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…


  1. Anonymous7:25 PM

    Hallo Laura,

    wij lezen dat je bent afgereisd naar Afrika. We wensen je daar het allerbeste en hopen dat je samen met je man daar een mooie tijd tegemoet gaat. Zoals we kunnen lezen zal je even moeten wennen aan het afrikaanse leven maar we zijn er zeker van dat dat binnen een paar weken wel zal loslopen.

    Beste groeten,

    Eddy en Annie

  2. Brigitte9:34 PM

    Not so easy ....I learned that this is what love is about...,