Anne’s news 17/4/08
WORK: Plans 3 and 4 are grinding slowly towards completion. One school is delaying because there is to be a fete for the Mofou tribe on Saturday and they can’t be expected to think of anything else until that is over.
Officially school started back after the Easter hols. on Monday, 14th but the doors are still closed. Any children who turn up are sent home. Apparently it takes an extra week to get everyone back and there’s no point in rushing things!
HOME: Had a “Gone with the Wind” moment this week when Rhett and I sat down to buttered yams. Mango juice on the menu too. Locals are eating their mangos skin and all. Not managing that but have copied the children by scraping the flesh off the skin with teeth. Definitely the best way-the sweetest bit is just under the skin. Try it!
VILLAGE LIFE: Although the river has looked dried up for months, people have still been able to dig a hole which filled up with water for dishes or clothes washing. Over the last 2 weeks even that “luxury” has disappeared and there are dozens of people round each well or forage(covered well) patiently waiting their turn. Animals get whatever is left of the day’s supply after the humans’ needs have been met.
GD: Godam and his wife were recently summoned to appear before his father and uncles to explain why they only have one three- year- old child. Fortunately he and his wife are united in wanting to wait for greater financial security before producing more children. His father does not understand their point of view. After all, he has had 9 children and no steady income like Godam. The fact that father expects financial assistance from Godam to feed his siblings doesn’t seem to come into the equation. I almost feel sorry for him. The meeting ended with all the men sharing Kola - a nut that is said to contain a natural drug - and everyone parted amicably.
An average visit to the bank:
8.30am -Enter bank. Queues at two cash desks. Length of queue has no bearing on length of time you will wait. Obediently wait behind yellow sign which says, “Wait Here”. Plenty of room - everyone else is in front of it! Eventually attract clerk’s attention to get withdrawal slip. Check that it is not a deposit slip (caught that way before). Fill in number of 10,000, 5,000, 1,000, 500 and 100 franc notes/coins I want, figures and words, name, address, DOB, mother’s maiden name, passport no., husband’s inside-leg measurement etc. Finally get to clerk. She has no 100 franc coins. I will have to go to the next desk. As clerks are hermetically sealed into glass boxes to avoid corruption, there is no question of one clerk passing coins to another. Queue again at next
guichet. Next problem: VSO has not deposited my salary on time and I do not have enough funds to meet my request.
Solutions: 1. Go to see Manager(Life’s too short!)
2. Fill in other form for smaller amount
Chose option 2. To keep it simple, asked for 60 x 1,000CFA notes. Clerk deposits (slowly after leaving guichet for some unexplained minutes) a stack of notes in front of me and tells me to “crier” them. By now I am pretty frustrated and can’t imagine why I would have to cry/shout my notes. Eventually he gets it through to the half deaf nasara that I have to “trier”(sort and discard any really tattered ones). The clerk is now wide eyed in alarm as customer bangs head on shelf. (Hamish is only mildly surprised). When I announce that I will take my notes un-triéd, two hands shoot from hermetically sealed box to snatch them back. An undignified tussle ensues. He wins while I whimper in a corner. One hour after entering the bank, I left, a sadder and wiser woman. Hamish cleverly decided not
to open an account. Next time I went back to see the same young man to show there were no ill feelings, he gave me a lecture on patience and took somebody in front of me.
I WILL NEVER COMPLAIN ABOUT THE CLYDESDALE BANK AGAIN!
Rumour has it that our coordinator has found a locum to cover Anne Poppelaars’ maternity leave. He’s a retired Cameroonian doctor, so it looks like it will be a real pair of old buffers keeping this outfit going!
Francois (Anne P’s husband) has had a really rough time of it. He’s still in hospital at Meskine after breaking his thigh bone on Hogmanay. After three months lying on his back with the leg in traction, the fracture had still not united. Last week they took him to theatre and put a plate in. In the developing world such surgery is generally avoided as the risk of infection is very high, but in Francois’ case, there was no option. Already he’s been out of bed for the first time this year, so here’s hoping all goes well.
Last weekend we escaped to Maga, a village on the side of an artificial lake. The lake is huge – 10 x 24 Km and was built some 25 years ago with funding from Europe. It supports a substantial fishing industry as well as providing water for irrigation. The hotel in the village was very comfortable, complete with a swimming pool and interesting wildlife in the grounds – see the attached photo of a gazelle. On Sunday we hired a “pirogue” (canoe) for a tour of the lake including sight of the hippos. We were lucky enough to see 26 of them together and one huge beast made a spectacular dash through the water – again see attached photos.
This could become a favourite place to escape to as it is very peaceful. Unfortunately, the hotel will be closed during the rainy season – from the end of May to the end of October.
Talking of the rainy season, the locals are saying it’s about to start. There’s certainly been a noticeable increase in humidity in the last couple of days. That will see the start of the malaria season, and there’s no doubt that’s the biggest killer here.
Looking after AIDS patients is a real challenge with enormous obstacles to overcome. The first is their lack of money for the essential blood tests. Then there are the huge distances many of them have to travel to get to our clinic. If we need to send blood to Maroua (for the technically minded, that’s for the CD4 count), we have to take the blood off at 7am on the day we send it, and the lab will only accept bloods from Zidim on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since most folk don’t have watches, calendars or any other means of keeping track of time & date, arranging a rendezvous is quite a task! Patience is definitely a requisite for living and working here!
Best wishes to everyone back at home.