Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas in Kenya

 Dec 24
At the moment I’m staying in an A-frame surrounded by second growth trees in some of the last remaining indigenous forest in Nairobi Kenyas’ environs. A few moments ago there was a large Sykes monkey sitting on the balcony peering at us from the railing. Long tails and a huge hairy brow. They are quite entertaining jumping through the tree tops, chasing each other. The dogs barking their heads off while the monkeys run up and down the vines and trees beside the house teasing them. If we leave a window open for the cats, and bananas on the counter? Bananas gone. Yesterday I was sitting doing my writing and I hear the window moving open, then a face peers under the blind. Cheeky!
It’s a tremendous relief to be away from the instability and potential violence we experienced last month in Bamenda. It was challenging to  focus on anything with random gunshots , tear gas and protests happening. We were already intending to leave, so it seemed appropriate to accelerate our departure since we had a destination and accommodation waiting. Putting out the word to friends and associates we were able to give away and sell  all our furniture and household goods, recovering some of our investment. A bonus really. And all done long before the arranged ride arrived. Floors mopped, bags packed and waiting at the entrance.
It was a bitter sweet departure. We made some good friends in Bafut, some friends were out of the country and others we hadn’t contacted before leaving. The threat of more troops arriving, unknown outcomes and more protests anticipated,  encouraged us to cut short our stay, and move on to our next adventure. One of the German volunteers accompanied us to Dschang where there is a famous museum. The other volunteer was there already staying with a friend and raving about how friendly everyone was. A college town with a lakeside promenade beside the museum, it was quite a contrast.
Then onto Douala by bus. The proprietor of the hotel drove us in the morning to the depot where numerous touts attempted to “assist” us into their company’s bus. I watched them accost a number of arriving women on motorcycles, quite aggressively. The women were not impressed. Eventually we left after a few false starts, entertained by a salesman flogging herbal remedies, standing in the aisle at the front of the bus exhorting everyone to try his samples. After some time he got off and not long later another fellow stepped on and did a repeat performance.
Douala’s a busy place, international seaport and airport, a real cross-roads of cultures. We spent time walking near the hotel, breakfast at a roadside stall every morning, a pizza in the Greek/Lebanese restaurant on our last night. We had a driver from a previous visit and he gave us a tour of the town. Through the port authority; massive warehouses,  lines of waiting workers, stacked containers and seafood restaurants, then the old part of town past impressive architecture, hotels and residences. Lots of very old street trees, mostly mangoes.
 Then into the main market, a more chaotic and crowded place, I’ve never been. Negotiating through intersections spilling over with produce, people and intense smells we inched through, the market itself stretching in all directions beyond sight. Trucks disgorging endless boxes of goods manhandled and hand-trucked back into the market from blocks away where there was somewhere to park. Intense.
In the morning a Christmas parade had us leaving early to avoid the blocked streets, through the airport and onto our plane… practically empty. We managed to score the exit seats, lots of leg room and they cancelled the scheduled stop in Yaounde so we arrived an hour early. The view was clouds the whole way until I saw Lake Victoria!   Our ride arrived after Elke had arranged sim cards so our internet connection is set.

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