Following my birthday, I traveled to Yaoundé with Jerome since he was returning to France. I used this occasion and arranged a few meetings for my projects. I had contacted someone at the US Embassy and was hoping to meet on late Friday afternoon since she wouldn’t be available on Monday. Newsflash, the Embassy closes at 12:30pm on Friday?! So not only do they get ALL US & Cameroonian holidays off, they also get half day Fridays?! really? And while we are on the subject of government holidays. I passed through the Peace Corps office on Monday hoping to get my mail, fill some medication and also see my APCD. And what do you know? The office was closed? WHY? I still have no idea.
Besides the bizarre office closure, I witnessed another classic Cameroon happening. A football game took place Sunday afternoon at the Omnisport stadium in Yaoundé. This was the last game for the Cameroon club league. No, I did not go watch the game, but what I did witness was how the entire city was more or less on a standstill for this football game. Reason? The president, Paul Biya, was going to be at the game.
The Peace Corps compound is right next to Omnisport, and the French passage house where I was staying is in Bastos, apparently where Biya lives. What does this mean? All the roads between both places I wanted to be were closed. Not for say, an hour, but ALL DAY. In the afternoon, I had lunch with two friends and after were walking back to the Peace Corps compound. We needed to cross the street, but were yelled at by the angry police. So we waited, and two minutes later a parade of motor bikes, limos, big SUVs drove by – the President has arrived.
A few hours later, I attempted to go back to the French passage house and had to walk the entire way because all the roads were closed. As I walked, I observed the empty streets, and the police/army with machine guns on standby. At a few crossroads, I kid you not, there were military tanks. If you were not warned, you would have had every reason to think a war is about to happen. But no, it was just that the President is out to see a football game. This is the same president that has been ruling the country since 1982 and recently went on a $40,000 per night vacation in France. Meanwhile, I am begging for $11,500 to build 30 libraries for his country. Like many things in this country – it doesn’t make any sense. And as most Cameroonians would say: On va faire comment?
Monday afternoon, I had arranged a meeting with someone at the British Council to discuss possible collaboration with the Books For Cameroon project. For some reason, I thought it would follow typical UK standards and the meeting would began on time. I arrived at 16h, and by the time the meeting began, it was 16h30. However, this guy was very apologetic and explained that he was meeting with the Education minister, and was that was running late, then the traffic was terrible. As soon as he said the world minister, I forgave him. We had a good discussion about the project and I am crossing my fingers hoping he will be able to find money in this fiscal year’s budget to fund our project! We shall see.