Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Voyages outside of Douala: Ndom

We often had to make business trips out of town to visit sites.
One of our clients wanted to revise the layout of a home he had already started building, in Ndom, about 128 km from Douala, towards the northeast. Part of the road was highway, and the other part was on dirt roads, the infamous red laterite,* otherwise known as “tôle ondulée,” i.e. “wavy metal roofing”: very, very bumpy. It took six hours to reach our destination, by which time I felt like I had been shaken around in a salad wringer for several hours.
We were to stay overnight at the client’s brother’s home, a more rudimentary style of housing, with no inside plumbing. There were only 2 rooms, so as we were a large group, the men slept in one room and the women in another.
In the middle of the night I felt like going to the restroom: however, I was scared stiff of going to the outhouse, which was located several yards behind the house. I was convinced that a pack of wild animals would find me. I preferred to wait till morning.
In the morning, as I brushed my hair, I hoarded any hair that was in the brush, as I had been warned about “white people’s hair” being quite a prize for the local witch doctors. True or not true, I wasn’t taking any chances!
After the site visit the next day, we regrouped into different cars for the way home. Our client’s brother convinced us that he knew a shortcut. Of course we trusted him; after all, he had been raised in the region. We drove along winding roads and precipices, to finally reach Douala well after everybody else. After that, our code name for that brother was “shortcut” (“raccourci” in French).
A less humorous fact in Ndom was that a local farmer was about to lose an entire harvest of pineapples, because of the lack of decent roads to transport the merchandise. We heard that, in the meantime, a paved road has been built.

* For more information on laterite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laterite