lovely Genesis had to get up at 5am to travel to Douala to pick them up off a bus from Yaounde and get back so we could travel the North West. We met him half was and were very happy to see the stamps in our passports. So at last we are legal again. Ironically we have not been stopped at a road block since we got them!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Back to School

Yesterday went to visit the school Sylvester teaches in. His father founded and owns the school many years ago. There are about 1000 students. Classes about about 50 - 80 children. We had a tour of the school seeing the various rooms. We then sat in on Sylvester's class. He teaches business management and we learnt about production management. Sylvester is involved in writing the exams so was giving this upper 6th year class a few hints for their A' levels. The teaching style is very old fashioned, basically dictating to the students as they write.

A Very Cameroon Welcome

Joe's Mum and Dad arrived on Saturday and already they have had a very exciting time. Joe has been doing his utmost to show them the real Cameroon. On the way home from the airport the police were very up on their visa recognition and after us thinking they would not realise they have expired we were wrong. So Joe got detained by the police for about 1 1/2 hours and was freed after 15 000 worth of bribes, a usual bribe is 500 francs so it was pretty serious.Joe was sending me a running commenty in texts and I was convinced he would be spending the weekend in jail.. We are now remaining in Buea until we get out passports back which should be today!! They have been issues, thankfully as they were initially rejected and just need to travel from Yaounde to Buea. So by this evening we should have out visas in our hands and no longer be illegal immigrants - yippee. so plans have had to be rearranged for their visit but that's life.

The fun and games continued with a trip to Ekona to visit Marceline's family. The next door neighbours had a dog who had just had puppies and in my wisdom I decided it would be nice to see the puppies. The dog however did not agree with us and promptly bit Joe on the leg. So we returned to Buea and took a trip to a small health centre/ hospital. The risk of Rabies is low but we can not take any chances with a fatal disease so he is now on anti-rabies injections. So for the next few weeks I will be stabbing Joe every so often. He needs a total of 6 injections over 3 months. We just hope the insurance will pay for it.

Lets hope the rest of the trip is a little less eventful.

Friday, January 19, 2007

First set of HIV educators trained

This week I have been training my first set of HIV educators. It feels like this has taken a long time to happen and now it is over. We had 17 attend which I thought was brilliant due to the short notice advertising that so often happens here. We aimed for 25 but 17 was good as the hall was pretty hot. There are still tenants in the building so we just rented the hall and will get the whole building on 1st February.

I had a really diverse groups about half were already involved in HIV and I felt I was teaching them to suck eggs but they all said they learnt something new so that is great. So of the other half for most of them it was their first training in HIV and it really empowered them and they are planning sessions within their groups and workplaces. One guy was a prison officer and I plan to talk to the prisoners with them as well as doing another training session for more guards. I hope to do this in February/ March.

We had some great group discussions and I actually really enjoyed teaching. Usually I hate public speaking but I found this really enjoyable and hope it will be a confidence booster for the future.

We asked for recommendations for the next course which will start on 5th March and have about 10 names already. I have also had ideas for other projects, I aim to start a home help support group. There are many women who give their time going to the homes of people living with HIV. There were trained at a local hospital but get no follow up. One women was telling me they get no update or support, so I aim to start a support group for these women.

We now have a break for a couple of weeks as Joe's parents arrive tomorrow. By the time they leave we will have the health centre buildings and today my aim is to hassle Genesis until we hand in the application for a permit. As for our visas.......still waiting!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Last night we were invited to a party and BBQ to celebrate JK becoming a barrister. JK is a friend of Joe's from the football club, during the day he had the signing in and this was the party for friends and family in the evening.

When we arrived we were ushered over to some comfy seats for special guests. Its amazing how we get treated as royalty!! The opening speeches were short and sweet and it was straight into the food. We were wondering what to expect from an African BBQ, especially as most have never heard of the word. We has BBQ pork and goat, other that quite a lot of fat it was lovely, this was followed by pepper soup - which was HOT and featured cow intestines.

We made a new friend also last night - Bill. He is American working with the Peace Corp here in Buea teaching computer skills. We had a great long chat, exchanged notes and hope to meet up with him again soon.

So great fun was had by all and JK enjoyed embarrassing Joe at the end by asking him for some closing remarks!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bon House - Again

On Saturday night we went to another bon house, this time the host was friend and neighbour Sylvester, who dressed up in his traditional North West dress. He and his wife became proud parents to a second daughter last week. He told previously that the baby would be called first lady however decided Annyvester was better, again an amalgamation of his and his wife's names, Ann and Sylvester. The party was held in Mutengnae which is just down the road where is wife works and lives with her family. It is a pretty rough town and not a place for young white folk to be out and about by themselves at night.

