Saturday, March 10, 2007

Best put the kettle on ... I may be some time.

What we've got here is ... failure to communicate.

Actually as you can probably tell that is far from the problem! Far too much communication many would say and I'm sure they'd probably be right. It's not my fault. Too much time on my own means I get a huge build up of words which I just have to get out the system ... the result is often messy and I apologise.

So here I am. Another Saturday another change of location. Next saturday sees another move, or at least the back of another move, and then I will be there. That's to say Godola. The location of my latest vocation. Met the boss today and what a charming chap he was ... if only all future bosses were that enthusiastic I feel that the world would be a better place. As I baffled him with my dodgy french he just shook me by the hand and kept shaking.

On Friday Godola becomes home and then dot dot dot

Sitting here in the Cameroonian Baptist Mission, Maroua, regional capital of the Extreme North and there's almost too much to say! Yaounde, the capital, was hot and humid and noisy and smelly and hazy and crowded and bustling and bursting and intimidating and fast paced. When we got on the train surrounded by all that, as well as hundreds of porters screaming for our business, Maroua seemed like a foreign country and to be fair that's about the sum of it. Heat aside this is a different country.

16 hours on the train which started by pulling through the kinds of areas that tourists never see; where resourcefulness is the difference between existing and shuffling from this mortal coil. People squeezed into the strangest of places, their only source of water a fetid pool of the kind that if you were to look at it for too long you'd probably contract something: a raw cholera based infusion of typhoid and dysentry evaporating from mosquito ridden pits ... Houses perched over railway lines, boardered by mountains of rubbish, the cast offs of someone elses life. Families one on top of the other, their clothes still as clean and vibrant as the day they were bought ... I've only been here a week and everything's already taken on an orange hue.

Everyone tells you that Yaounde is in a jungle but it's only when you leave that you understand the truth of this statement. It really is a jungle. Massive trees with car sized leaves; the deafening sound of a thousand courting insects and the sudden disappearance of the smell of pollution that abounds in the centre of town.

One thing I have noticed and which I feel I should share for the benefit of the masses is that night here doesn't so much fall as collapse. One minute it's dusk and the next nothing. Evening is a but a moment between day and night, and I mean literally a moment ... blink and you miss it, either that or think you've gone blind. The stars though ... wow. There is something incredibly comforting about the stars and oh my god are there a lot of them. In all my wanderings I've always found it vaguely reassuring to know that those self same stars I can see in Scotland, assuming I don't stray south of the equator, are there looking down on me pretty much anywhere else. Orion's belt may be a little skewed and the man himself struggling with the concept of upright but he's very much there ... when everything else is of the hang a left at the lights variety, it's nice to know that somethings are still the same.

With morning comes more difference. The jungle has made way for vast tracts of open savannah ... trees scattered here and there, villages similarly so. Settlements spawned by the "chemin de fer" ... restaurants and shops down either side. They may only have one car a day but it brings a lot of trade. Honey, fish, baton de manioc, even people looking for empty bottles. In India they serve tea in the most delicate clay cups you're mind can cope with. Not so here but the people look frighteningly familiar.

24 hours later we arrive: Maroua. And it's like a different country. The noise has gone and been replaced by silence. The smell is no longer the smell of people and their lives, of cars and their exhausts of the city. The smell is more akin to the smack in the face so favoured by the John Lewis's of this world, but then over the smell of rotting meat and humanity give me Jonelle any day.

The landscape is definitely not jungle ... Baobabs appear where they can and life goes on. Time means next to nothing which is the way it should be. Cameroon knows that she can't control time and so in mutual respect they doff their hats and continue on their way. Cameroon doesn't control time, nor does time control Cameroon.

It's all still a great big adventure waiting to happen and there'll be more cranial effluent where this came from ...

Carry on!

P.S. For those of you wondering why the first edition of this was quite so unformatted, and why the one below was originally all italics, the computer I was using didn't like publishing, so I had to email it ... think I probably did something wrong ... boh!


  1. Wow - Look what I've found I can very exciting. I don't really understand what it means, should I be commenting on what you've written? If so, then well done, good writing from your big public school brain! Not actually sure I want my spazzy attempt to be so close to yours ...hmmm haven't thought this one through have I?!
    Anyway, I think it could be an excellent time waster at work so I might do it more often.
    Big Love to my favourite captain of the locks (see what I did there, didn't want to be rude in cyberspace!!)I'll email you soon. Tanti Baci xxxxxxxx

  2. I thought it was only you that did most of your thinking and writing on the hoof and just wrote what ever dribbled out of the ends of your fingers. Now I realise it must have been a prerequisite of your training to become a teacher. Whilst my thoughts are coherent and well thought through with many deliberate pauses whilst my brain catches up and I don't find myself writing things that I would not want to put down on paper, your scribblings somewhat resemble a proverbial Paella with a bit of everything thrown in together. Lots of juicy bits to tuck into but then you occasionally come across a part that has a lot of those undigestible pieces of prawn shell and tenticle and chicken bones which whilst not putting you off the rest take time to get out of the mouth before continuing.

    Anyway, something to go with your Paella is todays wine of the day: La Guita Manzanilla - A delicious sherry style wine with lovely appley freshness and a slight salty tang. superb with paella or on it own. £3.99 a half bottle...


Thank you for your comment. Thank you for your patience while we moderate.