Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The InsideOutsider’s Guide to Cameroon

"Cameroon is a country of diversity. Of that there can be no doubt. They, whoever they may be, sometimes call it Africa in miniature with its deserts, mountains, jungles, beaches, multitude of tribes, and in a far more literal sense, pygmies. It’s a country of small minds and smaller ambitions; of little means and little idea or inclination as to how to change anything. It’s a little better than a lot of other African countries and a little less dangerous than most of its neighbours. Its miniaturisation is almost complete: much more and one could pop it in a snow globe and flog it to tourists."

How's that as an introduction. It's my new business concept: Senza Merda Guides ... for the discerning tourist who's going to go whatever the guidebook says but would like to know the truth.

Hope you're sitting comfortably, I may be some time.

In my more egotistical moments I like to think that those of you who take time out of your busy lives to peruse the wanderings of my under-worked mind and fingers as they range, seemingly unchecked, across this now somewhat grimy keyboard, will have been worried and wondering what’s happened to me. After the surge of blogging activity that was the first weeks here, there has - the more observant of you will have noticed - been something of a lull. Nothing more untoward than time has happened which after the knuckle-dragging,semi-bipedal and painfully slow staggerings of the first few weeks has to be a good thing. In fact the stealth, speed and general vitesse of the most recent ones have borne all the hallmarks of steroid abuse.

Yes, indeed, tempus has done its best and fugit’ed. And I for one am not complaining. If my tasks here could be likened to the seeds of parable fame, those relating to teaching have fallen on decidedly stony ground and it’s going to take a few millennia of erosion before they bear fruit. Others though have struck lucky and fallen in a fortuitously placed pile of poo and are doing their best at doing what they do best. Things have been agreed; whether they come to pass is not entirely in my hands so we’ll just have to wait and see. Either way, the things I've done to get tempus airborne has succeeded with unexpected success.

Time has been absorbed in a manner that puts Always Ultra to shame and all without the addition of wings and a dry-weave top sheet. In this still baking heat I suspect it is more likely to have evaporated than been absorbed, but either way there’s still no sign of it on the surface. Think I might be pushing things on the analogy front but better that than the alternative I’m sure you’ll agree.

A tripette to the wilds of Moutourwha to pick brains achieved its aim and a brain was picked. The following day was supposed to include a further brain selecting session but alas Thor had other plans but seeing as it was his day one could hardly begrudge him that. Donner und Blitzen and a downpour of biblical proportions gave some relief from the infernal diurnal. Back to school on Friday for another day lost; the top year’s P.E. exam distracted the entire school, largely I suspect for its outright absurdity. They run, they jump, they throw something not very far and then they do a gymnastic routine that even the most sedentary of lard-arses could do from the comfort of his own sofa and without spilling any of his Coke.

Drunken learing of 12-year-old students by government P.E. examiners, and a dribbled and almost entirely incoherent offer of a lift into town on the back of the director’s motorbike - which I politely declined - were thrown in to make things just that little bit more exciting, although a near death experience still ensued thanks to the ‘my one’s bigger than yours’ mentality of an f’wit in a 4x4.

Saturday was taken up almost entirely by the end of paragraph 2, despite lasting only two and a half hours and having started at 9am. The maths doesn’t really add up but then again I’m an English teacher so what do I know?

This last week has been notable not least for the almost microscopic amount of time I’ve actually spent at home or indeed at school. With Tuesday being May day, Monday was naturally a day off too: the ‘pont’ as it’s affectionately referred to and something of which I am quite fond; its Italian counterpart allowed for no end of mini-adventures. The adventures this time were purely domestic and involved buying new saucepans which, believe me, is exciting in any language.

Odin in his prime couldn’t have predicted his day to be so full of adventure, albeit a vaguely Cameroonian adventure, worthy of mention not least for its almost total lack of activity. Spent a large amount of time waiting for things to happen. Went to school and waited while the director slaked his beer induced thirst then, with his permission, waited for a brace of Olde English hours for a bus to depart. Disembarked at a nameless junction of a nameless town and waited for the one available moto-taxi to have its tyres and wheels put back in their respective places and then bog off with someone else. Eventually got to where I was wanting to get, Midjivin, a little parched to say the least and only to find that there was nothing to drink in town except peanut juice which is something that defies explanation. Midjivin makes Godola’s solitary horse look like a marvel of technology; on the evolutionary scale of habitation, Midjivin is still dragging itself, somewhat reluctantly it seems, from the primeval ooze.

Less than 12 hours later I was back at the same junction waiting for a bus to take me back the other way; back to Maroua. The visit was a success and achieved all I’d hoped it would which has to be a good thing. CES de Midjivin and CES de Godola have the same number of students. CES de Midjivin has 6 classroom blocks, and administrative block and a football pitch; CES de Godola has 2 classroom blocks and a tree. Some of the issues are much the same but others don’t even compare.

The weekend saw another mini-adventure to the wilds of Rhumsiki and it’s environs. What a place! Were it not for the legions of midge-like Cameroonlets who plagued our every step in a desperate attempt to flog us tat for prices just the wrong side of extortionate, it would have been even more of a pleasure. Still, a good time was had by all even if the evening fare of garlic basted in a rich and more-ish “sauce MSG” left one more than a little parched. Rhumsiki itself has been referred to as ‘lunar’ though I have to say it reminded me more of Monument Valley crossed with Andalucia ... all it needed was Clint and an Ennio Morricone soundtrack.

And so another week went. It’s Wednesday now and I’m off on another tripette this afternoon: does it get any more rock and roll.

A slice of excitement though to finish on a high: those of you who thought you’d seen the back of me ‘til 2009, bad news I’m afraid. Heading back to the cold and drizzle and insects that are a normal size for a couple of months from mid-June. Was going to stay here but, alas, the VSO salary doesn’t allow for a huge amount of extravagance and I’d go mad if left alone for too long! Also everything is washed away and travel becomes close to impossible throughout the wet season. Ready the tickertape, dust off the bunting and get that calf fattening … failing that I’m always keen on a drink or two!


  1. So the rumours were true. good news indeed for some. Better for others. and a travesty for one or two no doubt. A certain Thompson may also be over in the green and pleasant land round about then. I'll have a word with my PA and see if I can organise the crossing of paths. Oli WC and I will be dining gorging ourselves at a Park dinning experience next week. Just for fun.
    When you were stateside you took 6 million photos. Is the illness still upon you? Will there be a picture book to go alongside the wordy one some years from now?

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  3. If you attached it to the foot of a duck, would said duck still be able to swim???

    You are sounding cheery - I like that!

    Tanti Baci Captain xxxxxx

  4. Cleggerne4:13 pm

    Snow Globe this is Grass Cutter over....Enjoyed the gyrations of an undoubtedly underutilised mind - I trust there are no 5th columnists in blogworld working for Cameroon. Pygmy Minds could polynate retribution activity for incautious verbosity.
    Reality Guide Books are best written with the benefit of hingsight - and distance! Glad forward movement is occuring in some areas - even if only in a backwards direction.

  5. Cameroon to Scotland via Korea I hear. Been out in the midday sun too long my friend!

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  7. Ah! I was wondering what had happened. It sounds busy in the real world - I think you should take some time off...relax and by the smell of it have a bath...come home! yet again you are ahead of me in the thinking there too. looking forward to seeing you. No sooner will I have one sibbling back and the other will be disappearing (perhaps). I must get away.


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