Well I'm here, after a long journey - a what a shock to the system! I thought I was well-travelled, but yesterday I was ready to get the next plane home...
PLAY IT AGAIN SAM
After two flights via Casablanca (both delayed) I finally touched down in Douala, Cameroon. As we landed early in the morning I could see vast stretches of rainforest and snaking tributaries, followed by the nowadays ubiquitous stretches of palm oil plantations. The airport was as I expected, hot hot hot! After filling in forms and passing through (breath held in case my visa was not correct) I entered the steaming chaos of the baggage hall; luckily I had been prewarned and was ready to deflect the offers of "help" from the various men lurking around. Apparently they help you with your bag and then demand around 50 euros for their trouble! So I was steaming hot after wearing various layers of clothing for a British frosty winder, and kept peeling off layers until decency prevented me from taking off any more! I was victorious in my discovery of a trolley and managed, eventually to get both my large bags. A man followed me to "Nothing to declare" and took his opportunity to pounce when the grumpy customs woman started going on at me and of course I had no idea what she was on about! I eventually realised she wanted me to open my bags. Honestly, is the art of mime dead?! She rifled through without actually looking, not noticing the gorilla, chimp and monkey puppets stashed in my luggage...
I managed to shake off the demanding man and with one last super human effort squeezed myself out of the door away from the steaming mass of humanity. With relief I spotted Jacques my taxi driver holding the wonderful sign bearing my name.
LIMBE WILDLIFE CENTRE
It only took 1.5 hours to get to Limbe and we went straight to the wildlife centre. I met Simone who co-ordinates the volunteers and she showed me round. The first animals I encounted were the wonderful gorillas. And wow you should see the mandrils!!!! Their pink and blue bottoms positively GLOW with colour. Amazing. Can't wait to photograph all these wonderful animals.
Anyway, after a while I was left to my own devices. I felt in no man's land as everyone was busy and I had hardly slept but I couldn't go to the volunteer house yet and so couldn't unpack or anything. I was feeling very emotional and realised just how much I was missing Martin and what a wonderful rock he is in my life. I felt as though I was missing a limb, it was so very painful. And I missed my dear pussies too...
Eventually Simone took me by car to the volunteer house which is only 10 minutes' walk. We unloaded my luggage and proceeded to unlock various gates and doors in order to actually get in the house itself. I was hearted to meet a dear little pussy cat who lives in the house, well more specifically, outside the house as he is not allowed in. So sweet :)
I was introduced to a girl called Sandi who was very welcoming. After unpacking a bit and making my double bed I managed a shower ( when I arrived there was no water which is a constant occurance) Then crashed out for an hour or so.
Sandi was so kind and offered to show me round the town and take me for supper. You see I was very nervous and unsettled and this was just what I needed; a friendly face who showed great kindness. Sandi is a very interesting character; I think she volunteered in Limbe for over a year, that's how much she loves it. And she was also working with CWAF also in Cameroon. She told me the story of how she was given the tremendous priveledge and responsibility of being Mum to a baby chimp for I think it was 5 months. He clung to her all day and every day and she tended to his needs. She only managed to untangle him when he fell asleep...anyway she said that he became very ill and they tried to get some medicine from the vets but it was too late and he died in her arms. Oh my gosh, what a story. But we agreed that even if his dear life was short that at least he had a lovely time with Sandi, it was a life of quality and love. I told her it was good that she was with him at the end.
Anyway, after showing me round Limbe we met some of the others for a drink and then went to a restaurant for their famous pork and chips. But by this stage I was an emotional wreck, feeling so terribly homesick and missing Martin dreadfully. And on top of all this Sandi said that someone tried to mug her, by stealing her bag as they passed on a motorbike. She also said that some boys had been banging on the gate of the house. And when I enquired about washing my clothes I was told that if I hang them out to dry then a certain fly will lay its eggs in my clothes and when I wear them the eggs will hatch under my skin...happy days...but if you
a hang your clothes inside
b iron them
c wait three days to wear them
Then you will be fine. !!! Then I was told that the food will be spicey and difficult to digest, so what with the food, the lack of water, missing Martin and my family and cats, muggings and finally the last straw of flies hatching under my skin I felt utterly desolate...and then I was told about the local men who will make a beeline for you and be very amorous...
Anyway, are you still with me?
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
Sandi knew I was upset and very kindly took me to the internet place so I could email home as I was having trouble texting. Was so very frustrating receiving a text from my dear sister Annie and not being able to reply or send one at all.
