WORK: Hallelujah! The last two schools’ development plans were finally delivered to my boss last Friday but not without a little drama- a puncture as I was leaving for Maroua! On Wednesday of this week, one school changed its priorities completely, meaning a rewrite of several pages. Oh well, VSO did warn us that we would have to be flexible. The official launch of the plans will take place on Sat. 3rd May with the Inspector, school councils, PTAs, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. Now we move on to the really hard bit – helping the schools reach their priorities for the first
year of their plans.Three schools want at least two classrooms each and the other wants a well. They all think money will fall out of trees and they will have all they want by the start of the new school year. Terrifying.
One teacher, a young married man with a child, is in deep trouble (a) with the law and (b) with the parents of the girl who is expecting his child. When his adultery was discovered, he was locked up by the police but now he must pay a fine to the parents of his new girlfriend for “spoiling” their daughter. Everything will be fine after that. Another teacher’s father was taken away by the gendarmes after trying to kill his wife with a dagger. She had left him because of his drinking. (I get all the gossip from Godam).
Home: Fridge no. 6 soldiers on – we water it at night to keep it cool! 2 burners and the knob for the oven are malfunctioning this week and I am left with the alternatives of running round the hospital houses borrowing an oven or turning my own on with pliers. When I complained, Jutta, she who must be obeyed, told me that she had to keep hers closed with a stool for years!
Water is now coming out of the cold tap at 39C by afternoon.
A couple of weeks ago my plastic basin developed a hole. I did what I would have done at home and went out and bought another one.When Lydia(the cook who can’t) saw it, she was horrified and marched me to market to have my damaged one repaired.It’s not pretty but it
worked for the equivalent of 15p. You can see the end result in the attached photo!
Market is still full of mangoes of all sizes – this week’s recipe: mango and cinnamon bread. We have also tried okra and fried plantain, bought in Maroua – much too exotic to be here. Have also been brave enough to try lettuce where all sorts of intestinal troubles lurk. It has to be washed, soaked in a weak bleach solution and then rinsed in filtered water. Not sure it’s worth the effort.
Our guard’s wife had their fourth baby in the hospital last week.Little Alain was delivered at and mum walked 6km home an hour later.
Random Thoughts: Try explaining a fax machine in a foreign language to someone who does not have electricity. A “Beam me up, Scotty” moment.
Children (and most adults) here have never seen an apple.
Lydia’s husband earned 138,000 CFA(about £150 pounds) for his cotton harvest last year.He spent 130,000 on a cow.The cow died. He cried.
We have all heard of Franglais but here they speak Camfranglais. Very helpful.
Here, a bottle of water is dearer than a bottle of beer.
When you stay in a hotel here, the fairies automatically wash your car overnight – you don’t get that even in 5-star establishments at home.
Work in the hospital goes on at a fairly constant pace. Having said that, apparently this is normally a hectic time for the theatre staff with lots of folk looking for “routine” surgery (e.g. hernia repairs). After the harvest is over, and before the planting season starts at the end of May, they have time for such matters. This year, however, the harvest has been so poor and the price of cotton so low that few people have spare cash to spend on non urgent surgery. This could have an impact on the hospital as such surgery is a major source of income. The hospital no longer gets any external funding (formerly there was financial support from the European Baptist Mission) and has to be self financing. We’re all having to be very careful to make sure the patients get charged for everything that’s done –
there’s even a 1p charge for the bit of paper we write the bill on!
Talking of harvest, last Sunday was Harvest Thanksgiving here. There had been a plea for money with envelopes for donations being delivered to all and sundry, then on Sunday each group processed in turn to the front of the church and the pastor announced how much they’d contributed. I had to go up with the group from the hospital, very embarrassing, especially doing the soft shoe shuffle they perform as they make their way slowly down the aisle! The final total was 440,000 francs (around £440) – an astonishing sum given that a “good” salary here can be as little as 10,000 francs a month. The money will be used for refurbishment of the church.
The Cameroonians love a fête and 1st May is no exception. Normally employers pay for their staff to have a tee-shirt for the day and for transport to the nearest big town for the "défilé", but the UEBC (our employer) said they couldn't afford it this year so we had a simple get together of the staff here in Zidim - food, drink and dancing, all very jolly. Anne even had a go at carrying a heavy pot as the African women do – on her head (see photo). Highlight was when the newly appointed hospital administrator, Michel who is normally a very sedate dignified guy, wanted to celebrate his new post “Grand Prix” style. Since there was no champagne, a bottle of beer was used instead – very messy! Since 1st May was a Thursday and close to the weekend, Friday becomes a public holiday as
well – it’s written in the law here, according to God Damn!
There’s been a bit of a change in the weather with signs that the rainy season will be with us soon. On three occasions we have had torrential rain preceded by very strong winds. Although not much, it has been enough to encourage shoots to appear on trees and bushes. There are even some patches of green where the grass is beginning to grow again. A variety of exotic birds can be seen now – we’ve asked our daughter, Shona, to bring a book on West African birds with her when she comes next month. We have also had a taste of how quickly the dirt road can become a quagmire – soon the shortest route (all 23 Km of it) to the main tarmac road for Maroua will become impassable.
Finally, I really think I could have a career here as a handyman. Our girls will tell you that DIY stands for Destroy It Yourself. Well, the attached photos show some random “professional” repairs around our house; door catches made from bent nails and Anne’s repaired basin. Think I could do as good a job!