Sunday, November 1, 2009
Cameroon and Katie
Here in Garoua some children go
to school by motorcycle.It's not unusual
to see 3, 4, or in this case five people
on a "moto."
Finally made it to Cameroon and the reunion with Katie. We had an unexpected meeting when the vehicle I was traveling in drove right by Katie as we entered the driveway for the hotel. I called to the driver "Pull over, that's Katie!" I jumped out of the car, ran to her and we hugged each other intensely as tears spilled down my cheeks. A long anticipated moment had arrived and it was wonderful. Katie was traveling with her good friend and Peace Corps comrade Joanna. After checking into the hotel they took me around Garoua, the town where I was scheduled to do a performance that afternoon sponsored by the U.S. Embassy. Garoua is the capital of the North province of Cameroon. Katie's post is in Koza in the Extreme North, 6-10 hrs away, depending on a number of factors such as road condtions and volume sensitive bus schedules.
It was fun to see and here Katie conducting business in what sounded like very
comfortable French. She and Joanna really know their way around Cameroon.
Garouas streets were packed with people in motion. It seemed that motorcycles outnumbered cars by about 10 to 1. The "motos," as they are called, are combination taxi cabs, moving vans, school busses and rolling smokestacks. There are no emission standards in Cameroon but the "standard" emissions from the motos is plenty of smoke and fumes. You can see just about anything on the back of a moto. I saw people with goats, beds, tables, chickens, suitcases, guitars (that was me) sacks of grain, bicycles,lumber and much more. It's really amazing! In addition to a lack emission standards, there are no traffic rules, no stop signs or traffic lights. In America we drive on the right. In Ireland they drive on the left. In Cameroon they drive on both sides of the road. You have to see it to believe it. It's incredible that there aren't more accidents but the drivers have a surprisingly civil way to work all these negotiations out very peacefully. Roundabouts are common in the big towns and cities and the weaving in and out must look like an ant colony at that just ate discarded chocolate and absorbed an infusion of caffeine. I actually saw a cab driver pull a U turn in a busy roundabout. No one seemed to care.
To get from Garoua to Koza took us all day. Two bus rides packed like sardines in a 100 degree can, a 15 K bicycle ride, thoughfully arranged by Katie, and a 5K moto ride down the mountain in the dark and we were there. We were both asleep nder the mosquito nets by 9 pm that night.
Katie is doing well, living a very simple life in a mountain valley in the Extreme North. Northern Cameroon is semi-desert, where temperatures can reach 120 degrees and the earth is dry as a bone. Seasonal rivers dry up completely. Rainy season ended recently so things were not parched but even so they were very dry. Katie's house does not have running water or a bathroom. Water has to be hauled from the well and the only toilet is a latrine out back. Electricity is available but unreliable. No TV, no microwave, no shower (but bucket showers). It is a very basic lifestyle but she is handling it with commitment, grace and I think a sense of adventure.
I'll include some photos on a future posting.