4.03.2014

I've a Feeling We're Not in Lomie Anymore

Badjouma-Centre // aka, the free petting zoo of Cameroon
I write this post in Garoua as tears well in my eyes as the bus I was suppose to leave Garoua for Bertoua on pulls away…without me on it. But that’s not why I’m crying. In fact, I couldn’t care less that I’m stuck at this bus station in Garoua for a few hours more as someone else sits in the seat that I reserved on that luxurious VIP bus – it gives me a few more hours to enjoy the Northern heat and its succulent mangoes before I head back down to Yaoundé for medhold (I gave the Dja Rainforest 5 days of my life and my blood, sweat and tears – literally – and all it gave me was MRSA and a few large boils). I’m crying because for the first time in five weeks, I won’t be traveling with Spencer, and for the first time in nearly a week and a half, I’ll be leaving the hospitable and welcoming North region that has shown me nothing but kindness, love, and hospitality.

It’s been an exciting, adventure –filled and busy month of travels and it’s coming to an end with a 24 hour bus ride and medhold for the 3rd time in 6 months. Where to begin on my Northern escapades?! Spencer and I took the bus from Lomié to Bertoua on the 20th and the trip rendered us looking like victims of the world’s worst spray tan due to the dirt along the road. I showed Spencer around the tiny regional capital of Bertoua and together we enjoyed some Chadian biftek, smoothies, and pizza while reminiscing over the highlights and lowlights of camping in the rainforest.

The next morning, after waiting for our bus to leave for nearly 3 hours, we finally left and began the 7-8 hour journey from Bertoua to Ngoundere. The landscape outside the window quickly changed from the typical forested landscape and red mud houses to a more Adamawa-esque appearance with sparse trees and brown mud houses. At the Central African Republic border crossing in the village of Garoua-Boulaï, Spencer and I were kicked off the bus for ‘law infringement’ – our crime: traveling with outdated citizenship cards by 1 day. After some yelling, bickering, and persuading, Spencer and I talked our way back on the bus – much to our relief. The bus continued onward through Rachel’s post of Lokoti and Colleen’s post of Meiganga. After our brief stop in Meiganga and after half the bus emptied out, we continued. Not long after the bus started moving an old man began kicking a young lady in the same row as him but the woman’s young son got the brunt of the abuse. Sadly the guy chose the wrong moment to physically abuse this woman because there were about 5 gendarmes outside who then boarded the bus, yelled at the man, and dragged him to the last row as we held back laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

We arrived in Ngoundere a bit too late to travel to Garoua, so we headed to the case, unloaded our things, enjoyed some shawarma, beer, and chai and then collapsed back at the case – exhausted after an all day bus ride. The next morning we took an early bus to Garoua and over the next 5 hours I saw the landscape change once again from the brown Adamawa dirt to the tan Northern sands and the horizon speckled with mountains. It was beautiful…and HOT. Not riding the bus with the windows open made for very hot and stagnant air, but riding with the windows open can only be compared to having a blow-dryer blow hot air at your face. Neither is ideal.

Cattle Market in Pitoa

Two days were spent lounging around in Garoua, swimming at Hotel Benoue, enjoying good food, and spending time with the North volunteers. Sunday afternoon was spent at Cody, Kate, and Clare’s post of Pitoa looking around the market, pretending to buy cows from the wealthy Fulani cattle herders, and enjoying some great folérè sauce and chai.

On Monday we headed to Badjouma-Centre and were greeted by Spencer’s village with cheers, clapping, and shouts of ‘Bien arrive!’ After unpacking, Moussa Dala, Spencer’s jovial counterpart, led us to the weekly market and bought us a bucket (yes, a bucket) of bilibili – millet beer. The bilibili was actually quite tasty despite being warm and resembling vomit before it is mixed. After several calabashes of beer we headed to Spencer’s landlord’s house for dinner. We enjoyed folérè with rice couscous balls and when we were finished we laid back on the prayer mats in silence and watched the stars as our food settled. This nightly routine of enjoying food with Sali and star gazing in his compound was likely one of my favorite aspects of the trip.