We got a lift to the party as Sylvester had organised a guy to drive his car and stay sober so us and the other from Buea could get home. The evening started in the usual Cameroonian fashion, late. Then there were various speeches from Sylvester and the presidents of various groups. This was all done in Pidgin and we did pretty well following it all. Each group then performed some dances then the dance floor was open to all. Sylvester loves dancing so was having a great time joining in the various woman's groups dancing with them. He then got covered in talc (not sure why, but we have fun shouting white man at him afterwards!). We danced a little, the party was due to go on to 6am we were not keen on staying this long but worried how we would get home not wanting to go alone. The driver was of course drinking by now so that was not an option. Didimus and his wife also decided it was time to go home and Joyce had been at the market all day and was pretty tired. So we all walked up to the main road and got a car home around 2am. So another evening of fun and dancing. These Cameroonians know hoe to have a good party (after all the ceremony and speeches that is).

Monday, January 15, 2007

Six months!!

I know I say this every month but Six Months!! that's like half a year, that's amazing. We are not over half way and moving in to the busiest period of our time here.

This moment has mostly been taken up with Christmas (but not as much as it would have been at home), new year and visa issues! Genesis has been really busy for most of this month teaching as our current teacher is in hospital in his home town and being a student on the web design course.

Joe has almost finished teaching his second batch of web design students. Feels like this course has been going for ages as it stopped for a week over Christmas and was delayed while we went to Yaounde. He will now spend some time writing an advanced course as everybody is keen to learn more.

I start my long awaiting HIV educator program this afternoon, a few people have registered already but I hope more will turn up later.

Due to Genesis being so busy he has not been able to submit the paperwork for the health centre as there is one more form he has to get signed together with the landlord of the buildings, getting the two together is impossible! So I am hoping this will be done once the web design course is finished and it will be sorted while Joe's parents visit. Oh and the old tenants are still living there grrrrrr.

The weather is HOT now, we had a few days of random rain at the end of December but otherwise it is sun sun sun, which leads to so much dust. Going on a journey is a nightmare, we get covered in, eat and breath red dust from the roads. But no I am not a golden brown as there is no time for sunbathing.

Bribery, corruption and Good Samaritans

Yesterday I went to Ekona with Marceline and Naomi to see her parents. She wanted to go and talk to them about something as they do not have a phone. Ekona is only a few miles from Buea, but the bad roads make it a 45 min journey.

When we have been before it has been the whole family so we hire a taxi to take us and wait. This time as it was only the 2 of us (an Naomi but she does not count) We went by taxi and bus. The bus got stopped at a road block on the way. We often have to go through road blocks and they check the drivers documents and sometimes check everyone on the bus has their ID card. We carry certified copies of our passports however my copy was in Joe's wallet, in his pocket at football. My original passport in in Yaounde getting the visa sorted out (hoping to hear about that today) so I took my driving licence. However the police decided they would not accept this. So we had to get off the bus and try to sort it out. We argued that my passport was in Yaounde but they would not have any of it. The bus continued on its way and we sat in a little hut by the road. They are just after money, it is not an official fine, I am not paying an authority for not having ID, it is purely for these guys pockets. Bribery and corruption. So Marceline said we would sit it out. She did not even have her ID on her and they did not care about that they just thought they could money from me as I am white.

We sat and sat a bit more Marceline said it is fine we just wait 'till they go home then they will let us free. 'What time do they go home I asked' about 5, well it was currently 2, I refused to wait there 4 hours for Naomi's sake. A bribe is usually 500 francs (50p) which is not much money but it is the principle. Marceline was determined to not pay but gave in when I said it was not fair on Naomi to keep her here that long. So Marceline went to pay up. As she was discussing it with the police who said the usual 500 francs was not enough. Then a car passed with 3 blokes about my age looking at me. I thought they may be friends from Joe's football club as they looked as if they were trying to get my attention. They pulled over and the driver came to talk to me asking what was happening so I explained. He went off to speak to the police and we were allowed to go. They were random blokes on their way home from a weekend in Douala. They then took us to Ekona and asked for no money.

