Friday, 29 February 2008
We stayed bunkered up with books and beer to the sound of a full scale riot going on. The news of accounts in Douala and elswhere were varied and it was hard to get the truth. It’s clear that people have died in many areas of the country, not just in Douala like the T.V news would have us believe.
Paul Biya, the leader of the Cameroonian peoples democracy party, addressed the nation on Wednesday. In his gravelly french voice he blamed the opposition for the violence and that they were trying to get him out of power through anarchy rather than the ballot box. It was clear that this kind of attitude was not what the mobs wanted to hear for appeasment and the violence did not subside the next day.
Things are beginning to return to normal in Buea on Friday the 29th of February, the people need to work and bills require payment. The stocks of supplies will take a bit longer to replenish however as everything is dependant on Douala and its ports. As is other big land locked countries like Chad and the Central African Republic.
It’s clear that this has been about more than the rising cost of fuel. Unemployment and corruption in a land of cash crops and oil have come to the boil too. People just want their voices to be heard, and I think they have.
I just wish they could have done it peacefully.
Monday, 25 February 2008
The same can be said for Cameroon. There is been a taxi driver strike here that started at 6a.m today. The roads are ominously bare and the bars are full of opinionated people and fierce debate.
Cameroon is not a country on its knees but it is a country with poor upright posture due to social and political issues that have spiralled out of control in the 27 years that Paul Biya has been in charge.
Corruption is everywhere here, it has polluted every government institution and Paul Biya's party is doing its very best to ruin a nation rich in cash crops and people who regard hard work as a god given objective. Unemployment is rampant, rising inflation rates are not being matched by peoples wages. The people aren't happy. This strike is a catylist for something far deeper.
They are burning the bridges into Douala, and some buildings have been torched by angry mobs, tear gas has been usd to disperse them. there are reports of shots being fired too. Some private radio stations have been taken off air for putting out subsersive anti-government sentiment.
I feel the real bridge that the Cameroonians want to burn is the one that Paul Biya has taken them on for all this time, a bridge built on broken promises. However he is trying to re-write the constitution so he can now run for a further term. Who knows what will happen then.
Wow, i kind of feel like a war correspondant or something, this is yer man in Cameroon, from Molyko in Buea signing out, over to you in the studio.
Please don't worry mum x
Saturday, 23 February 2008
My word how I miss music though, I miss it with all my heart. Whilst sitting in Abijan (my local) this corny music started pumping out the speakers. Now all everybody listens to here is traditional Makossa music, R&B hits from 2001, and hip-hop (mainly 5o cent), but the drivel I was listening to was Bryan Adams ‘everything I do I do it for you’.A real stinker of a tune which stayed at #1 in the U.K for three centuries or something. Yet I found myself really listening to it, feeling the chord changes and the emotion in the voice of the pizza-faced Canadian warbler. It was damn embarrassing. Without a clue of what had just transpired I had another sip of beer and then ‘we are the world’ came on and the bit with Stevie Wonder singing almost made me cry!!, cry tears!!.
As I say, a strange day.
Luckily I have plenty to keep me occupied at the moment. I’m currently collating a fundraising proposal with Mr Orock, which has involved me interviewing all the staff and volunteers of UAC (there are 38 payed staff, 4 cameroonian volunteers and 6 foreign volunteers) so it has been no light task but I finally finished it last night and hopefully we can send it as soon as Mr Orock returns from Mamfe, where he is attending a funeral.All the information I collected can also be used to update the website as well, which is in dire need of up-dating.
Also I’m very busy with school on wheels and remedial reading, which are getting better and more rewarding every day.
Reading is still getting me through as well, i'm currentley re-reading 'A catcher in the rye' by J.D Sallinger, I love Holden Caulfield, I respect his ability to perceive phonies in this world.
It’s weird though whenever I feel slightly lonesome or down my friends always phone me and cheer me up, a coincidence I’m prepared to accept whole-heartedly.
Cunny, Phil, Moff and Kirsty gave me a wee drunken phone call last night. I was all tucked up sleeping under my mosquito/cockroach net when they called. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Cunny had had another ‘cunny tumble’, Moff had started propositioning young men in bars (I don’t know how kirsty feels about that), Phil had just played another gig (probably jazz or something, if I had to guess) and kirsty was now working with a princess in Ryans’ Bar. It was one the funniest phone conversations I have ever had, so thankyou.
I got back to sleep happy and the noise of the dogs howling at the moon didn’t even interrupt me.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Personally i find animal prisons a little bit depressing but this place had one saving grace in that it is a sanctuary for the poor creatures that have been victim to mindless human acts like deforestation, the illegal exotic animal trade and people hunting them for bushmeat.
I gave a donation as well as the measely entry fee as i thought it was a very worthwhile inithiative and it did its best to educate kids and adults alike about the dangers these beautiful animals face.
