Various tidbits as I prepare for the next leg of my journey.
01.05.2013 - 14.05.2013 28 °C
My stay in Cameroon has come to an end, and this post combines some information about health and sanitation here and a bit about my volunteer work. I will definitely miss the people here, but some aspects of Douala ne vont pas me manquer!
Douala cannot be said to be a beautiful or healthy city. As I have said before, getting around is a risky business because of the traffic and frequent accidents, but also because being in the midst of traffic means breathing in the exhaust of some seriously polluting vehicles. My colleagues working on air quality in Canada would be horrified at the number of ‘black smokers’ belching out foul emissions. In addition, there is garbage everywhere. Thankfully it is collected fairly regularly, but it doesn’t make for a very visually appealing environment.
The power outages are accompanied by frequent cuts to water service as well. At the orphanage where I am living there is no running water except for very rare and brief periods, usually in the middle of the night. All of the children that are able to carry even a small container of water take daily trips to ‘the forage’, a public tap about a block and a half away. The adult women carry amazingly large containers of water at one go. The bucket I am able to carry on my head is not so impressive. The toilet is flushed with a bucket and showers consist of pouring cups of water over yourself. I have become quite adept at cleaning myself with a minimum of water but the toilet is difficult to flush without using at least half a bucket of water.
While the orphanage has a fridge and freezer, not everyone has these appliances and of course there are the frequent power outages. I was amused at the label on the mayonnaise jar which advises to keep cool if possible. This is could be general advice for food and people alike.
So far I have been very lucky and have just had a cold. I have managed to avoid the nasty bouts of diarrhea experienced by some of the other volunteers. Abby, the volunteer from Alabama spent two nights in a clinic after experiencing severe dehydration and essentially kidney failure after climbing Mount Cameroon. Ideas about health causes and effects are a bit different here. When I told someone I had a sore throat they said it must be something that I ate. Abby was told to eat oranges and get some exercise to get over her kidney failure. People tend to avoid hospitals until things are very dire.
I have been accused by some of my readers of spending all my time visiting the beaches of Cameroon and not doing any actual volunteering. I assure you that Abby and I worked very hard at Youth Business Cameroon. The small office pictured below is where I spent my days. It was luxuriously air-conditioned though the very small space was sometimes occupied by up to eight people, which made for some cozy seating arrangements. Abby and I wrote some grant proposals for the organization and I created a new bilingual website which can be found at www.youthbusinesscameroon.org.
The picture of Cameroon's countryside is the picture I will keep in my mind when thinking of this country. I leave tomorrow for a brief stopover in Nairobi before starting my safari in Tanzania. I’ll keep you posted as internet access allows!