After a very pleasant evening in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I took a four hour flight over the Sudan, Central African Republic and down into Douala, Cameroon. Everything was fine except for the daily double of having the only super fat guy in Africa right next to me crushing me into the wall and a guy behind me hacking up a lung the entire four hour flight and obviously never covering his mouth. Let’s just say I was happy to land and meet up with my friends Augustine, Henry and his wife Honorine in the sweltering and busy port city of Douala.
Henry and Augustine were introduced to me via facebook of all things through a mutual friend who I grew up with who ended up moving to Cameroon when we were in elementary school. I have been corresponding with each of them for some time now and Henry was instrumental in convincing me not to go overland from Chad to Douala through the heavily rebel populated area of Northern Cameroon. He actually used the word suicidal which was enough to sell me on the virtues of flying and so that’s what I did.
They met me at the airport and after checking in at the hotel, we were on our way to see the city. It is so nice and refreshing to see a city like Douala (that is just torn apart by tourists as being filthy and overcrowded, etc. like a mini Lagos or something) through someone else’s eyes who lives here. Henry and Augustine took me to some very nice areas of town and to a beautiful park along the river to watch some future Lions (the Cameroonian national soccer team) practice.
The city of Douala is one of the largest ports in Africa and you can’t escape the tankers and port equipment that is visible from pretty much anywhere around town but at the same time, there are nice things to see as well. The highlight of the city for me was certainly our lunch at Café l’amore, where we feasted on some killer Cameroonian food of plantains, meat and chicken. I even tried this Guinness made energy drink they recommended called Malta which I wouldn’t exactly recommend as it basically tastes like a ginger Guinness without any alcohol. I immediately switched to water and was better off for it.
I love talking with locals always but especially when you actually know them or have a connection to them. Listening to their jokes and their honest assessments of their lives and the country and government in general is always a treat for me to hear. There were so many great quotes that I should’ve written them all down but a few were as follows:
I asked Henry what his shirt meant, it was a black tank top that had Y-3 on the front. His reply was “I don’t know, I buy and I wear-that what African’s do!”
Henry then asked if I still lived with my parents or at home and I said no that most Americans move out after high school or certainly University and they all kind of giggle and say “I am married with 3 kids and I still live with my parents”.
Another was we were all talking and Augustine asked why I travel so much and I replied because I like it, it’s fun. He replies laughing “In Africa, we don’t do anything like that for fun”
Another one I liked was before I went to Henry’s house to meet his kids; he called it the “White House for black people”. We were all laughing and getting to his house and meeting his family was the highlight of my day and the trip thus far.
His three kids were so cute and the youngest one was terrified of me as she had never seen a white person before. Where Honorine handed her to me to hold, the child shrieked in sheer terror as you can see in the below picture trying to get away from me-it was really funny. I met his mom and the rest of his family and neighbors as they all stared at me in seeming disbelief at what they were seeing. I love that and it never gets old but at the same time, there is nothing more humbling than visiting these types of places and seeing how normal Africans live.
I saw how Henry and his family have to walk miles to get water every day and even farther to get food and even farther still to check the Internet to check my facebook message about when I will be arriving at the airport. It is amazing what he goes through in his daily life and how selfless he has been to me and certainly is to his family. I really admire him and how his family and all others like them handle their difficult lives with such humility.
I look forward to coming back to Douala and seeing them again. I am not sure exactly when I will be back as I leave for Equatorial Guinea in the morning but I think I should have a few more days here on connections with either Gabon or the Central African Republic. I should be sorting that out tomorrow when I get to Malabo.