Monday, January 19, 2009

Visit to Douala by the sea





Over the weekend I went to stay with Victor Nto Nto and his wife Ndome Julette Ebongue in the port city of Douala. It was a long journey, with Vatican Express, a curiously misnamed company in more than one way. The route is through beautiful country, the road being fine in some places and very poor in others.

Victor and Julette live in very modest circumstances, but they shared with me what little they have. It was a privilege to share their lives, albeit briefly. They have very few possessions, no computer, no car, no hot water for washing themselves and no luxuries except a black-and-white television. Victor earns the tiny salary of a schoolteacher, and Julette is unemployed, in a society where there is no social security system. Ah, the next time I hear teachers in Wales complain about anything, I’ll get very cross. I made a brief visit to the school where Victor teaches. The classrooms have no windows and a bare uneven clay floor. The pupils sit on long wooden benches. The only audio-visual method is chalk and talk.


I was able to hear some fine live music in Douala. I’m collecting languages like mad, and at one cabaret the songs were sung in Douala and Erewondo.

Worrying that I might fall prey to sundry ne’er-do-wells, Victor put me in the care of a soldier riding shotgun on the return journey, in the way that you might put a small child in the care of a guard on a train. This soldier took his duties very seriously shadowing me and enquiring how I was from time to time. He felt his country’s reputation was at stake. This big man even bought me a beer. On this very long weary 7½ hour trip from Duala to Bamenda, at a refuelling stop, I ate grilled goat’s meat, served in a piece of old newspaper. Very tasty, until I went round to the back of the stall, where the goat’s head and feet were laid. The head seemed to reproach me.


Today I went to meet the mayor of the nearby town of Santa. That reminds me of some other strange place names. On the road between Yaoundé and Bamenda is a village called Tonga. There’s also a place called Bali. And don’t mention Menchum.

The pictures here (from the top) are of:
1. My bodyguard on the bus. You wouldn't argue with him!

2. Victor's sister washing clothes in cold water in their courtyard. Her smile says it all.

3. View of Victor's school and a classroom

4. Lizard in Douala

5. Boatmen ferrying dredged sand on the river at Douala

7 comments:

lucy said...

fter meeting the goat any thoughts of becoming a vegetarian?!!!

Elinor Chapman said...

Tehehe.... gosh it almost makes me want to revert to my vege ways.
Sounds soooo exciting Dad! Miss you, eli x

Brian Barker said...

Hi Bill

By the look of your body-guard the shot gun seemed essential!

Heather/Eriketo said...

Saluton Bill! Interesegaj rakontoj!. Ĉion bonan en via daŭriganta aventuro en Kameruno.

Really interesting! Best wishes for your ongoing Cameroonian adventures...

sec said...

Fabulous picture of the lizard (?). I hope you didn't eat that too.

Bill Chapman said...

Dankon pro la kuraĝigaj vortoj, Heather! Mi revenis hemen iom laca post vizito vere tro mallonga al Dualo. La aŭtobuso forlasis la stacion je 11.30, kvankam mi devis esti tie jam je la oka por planita forveturo je 09.00. Dum la longa (7½-hora) vojaĝo, eksplodis brue unu pneŭmatiko! Plue mi sentis ĉiun trueton en la ŝoseoj.
Efektive, mi sentas nun ke du tagoj de vojaĝado por unu plena tago de aktiveco estas iom tro por mi. La busaj seĝoj estis negrandaj, kaj mankis spaco por miaj grandaj ostoj. Nun miaj genuoj doloras SED mi tute ne bedaŭras la aventuron. Kaj mi intencas refari tion post du semajnoj.
Ekkoni Victor persone estis tre granda plezuro por mi. Ankaŭ estis bone renkonti lian edzinon (laŭ loka tradicio kaj la "komuna leĝo", sed ne jam laŭ ŝtata dokumento). Mi loĝis en ilia tre modesta eĉ fizike mizera loĝloko, manĝante kun ili afrikan manĝaĵon. Ili vere gastigis min plenkore. Mi preskaŭ ploris pro ilia mizera, malfacila stato, sed ili estas pozitivaj, ridemaj homoj. Mi havis la honoron viziti la familiajn (gepatrajn) hejmojn de ambaŭ, ricevante ian komprenon pri la ĉiutaga vivo de kamerunanoj.
Entute mi rekontis la sekvajn esperantistojn: Ndome Julette EBONGUE (edzino de Victor, Victor NTO NTO, Jean BALASA, Chamberline NGUEFACK ZEDONG, kaj la Del de UEA Jean-Marie MBOGE MBELE.

Elinor Chapman said...

A colleague at worked had just commented on the goat meat thing. "At least he knows it was fresh".,...which is True!!! Eli xx