Writing Creatively With Spirit

A journey of psychic discovery


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Cameroon Experience – To the palace

Sunday 13th October 2013

2013-10-09 14.15.36I’ve had the volunteer house to myself since from Friday about 2.30 p.m. Well, almost to myself. There’s me, the resident mouse that traverses frequently between the lounge and the kitchen, and the mosquito in my room.

The two German girls and one of the English men have gone to a small town just outside Bamenda for the weekend. They left about 2.30 p.m. Friday.

The other two English volunteers who arrived last week have gone to Douala to see the disability project there before leaving on Tuesday. I will meet them again at the airport as our flights are within an hour of each other, but for now I have the house more or less to myself.

After a day of rest on Friday when I spent most of the time writing I had a pretty packed day yesterday.

It began with washing my clothes by hand before going to the office to help Emmanuelle the IT specialist with a website issue. Yes. Me. Helping with websites. There’s nothing like being in a place where the little you know is so much more that what the others know.

New classroom being used even before the plaster's dry

New classroom being used even before the plaster’s dry

I’ve shown him the power of WordPress for communicating with the world and he instantly saw the potential for the organisation of a free website.

It was followed by a quick visit to the school to check on the progress as I haven’t been down there since Wednesday. There was a 6th form Saturday class in progress in one of the newer classrooms, and the plasterer was busy at work.

Bana with well bartered cock

Bana with well bartered cock

I dashed back to get changed into my newly acquired African gown for a visit to the palace. The entry fee is one chicken and 5 gallons of palm wine, plus a 1000 franks tip for each of the guides.

I watched as my friend Bana bartered hard for a reasonably priced chicken, but he accepted the standard fee for the palm wine.

When we got to the palace gates there was no one there, but a quick call brought a tall man in a black leather coat strolling slowly toward us.

He accepted our chicken and wine and was helped by another guide to take them into the palace. We had to wait in a reception area as women are not allowed in certain parts of the palace.

Five gallons of palm wine

Five gallons of palm wine

While we waited Bana explained that the Fon (king) of the palace has over 80 wives who live in many of the house around the vast compound, although most of its vastness was not visible from where we were standing.

The two men re-emerged from the door carrying a pitcher and two bowls. As he approached I realised that the bowls were made from calabash.

We were taken into a reception room which contained a pool table and out of which a small boy was chased.

The guides beckoned to us to sit on a long bench. I sat and crossed my legs. Bana immediately reprimanded me for doing so. ‘You don’t cross your legs in here,’ he said.

Palm wine from calabash

Palm wine from calabash

The two guides offered us the bowls and poured palm wine into each. I asked for only a small amount as I’ve not yet acquired the taste for it.

I agreed to have a drop more and reached for the pitcher with my left hand. Again another reprimand. ‘You do not use your left hand to pour,’ Bana said.

‘Why?’ I asked confused.

‘It’s custom,’ he said.

I got a sense that he was a little embarrassed by my lack of etiquette and I had to explain to the guides that if I was doing something wrong it was because of ignorance not insolence. I told them that the children I work with had named me Bonkiyung which means ‘a fool who has to learn,’ It’s a name I readily accepted as there is still much for me to learn.

As it turned out one of the guides said his name was also Bonkiyung.

‘You could be my brother I exclaimed,’ which broke the ice. Bana went on to explain the circumstances of my visit, i.e a return to my ancestral home. The guides were very interested and were disappointed that the Fon was not at home to greet me. They said that when I come next time to arrange in advance an audience with the Fon who they are sure will be very interested in meeting me.

The throne room

The throne room

They then went on to show us another quarter of the palace, namely the throne room where the Fon holds court (literally, he presides over disputes).

It was quite a short visit, given the entrance fee, but the guides were very pleasant and very grateful for their gratuity.

‘Why does the Fon have over 80 wives?’ I asked Bana as we left.

‘Because he’s quite an old man now. Some of his wives are actually quite old now, but he can’t put them out so they all live in the palace with him,’ he answered. There wasn’t enough English between us for me to pursue the conceptual as opposed to the practical issue of 80 wives.

I was also unclear about what he called ‘inculturation’ which means that Christian men can have more than one wife which alleviates the need for them to be sent away from the village if they are caught committing adultery.

Drinking corn beer

Drinking corn beer

He showed me some of the slum areas behind the main entertainment area of Squares where people drink corn beer in many small and dingy parlours. He asked if I wanted to try the corn beer.

