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!