Afterwards i walked to the beach and had a beer on Limbe beach and this girl chatted me up and wanted me to buy her a fish. She was very forward, or maybe she was just hungry.
There were many traders selling stuff on the beach and were more than happy to see me, i bought a necklace in the shape of Africa made from a coconut shell and a map of Cameroon, i love to barter so much.
I had a nice, relaxing day and i sat and watched the sun set over the Atlantic ocean with the mosquitos treating me like i was a delicious delicacy.
Sunday, 17 February 2008
Let me, in my limited vocabulary, explain to you what these runners go through, I hope i can do it justice.
The race started today at 6A.M at Buea football stadium, they began their epic journey up to Buea town, and when i say up, i mean up. To get there you must find the stamina to run up the steady incline for about 20km. At some points the road climbs very sharply but this is by no means the hardest part of the race. Once up to Buea town they must tackle the 4017m high active volcano named Mount Cameroon. When the clouds clear it looms dark and massive in the skyline, it's a foreboding obstacle to climb with its loose volcanic rocks which cause frequent, race-ending accidents, to its steep savannah slopes which take you to the summit where the air is stingy with oxygen. You may be forgiven for thinking that the finish line is up there, but no, they must run all the way back down to where they started!!!. In the boiling heat!!!. It's insane.
Ines and I watched the runners collapse over the finish line at 11A.M, shoes battered, legs bruised with a look of either emphatic achievement or complete euphoric exhaustion, i couldn't tell which. Yet they all had hope in their eyes as they had just completed one of the toughest races on planet Earth.
I'm sorry but i didn't catch the names of the winners over the loud makossa music but i know the woman who everyone wanted to win came second. That is a woman called Sarah Etonge who has won the race a spectacular seven times, and finished second and third on numerous occasions too. She is known locally as the Queen of the mountain and she is an inspiration to many people here. She's also a source of contraversy as many people think she has won with the aid of black magic. There is an air of celebrity and myticism about her, everyone has an opinion about her. All i know is she has proved herself so emphatically that i think queen of the mountain might be a slightly un-worthy term. I think the local government realised that too as they have erected a statue of her today in Buea town.
My friend Bonnie has the privilage of training with her and she's going to introduce me to her, i'm going to try and do an interview with her and hopefully publish it here. That should be pretty cool because Bonnie says that her sons are very good marathon runners too and that they are looking for any kind of publicity so they can leave here to train more. Sarah must have an incredible story to tell as well.
Watch this space.
Friday, 15 February 2008
Douala is the main port of Cameroon, it's massive with over 1 million inhabitants living out their lives. There's people selling everything on the streets, i'm sure with enough determination you could purchase a pink cadillac and a baby rhino on the same day. It's mad.
The roads are like the rollercoaster you were always afraid of when you were a kid, you find yourself pushing an imaginary break on the floor and making the occasional squeak, wincing i got out of the car and rubbed my tense knuckles which were white with terror.
There were big commercial buildings and banks and building societies (i saw a lot of white people) and the old German buildings from the early 1900's. It had a certain charm and i liked it.
There is one way to describe the heat and climate though......rude!. It was like walking about with a hairdryer on full pelt blowing into your sweaty face. It was extremely uncomfortable and it made me so glad to be in the relatively cool climate of Buea with it's high altitude and mountain
keeping the weather bearable.
There were a few places we wanted to go and Sam obliged without a grumble and negociated traffic jams without a murmer, but maybe with a blast or ten of the car horn.
We went to the 'marche de fleur' which is a big, bustling indoor market with many stalls/shops. This place was for the tourists and all the traders seen us coming. All the stalls were adorned with handmade artifacts like masks, maps, musical instruments, more masks, giraffes, tables and bowls and a couple of masks as well. Everything you'd ever need to take home basically and all your mask requirement needs met admirably
The place was alive with trading and i thought it had an incredible atmosphere. The salesmen were a bit pushy which the other volunteers didn't like but i thought it was wicked bartering with them. And man, can they barter. Everyone thinks i'm a millionaire here, especially these guys.
I was looking at these Kandindsky style paintings that this guy had painted when he seen me and smiled. I noticed he was rubbing his hands feverishly.
"that's beautiful, how much my friend" I inquired.
"40 000 francs" he said hopefully and rather coyly.
"okay my friend, name a price".
"8000 francs" i said to wind him up.
"pppffgh" was his mirrored response.
And on and on it goes, i love bartering, there's a certain patter involved, especially when guys are trying to sell to you at white man prices. I bought a few things but can't tell you what they are as they are for you guys. They're all really beautiful though and charming too.
After going to a few more places we went to citysport and i bought a Cameroon football shirt, which is wicked and is already starting to draw a few jealous stares from passers-by.