It’s a thick beverage made from fermented corn and comes in three strengths depending on the length of fermentation. I went for the medium strength and joined the group of men already working their way through several jugs.

A litre of corn beer is 100 francs, compared to 600-600 franks for 750 ml of beer. It’s the equivalent of cheap strong cider, but I have to confess to liking it better than palm wine.

Again I was reprimanded for trying to pour with my left hand. Apparently it’s bad luck. ‘What of left-handed people,’ I asked, but again the explanation was lost in the translation.

The men in the bar mistook me for one of them because of my dress and started addressing me in Lamnso, the local language. Bana had to explain that although I look like I’m from here I’m actually a Jamaican living in England.

They welcomed me warmly and went back to their beers – language can be such a barrier sometimes.

From there Bana showed me some more of the less salubrious areas of Squares before taking me to the Catholic Cathedral and some of the nicer bars and hotels.

I could have danced all night

I could have danced all night

I left him in Squares to go back to the office to show how very African I was looking. The dress met with much approval.

Then it was time to go home and replace the dress with more ‘night out at Squares’ attire. I met Chima and Immaculate there for a last drink before my departure, and was later joined by Bana who ended up leading me in a dance around the bar. I could have danced all night but alas, my companions attend church on Sundays and needed to leave early.

2013-10-12 02.45.21It’s the first time I’ve been able to totally relax and enjoy a social event since I’ve been here, knowing that all my tasks are completed.

Only two more sleeps before I head off for home.

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Cameroon Experience – killing a goat on market day

Thursday 10th October 2013

Goats at Kumbo's livestock market

Goats at Kumbo’s livestock market

Thursdays is market day in Kumbo. Maybe I should qualify that statement. There is a market everyday in Kumbo, even on Sundays. (Exception is Election Day). On Thursdays, however, it swells to almost twice its usual size. People come from miles away to both sell and buy.

Everything is slightly cheaper on market days because of the increased competition, and fresher too.

Thursday is also livestock day. Livestock sale is held at the far end of the market near the timber yard. I went with a friend who wanted to buy a goat and met him outside the supermarket.

‘Let’s go,’ he said heading in the direction of the market. He seemed in a hurry.

Goats at Kumbo's livestock market

Goats at Kumbo’s livestock market

I followed, marvelling at how quickly he moved. When we got to the market it was absolutely heaving with goats. They were everywhere. In a thick clump in the main space allocated for livestock, on the side of the road, on banks leading up to the shoe side of the market and on banks leading down to the timber yards.

All of these goats were accompanied by men. All kinds of men, old ones, teenagers, Christian, Muslim, well fed and ones who looked in need of a good meal. Men who were still wearing their coats even though the sun was now hot in the sky.

The air was thick with the strong smell of goats. It caught me in the back of the throat when I opened my mouth to speak. It over powered the usual strong body odour of so many of the men here.

Some men had only one or two goats to sell, while others had 6 or 7 strung together in a web of ropes, tangled in such a way that if one went they would all go. A much easier prospect of recovery for the owner, as 7 uncoordinated goats all scrambling in different directions could not go far quickly.

Goats at Kumbo's livestock market

Goats at Kumbo’s livestock market

My friend weaved his way through the men, rubbing shoulders as he squeezed through the more tightly packed ones. Not wishing to rub shoulders I tried to find the less direct route around them.

I followed him around for a while trying to make sense of what was being said, but they were haggling in their own language which left me out of the loop as I’m not skilled enough to understand the numbers.

I decided to stand on the edge of the crowd by a BBQ stall where a young man was busy roasting small pieces of meat on skewers. I watched as he turned them. He also turned bananas and small plantains that sat equally uncomfortably on the iron grid.

I took the opportunity to make a small film. One of the advantages of the video camera I have is that it looks like a phone. So when I’m filming it just looks like I’m talking on the phone. People are less suspicious than when they see me with a camera.

I remembered the man at the motor bike taxi rank that challenged me for taking pictures of them without asking or offering to pay them. I’d blagged it by saying I was taking a picture of the sign behind them.

Goat with legs tied

Goat with legs tied

Anyway, after a while my friend found me and said he’d stuck a deal. The goat was bought. He wasn’t much more than a kid (if you’ll excuse the pun) and I watched as my friend tied his two front legs and then his two hind legs together.

‘Let’s get a bike for speed,’ he said and we found a rider who was more than willing to take a goat on this bike. So me, my friend and the goat were settled on the bike.

The goat sat in front of the rider with his legs straddling the rider, pointing backwards. My friend held on to them while I gratefully sat at the back of him. The only time I’d passed up an opportunity to sit in the middle.

