Africa, beer, bilingual, Cameroon, Case Western Reserve University, celebration, dolee, Douala, Engineers WIthout Borders, experiences, foreign, French, holidays, local dishes, New Years, solo, solo travel, student, traditions, West Africa
Pictures coming soon.
Batoula-Bafounda/Bafoussam, Cameroon, Africa
I woke up early – yes, technically before it was 2013 on the east coast of the States. I was so tired, which made sense. We were, after all, out so long that we had only a few hours of sleep. It took forever again before we got out on the site, the mornings all blending together: the couch, the cold floor, the redundant breakfasts, the same dirty jeans, the same long walk through the palms, the dewy site that would soon become bustling with passersby and increasingly warmer.
We finished a couple layers of the tower with some help despite the day being a holiday in the village. Mostly children helped us. We were okay with the day being a little slow because it allowed us to have low enough expectations to go visit Guy’s house just south in the “big city” of Bafounda. Driving out of the village is always click-clack-clack – ridiculously bumpy at even 2mph. We turn left onto the “highway”, which is just a road that is fairly well-paved and good for speed. Periodically, we pass horrific accidents that never acquire roadside assistance (I don’t think there is any). As we wind for a long time up and down the hilly terrain and past throngs of people carrying jugs or plants or babies, we finally arrive to some intersections and see a bustling sprawl ahead: Bafounda. We climb the van up the hill and take some turns through the chaotic, dirty streets filled with running children, shopping and selling adults, and smoking cars. We descend another side of a hill and take some tight turns on some backstreets. I’m most certain we took the bottom off of our van taking one turn whose road was so washed out that the uneven terrain posed a true difficulty for us.
When we got out on a street outside of Guy’s, we were met by him, his wife, and his two kids – as well as many pointed fingers from screaming, shouting, laughing children and their families who have apparently never seen outsiders before. We followed the family up the stairs of a could-be-normal-American apartment and closed the door to a fairly impressively modern home. The balcony overlooked the hundreds of shacks and corrugated steel roofs littering red dusty hilltops with sparse palms. Everywhere I zoomed with my lens, I could see people shaking out blankets, sitting around, or maybe even shelling vegetables.
We waited a couple of hours in Guy’s living room, watching local TV like music videos, laughing at his shy kids hiding from us, sipping on Cameroonian sodas, and taking turns checking e-mail on his god-awfully-slow Internet. We also worked out some money issues on our supply purchases and played cards. When it was finally time to eat, we were presented with so much food and foreign dishes we didn’t know what to do with it. Guy explained that they make a lot of food because you never know who will show up – and surely some friends just came unannounced, ate, chatted with us, and quickly moved on to the next house they had in mind to visit. There was even a local Douala dish called Dolee – and plenty of beer. Some American wrestling came on the TV and suddenly we felt mildly foolish at how we are viewed by other countries. Eric tried to get the children to lighten up, but Jerry and Tracy were reluctant to do much before we made our way out.
We headed for a much-needed ATM. We locked ourselves in the glass box to make the transaction. Some of us quickly retreated to the car just in time for a chaotic fight to break out near the ATM front. We locked everyone inside and took off before anything worse could happen. Kate H. and Emily then went with Guy to Mbouda to celebrate at a bar, but the rest of us were too tired. It was unlike me to skip, but I was glad I did. I just didn’t want to let the team down the next day and I had put in a lot of hours already. (The next day, though, we ended up going to the same place as we did before so not much had been missed.)