I emailed Dad, Annie and Martin and told them of my plight. I asked Dad to look into flights for me so I could return home asap. I confided about this to Sandi and she said that that would be a shame but obviously I had to do what I had to do. You know, as well as volunteering in Cameroon Sandi has just returned from another African country (never heard of it) where she tracked and recorded gorillas - their movements and habits. she is waiting to hear whether she has a job in Rwanda rehabilitating gorillas....wow.
Anyway we staggered up the uneven road together with the aid of her (intermittent) wind up torch. I was sobbing tears but she didn't seem to mind and said was very natural to feel this way.
When I went to bed the mobile rang at nearly midnight and it was my dear Dad who had managed to hook up my sister for a conference call. They were so kind and advised me not to be too hasty and to give it a little time. Dad promised to look into the possiblity of return flights though. It was so very comforting to hear their voices and to be able to speak to them. It made me realise how much I love them. I put the light off and the mobile rang once more - it was Martin:) My dear darling man. He was very sweet and told me what he had been up to, trying to record and watch the Sarah Jane Adventures and feeding the cats their luxury food which he doesn't normally as all they do then is moan for more, he usually leaves that task up to me...it was lovely to talk to him, a bit of "normality". We were cut off near the end though as my mobile ran out of credit - I have since found out that it costs one pound 30p a MINUTE for me to RECEIVE calls in Cameroon! So that's my total budget of nearly 40 quid blown in one fell swoop. So thank GOD for email and the internet!
I woke up with not too much time to spare. Got up 7.05 and cleaned teeth and discovered that there was no water. The worm was still in the shower though...oh yes, that reminds me a damn cockroach came under the door last night and I was NOT pleased!!
Anyway, was introduced to a beautiful little baby monkey who is sharing our house. She is a preuss monkey and her mother was killed by a poacher. Patricia, another volunteer, is her mummy at the moment. She sleeps in her room, Patricia bottle feeds her and takes her to the centre every day in a carry case. She is adorable and she took to me straight away, which is apparently unusual. I sat on the tiled floor and let her come to me - eventually curiousity took a hold and she jumped on my shoulder and proceeded to take great interest in examing my face - particularly my nostrils which she prised open wide with little monkey hands. So funny and sweet. I stuck out my tongue and she put it in her mouth! I swiftly withdrew it when her teeth appeared though...
We left the house at 7.30 am, with me chewing on some bread for breakfast (no time, no time!) At 8am every morning the Cameroon flag is raised at the centre and you must stand to attention in silence and everyone removes their hats. Apparently it is a great crime to be late or miss this daily ceremony...
I started work in the kitchen, preparing food for the animals. I will be doing this tomorrow too. A lot of time was taken up with sorting out HUGE piles of green bananas, you have to find the ripe ones and discard the rotten ones. Well at one point I think I was in danger of experiencing a banana avalanche, great was the new pile of green rejected bananas...
Later on I prepared the gorillas' lunch - chopped tomatos, onions, carrots, green beans which was cooked with rice. Everything had to be chopped "just so" as they are very particular. When I mentioned to the lady with whom I was working that the gorillas think they are in hotel she thought this very funny and after that thought I was great fun. she has invited me round to her house sometime to meet her little boy.
I also roasted soya beans, washed up, tidied and sorted MORE bananas. By the afternoon it was very hot and I drank at least 5 litres of water. Eventually we were finished by 4.30 much to my great relief. So here I am again in the internet shop. Sharing this with you.
We had tasty rice and beans for lunch today, cooked by a local woman who comes every day to cook. I am feeling hungry now so will go the bakery next door and buy some rolls for tea. I do hope the mini monkey will be around this evening. I plan to give the cat some love and affection outside on the verandah.
WORDS OF COMFORT
I contacted a dear lady called Hilary yesterday asking her to pray and her reply gave great comfort:
Sweetheart, of course you are in my prayers, but please dear one change your attitude to the situation, look on it as an adventure, and know that your lovely Martin is waiting to hear all your wonderful news and see your glorious pictures. Don’t worry about anything Big G s in charge, and this is ;art of your learning curve. I have been where you are now and terribly homesick, it does pass, it is just that you are outside of your comfort zone, be like Worzel Gummidge the scarecrow and change your head, then when you come home you change it back again, it is also a big culture shock to the system, but the attitude has to change to be able to cope. Know you are always in my prayers and my thoughts, imagine Martin there beside you holding one hand and Big G the other, you will be fine. Love and hugs and Blessings, and love to the Apes and the children from me too. Hilaryxxx
Some of the other girls have just arrived, inviting me out to dinner, which is very nice. But I am very tired and want to go back to the house and chill out and read and pet the pussy cat...
Please think of me and pray for me too:)
Lots of love Jane xxxxx