We were dropped off at my friend’s house where he was going to kill the goat for a celebration. He asked if I wanted to watch. I should have said no, but I was curious to see how different this would be from the chicken Chima killed a few weeks ago.

Goat ready for slaughter

Goat ready for slaughter

There was little ceremony about the whole affair. My friend had enlisted the help of one of his friends. He held the goat legs tight. His friend held the goat’s head and made a sharp incision in its neck.

There was a gurgling sound like bubbling larva as the bright red blood spurted out of the small hole at the goat’s throat. His friend grabbed a bowl and caught the blood. After a while the blood thickened and the spurt changed to a flow. His friend held the goat upside down till the flow changed to a trickle.

They then proceeded to disembowel the goat. My friend made a fire in the outside kitchen over which he burned all the hair off the goat. Then he cut off its head and its feet from the last knuckle down.

Goat well on its way to becoming dinner

Goat well on its way to becoming dinner

I watched as he surgically dissected the animal into joints I’d recognise in a butchers shop in England. He handed me a piece and said ‘you must cook this and share it with the others in your house.’

It was Chima’s birthday and I decided to cook it as a birthday treat for him as I know he likes goat.

In the end five of us ate the goat curry I made. Two of us had a tiny amount, three ate heartily and the vegetarians stayed well clear.


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Cameroon Experience – Last lessons

Wednesday 9th October 2013

My turn to sit and listen

My turn to sit and listen

Today I taught my last lesson at the school. It was to Class 3. Maybe teaching is a bit of a misnomer because I mainly listened. After 3 weeks of being at the front of the class this last week was my turn to sit at a desk and be talked to by the children.

It began with my last lesson with Class 4 on Monday when I listened to their aspirations for their future. I’ve been working with them on visualisations and affirmations, on ‘beginning with the end in sight’ and working backwards to achieving it.

We created affirmations for brilliant bankers, accountants, secretaries, teachers, business owners and one president – His Excellency Ferdinand.

Some embraced the concepts wholeheartedly and I know they will practice them. Others were a little more sceptical but participated non-the-less.

2013-10-07 17.46.46On Tuesday it was time to listen to Class 1 read the stories I’ve been working on with them. I’d managed to secure some pretty exciting prizes for the three best stories. Sight of these galvanised even the most reluctant public speaker to get up and make sure he was in with a chance.

As I listened to him struggle through his short piece I realised that this young man had made the greatest stride of all the children I’ve taught in my time here.

He’d begun by being surly and passively resistive until I realised that his resistance was due to his inability to spell, and sometimes not being able to read what was on the board. Once these things were rectified it enabled him to tap into a seam of creativity which he was now able to demonstrate.

Winner of 1st prize

Winner of 1st prize

There were three clear front runners for the prizes, all girls. I had the privilege of two spare colleagues who kindly took photos and filmed all the children.

Winner of 2nd prize

Winner of 2nd prize

The only time I was in front of the class was to give out the prizes and to read to them the story I’d written, into which I’d managed to weave all their names.

They were so well behaved and so focused that we finished early and I was happy to give them a few minutes extra break to share their prizes and to eat the sweets I’d bought to share with the whole class.

Winner of 3rd prize

Winner of 3rd prize

Today, Wednesday, was my final day of classes. It began with the two 6th Form classes. I’ve been working on presentation skills with them. They too have travelled a journey from reluctant participants to eager and polished presenters.

All the presentations showed progress. There were a few outstanding ones, full of passion and promise. The topics were very varied and I learned a lot about the community and the culture, from views on educating girls to how to behave in the presence of elders.

Finally it was the turns of Classes 2 and 3 to read their stories to me and to their class mates. There were some outstanding pieces in Class 2, so much so that I could easily have awarded 5 prizes. Again all girls.

The girl mould was broken in Class 3 when a boy produced a story well worthy of a prize. It was also the only class where there were some non-participants. A few who had missed some lessons and some who didn’t feel confident enough to read.

Although all the children had said how much they would miss me, it was in Class 3 that one handed me a folded note on which she had written ‘To the honourable Predencia, I love you Miss. Thanks for your co-operation with us through out these weeks. Good bye. See you next time in heaven or on Earth.’ I’ve said hopefully it will be on Earth.

A goodbye note

A goodbye note

I feel that I’ve just scratched the surface of what is possible in helping these children to think creatively, to see something more than the mundane, to tap into the infinite possibilities that await them in the world. A very few have allowed themselves to begin to believe.

