29 March 2007

For starters some pics from our garden

this is the strange fruit I talked about earlier. It is called corrosol

De annanas in ons tuintje
Onze banane plantaine
Front of our house

Some more Q&A

Who does the shopping over here?
I do. I try to do that once a week, but that’s not always possible. Not to worry; there’s a woman who delivers fish to our home, right out of the ocean and we’ve also found a fruit deliverer. And when all else fails, we still have plenty of things growing in our garden.
Kind of funny, though, you have to buy your chickens still alive and the gardener then kills them.
We need to buy everything in big amounts, because we never know when a car will be free to drive me to the market. We make lists and then we have to do as many supermarkets as possible, just to find half of what we needed.
Cooking is a rather creative process here. It’s not like at home where you can consult your cookbook when you’re out of inspiration and then you can just stop by the store to pick up whatever it is you need. We go to the market and buy everything that looks fresh. Then I browse through the cookbooks to see what we can make with what we’ve got. But we eat really well here. No wonder! There’s two of us cooking all day long!!!
I had a little chat with the gardener today and we’re going to start growing even more fruit and veg. Really easy here, I just collect the seeds from whatever we eat and he plants it for us… cross our fingers for it to grow.

23 March 2007

Our garden

Every week I discover new fruit growing in our garden. Well, actually, I don’t discover them myself. My tropical botanic knowledge is limited to the mango’s, papaya’s, limes, bananas and pineapples growing in our garden. It’s usually our cook, Lambert, who points it out to me. Last week, he told me he was going to check if there where some ripe avocado’s. Quite astonished I asked him if we had avocado’s in our garden. We went out and he showed me. Little did I know that avocado’s grow on trees. I had passed that tree many times and never noticed that. Just minutes ago, he walked in with a strange looking thing, green and with stings on the skin. He had picked some fruit – from which I didn’t quite catch the name – that I hadn’t seen in our garden at all.


Over the past weeks I had some e-mails bombarding me with questions. I thought I might answer some of them here, because I think many of you will have the same questions and this will answer them all at once.

Where are we exactly?
Well, we are on a plantation a 20 minutes drive from Edea in Cameroun. Cameroun is situated at the west of central Africa, right under the bulge of Western-Africa. It’s one hour and a half to Douala (second largest city of Cameroun) and 45 minutes from Kribi, which is located at the seaside.

Have we seen snakes yet?
No. We do have frogs and lizards and all kinds of birds living in our garden. There’s also a squirrel that jumps around in our trees every once in a while. David has also had a close encounter with an Iguana once, but that was before I arrived and I haven’t seen that one yet. And of course there’s an entire variety of insects and spiders crawling and flying around. Yesterday we even saw a butterfly the size of a small bird.
I was told that there are all kinds of monkeys around here, but I haven’t seen one myself.

Have our boxes arrived?
Yes and to our amazement, everything in one piece. Only a corner of one of the boxes and a lock were broken. It arrived in Cameroun the second week I was here, but got stuck in customs until this week. It was quite an ordeal to get them here. First, they didn’t find a list of included items, while I had sent one with it and had also attached a list per box. Then they wanted us to estimate a price per item, onto which we would have to pay importation taxes. Then I had to go all the way to Douala, because only David or I could retrieve the boxes. But when I arrived there, they had already been taken to another socfin company in Douala.

Have we got any furniture?
We still only have the table, chairs and bed David bought before I arrived. We did order two daybeds, a television stand and bookcases. They should be ready on April 15th. I say order, but I mean we are having it custom made by a carpenter. Another carpenter is making a kitchen cupboard and a desk. That same man should also come and fix some shelves in our storage room and put up some mosquito nets in the windows.

Do I cook myself?
Yes, I do. Lambert gets to do the easy things and he also cuts everything before I begin, but the main part of the job I do myself.

I often get asked how long we will be staying here, but that is a question I can not answer. Certainly I year and most likely more… But I think all of you know that nothing is for certain here.

20 March 2007

't is weer al eventjes geleden, aangezien internet hier plat lag sinds de blikseminslag twee weken geleden. Maar zulke dingen zijn hier normaal.

Zoveel te vertellen en zo weinig tijd.

Twee weekends geleden zijn we naar Kribi geweest met alle expats van Socfoin die op da moment hier waren. Kribi is een kuststadje op een 45 minuten rijden van hier. We hebben daar gelogeerd in een schattig klein hotelletje, dat gehouden wordt door de dochter van een expat van Socfin. Een française.

We zijn een paar keer gaan zwemmen en dat zeewater is hier stikheet. t is zelfs moeilijk om er al te veel in te bewegen.

Hier alvast enkele foto's
The beach at the hotel

Funny road sign, it says: danger hospital...

Fishing boats at the Kribi falls

Voor de rest zijn onze dozen toegekomen. Ik ben ze gisteren gaan halen in Douala. Wonder boven wonder is er zelfs niks kapot gegaan, alleen één van de dozen... We hebben ondertussen ook al een wasmachine, maar op de salonmeubels moeten we nog wachten tot 15 april.Je kan hier wel kant en klare meubels kopen, maar die hebben hier meestal zo'n een ouwe bomma stijl, dus we hebben ze getekend en laten maken bij een menuisier.

Tgenwoordig ben ik hier voornamelijk controle van de werken aan het doen, want om de vijf minuten staat er wel een plombier of een electricien voor de deur. Zoals ik al in de vorige post zei is ons huisje aan een deftige opknapbeurt toe. Maar ik ben vastbesloten om er een thuisje van te maken. Nu dat de dozen er zijn met zo al wat persoonlijke spulletjes voelt het toch al meer thuis aan dan dat kamperen van de voorbije weken.