I do not know if they knew the police man or paid the bride for me but certainly got it sorted pretty quick, all while Marceline was talking to another police man trying to pay the bribe! So there we were saved by a stranger. He then took us the rest of the way to Ekona. We chatted in the car he was telling me about visits to Italy and Germany, I told him I was here with my husband. After that he was not so chatty!!

So hopefully that will be the closet we come to paying a bribe, I do not fancy sitting in a police hut again. And thank you to Handsome the random stranger who picked us up, who by the way did not live up to his name.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Hurrah I am not a geek!!

Joe is often teasing me saying I am a geek. I admit I can be a little geeky at times and using a Linux at the moment does not help my case. Anyhow I do not really think I am that geeky. I was fortunate enough to be brought up with computers in the house. Not many people my age (oh that makes me sound old!) had this privileged. So from pretty young I was using our BBC micro, entirely for playing games (time to start reminiscing) pac man, purple people eaters, the one with the frog crossing the road were the best.

Anyway I digress basically I am pretty good with computers (for an non-IT girl) so get called a geek. BUT today I was looking at various blogs and came across the how geeky are you meter. I fair pretty will with mostly lows and nones. So there we go it is official I am not a geek.
Your Geek Profile:

General Geekiness: Moderate
Academic Geekiness: Low
Fashion Geekiness: Low
Geekiness in Love: Low
Gamer Geekiness: None
Internet Geekiness: None
Movie Geekiness: None
Music Geekiness: None
SciFi Geekiness: None

P.S. there are some pretty cool other toys on the site too, but it would be geeky for me to say that!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Book Review: Cloud Atlas

This book was a Christmas present from Mum and Dad, off my wish list - thank you. I did not know much about it and choice is as it was recommended by amazon (you bought this so may like this) and Richard and Judy (who do actually recommend quite good books!). I found it a little difficult to get in too at first. One of the reviews on the cover said 'the book is like a roller coaster, at first you are not sure and want to get off but by the end you are left begging for more'. Most the time I pay little attention to reviews but this I felt rang true.

Really it is six separate books all rolled into one. Each story is written in a different style, set in a different age, telling a different story. The stories fit together like Russian dolls the story that begins the book, ends the book etc. Each story is discovered in the next. I half expected some cheesy overarching story that would cheesely wrap it all up at the end, however it did not come to this. In some ways it felt like many different stories with no relation but as the book goes on you notice the themes and struggles each character faces.

It is very well written covering a variety of styles, the chapter written in a Pacific Islander local dialect was tricky to follow but I soon got in to it. The book begins in the 18th century and ends in post-apocalyptic times. A bit of everything is included, sci-fi, politics, murder etc.

And now we wait

Yesterday we went to Yaounde to try and sort out our visa trouble. Traveling there was fun as always. The exhaust silencer fell off the bus not far out of Buea, and I am sure the side panel next to me kept moving. We finally arrived at about midnight after a very squished bus ride from Douala. Genesis friend had organised a lovely hotel for us to stay in at a great price, we were fit to collapse by the time we arrived and went straight to sleep.

In the morning we got up early to meet Pastor Joseph who will help us sort stuff out. Genesis had planned to meet him at 8am so he arrived about 10. After a couple of phone calls to his Colonel mate, who is a member of his congregation he went off with our documents and passports (worry ye not he is a nice bloke, we think he did not speak much English). We waited for his call, which came an hour or two. He was unable to get us free residents permits however they can extend our visas for 50 000 each, which is half the price of our original visas we bought in London. OK that's great so off we all trot to the immigration offices. It is decided we wait and Genesis and Pastor Joseph go in, to avoid white man prices. We wait in the local police watering hole where half the Cameroon police are drinking beer on their lunch break. An hour or so later they return. Our applications are in for the visa, it will take a day or two. They will be ready on Monday at the latest (which is good as our current visas expire on Monday). So after all my practising, I never got to use my pleading face due to never seeing an official.

After all this we all went for a well deserved lunch at Pastor Joseph's house. We stepped off a main road surrounded by multi-storey buildings in to a maze of red dust paths with with various houses dotted about, many made of bamboo and clay. Such a contest to the busy inner city road we had just stepped off. We had an amazing lunch thanks to Pastor Joseph's wife, Carp (which was huge) and plantain fries. Great work at such short notice and while she is fasting.

We left our passports and money to pay for the visa with pastor Joseph who will go back to the offices once they are approved to get the stamp in the passport and pay for them. If they reject them - we will cross that bridge when we come to it. However we have a few high up people phoning the visa office on our behalf to vouch for us.