I will have to be content with that for now as belief is the most powerful driving force in the world.

I walked away from the school yesterday exhausted, but was carried on the appreciation and genuinely love I felt from these children.

I will see them again one final time at the Monday morning assembly when I shall say my final goodbye.


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Cameroon – The experience – Arrival

Thursday 19th September 2013

Charles de Gaulle Airport

Charles de Gaulle Airport

I’ve been thinking about the best way to write about this Cameroon experience. If the last forty eight hours is anything to go by I won’t be able to give a blow-by-blow account of the journey. On this occasion though, I’m going to try because if what’s happened so far is anything to go by then it’s certainly going to be an interesting time.

It began with my alarm going off at 3.30 a.m. I was up and fully alert after only three and a half hours sleep and was more than ready for the taxi when it arrived at 4.15.

I didn’t even resent as usual security intrusions, and the flight from Birmingham to Paris took off and landed on time.

I met a couple of guys as I was getting off the plane who were also going to Cameroon who, being seasoned travellers from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport, sped me through the complex maze of shuttle and cattle-grid queues. They deposited me at gate L42 before setting off to do their scrutiny of the shopping bazaar.

I was impressed by the considerate lounging facilities provided for passengers who needed to spend the night in the airport, and by the level of occupancy, there were quite a few.

Boarding was efficient, and I never got to hear why take-off was delayed for 40 minutes because I was too busy talking to a fellow traveller who was going home to Cameroon for a 10 day visit.

Although both of us had had very little sleep we fared no better on the flight as I did numerology analysis on all her immediate family’s birth dates. I also did analysis of their personal year numbers to help her understand what part of the 9 year cycle each of her family members was in and what it meant for them.

It began with a discussion about the angst her youngest son was causing her, and ended with her saying she would approach the situation differently in the future. She said she never expected that such a chance meeting as this could have made such a difference. I smiled.

There must have been some further slippage of time during the flight because by the time we arrived in Douala we had lost our landing slot and had to circle for 15 minutes. We were an hour and a half late landing.

Although the contrast between CDG and Douala was so marked in terms of the fabric of the buildings, the biggest difference was in the speed and efficiency of immigration and customs.

The first part of the process was showing my yellow fever vaccination certificate. The official gave it such a cursory glance that I later realised that the certificate could have belonged to anyone. All she was checking was that I had one, not that it related to me in any way, because she didn’t even check my name against the certificate.

Fred was there to meet me

Fred was there to meet me

Everything else was smooth – but slow. Once I was through to baggage collection my only worry was whether the person who was to meet me would have waited. I tried several times to phone while I waited for my cases to come off the conveyor belt, but couldn’t get through.

I fended off offers of help from a number of young men, and even had a chat to one of the officials who spoke slow and deliberate English. I could understand very little of what was being said around me, and was even more concerned that my escort would be there.

I needn’t have worried. As I emerged into the early evening heat I saw my name held high by one of the people in the long line of those waiting for passengers to emerge. It was only when I was up close that I recognised him as Fred, the coordinator of the organisation I was going to.

He rushed over to me and hugged me like a long lost sister. I hugged him hard as all my pent up anxiety dissipated.

‘Can you hold my bags a while?’ I asked, ‘there’s something I have to do.’

In the time he was formulating his ‘why’ question, I’d made my way down the little slope, knelt down and kissed the ground.

‘It’s taken 500 years but I’ve come home,’ I said to my ancestors. ‘You called, I’ve answered, I’m here.’

Fred hugged me again as though he thoroughly approved of what I’d done, even though he couldn’t hear what I’d said.

There was something about the insistence of young men trying to hustle me into taxis or wanting to help with my bags (for a fee) that reminded me of the airport in Guyana.

Fred suggested I changed my Euros into local dollars at the airport as this would be more difficult in Kumbo, and found me someone who was happy to do the transaction there and then. Interesting someone who’s very keen to go to Barbados, and took my details when I told her I’d be going there in November.

Unusual motorbikes

Unusual motorbikes

It wasn’t long before we were in our taxi and I began to experience the craziness that passes for driving in Douala. I was also fascinated by the number of motorbikes, especially the ones with the built in parasols.

Fred was in the process of explaining the different project under the umbrella of the organisation when we became aware that the taxi driver had been pulled over by a couple of police men. I couldn’t understand what was being said but gradually became aware that it had to do with the taxi driver using his mobile phone while driving.