Ik sluit af voor vandaag, want ik moet gaan koken... hopelijk kan ik snel nog s komen bloggen

05 March 2007

The first African post

It’s really difficult to start this post, because there’s quite a lot to tell. Maybe the best way is to start chronologically.
I left Belgium on Friday at the Brussels South train station (and not Charleroi airport, as Isabelle mistakenly thought for a moment) where I took the TGV to Paris Charles De Gaulle airport. Isa and Nathalie came to say goodbye to me there. It was really strange, cause in a way I felt sad and excited at the same time. One hour and fifteen minutes later I was at the airport. Since there were only two people working customs, it took a great while to get through and my flight had half an hour delay.
The flight was quite comfortable. I had a window seat and nobody sitting beside me. I watched a movie (Heb diene film gezien die gij met Jean-Marie hebt gezien, Nathalie, die met Audrey Tautou. En ge hebt gelijk die rol gaat haar inderdaad met hoe ze er daar uitziet. Kweet wel niet meer hoe die noemt.), had some conversations with people on the plane, so the – almost – seven hours it took me to get here literally flew by.
Douala airport was a different story. The airport itself is quite modern and seems rather ok at first glance (maybe because I was expecting the worst)… And then you have to pass passport and health control. Health control is ok, they check your yellow fever vaccine and put a piece of paper inside. But for the passport control they are totally understaffed, so you have to wait in line or ages, by that time you start feeling the heath and the moist air surrounds you as if you’d fallen into a warm pot of glue. You start sweating and your clothes stick to your body. You really should get some layers off, but you’ve got a bag and a passport in your hands and the line keeps moving every time you try to take off your sweater. Staying put is no option, because then people just pass you by.
Luggage retrieval is how I think hell must be. It’s hot and there are so many people (even though only one flight has landed) and everybody is pushing and shoving to get to their luggage. Then you find out that there are two retrieval points for the same flight, so you have to go back and forth the whole time. Meanwhile the luggage handlers keep stalking you to help you with your bags (but telling them your husband is waiting outside and you can carry your bags yourself, thank you, and you don’t have any money on you anyway, seems to help). And still I was lucky, because I didn’t have to open my bags at customs, they just asked me what was inside. And when I answered (really blondly): “well, shoes, sir, and clothes… the usual stuff”, they let me through. All this while, I really needed to pee and there are no toilets in the airport.
There are no toilets along the way from Douala to Edea either. And apparently there are no toilets anywhere… Did I ever say that toilets should be the first basic right a human should get? Not freedom or equality or anything like that, but a simple sanitary facility. In Thailand I held on to it being a clean toilet, but that doesn’t even matter any more, the fact of there being one somewhere is already more than enough now.

We drink about three bottles of water a day… and that’s a bare minimum. I am getting adjusted to the temperature now. I even get cold with the airco allready.

Our House

We seem to have a thing for thing kind of house… It reminds us a lot of the apartment in the Jakob Jordaensstraat. Breathtaking at first sight, but in desperate need of attention. Bad paintjobs, grudgy, doors who don’t fit or close, things falling off and holes in the walls. But with the right kind of loving this will be great.
We’ve only got a bed and a table and chairs for the moment. But we’re going to order some thing tomorrow.
It’s funny how some stupid, simple things, you woudn’t think about in Belgium simply don’t seem to exist. Like pillows… They only sell mousse ones here that are terribly small and hard and uncomfortable…
For those who think Africa is cheap… think again. Everything local is indeed very cheap. Imported goods though are about three times as expensive as they would be in Europe. And since only vegetables and fruit are local, you can figure out it’s not as cheap as you’d think. It’s funny how much is imported, this being a fertile country and all. Everything that is not a basic product is imported: marmalades, toast, cookies, chips… Cooking therefore is quite an adventure, no such thing as opening up a bottle of passata, you have to start making it from scratch. Now, it’s no like I’ve got to do it all myself…
For those who think all of this is depressing me, that’s really not the fact. Not one of these things weighs up to the fact that we’ve got papaya’s and mango’s and limes in our garden. That whenever we go out it’s nicely warm. That we have only a ten minutes drive to being in the rimboe. That I don’t have to cook or clean or do anything I don’t want to. That all food you it is extremely fresh…

01 March 2007

The first post of the year

It's been a long time since I've written anything. This for the simple reason that I was at home and didn't have anything special to tell.
All that is going to change drastically since I'm leaving for Cameroun tomorrow. How do I feel? Excited, a little scared and also a tiny bit sad to leave everybody behind.
To forget all of these mixed emotions, let me tell you some anekdotes about David's stay in Africa until now.
When he was in Ivory Coast, he once stepped on a snake when it was dark. He also got pretty shook up one morning when opening the door and finding an Iguana "looking at him" (this was already in Cameroun). After a while the beast lost his interest when a delicious 5cm long beatle came along for breakfast.
The worst thing in Cameroun, he said, are the parrots. They're making an awfull noise because it seems to be mating season.

David has already seen our house. It is quite a bit larger than we've expected. It has three bedrooms and three bathrooms. Here is a little preview:
For some general data: it is now 30 to 35 degrees and up to 90% of humidity, you could best compare it to a steam room. Posting over there will be possible, but I can't imagine it being quite so regular as in Sweden.
So this is it... Goodbye to all of you and a very warm hug. Keep me informed about what's going on by mail or through the comments.