So the issue is not completely resolved but getting there. We arrived home late last night after a very crammed journey home. We took a clando from Douala to Buea, these are overfilled cars with 4 in the back and 2 on the front passenger seat. Joe, Genesis and I were sat in the back when a rather large lady appeared. Genesis said to us 'oooh she is too fat', he then proceeded to tell her she was too fat and could not fit. She huffed and puffed and squeezed herself in, making the journey pretty uncomfortable.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


One of the things I have noticed living in Cameroon is the lack of seasons with regard to some animals. Mostly that there are always little chicks about. Chickens have babies all year round - it is quite bizarre to see little chicks and it not be Easter!

However humans do appear to have breading patterns. Well not really but yesterday two people had babies.

Sylvester's wife gave birth to their second daughter and child, coincidentally on their first daughter's birthday. So their new baby is called First Lady. According to Sylvester this is her whole name, First Lady Mayah. Their first child is called Ansy (mother is Ann = An, father is Sylvester = sy) Princess Mayah (she also has a complicated African name but I cannot remember it or spell it), so he needed to give the second girl a good name too. We will go and visit her at the weekend then I will add a photo (and any new names she has).
Constance, Marceline's eldest sister gave birth to her third child and first son. Marceline and I went to visit him and Constance in the general hospital. His name is Brilliant.


Today I have mostly been practising my 'pleeeease give us a visa' big eyes pleading look.

Do you think it will work?

Monday, January 08, 2007

A sporting weekend

This weekend was full of sport. On Saturday we went to a local football final. Some rich guy from Buea who now lives in the States organises this competition between all the teams in Buea. The final was Great Soppo, Sweet seventeen vs Small Soppo, Long street. It was a free event and a stands were pretty full. Many of the guys on the organising committee are members of Joe's footie club. So when we arrived we got ushered off away from Didimus and Sylvester and sat in the executive stand. Do not get any grand ideas in your head! We sat with Helms and Antonia as Helms is on the exec. of the Long Street team. All it meant was we sat on plastic chairs instead of standing and got served sparkling wine and cheesy puffs at half time!

It was a pretty good game. Long street go the first goal then Sweet Sixteen came back with one soon after. Later scoring a penalty giving the final score of Sweet Sixteen 2 - 1 Long Street. At the end of the match the trophies were given out and various gifts of appreciation given to the guy who out the money in to the tournament.

Then on Sunday afternoon we went to watch traditional wrestling. Men (and boys) from various villages wrestle each other. Each match is made up of 3 rounds, each round lasts 2 minutes. The aim of the game is to get your opponent on his back. Most ended in the draw (no winner by the end of 3 rounds). However some guys were pretty good and got the other guy on his back pretty quick. There were a few guys who Sylvester kept telling us were 'the best' and they were pretty good. Picking the other guy up and landing him on his back was an impressive move!

PS we are going to Yaounde tomorrow to see a man about our visas.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I want one

I was browsing my beloved pacemaker site again today and someone had posted about battery-free pacemakers. A company in the UK are hoping to make pacemakers that run on kinetic energy (I am trying to remember physics to know if this is the correct word!) so they generate energy as you move. I had thought for years this would be a great solution as I knew about watches powered by movement.

This is what it says:
Having one surgery is plenty, and having some foreign object implanted in your being is really pushing things, but knowing you're going to be under the knife every ten years or so to get a new battery is just absurd. Thankfully, a group of researchers in the UK feel the same way, and are well on their way to developing a battery-free pacemaker Reportedly, the device would use a microgenerator producing electricity every time the patient moves, effectively eliminating the need for an internal battery.

My only worry is how long do they charge for, what happens if I stay still too long, will me heart stop beating!?! Well I am sure the scientist will think of these things. Maybe I would have to do 100 star jumps every morning to charge myself up for the day.

So far I am on my 7th and I only expect that to last 5 years or so like the last one due to having old old leads. So to have one that lasts forever would fab. However with someone as young as myself there would still be a need for leads to be replaced but that's better than a new pacemaker every 5 - 10 years.

My only worry is that most pacemaker recipients are not as young as me and may only need one or two during their life. Is it really financially viable to create these pacemakers for the minority? Well if not the NHS will not fit them I know that for sure. So at the moment I will carry on trying to break the 24 pacemaker record, but will always be willing to trial one of these.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Trials and Tribulations

So far this year things are not going to plan. The worst case scenario is that the previous tenants remain as squatters in my health centre not that it matters as we will get deported. Well I am sure things will not turn out quite that badly!!

