Friday, March 6, 2009

Home at last!

It's good to be home! I was welcomed home with a sign and with balloons - thanks, Pat. Splendid! Then in the office I was welcomed with a sign and more balloons - thanks Liz. And thanks to Carolyn for treating me to bangers and mash (with onion gravy) at The Plough in St Asaph.

I shan't easily forget the places I saw, or, more importantly, the people I met, in Cameroon. I remain in touch with many of them.
The images here, from the top, are of the pattern of a local costume from North West Cameroon I was given by Godwin, and of the costume made by Mary. The bottom one needs no description!

Monday, March 2, 2009

A few photos

“Would you do it again?”

“Would you do it again?” is the question I’ve been asked more than once, when I start to tell of my experiences in Cameroon. The answer has to be, “Yes, certainly!” because, despite the challenges, this country has a lot going for it.

The opportunity to spend time in such a different culture will probably not arise again for me, and I don’t regret taking up the challenge.

What’s good about this place? Well, the food is abundant and very good on the whole, the climate is generally good, and you can soon get used to the heat.

What’s not so good? Unfortunately, the corruption has to be mentioned. Of course, there is corruption everywhere in the world, but in Cameroon, it has almost become an art form. “People are confident they won’t get caught”, a lawyer told me. The press contains stories almost every day about officials misappropriating funds, but very few are ever brought to justice.

I’m writing this in Yaoundé the capital where I’m spending a few days before flying back. It’s interesting to compare Bamenda and Yaoundé. The capital is much more developed in turns of its buildings, its roads and its businesses. I can now see why citizens of Bamenda complain about being neglected by the big cities. The differences are compounded by the language barrier or linguistic differences. As is the case in Wales, while the country is bilingual, not all its citizens are, so Yaoundé looks both privileged and foreign to Bamenda people.

I have met some extraordinary and committed people in this country, such as the volunteers for charitable organisations who do not even receive travelling expenses for their efforts. I have also met people who live in very difficult circumstances – no water or electricity, no lock on the door – who smile and take delight in simple pleasures.

Regarding religion I have met Bahais, one Buddhist and with Christians of all colours. Many of the Christians take the commitments of their faith seriously, but I have seen evidence of ‘religiosity’ too.
I had a really good meeting with the High Commissioner this morning. He gave me 45 minutes - more than I expected and after talking about my topic, we moved on to discuss place names and Celtic languages.
The pictures show Desiree who came in to see me especially on Saturday morning to give me a gift, then the market stall at Santa.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Final thoughts

My final workshop took place on Tuesday, on the topic of coaching and mentoring. There was a good take up, and every seat was full. People here have not become jaded as we are about events such as this. Indeed, people from the councils and the Civil Society Organisations took part with enthusiasm.

On Wednesday I was visited by a delegation from Bafut representing the epilepsy organisation CODEF. They were very kind, had bought a calabash of palm wine with them –and, most unexpectedly, a number of Cameroonian gifts. I really don’t think that I deserve them.

What conclusions can I draw about this vast, intriguing country after some eight weeks? I ought to say that I am fairly optimistic. This is a relatively peaceful country. Despite some disturbances a year ago, this is no powder keg ready to explode.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dicky TV and Electrical Repairs

A few more pictures of Cameroon, again. Sorry, Jayne, no lions or giraffes or elephants - although I have seen the last elephant shot in the North West.
These images are:
Parts of Rose's bar, Nkwen, Bamenda, with a gesture towards traditional construction!
Traditional hand-made bricks
A note in French from landlady Patricia warning clients of the consequences of ordering beer when they can't afford to pay for it
Dicky TV repairs.
The street outside the Dicky shop. It is wet, not after rain, but as a resault of putting their washing water out to keep down the dust.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Random thoughts

Cameroon is not the place to be if you are not fond of dusting. Dust everywhere. While I was in Bafut last Monday there was a tremendous rain shower, noisy and sudden, but Bamenda had to wait until last night (Saturday) for some rain to keep the red dust down.

Water is precious here. Some many people do not have water supplied to the house, and you see people, including children carrying ridiculously large canisters from the water taps in the street.

Thursday’s workshop went well, and the group of seventeen participants, including three from the councils took an active part in proceedings. It is interesting how groups seemingly put together at random can vary so much. The same presenter, more or less the same content, but this group was much more participative.

I’m trying at present to work out where I am against the budget for my project in Cameroon. That is easier said than done, because I’m faced with bewildering confetti of receipts and other scraps of evidence. Some traders do not give receipts, and the taxis never do. A further complication is that the sums seem huge. With 655 CFA francs to the euro at the official exchange rate, the figures soon become gigantic. I’m beginning to understand the term "creative accountancy"!

There’s something intriguing about funerals here. They are noisy affairs. The hearse has a flashing light on the top and a siren, and the vehicles following it sound their horns repeatedly, while playing loud popular music. The mourners hang out of the windows of their vehicles, shouting greetings to passers-by.
Sorry, no image of a noisy funeral, only of group-work and collecting water.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


On Monday I accompanied Kenneth, a representative of a Civil Society Organisation called CODEF on a visit to two people with epilepsy at Bafut. The first, Elizabeth, was sitting outside looking lifeless. She was wearing nothing on her top, and she had a recent, seemingly untreated burn wound on her right arm and shoulder. She had apparently had no medical treatment after falling in the fire, while having a fit, as she had on previous occasions. She had fallen into the open wood fire which is in the centre of the room, on this occasion when her widowed mother was out working in the fields.

The second epilepsy sufferer I visited was Evon, a young mother with twins of a year old. Sadly, she has not breastfed them, on advice from her mother, who fears that the epilepsy will be transmitted to the infants through their mother's milk. As a result the children are clearly malnourished.

I also had the opportunity of meeting a team of volunteers in the Bafut area, including the Deputy Mayor of Bafut, who have taken part in a survey of epilepsy in the region, recording some thousand names. The volunteers visit both the sufferers and their carers. Frequently people with epilepsy are socially isolated, and there , I'm sorry to say, a popular opinion that their health condition is caused by evil spirits. CODEF is trying to overcome this perception.
Epilepsy is not seen as a priority here, in the way that HIV / AIDS is. There is simply no provision. Even where drugs are prescribed (the only such drug seems to be phenobarbitone), they are not taken, because of the high costs, particularly in this poor area, which relies on subsistence farming.

You'll gather that I have been much moved by what I have seen and heard, and I am determined to do what I can on the personal level. so that the work of CODEF can continue and be expanded. A small sum goes a long way in an area like this.
On a lighter note I'll attach some recent images!