Urban Africa

Our Toyota Van

After dinner on Thursday, I bathed. This is when it hit me that I was in Africa. There was no running water in Yaounde today. George and Zenge had set out buckets outside to collect the rainwater off the roof and this was the water used to bathe. Oh yeah, there are no sinks either.

So I poured cold water on myself with a small pitcher, which was actually quite refreshing. Then I did my best to lather myself up while standing. More on the bathroom: it’s actually a toilet/shower all in one. Imagine the footprint of a square shower that doesn’t have a bathtub, and that is approximately the size of the whole bathroom, maybe George’s was a little bigger. The toilet is on one side and the shower is typically on the opposite corner (it normally works) and the floor just drains. Pretty efficient use of floor space if you ask me.

Also, water that comes out of the drain can’t be used to brush your teeth, only bottled water.

I awoke several times in the middle of the night hearing the tap tap tapping of little mouse feet on the tile floor. In the morning, breakfast was awaiting me, Zenge, and Messeman; George had left early in the morning to go to the hospital where he works. We had a baguette with mayonnaise and tea with milk in it.

After breakfast, the three of us went with Georges cab driver-friend Kounou to first meet Georges and then pick up some supplies for our medical trip. This was my first view of Africa in the daylight. Pictures and videos can hardly describe what it was like. Many metropolitan areas in the world find that they have to build skyward to accommodate the most people with the smallest footprint. Here, there are very few tall buildings, so the city footprint is huge. There are very modest houses everywhere, families packed in tight. There is vegetation everywhere within the city as well, all of it natural, it’s basically houses amongst a tame jungle.

VIDEO of Maniacal Driving in Yaounde, Cameroon

Driving was a great way to see the city, albeit perhaps more dangerous than I could have imagined. I’ll let a video give you a better picture.

Driving in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Video from the backseat of a car driving through the streets of Yaounde, Cameroon. Click to play.

Dr. Bwelle's office, it's basically outside

When we arrived at the hospital, Georges was there and he basically gave us a shopping list of things to get and arrange for the medical trip we were leaving for in a couple hours. After picking up a bunch of food we rendezvoused at the American School of Yaounde where some of the other volunteers were meeting us. The school was surrounded by an eight foot concrete wall and topped with spiral barbed wire. The ASOY teaches well-to-do children of high-ranking Cameroonian government officials, expatriates, and children from various embassies.

The Wall surrounding ASOY

Back to Georges’ we went for a feast and to load up the van with all of the supplies and medications he had collected over the past week. The beer here is delicious. Cameroon’s history appears to be influenced by an amalgamation of European colonialism. The Germans, Belgians, British, and French played a big part in the formation of today’s Cameroon, and by virtue they passed on some of their brewing techniques, or perhaps imports. Typical beers are about 6%, whereas my light beer was 3.8%.

There were 20 volunteers embarking on this weekend medical mission to Maboye, a small village in the jungle between Yaounde and Douala. And boy was that an adventure….check back tomorrow for some great stories!

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