Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Back where 'e belong

So, here I am. Back in the blight, desparately trying to realise the mid-90's pseudo-slagging that was "sort your life out".

Life is being sorted as much as can be done from this end. Its fate is in the hands of They, Them, The Powers That Be. Forms are being filled and filed and the time ticks on in a manner to which I am a little unaccustomed.

So, yes, I'm outta there. Godola is no more. Well obviously it is, I'm just not there. The remains of my Cameroonian life will doubtless do the rounds for the foreseeable; told my neighbours, colleagues and the village at large that I'd be giving some stuff away on Thursday evening and Friday before I left.

Locusts the lot of them; they even rifled through my bin ...

The journey back to what is often laughably referred to as civilisation passed in a flurry of misplaced passports, abject gluttony and mild discomfort. Dawn's crack was cleft as ever and a veritable convoy of buses wriggled its way through the crowd of habitual loiterers who liberally adorn the sand from which Marouan life continues to eke its ungainly existence.

The woman who stood in the door of the bus demanding that the emaciated, green jacketed employee of Touristique Express defy Cameroonian transport protocol and let her on without her ticket meant that the scamble for seats was even more scrambled than usual. Add to that the seat bagsing that invariably goes on, invariably by people who are old enough to know better and you just knew the journey was going to be anything but pleasurable. With my sinstrous gluteus squeezed on to the edge of one of the fixed seats, the dextrous on the folding seat in the aisle and my back more twisted, awry, bent, braided, complicated, contorted, convoluted, crooked, curled, gnarled, intricate, involved, knurly, tangled, tortile, wound and wry than a sack full of snakes, eels and the excessive wiring that is a plague on twenty first century society.

A loud bang and subsequent scraplunking noises warranted a stop in the joys of Figuil, famed not least for its cement factory. And so began the feeding frenzy.

8 hours of bus is a little tedious and the only way to break up the boredom is by grazing perpetually. Whenever there's a chance to eat, you must, regardless of what you think it might be. This is especially true when you don't have to foot the bill. Oily, heavy cake like things, spiced, dried meat; a bag of dates, a couple of bags of 'filtered' water; some manioc and a plastic bag of what was, without any shadow of a doubt, goat entrails. All very tasty and quite disgustingly gluttonous but, as I said, it had to be done.

Having been hoping for the luxury of a couchette it was a mite disappointing to find that they were sold out. History doesn't relate as to whether Abdouraman, the man charged with buying our tickets, had actually been to the station before he had to, that's to say when we arrived and found ourselves needing them.

The open-mouthed, drool heavy, lolling sleep of the seated train passenger is hardly exciting reporting and so I'll just say that we made it, vaguely on time, and tired, smelly and in need of toilet facilities we braved the massed ranks of taxi wallahs and their kin. Trying to rip off a culturally adjusted, sleep deprived scotsman is possibly not the brightest move in the world to make and so it was that a pair of taxi drivers bore the brunt of the Lockhart wrath. In subsequent discussion with people in the know it seems that we ended up paying less than we usually would have, but then the taxi never would've taken us if we were being more than reasonably reasonable.

We checked in to Le Diplomat, formerly known as The Sipowa. I can only assume, given the changes to the interior, level of service and quality in general, that the "The Sipowa" sign had somehow become irreparably damaged and the one reading "Le Diplomat" was going for a song. My first experience in Yaounde's foremost hostelry had been when I arrived in March last year, eyes still gleaming with enthusiasm and untainted by the Cameroonian pandemic that is littlebitrubbishitis. Had it changed? Undeniably, but only in the area of signage.

A dayanabit spent larging it up in Yaounde, liberally blowing the daily allowance afforded us, on the gastronomic wonders of hamburgers and milkshakes. The fact that I could've eaten for a week on the mean streets of Maroua for the price was neither hither, thither, zither, wither nor, indeed, anything else itheristic. Given the excitement afforded by hot water and a television there was little inclination to leave the hotel so where else was I going to spend my £5.57?

And so came the day of departure. Was it emotional? As goodbyes always are, perhaps tinged with a smidgeon more than the usual if only because, best intentions in the world aside, the likelihood of getting back to that sand-afflicted corner of humanity is possibly slim. I will if I can but I'm not going to hold my breath ...

So here I sit. Back from whence I came for a week or three trying to sort my life out. Destination is London at some point twixt now and the autumn ... the whens and doing whats are still ill-defined but even they are getting there, at least I hope they are.

It is, though, a championship level joy to be back ... I'm here on oh seven ate ate seven nein five tree sick so tree or oh won fai-fai-fife sicksicks trees heaven nein too. Just say it fast and you'll get there!

On that note, Bret, Jermaine, it's over to you ... laugh, I nearly wet my pants.

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