We also went to this amazing bakery which sold pizza, it was the greasiest, soggiest slice i had ever eaten and they were stingy wuth the cheese too, but it was like some kind of strange, forbidden luxary that i'd never tried before. I stuck four slices in my face. It was very, very good.
We came back in the afternoon and managed luckily not to be stopped by the police looking for bribes.
It was a cool day and lovely to see the place without visiting the airport and not worrying about my pants being returned to me.
Monday, 11 February 2008
The streets were lined with awaiting proud parents, well wishers, men blowing trumpets in a loosely musical sense, men selling hankerchiefs and little girls flooging pineapples that are perched on their heads. It seemed like 100 schools passed before we seen the familar yellow and purple paradading by, arms swinging comicly high in formation with eyes pointed to the sky, as a woman on a stupidly loud sound system announced the schools fledgeling beginings.
It was quite sweet to see so many kids in their brightly colured uniforms of pink to purple, mint to mauve.
There is an estimated 15,293,000 people in Cameroon, of that massive number 15% are aged between 0-10. This prossession made me realise just how many kids there are, even in a relatively small city like Buea. Those humungous numbers don't seem so unrealistic.
I suppose thet deserve a holiday.
Bad luck to Cameroon who were defeated 1-0 last night in a hard fought match, one mistake seperated them and it was by their most experienced player, R Song.
Oh well maybe next time, or some other time in the future, there certainly is enough kids and they all love football.
Saturday, 9 February 2008
The field was buzzing with the sound of whistles and kids cheering on their classmates and bemused teachers shouting - "no..run that way". There were no lines or that drawn out for the races so it was all a bit hectic, in fact it was the very definition of organised chaos.
I was helping a few teachers with the class 3's who were competing in the relay and sprint races. It was fun for especially the kids who really seemed to enjoy the competitive element to it all. Plus they could all run like the wind, they're so athletic.
Ines came along too after she had a meeting with Henry about volunteering with the school on wheels programme. If she demands the same respect from the kids in the villages as she did from the cheeky wee dudes at Jamadianle, she will be a big asset to everyone involved.
Cameroon are in the African cup of nations final tommorrow. It's a replay of the first round match against Egypt. They got pumped 4-2 in that game, I wish with all my heart that they can take revenge and lift the cup, it'll be spectacular to be here if they do.
Thursday, 7 February 2008
Currently the nursery school kids go to Jamadianle in Buea and the rest of the primary school resides at the as yet unfinished, Buitingi campus, which is located in a neighbouring village.
The Jamadianle school is where it all began, but with a rapid influx of new pupils they have been forced to rent more rooms to act as makeshift classrooms. This means that a lot of UAC's income is spent on rent instead of on materials, teachers salaries and innovative new programmes.
The classrooms are small and stuffy too, and it is a very busy part of Buea where the noise can be quite intrusive and not the best when you're trying to learn the alphabet. Also there is a mad, crabby old guy who lives in the school who shouts at all the kids, it doesn't feel like a school to me. It is temporary and i guess that every good thing must start somewhere.
By 2011, they aim to have the entire population of the school in Buitingi, including more kids from the surrounding villages attending as well.
At the moment there are 9 big, spacious classrooms built with another 11 in the pipeline. There are also plans to construct a proper fun playground for the kids, which would be superb. They also will be:
1. Larger and brighter classrooms, with Corner Room materials in each room.
2. Corner rooms packed with learning materials and a computer workstation.
3. Vocational training centre.
4. More and better toilet facilities.
4. A gardening space.
5. An office space for school administration and UAC staff.
6. A staff room.
7. A community hall.
The whole environment is will generally be far more conducive to learning and a much more peacful place to be.
It doesn't come for free however and they need assistance to buy more land and building materials.
Here is how you can help:
And by clicking on the star project on the right.
Tuesday, 5 February 2008
I've slighty over-budgeted in some cases cause it's like playing monopoly here, sometimes money flies out your pocket. Who said Scottish people were tight?.
It is evident that if i finally quit smoking it would greatly de-preciate my spending, but i think this has been accurate of my spending so far.
The food and drink are bought because i've discovered soya sticks, which are beef on a stick basically served with a tongue busting spice, it's delicious but must be consumed with either a coke or a beer. They go down great for when yams are on the menu at the Orock house. I also like to have a wee ice cream when the sun is trying to melt my will to live.
- WATER - 4000 CFA
- PHONE - 4000 CFA
- INTERNET - 2000 CFA
- FOOD/DRINK - 5000 CFA
- TAXIS - 1000 CFA
- BEER - 2000 CFA
- CIGARETTES - 5250 CFA
- MISC - 2000 CFA
= 25,250 CFA a week, which is basically 26 pound a week, more or less.
Volunteers should be aware that i've had to spend a lot of money to retrieve my bags from Douala and i had to buy a sim card, a battery and a charger for the phone i was given. You also have to pay 1000 CFA to get your passport copied. So there is a few costs here and there.