We were meant to get the buildings for the health centre on Monday. However when we went last week to see the landlord about getting the tenancy agreement the current tenants told us they have not been given enough notice and need more time to find a new place to live. As we are a charity and kind of feel bad about chucking people out of their homes. However we agreed the take the property over back in November giving then tenants two months notice, they claim to have only had a couple weeks. So they have two more weeks then they need to be out as I am running a seminar in there then.

Our six month visas expire soon so we went to the immigration police to renew them (we were told this is the correct procedure). However it turns out they can only extend three month visas. The suggestion was to get a residents permit, these cost approx £250 each although as volunteers we are eligible for free permits. Cool we thought we will do that so we collected all the paperwork and went to see the police to get it approved. The police man we saw was a real jobsworth and told us we did not have the correct forms. That out non-government organisation need an agreement with the government to take volunteers. However the person who actually issues the permits (once and only once they have the police stamp) says this is not true. So if the police will not stamp it we can not go any further. We have a week and half to sort something out or we will become illegal immigrants and may get deported or put in prison.

Genesis has a friend in the police who we hope will sort it out for us. Remember it is all about who you know in Cameroon and what favors they can do for you. If this fails the next step is a trip to the capital Yaounde to see some high up person in the police who is able to extend our visa's or we pay £500 for new visas. Or we could do the really bright suggestion made by the guy at the police, fly to London get new visa's and fly back - because that will cost less than the £500 permit!

Well we just hope and pray it will sort itself out in the end. These things usually do, if not you may be seeing us a whole lot sooner than you expected!!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year

Our new year was pretty surreal this year. We planned to go for a few drinks in Figaro's and meet up with some of the football guys. Well as this is Africa things never go to plan. We set off in the afternoon to watch some traditional wrestling with Didimus and Sylvester, however once we got there they had decided to not wrestle today as they did not want to be injured for the new year. We left and headed back home. We passed a memorial service of a friend of Didimus' we thought we were dropping him of and carrying on home but he insisted we come with him. It was a memorial party for a man that died a year ago. We had great fun everyone was very welcoming and happy that we came. We had some great food, and some drinks. We kept getting accosted by a crazy old drunk lady who kept posing for various photographs and would not leave me along once she discovered I was a nurse. Didimus saved me and we moved outside. His dancing groups were also present so they were playing the xylophone and we were trying to do some traditional dancing, it involves shrugging your shoulders a lot.

We then went down to Figaro for midnight although no one appeared to make a big deal of it. Christmas is the time for parties and new year is the time for church!

New years day was very busy, the morning was spent sleeping due to churches keeping me awake all night. We then had 3 invitations for lunch and one evening invitation. We managed to get out of one of the lunch invitations and went to two. One was a chap from Joe's football club who lives down the road from us, we popped in there for a bit of lunch and had to leave soon after. Then we went to some friends of Genesis and Marceline who are on the board of directors for HINT. Here we had another lunch - feeling pretty full now! Afterwards we went back to the first house (as we had to leave early), we were offered more food but managed to politely refuse and just have a small glass of wine while discussing the death of Saddam Hussein

In the evening we had been invited to the promotion party of a guy in the football club. He had gone from Captain to Commander in the army. I thought it would be a few relaxed drinks in his house, oh no it was a proper posh party with the Governor of the South West present. There were chairs set up outside and sofa's taken outside for the Governor to sit on. The entrance of the Governor and others was announced and we were all upstanding. The program then commenced (in french as most military personnel are francophones). It mostly involved various people giving speeches and pouring champagne over the Commander. Then we ate again!!

So our new year mostly involved eating, not too different to home then.

I wish you all a happy new year, hope you have a fantastic 2007.

Baby dedication

On Sunday Genesis and Marceline had Naomi dedicated, Genesis had asked a pastor friend of his to do the business. New year is a big religious thing here in Cameroon, many churches hold new year services through-out the night (the church down the road kept me awake for hours on new years eve grrrrr). So Genesis thought it was a great time to dedicate Naomi. It was the usual Sunday morning service with a good turn out due to it being a special event.

The dedication was not quite the same as in my home Baptist Church, there were no promises made. The dedication involved many verses of scripture mostly from the old testament about giving your first born son to God. Then prayers for Naomi praying that she grows to be big and strong and with the lord, that God will provide her a nice husband and stuff like that. It was a nice service and afterwards we had a small snack of pop corn and stuff.