Wednesday in Douala

Trip Start Jun 06, 2006
Trip End Aug 22, 2006

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Flag of Cameroon  ,
Thursday, June 22, 2006

Wednesday morning Marjolaine awoke with an eye infection, probably caused by all the dust we drove through on the previous night. She said it felt like she had a rock in her eye, and I knew the feeling since that has happened to me here several times. She also had some stomach cramps, so all in all she hadn't rested well during the night. I walked out first thing and bought an antiseptic eye ointment which we hope will take care at least of the eye infection.

Marjolaine decided to rest through lunch, so Fiona and Tatiana and I took a taxi to a restaurant called Le Dernier Comptoir Colonial (The Last Colonial Trading Post). It was a pleasant discovery for me, though apparently it's been open several years. It's located on the banks of, and partly over, the Wouri River in the port area of Douala. Paul, the taxi driver told us the area was safe even at night because there are so many naval police patrolling.

It had a creaky wooden floor, and was decorated with wooden beams and supports. It sported an eclectic collection of tables and tableware, giving it a faintly colonial-era look, and various local art objects were on display and for sale. We took a table over the water where we could see fisherman casting nets off dugout canoes, as well as fast passenger boats and huge cargo ships cruising in from the Ocean which we could see in the distance. There was a reasonably cool breeze wafting in from the water, and there was surprisingly little noise. Fiona had a delicious sole cooked in a local sauce, and Tatiana and I had brochettes of Zébu. Of course, we asked what it was before ordering and Zébu turned out not to be anything in the Zebra genre, as we imagined, but simply the local name for common mundane beef. Tatiana thought it tasted a bit more exotic with its local name.

We had wonderful conversations of the kind I often long to have when I'm traveling apart from my family. It was a near perfect lunch. The only downside was when I found out my glass of mediocre table wine cost 10 dollars - but it was too late by then. I guess the locals really had to be careful at the colonial trading posts....

Moďse Mabout was at the hotel to pick us up at 15:00. The drive over was once again fascinating due to the variety of typically unusual sites we encountered in the streets. On arrival, we set up the room for a Spokesman Club meeting (based on the Toastmasters' Club program). We often have such a meeting when I come through here several times a year. These infrequent meetings don't allow for as much momentum to build as I would like, but they still do some good, and if I ever overlook scheduling one someone always reminds me. Helping the men develop their ability to think and speak clearly and rapidly, and without fear in front of others is an excellent confidence building activity which can give them a leg up in the job market. There are often positive impacts on the family as well.

While the club meeting was going on, Marjolaine and the ladies and the many children had time to chat and get to know one another better in another room.

Around 18:00 we took a break and then we all regrouped for a Question and Answer style Bible Study, where members can ask questions based on their own study of the Bible. Questions asked included the differences between Passover and Easter, how to fully profit from God's day of rest, differences between different Church of God associations, what the Bible teaches about fasting, and how to live as a Christian in world that increasingly espouses values hostile to Christianity. It was very wide ranging and I hope, useful and interesting for everyone.

I had a business meeting with Mr. Mabout and visits with other individuals about their situations, and suggestions for the work of the Church in Cameroon. We stayed later than we planned and ended up back at the hotel after 20:30. We showered and changed quickly and ate a very quick meal in the restaurant. Then we checked out of our room, and caught the 22:00 shuttle to the airport. We checked in at the Kenya Airways counter where a kind security official noticed we had technically only been in Cameroon for one day (since we arrived after midnight the previous day). He asked if we were in transit, and I asked why that mattered. He shot a glance over at the departure tax booth. In Cameroon when boarding in international flight, the government levies a 10000 CFA ($20 per person) boarding tax to be paid in cash only. That's in addition to numerous other fees they've already charged. So taking the security agents cue, and explaining to each official we met, that we'd just arrived the previous day, and were continuing on our trip, we were classifiable as transit visitors and able to avoid paying $80 as a family. It was a small victory in an area where hapless visitors are often regarded as a prime source of income for less than transparent governments.

The flight to Nairobi left shortly after midnight. It was only a four-hour flight, which meant the opportunity for about two hours of sleep at the most. Marjolaine and I were seated in an emergency exit row, so the seats wouldn't recline at all, making sleep more of a challenge.
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