Bilibili
Every day followed somewhat of a routine. We always went to eat breakfast with Medina, a larger than life woman who makes corn beignets, potatoes, and hamham – a soup-like mixture with peanut butter balls mixed in. Breakfast with Medina, star gazing dinners with Sali, and lunches were always 40 cents worth of market tofu or beef. Oh, and did I mention that it’s mango season?! Oh those succulent mangoes were perhaps one of the highlights of the North as well.

Medina's beignets, potatos and hamham

Up North it is currently hot season…and really, it’s hot. By hot I mean it was 122 during the day and 90s at night. We made our beds outside given that the house merely collected heat during the day. Afternoons were unbearable so they were usually spent reading in what little shade we could find. Other points in the day we’d walk around village and pet small animals such as goats, sheep, and donkeys and in the afternoon we'd stand at the compound door and watch as dozens of large cows were herded right past Spencer's door. Badjouma-Centre has more animals than a zoo and all are free to pet. Needless to say, I picked up and cuddled my fair share of baby goats.

Cute Baby Goats
Wednesday we took a moto to Mbé, a village 15 minutes away, to walk around their market and visit the Lamido. On our way to Mbé, several of Badjouma’s ‘traditional guards’ were boarding motos with their bows and arrows to head to the dry riverbed – what they are protecting Badjouma against with bow and arrows is quite unclear. Mbé is known for having the largest bilibili market, with hundreds of people gathered under a single large tree, all sipping on their warm beer ensemble. We went to visit the Lamido, but were told by Spencer’s landlord who is also the Lamido’s brother, that the Lamido was busy. Actually, his exact words were 'The Lamido is busy doing...traditional practices', but the Lamido confessed days later that he was indeed napping, as we suspected! But visiting Mbé was nice and it was fun to see other villages up North.

The rest of the week was spent cleaning Spencer’s – ahem – dirty house. Hundreds of spider’s had made their homes in every corner of the house, thousands of small dead maggots were trapped behind a trunk and provided food for hundreds of termites. Spencer screamed like a girl at the sight of the termites feasting on the dead maggots, but he really had nobody to blame but himself since he killed the maggots with spray months ago but never cleaned them up. I seized the opportunity to scare Spencer on several occasions given his already skittish behavior by screaming and pretending like I found large insects in various corners of his house – to which he always responded by screaming and running out into his yard. While it may be cruel to take advantage of his skittishness, I considered it my reward for cleaning his place.

Mbe's Bilibili market
The rest of the days were spent with either one of us being sick – me with a cold for a few days, then 
Spencer with some mystery illness, and then me again with MRSA and boils. Fun times. Regardless of our medical mishaps, the time spent up North was beautiful, relaxing, and a much needed refresher from the derange-y and harassing Grand South. I shall miss the traditional guards, the goats, the sheep, and the very squeaky wamday (donkey in Fulfulde) that lived outside of Spencer’s compound. More than anything, I’ll miss the kindness that everyone showed me, the politeness of the North (I got called Madam and not a prostitute like in the East!), the hospitality, and all the new friends I made in Badjouma-Centre. I can’t wait to visit again.

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous4.4.14

    WOW!!!! All this sounds so amazing! Karen you are such an inspiration to us all!! This Spencer guy sounds freakin' sweet, I really enjoyed reading about him. You should write more about him each week and include cool photos of him and stuff. Also, I suggest you adding like personal information on him like his favorite foods, TV shows and movies.

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  2. Henry Flowingsworth4.4.14

    Ya I totally agree anonymous!! Spencer sounds so cool and fun to be around!!! Could you put up a link so we can contact him?

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  3. Boils and MRSA? This concerns me but it sounds like you're having so much fun. I'll take some mangoes:-) Love you.

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