Thursday, June 4, 2009

de le debutante (Matt)

Bonjour friends/fans/members of EWB! The flight over here went well enough, everyone arrived in Yauonde with just enough energy to get to work on things right away. Besides a few questions on aspects of the project that the team has yet to decide on, the main thing that has been on my mind the past two days is culture shock. Having done a bit of traveling before, I knew to expect it, but let me illustrate the particularly stark contrast in conditions I experienced in 24 hours. One minute I'm in a an immaculately clean airport in Belgium. I buy a coffee and the cashier exchanges money with me on a little plastic mat on the counter, so our hands never touch. I learn from Dr. Steve that the country doesn't let any non-biodegradable plastic bags into the country for environmental reasons. In the restroom, I experience the Dyson Airblade, a device that uses carefully engineered nano-vortices for the simple act of drying your hands.
After another 8 hour flight, I feel kind of dirty and smelly after traveling for so long, but I'm strangly relieved when I arrive in Yaounde and there isn't an inch of the airport that doesn't smell like human body odor. I'm walking out of the airport in Yauonde with people reaching for my bags, and just saying "dollar, dollar" to me. We get in the car, our driver stops and looks both ways at a circular red sign on the way out of the airport, and I haven't seen a traffic sign since. Merging into another lane in Yaounde is just a game of chicken between the two drivers, and people pass one another pretty much whenever they feel like it. But it isn't complete disorder, there is communication between drivers by use of hand gestures, (some of which I could tell were for those not-so-friendly sentiments highways are known for). Despite all this our driver, Guy, handled everything with complete confidence, and our car was calmer than you would expect.
If the traffic situation isn't telling enough of the area's need for improved infrastructure, the train track outside of my hotel room seems to be used more by cyclists and pedestrians than trains. Things may sound chaotic here, but all the Cameroonians I've encountered have made things run smoothly. The are generally laid-back, and have been very helpful in finding my way around (and without laughing at my french!). Even the people who make a living selling things to tourists are much less annoying than other places I have been; they quickly get the picture when you are not interested, and never become aggressive. I'm thankful that everything has gone relatively well so far, and that the team is in good health and good spirits, and I am generally optimistic about the trip.


1 comment:

APaulus said...

Great Post! Amazing difference isn't it! Can't wait to hear your first impressions of the village!