Following a heated exchange he was asked to step outside the car, and the exchanges became even more intense, with much gesticulation and very raised voices. All this with traffic passing so close to our car it felt like layers of paint was being shaved off with some encounters.

After about 15 minutes when nothing was being resolved Fred also went outside. I wound the windows down slightly to better hear and see what was happening. A lot of anger was being expressed by the taxi driver, but his heated words met mostly with icy stoicism from one officer and some heated reprimand by the other.

After about ten minutes of this Fred seem to step in as conciliator and in another 10-15 minutes he came back into the car and made a call to the bus company to reserve our seat on coach. A couple of minutes later the taxi driver got back behind the wheel and drove off.

Fred explained that there is a law against using mobile phones while driving, especially in the city. The taxi driver had been observed by the police using his. He claimed that he had simply answered it to tell the person calling that he couldn’t talk. They wouldn’t accept this and wanted his details so that he could be prosecuted. He refused and they refused to let him go.

In the impasse Fred, being aware of our need catch the coach, had managed to persuade the police to be a little lenient by pointing out that the taxi driver was a young man who had done wrong but was willing to admit it.

That was the problem though, he was not willing to admit that he’d done wrong, but somehow the matter had been resolved by a passage of money from the taxi driver to the police.

After getting through very heavy traffic and some extremely dodgy roads we arrived at the bus station on the other side of Douala at about 9 p.m. When our cases were unloaded it was Fred’s turn to feel the wrath of the taxi drivers tongue.

Apparently he was demanding double the fare originally agreed for the journey. When Fred refused he’d become abusive and threatening. Fred enlisted the help of a number of other men from the station and I observed very heated discussions between them and the taxi driver in one corner of mud covered station.

Eventually the taxi driver left and Fred took me to one of the food booths to get something to eat. Over the spaghetti omelette and chips he explained that the men at the station had threatened to block the taxi driver’s car in if he didn’t accept the payment offered my Fred. Pointing out that his journey took longer than envisaged because of his altercation with the police, which had nothing to do with Fred.

It was now nearly 10 p.m. the time the coach was scheduled to leave and I was exhausted.

‘Shouldn’t we be getting on the coach now?’ I asked Fred in a worried voice, as he didn’t seem in a rush.

‘Oh don’t worry, they won’t go without us. They’re always late.’ He answered unconcerned.

Still a little jittery, I suggested taking our seats anyway. Besides, the loud music from the juke box at one of food booths was beginning to get to me, as was the mud underfoot.

Fred acquiesced, and had even brought pillows for us to be comfortable on the 6 hour overnight journey to Bamenda. It was now 10.15 p.m. and I was settled and could have drifted off to sleep while waiting for the late departure

At  10.35 I noticed most of the passengers getting off the coach. I asked one of them what was happening, but couldn’t understand his answer. When there was only me and one other person still on the coach Fred re-appeared to tell me that a fault had been discovered on the coach and we were going to have to get on a replacement.

I couldn’t believe it. Fred tried to pacify me with the fact that it was better to be on a bus that worked than one that might not get us to our destination.

By the time all the bags had been removed from one coach and loaded on to another, and all the passengers settled in again, it was 11.15 p.m. I figured there was still opportunity to get some sleep on the six hour drive. That was before I realised that there would be night club volume music played throughout the whole journey, beginning with club anthems and moving through reggae, soca, rock, pop and easy listening.

I was exhausted by the time we got to Bamenda at 5.15 a.m. I was very stiff because I hadn’t stood up throughout the journey. I’d  passed on the opportunity to take a quick pee on the side of the road during the ‘toilet’ stops.

We left Barmenda by taxi at 5.40 a.m. for the three hour drive to Kumbo. I thought Fred was joking when he asked if I’d ever driven in a taxi with eight people. Alas, he wasn’t. For most of the journey there were eight of us in a car designed for 5. Four in front and four in the back. I’ve never been so close to stranger for such a long time. Even on the tube in London it wouldn’t be for more than a few stops.

And there was little prospect of sleep as the music blared, and we took constant roller coaster rides through the numerous potholes in the road. Despite this, the country side as the sun came up was beautiful. We passed through villages coming to life, children going to school, vendors setting out their wares, and construction working thinking about beginning work.

During this leg of the journey I had a couple of very vivid images in the brief moments I drifted into sleep, hunched over Fred shoulder.

The first was of a sheer steel mountain. I was near the foot of it having made my some slight progress up it. I was staring up and thinking it was impossible to climb when I noticed a small hand hold to my left. I reached for it thinking I could at least get that far. The image disappeared as we hit yet another pot hole.

