Sunday, December 25, 2005

A visit from home.....!

These past few weeks have been super busy what with World AIDS day, the end of the first term in school, and to top it off a visit from my big sis!

At the start of this month, preparations were busily underway for World AIDS day on 1st December. In our school we have a Health club of which myself and Sardi are the supervisors. The club recruits peer educaters from various classes in the school (we have 23 in total) whose role it is to run sessions in different classes on a Wednesday afternoon on a topic we have chosen as a club the previous week, for example fidelity, abstinence, condom use etc. On the actual day we stopped lessons at 12 so that the peer educatorss could do their stuff in every class and then in the evening we organised a round table conference at the town hall where we discussed the international theme for the day: 'STOP AIDS: KEEP THE PROMISE'. This seemed to work really well and the discussion was well animated. There were some rather amusing questions however, not least the idea of whether if you don't have a condom, you can substitute it with a plastic bag??!! Not quite sure of the logisitics of that one so suffice to say we advised against it!

The other major event this month was the arrival of my lovely sister who came laden down with chocolate goodies that were scoffed in the first 2 days of her stay! I'd forgotton how much I do actually like eating! To begin with I don't think she really knew what I was talking about when I said that fruit and veg are non exisitant here. Her arrival in Douala and her subsequent 3 day journey up to Moutourwa was filled with juicy oranges, fresh avocado baguettes and the like led her to believe that my estimations of the food situation were rather exaggerated. A week into her stay in the Extreme North however and she had soon come round to my way of thinking! There are only so many tomatoes you can eat before your body starts rejecting it even if it is the ONLY veg available. Not quite sure what happens in March when apparently even the tomatoes finish!How everyone here isn't severely aneamic I'll never know! Em did manage to rustle up some good concoctions whilst she was here mind you, such as tomato pasta, tomoato salad, tomatoes 'simple' i.e raw.

Whilst the novelty of the white woman in the village is slowly diminishing, it's definately not gone away and so what with two of us here you can imagine that the interest was that bit more elevated, especially considering the fact that everyone thought we were twins!! Unfortunately for me, everyone also thought that Emma was at least 2 years younger than me rather than the inverse....someone even thought she was only 18! I've decided that the sun has aged me! It was recognised on the positive side however that, compared to Em, I wasn't actually very white and that I had become, in my friend's words 'Africanised!'

With it being the holidays we were able to do our tourism bit despite the onset of a few bouts of illness along the way! The VSO conference took place during her stay so we made the 9hr trip down to Ngaoundere (fortunately in the air con VSO car rather than the bumpy bus) for four days only to spend the majority of it in bed with food poisining after eating in the hotel the first night we arrived! The luxuries of an ensuite indoor flushable toilet were definately not lost on us!

A volunteer who’s based in the south has come up to Maroua to visit after the conference so we arranged with him and his friend to hire a 4x4 and go on safari! About 2hours north of Maroua is Waza National Park, supposedly the best national park in West and Central Africa. We though now was a good time to do the tourist bit as the dry season is very much upon us and therefore the roads in the park are accessible and not water logged. After slightly oversleeping, managed to get to the park by 845am, before picking up the guide and entering the vast landscape. We hadn’t even been in there for 5 minutes before we spotted a herd of giraffes! All very exciting, and we were contentedly snapping away. Four hours and lots more giraffes later and the excitement was wearing thin considering this was the only bloody animal we had seen! There are only so many pictures you can take of a bleedin giraffe and his mates! Fortunately the landscape was really beautiful which distracted us from the fact that there were no animals to be seen…..so much for my image of lions, elephants, hippos etc. We did see an antelope at one point and some water hogs too (which reminded me of Pumba in the Lion King) which were cool but not quite the African safari I had envisaged! After lunch (consisting of dry bread as our plans to bring a picnic were scuppered by our tardiness!) , we heard on the grape vine that elephants had been spotted which lifted all our spirits and we felt very Richard Attenborough-esque driving at high speeds in our truck following the elephant tracks. Two hours later and still no elephants to be seen and the fruitless adventure was cessing to be as exciting! A collective decision was made at 4pm to abandon the search and head home as night falls early here and the roads out of the park are not exactly easy to navigate! Just as were exited the park we were told that elephants had been spotted very recently at a place where we had been in the morning, not too far from the entrance. We decided to make one last attempt to find them and zoomed off at high speeds in search. This time fortunately we weren’t to be disappointed and sure enough,, down by the watering hole were a family of three; mother, father and baby, Very cute indeed. On exiting the park we also came across a group of different types of monkeys and game and we suddenly felt as though we’d actually been quite successful in our pursuits! Not quite like a Kenyan safari I’m sure but the fact that it was so non touristy made it all the more authentic, even if the animals were a bit camera shy this time round! Apparently my school is organising a trip there in January time so I’m hoping to have a bit more success that time round!

We’re heading back to the village today ready for the festivities tomorrow. Today is my neighbour’s birthday so we have been invited to her party this afternoon which I’m very excited about as party’s here mean lots of yummy Cameroonian food and dancing! Tomorrow being Christmas Day, Em and I are going to head over to the Church to see how they celebrate as we’ve heard that the atmosphere is excellent which is only t be expected what with all that practise the kids have been putting in for the past month! I’ve been told that Christmas is a bit like the end of Ramadan where you go to house to house visiting people. This time round I intend to ration how much I eat and drink in each person’s house however so as not to end up like a big bloated whale with five galloons of fizzy pop inside me! It’s also Fodjo’s birthday tomorrow so we will be having a double celebration. Evening activities will consist of yet another infamous soiree in the village so we’ll see how that pans out!

Hope you all have a merry Christmas. Miss you lots xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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