I was greeted at the bus station by Amelita – the best thing that has happened to me in Cameroon! Amelita is a long-term volunteer from the Philippines who has been here two-and-a-half years. She found and arranged my house, organized my work plan and lent me sheets, kitchen utensils and even made me dinner my first night in Belo.
In Bamenda we met about 10 volunteers living in and around the city for a relaxing evening of dinner and drinks. The volunteers are all great, with vast backgrounds, geographically and professionally. I realized how lucky I am to be living just one-to-two hours from good company, a wide range of food and beer – all of which I will not be expecting in Belo!After numerous visits around town on Monday, to places like the Private Medical Clinic, partner organizations and the famous PresCafe (famous to international volunteers because it is clean, has salads and real coffee and is full of foreigners, all of whom know each other!), we made the trip to my new home.
Taxis to Belo are even crazier than taxis elsewhere in Cameroon because not only do they squeeze four adults across the backseat (and with a couple big mamas plus children, this really makes things tight), they also squeeze four across the front, including the driver. One person sits in the driver’s seat with him, either on his left or right, depending on the person, and he has to change gears across people’s laps, between their legs or under their butts. Also, women are very likely to have newborn babies in their arms. My record for a taxi to Bamenda is 11 humans, an undetermined number of chickens and endless kilos of rice. Not to mention the ride I once took with seven goats (inside the car).My house is quite a palace. It has six bedrooms, three bathrooms and a huge foyer with 30-foot ceilings – not exactly the mud hut I was expecting! Although it sounds extravagant, it is actually empty and under construction, and sort of resembles a haunted mansion from a movie (especially when there is no electricity, which is quite often), so I close all the doors and keep to my bedroom upstairs, which has an ensuite and adjoining sitting room, as well as a balcony that looks over the mountains.
Basically I have everything I need – except running water! Luckily, I am very fortunate to have a 20 gallon tank on my porch that a local boy fills for me (which is also lucky because I have no idea where neighbours get their water – except that it seems to be quite a trek!).Some people say I may get water by March, others give a look that suggests I shouldn’t hold my breath. But I can’t really complain – yet (I’m sure I’ll begin moaning after six months without water). I am getting used to bucket baths – and being dirty.
Well, I didn’t move to Africa for running water and high-speed internet.
Some pics of my new digs