Saturday, August 05, 2006

Saturday Aug 5 - Day 11

Hard to believe that our time here in Cameroon is coming to an end. It has seemed like both forever and just yesterday since we arrived. This morning is spent doing some more souvenir shopping in the market area. Part of our team also splits off to tour a local medical clinic. Medical clinics are more the norm here for routine medical issues rather than hospitals.

At one point this week, W says, "They will take her to that hospital, it's kinder since its run by the Chinese." Here in Yaounde, there is apparently a large population of Chinese immigrants. No wonder the blondes on our team get more attention than me. The Chinese here run hospitals, own Chinese restaurants [of which we see two] and bring all of their own building materials, drivers and comforts of home. There is no Chinatown per se, but they have extracted and implanted their own cultural environment. During all of our time here, I only see one Chinese person. On another occasion, as I walk towards the market, a Cameroonain calls out to me "Ni hao?" - Mandarin Chinese for "How are you?" Mandarin Chinese in Yaounde Cameroon. How about this planet?

We have a big lunch at the Nens - sloppy joes. We depart for the airport in the late afternoon and work our way through the interesting process of leaving the country. First, there is the tax that we have to pay on every piece of wood that we have purchased. The tax is also higher on ebony carvings. Then we pay our exit tax - a fee required from everyone who is leaving the country. Thirdly, we go through all the security checkpoints, having our carry on and checked luggage scanned. We then check in at the airlines and get our boarding passes. During this whole time, which takes about an hour, there is a whole entourage of Cameroonians who have come to see us off. Many of them get dressed up and a few of them give some of our team some very thoughtful gifts, including some wood carvings, necklaces, and such. Once again, we are overwhelemed with their kindness and sacrifice. We are evidence for a local custom that states "visitors are full-fledged members of the Cameroon family." So very true. Finally, we return to the main terminal area where we say our goodbyes, and head up the stairs to the gate.

Photos: downtown Yaounde, some of the ladies.

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