I hope this is of some benefit to anyone considering a stay in Cameroon. It's also going to be a benefit to me as it's made me look at my spending, cigarettes still dominate my expenditure like back home, even though here it's only 5 pound a week. Even still i'm going to stop.
Cameroon won against Tunisia last night, the game went to extra time cause Eto'o was a bit selfish at one point thus passing the opportunity to finish it in 90 minutes. It was a great game though and i went to bed with the sounds of celebrations and car horns at midnight.
I hope they make the final, they play the hosts Ghana in the semi's.
Monday, 4 February 2008
Mondays to fridays i spend in the secondary school at Buitingi from 8.30am till 2.30pm. However school sometimes starts a little late as it is always a bit chaotic transporting 150 kids in three small mini-buses. The most kids i've counted in one bus has been 39 plus the driver and me. Dangerous doesn't even begin to describe it.
I'm with the class 5's who are a proper cheeky wee bunch, but who are absolutely lovely. It's quite an experience teaching cause the stuff i'm teaching i have to teach myself first!! When we do maths in the morning, my word, lets just say that my long division is a little rusty. I genuinely thought i would never see a bloody fraction again too but i was sadly mistaken.
Then Paul makes me do the corrections with them on the board!!So i really have to make sure i've done them right. This is where my trusty calculator on my old nokia 3310 comes in handy. I'm happy to report that my answers are always right too, i'm sorry for boasting here but maths was never my strong suit, so forgive me.
However the kids, unlike me, are quite good at maths after a bit of practice. They just need to work on their times tables. I taught them the hand counting trick for the 9 times table which they absolutely loved. I'm sure they thought it was a kind of magic.
Then they have an hour break where rice or bread is invariably on the menu. Paul always gives me such a big portion which makes me feel guilty. I give it away to the kids when his back is turned and i have a banana or two.
After their food and they've finished their manic dashes round the playground (or building site/mudpile, whichever you prefer) they come in do english and geography. It's quite heartening to know that these kids are being taught the dangers of de-forestation and how best to look after the environment. I hope the message sinks in.
My afternoon is spent marking dog-eared books with wee kids looking over my shoulder to see how many ticks they've received. The bigger and grander the ticks the better. They love their books to come back looking like a Jackson Pollock painting.
On wednesday afternoons the whole secondary school goes into their art, drama and music groups. I'm going to be helping Steven teach the music class and i'm going to have the kids perform a show at the end of term party in March. This should be cool but unfortunately there is no intruments...this is where the improvisation comes in. I've made shakers out of old bottles filled with rice and beers bottles filled with different amounts of liquid (not beer) shall do as a xylophone, add a few buckets as makeshift drums and my guitar as accompliment and we've got a band. It should be wicked.
Also on friday afternoons i've aggreed with Paul that i can teach them for an hour on a subject of my choice. I think i'll start by teaching them about Scotland, then maybe a bit more basic geography so they know where Scotland actually is. Also i'll teach them about the planets and the solar system and cool stuff like that. And maybe dare i say it....evolution.
So thats my week in a nutshell. Plus all the school on wheels and the remedial reading programme. It's a pretty packed schedule.
I'm off to watch the Cameroon v Tunisia match now. If you can get it you should be watching the African cup of nations, it's amazing, sooo many goals.
Friday, 1 February 2008
Today is the 1st of february and it's national Bi-lingualism day here in Cameroon, a new government initiative to promote bi-lingualism in schools and throughout the country.
Bi-lingualism is the key to success and prosperity, according to all the posters everywhere.
At Jamadianle all the pupils put on plays about strength and honour, the art classes showed their fine works of art, a few nervous kids were ushered to give shaky speeches in french through an ear-piercingly loud sound system and the music class sung the Cameroon national anthem in both french and english. It was all quite sweet but the sun was baking hot so it didn't exactly make it comfortable to sit through.
Earlier in the day i went out for a walk with Ines, when i went to meet her at the internet cafe i noticed all the computers were gone and the doors locked up. Ines told me that the owner didn't pay the rent and a heavy mob moved in and threatened her and took all the computers as ransom till they get their money, so Ines is sadly out of a job and i am writing to you from a strange new internet cafe where chickens keep strolling round the room likes it's the most normal thing ever, well i tell you it's not normal, if anything it's bloody weird!!.
So i went for a wee drink with Ines and we discussed many things and i showed her my book i have on Scotland.
"what are these flowers in this field" she inquired.
"daffodils" I said, thankful that i knew the answer.
"wow, c'est beaux, but that's such a waste, you should only grow things that you can eat, they're beautiful but what a waste of such a big field" she said in her lovely french accent.
I suppose it is pretty strange, but so are chickens in a cyber-cafe.