Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Perils of Campaigning

Sorry, there are no new photos today.

We went out Thursday, high noon, the sun blazing down, wearing our official campaign ‘uniform’ which is made up of layers of clothing. Underneath, not including of course our under clothes, we have long pants and a long sleeved tunic which could be worn as a short dress on its own, and enough material to pitch a small tent for two as the outer layer, all worn together in weather which must have been 90 degrees plus Fahrenheit. At least yesterday as we set out there was a slight breeze…or was that as a result of our walking, à pied?

Beginning from the front door of the hotel, we climbed the hill to the main street, because the taxi drivers ALL inflate their prices when they pick up people up right outside. That in addition to the fact that I’m a ‘white woman’ they feel it their duty to extort as much money out of us as is humanly possible and routinely drive off when they aren’t offered twice to three times the ‘normal’ fare to go the same distance as anyone else not accompanied by a ‘blanche’.

After climbing up the hill, and then descending the hill, we just continued walking, on, and on, and on; there were no taxis speeding by, so I continued walking in the blazing heat of the midday sun, sans chapeau!

We walked for almost an hour before we found a taxi, well into town at one of the major roundabouts. Did I mention that during this entire time, Antoine was talking to a man we met on the road to Damascus…oh sorry, the road into Yaounde city from about the top of the hill outside the entrance to Mont Febe. He asked many questions and seemed to be totally engaged in the conversation – truly interested in what Antoine was discussing with him.

The Ambassador of the United States even went by while we were walking along the side of the road in her large black Suburban type auto with the American flags adorning each of the side view mirrors. She was flanked by a second vehicle which brought up the rear of the motorcade. As was confirmed in the Cameroun Tribune Friday morning, she had an audience with the Head of State and was returning to the Embassy of the United States when she passed us on foot. Interesting timing, n’est pas? This, especially as we have officially requested a meeting with her since our arrival almost two months ago.

I must be the only US citizen in Yaounde, wearing traditional African dress walking with her Camerounian husband, the only opposition party leader who has officially announced himself to the Interior Ministry; marching in the streets to launch our Presidential campaign for scheduled elections some 3 years from now, and somehow she just can’t seem to fit us into her busy schedule! Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

Can you imagine this same scene in the United States? Two people, on foot, wearing wildly colorful clothing, stopping to talk to people they pass on the sidewalks of Washington, DC, discussing the issues of the day and introducing a radically new political platform? Perhaps it would make a good movie, but in real life it is quite doubtful that we would find any willing participants to join us in a lively, interactive discussion in the middle of the lunch hour on any busy street in any city in the US! I think this aspect of our campaigning is what is most intriguing for me to witness and experience here in Cameroun.

Our taxi deposited us at a “marché” or market which would rival any flea market I have ever seen. I would imagine if you browsed through, you could probably buy almost anything. These are the places where we like to walk, stop and discuss with people. The fact that we’re wearing traditional dress in the colors of the Cameroun flag with a Star of David on both ‘uniforms’ certainly makes us quite the obvious distraction as we are ambling down the avenue.

Thursday was difficult; very hard for me. I began to feel light headed and very irritable which is not like me. I have found campaigning actually fun and have enjoyed composing shots and taking photos to document each time we’ve gone out. But I couldn’t concentrate on anything; it was almost like I wasn’t in my body. We stopped and bought a bottle of cold water as I thought perhaps I was just dehydrated and even that didn’t do the trick to revive me to my normal energy levels. I felt weak and couldn’t focus. I didn’t care about photos and this is about when Antoine realized something was very wrong. We stopped in the shade for a little bit and also went into a store to pick up some personal items, but I couldn’t even pick out the shampoo and conditioner I need.

I felt the sun blazing down on me as we walked a little further and at only 2 hours and 30 minutes into our “campaigning” I had had enough. I barely had the energy to get into the taxi as we sped back to Mont Febe, our currently adopted home.

As soon as we were in our room, I disrobed all layers of clothing and as I felt the cool air conditioned air, all I could think about was taking a nap. I drank some orange juice I had saved from my breakfast that morning and a glass of cool water, and promptly sank between the crisp white sheets of our bed and rested.

It took me almost 45 minutes or so before I again began to feel like a human being. And after about 2 hours, I had almost recovered. Sun stroke, I think is what they call this phenomenon. At least that is what I am putting it down to. So, from now on, you’ll probably see me with baseball cap on head, and wearing tennis shoes instead of my moccasins. We’re doing way too much ‘sport’ as they call it here not to be wearing my Nike’s.

This experience reminds me that there are just some very basic things one has to be aware of in this land which straddles the equator. It is certainly different from the climate I got used to in Seattle, Washington with its overcast skies, the occasional sun break and the 6 weeks of warm sunny, summer weather.

Even with yesterday being such a tough day, knowing full well that there will be many more difficult, tough and challenging days ahead, I am enlivened when the sun breaks through the mist of the morning and shines down on this beautiful land. Beyond the obvious differences between Cameroun and the US, there is something here indescribable which somehow seems to feed my soul. Perhaps that is what could most commonly be referred to as the feeling of “coming home”.

The campaign will continue until we have reached our goal. I know in my heart that this is my calling and even if daunted occasionally, we will NEVER give up until we find ourselves living in the very large house, perched atop a hill overlooking the city of Yaounde, in the area known as E’toudi, by God’s grace.

Anita Lynne NDEMMANU