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So, I've arrived in Cameroon.

posted Jan 20, 2010, 3:58 AM by Reinoud Vaandrager   [ updated Jan 25, 2010, 8:43 AM ]
On January 5 I set out early in the morning by taking the car from my parents house in the Netherlands to Antwerp central station. It was a wintery morning and the roads were super slippery, and saw more then one accident along the road. Luckily I arrived safely and on time to take the Thalys to Paris Nord and from there the RER to Paris CDG airport. Before I knew it I was on my way in an Air France Jet to Cameroon to spend the next 3 months of my Google Leave on Volunteering projects and a Beekeeping internship.

Funny thing is; Cameroon is in the same timezone as most of Europe (GMT+1) so I had no jetlag at all after the 6 hour flight. I did get a small fright while landing though, because during our landing descent to Douala Airport there was a power outage just before touch down. So at 200m above the ground the pilot had to suddenly abort the landing and give full thrust to clear the landing zone. Luckily, after 15 minutes of cirling around, the power was restored and we were able to land safely. Welcome to Africa! :)

Getting out of the plane it was clear I had replaced winter with summer and order with chaos. Funny thing is that this is exactly what I needed for now, but I had to battle myself though the airport (bags getting lost, people taking your bags without asking and charging, and if you did not cooperate they would take your bags to the customs for a full check. All very annoying and I must have spent about 2 hours in this chaos before I had obtained all my bags (4 bags, totalling around 70kg) and got outside to be greeted by Joshua from RUDEC (The grassroots NGO I'll be working with)

Douala feels a bit like a lawless wild west town, and I could not wait to get to my final destination, the beautiful village of Belo in the Boyo Division. After picking up another volunteer that arrived the same day (Brynne from the USA) we spent the night in a cozy hotel and set off early the next day in a taxi that must have been recycled at least 5 times and was wobbling precariously over the busy dusty roads to the bus terminal from where we would continue our Journey to Bamenda (The capital of the north-west region).

On January 7 we finally arrived in Belo, and I was delighted as this place is both friendly and beautiful. Situated in a valley 1325M above sea level and surrounded by the sharp silhouttes of large hills all around (including a couple of nice waterfalls). The guest house is nothing special according to western standards but it does have running tap water, electricity and a toilet which is something the majority of the houses do not have.

The fist days I picked up some Kom (the local dialect) greetings by wandering around and talking to the locals that share the road from the house to the village. The center of the village is called "3 corners" because that is where the major roads come together, and here there are some stalls and stores where you can buy local food such as delicious bananas, pineapples, ground nuts (peanuts), kokoyams (a kind of sweet potato) and so forth. There is also a small bar called "social spot" where a lot of the international volunteers hang out. It is here that I met the other volunteers working for a similar NGO called Berudep. All together we are about 12 volunteers from a range of countries such as the UK, Ireland, Scotland, Japan, New Zealand, France, etc.

All in all we are a merry bunch, and there is a lot of work to be done in this community but also a lot of room for exploring and hiking around in the beautiful surroundings. So I'm really looking forward to the coming weeks and months :)