The second was of a man’s face. A round dark skinned face with a full short-cropped beard. He had closed cropped hair on the top of a wide forehead. It was very vivid before fading.

SEREP Headquarters

SEREP Headquarters

We arrived in Kumbo at 8.22 a.m. to glorious sunshine. I deposited my bags at the volunteer house. One of the first things I noticed was a tomb at the front of the house. I later discovered it was the land lady/housekeeper’s uncle and he had been responsible for building the compound on which the house stood. He’d died a few months after it was completed.

I went to SEREP’s head quarters for some breakfast as my room wasn’t ready. (The housemates didn’t realise I was coming today).

After a breakfast of spaghetti and fish one of the office staff was tasked with taking me around the market to get in a few supplies. That’s an experience that deserves its own blog.

I managed to send emails from the office. The connection was very slow, but that may have been because there was an IT class being taught. If the speed continues to be that slow it will scupper my plans for video blogging as these would take an age to upload.

By 2.30 p.m. after a quick getting to know you chat with the other four housemates (all girls – two English, two Germans) I was in bed listening to the most amazing lightning and thunder storm. I thought I’d be kept awake for ages – but there is no such thing as too much noise – just not enough fatigue. And there was enough fatigue for me to sleep through what I was later told was a four hour storm.

It’s my birthday tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 


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Countdown to Cameroon – hours to go

17th September 2013

All my bags are packed

All my bags are packed

I’ve gone from counting down days to counting hours. It’s about 8 p.m.  Only another 8 hours till the taxi comes to pick me up. If they came now I’d be ready to go. Bags are fully packed and pad-locked as advised. All gels and liquids have been decanted into small containers for my hand luggage. I’ve found the eye patch, travel tooth paste and travel tooth brush saved from last time. All are ensconced in my hand luggage. It’s going to be a long day and I’ll need to keep fresh.

Thanks to everyone who sent me good luck messages. I very much appreciate you doing this journey with me. I hope you’ll stay with me on the trip.

I tried doing a video blog but it didn’t work. I only got sound for the first few minutes then the sound cut out. It was doing that last time, but today when I tried it it worked fine. Now it’s gone back to how it was.

I think this is going to be my biggest challenge, using the webcam for blogging. That and building a good relationship with the mosquitoes.

Next time you hear from me I’ll be somewhere in Kumbo, Cameroon.  Hope I’ll be able to sleep… at least for a few hours, though the level of adrenaline running in my veins would suggest otherwise.


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Countdown to Cameroon – 3 days to go – Chilling

Sunday 15th September 2013

Yesterday I had a blog enquiry about why I’m going to Cameroon. Although I wrote a reply to the post (Countdown to Cameroon – 5 days to go) I thought it would be helpful to refer back to the blog of June 14th where I first wrote about my reasons for going.

https://writingcreativelywithspirit.com/2013/06/14/a-month-in-cameroon/

See also the video of the first time I got the news of my ancestry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1dzxbtg5pI

Since then a lot has happened. My interest in Africa has rocketed, especially African spirituality. In the last few weeks I’ve read four books on African Spirituality, three by Malidoma Patrice Some and one by Vincent Ravelec et al.

I’ve learned a lot about volunteering abroad, process as well as cost. Some of it was frustrating, some exciting. I’ve had times when I’ve questioned whether this is such a good idea after all, but there was never a serious thought that I wouldn’t go.

Now I’m only three days away. It actually feels more like two because I have to be at the airport for 4.30 on Wednesday morning. It became more real when I started communicating with the project directly. It’s fantastic that the director shares my sense of humour, and I’m beginning to clarify some of what I’ll be doing when I get there.

I had a call from the travel agents, Dial-a-Flight, that I booked my flight with. Jed were reminding me that I’m travelling on Wednesday (as if I’d have forgotten). He answered  my questions about baggage allowance, which will mean a little reshuffling. Although I’m allowed 46kgs in a total of two bags/cases, no piece can be more than 23kgs. I was hoping to take one large bag as heavy as possible and a smaller one. Now I’ll have to take a slightly larger one and decant some things out of the big one. So much for my advance packing!

It was my intention to have another go at using the web cam to record a blog today, but had to do some work in the morning, and I was determined to fit in a gym session. By the time I arrived for my reflexology and massage late afternoon I was more than ready to drift off into oblivion while the therapist worked her magic to balance my energy and loosen every tense muscle in my body.

After that, all I wanted to do was sit in front of The Big Bang Theory for hours.