I want to share how travel here in Cameroon can be more complicated than it is back home in the US. Last week, our friends Caspar and Char arrived from Switzerland. Being complete francophones (this beautiful word means French-speaking, in case I haven't mentioned that before), they landed in Douala on the coast, found a bus to take them the 3+ hour ride to Yaounde, and found our neighborhood. There, they were supposed to meet Ann. They had her number and mine. The phone network in our neighborhood chose that time to simply quit working; Ann had a "limited service" message on her phone, couldn't use it, and more to the point, our friends couldn't call her. So they called me. The plan was for Ann to meet them, so I was across town, an hour away by cab. There was nothing else to do but drop my work, cancel meetings, and come home to meet our friends, since they had no idea where to go, and couldn't get into the house even if they could find it, since Julia who works at the house had already left. And sure enough, about the time I finally got back to our neighborhood, Ann's phone had kicked in again and they had found each other, I had come all that way for no good reason. It was pretty frustrating for both of us.
Today, a week later, Ann's folks fly into Yaounde. Our plan was to meet them at the airport here. But no, today is the day that some dignitaries arrive for a big economic meeting of African countries (if I understand the explanation, anyway), so -- the roads are blocked. I got up to work, ran some errands, and I couldn't get home again. My taxi driver told me the road was blocked, but took me as far as downtown, where we couldn't get any further. So I won't be meeting the in-laws at the airport.
The roads are blocked all the way to the airport, but apparently some of the side roads are open. So Ann and Paul, Julia and Isaac's nephew who has their car tonight to help us out, are working out how to get to the airport. Ann called around, and found out that the Air France flight her parents are on may just keep the passengers on the plane until the dignitaries clear the airport.
Also, when I started heading home, it started raining. And I forgot my umbrella but had my computer with me. That one is entirely my fault; I need to find a plastic pancho to stick in my computer bag for future weather surprises.
So we'll figure something out, and Ann's folks are levelheaded and seasoned travelers, and will no doubt just hang out at the airport til we turn up.
But it seems like it's always something.
It's a lot harder here to labor under the illusion that you are in control of your own life. I was chatting about the situation today with our coworker Guy, and mentioned to him that it seems like Cameroonians don't get upset about things like this. He said no, they don't, there's no reason to get angry about it. I wonder how long I'd have to live here to cultivate this? Ann has more of this than I do.
UPDATE: here's a quick news item from the Post in Buea about what caused tonight's road delay:
Yaounde Hosts 9th CEMAC Heads of state summit
By Orock Eta
Heads of State of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa zone (CEMAC), are converging in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. The 9th Summit of CEMAC will be holding on the 24th & 25th June 2008. Leaders of six countries amongst others will be part of this event. President Theodoro Obiang- Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Omar Bongo Odimba of Gabon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Congo, Francois Bozize of the Central Africa Republic, Idriss Deby Itno of Chad and Paul Biya of Cameroon will be in attendance.CEMAC was created in 1994 to collectively develop the human and natural resources of the sub region for the wellbeing of its people. President Paul Biya has been receiving guests for this occasion.
Looks like they might continue for a day or two.