I am already in Douala and flying out tonight at 2am to Istanbul….i am revisiting places from my past.. turkey , greece and italy..
Week 5 Fundong
On the corner near the new boulangerie in Douala, women sat on the curb selling peanuts, avocados and phone time. I doubt, after sitting on the ground all day, if they earned the cost of two croissants in the shop behind them. ($3). Today was good Friday and the streets were empty of cars and people. Even the motorcycle taxis had taken the day off.
I had arrived from Fundong yesterday, two hours to Bamenda and then six hours to Douala on potholed roads, in an old Toyota Corolla with a broken windshield, a loose exhaust pipe and 3 windows that opened. My driver was a nice guy who made this monotonous run several times a week. I paid him 70,000 fr ($120), the fuel cost him 30,000 fr round trip, leaving him with 40,000 fr. profit. He slept free at the mission. As he told me, he prefers this trip to driving around Bamenda for twelve hours as a communal taxi, collecting 100-150 fr a ride. He would have to pick up 400 people a day to match the Douala run. Career choices are slim in this country, so if you have a degree in teaching, you can wait years until the government gives you a school appointment. In the meantime the PTA will pay you 30,000 fr a month. High school dropouts end up driving motorcycle taxis, a dangerous job without speed limits or helmets. The majority of villagers are farmers, growing maize, corn and beans, enough to feed their families sometimes. The future for these people is precarious.
My last week in Fundong was spent wrapping up several projects started when I arrived. The women and children from the Aids support group showed up at the clinic on Tuesday morning for their T-cell blood draw. I paid for twelve tests120,000fr. I gave the small children each a 100fr coin to buy a treat, a rare moment in their lives. I went back the following day to see the results. Most of the patients were doing well, except for one woman whose T-cells had fallen even though she was on the medication. Before I left, I picked up some Coartem for myself, sure I had a touch of malaria. The daily Malarone dose doesn’t always keep you malaria free but does keep the attack mild.
Working with the Fundong council and the new mayor, an old friend and actually an honest guy, a rare character trait in this country, I funded the construction of 11 iron trash bins for the village. The goal is to separate food scraps in one dumpster and garbage in the second. Then start a compost pile somewhere in the village… Free fertilizer and less garbage to dispose of… cost of the 11 bins..$1050…
The road to the primary school in Baichu was a dirt track that split from the dirt road up to Meli village. Denis, the mayor, begged us to do this project since it seemed simple and fast. We were connecting to the communal water tank in the village of Bissi. Yes, we had their permission. It was a very strong water source high up in the hills. The school was the typical mud brick walls and dirt floor, the kids with dirty uniforms, runny noses and flip flops. Without water or toilet paper, how did the kids use the toilet( a hole in the ground). They wiped themselves with the hems of their clothes. Immediately I said we needed to put in a deep sink near the toilets and a tap on the road for the village. I am no longer shocked by the primitive conditions here, just pissed off.
The project was suppose to be done in a week but the pipes sat at the council office for a few days,. The pregnant secretary didn’t bother to notify anyone that they had not been sent out to the village. The plumber complained late in the day the pipes didn’t arrive. The mayor yelled at everyone and arranged for the delivery. The taps were flowing on Wednesday, the women in the village doing the tribal dance of appreciation as we drove up in the banged up Toyota pickup. Tradition rules the lives of people in the villages. No matter how poor they are, they cook a meal for all of the donors and make several speeches, always thanking the Lord for everything he has done for them. When it was my turn to speak, after offering the usual good luck and we are happy to be able to help, I broached the subject of family planning and birth control. One woman had eight children, another had nine. It was always the same response. We have sex what can we do.. and we have many children because half of them usually die. Rather young mothers and fathers are dying of Aids.. (here they call it SIDA.) So now there are too many orphans.
Back in Douala, it was obvious that the big city was moving toward the 21st century while the rural areas were still in the 19th century, showing no signs of moving anywhere. My last day in the city, a German friend invited me out for an ice cream.
The number of flavors beat Haagen Daz and Ben & Jerry’s together. N”ice Cream. refrigerator cases, ice cream sodas… air conditioning and over 60 flavors.
I had cheesecake and berries and cream.. tastes like home .
Next stop Istanbul..