Ok so I might have got the French phrasing wrong but I have arrived in Cameroon. This blog may get to you later than me actually writing it, that’s because, although we have wifi in the hotel, it comes and goes at leisure, this is Africa afterall.
Well my day started as usual full of drama.
Cameroon is not part of ECOWAS so you need a visa. It takes about 10 days, what we usually do is send a copy of our passport and then receive an order of mission to obtain a visa on arrival. Muggings here got the letter about 10 days ago and forgot to print it out, only remembered at around 11 o’clock last night so had to make a pit stop to print it out. I could have done it earlier in the day, when I went to collect my laptop, from the office, but yeah didn’t think of it then. So I went to the office, first the security guard was not at post and having lost my badge about 2 days after I was issued a new one stood outside for what felt like 10 minutes before someone who had gone to help himself to free coffee came down to let me in. I connected my laptop, took another 5 minutes to remember who exactly it was that sent the email, and then pressed print. Then ran up and down the corridor as the blasted thing wouldn’t print. It finally occurred to me to reboot the printer after having a bit of a hissy fit and finally got the letter and got to the airport.
I got to the airport about 20 minutes before check-in closed but the line was extra long. It looked like a small village in Nigeria (about the size of Accra), had come to a convention and were leaving that day. I know this airline being the way it is, they were bound to have overbooked and I really couldn’t afford to miss this flight as I had to connect at Lagos for Douala. Thankfully the company has a protocol officer who managed to get me on the flight with a few minutes to spare.
At the airport I met a colleague of mine, he’s an expat from Ivory Coast and we were going in the same direction. I was quite grateful for that as I have only been to Cameroon once and that was 2 years ago, plus the language barrier, knowing my luck I would have been sold off once I hit Douala International.
The flight to Lagos was unbelievable smooth. No bumps or delays, it was a 1 hour wait before we got the next flight so perched myself in a coffee shop where I watched American Idol until we were ready to go. Another long queue to get on the plane. We were there in the line when 2 Cameroonians started arguing. I don’t know what it was about but it was quite heated. “Tu es malade!!” one guy kept shouting, I gathered that when he told the guy he was sick he didn’t mean that the guy wasn’t feeling well. The attendant broke up the fight but you look at this kind of situation and you wonder why the white man is reluctant to issue the black man with a visa when this is how he acts when he travels.
It also got me thinking about the differences in the Francophone countries. If you are on the outside you think that they are all the same, but that’s like banding the Nigerians and the Ghanaians together. From what I can tell from my little interactions with them, the Ivorians are calm, but they speak their mind. They are lovers not fighters. They will open the door for you, carry your luggage and they have a way with words. The Cameroonians (and I am generalizing from my little interaction), they are men’s men. They can be quite sexist, a woman should know her place, and quite aggressive at that. The Togolese and the Beninians they say are quiet and if you cross one, they will kill you quietly too. The Gabonese on the other hand, they like women, well polygamy is legal (in both Gabon and Cameroon) so why not take advantage of that. But anyway, guys are guys in any event from whatever nationality so one can only pray that a good one comes along.
It was a bit of a bumpy landing. My heart did jump a bit, although not as much as it did when we hit turbulence, I had to say two hail Mary’s and an Our Father to stop me from freaking out. But we arrived safely. We were greeted by the driver, not too friendly, he was speaking English at first but it seemed like he was getting a bit weary after a while and just started speaking French whether you understood or not. It was quite amusing at some point as a colleague is here for 2 months from Nigeria and he kept saying “I don’t understand” and my guy didn’t even mind him, he made his statement now go and find out what I said. Thankfully as I said we had the Ivorian guy to translate.
I am now checked into the hotel, I have E! TV, it is dubbed in French so will watch that to assist me in learning. I’m sure I should be able to learn new words watching True Hollywood Story. In the meantime the English speaking programmes are CNN, African Movie Magic and MNET, I can leave with that. MNET alone will entertain me for the rest of today.