Chiefs and Police

Trip Start Oct 12, 2009
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Trip End May 03, 2010


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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hello! Sa'a?  (How is it?)

I can’t remember quite where I left off last time (I’m writing at home to save precious internet minutes) but I have a few things to report on.

Firstly, work.  The three of us (me, Louise & Justin) had a think at the start of last week about what we are going to do with our time here and what we want to achieve for RUDEC.  As I probably mentioned the organisation is tiny with has big ideas, but has a serious lack of funding.  We all kind of agreed that we need to focus on community-based projects that will require little or no money to operate but still be of help to the community.  So my big idea is jam.

Pretty much everyone around here is a subsistence farmer so my idea is to get a few people (to start with) to make jam out of surplus fruits to sell and generate some income.  There are loads of guavas around and also oranges (one of the only fruits that can be harvested throughout the dry season, which is approaching), so if I can get it working it’ll be guava jam and marmalade (very African!) to start with.  I need to do some more research, but if I can source cheap jars there might be some test batches on the go next week!

On the not-work front, I’ve been up to quite a bit.  Last weekend we went over to Fundong, a town about 40 minutes away, to see the fon (chief) of Kom (tribe local to this area).  This involved buying gifts for him before we went (we’d been told he wasn’t in good health so opted for honey, juice & wine rather than the customary whisky) and all putting some money in an envelope for him.  The palace (I use the term loosely) and compound are up in the hills so we piled into a taxi to get up there, 7 of us plus driver… in a minibus, I presume, I hear you thinking.  Nope.  5 of us in the back and 2 in the front with driver of a bog-standard Toyota Corolla!  (This is slight deviation from the standard 4 in back, 3 in front on account of the bad road hence the driver needing easy access to the gear stick.)  Luckily though we only had to get out and walk part of the way, and despite being told we’d have to walk to the last half hour the taxi somehow made it all the way to the top.  Getting down also required some pushing on our part, I was seriously worried at some points that we’d broken this guy’s car!

On arrival we were taken into the courtyard of the palace (a large version of standard brick huts, but with some nice carvings around the place) to see the fon.  Normally he would have a meal cooked and eat with you, but today was the turn of a local village to bring him gifts so he didn’t have time for that (he doesn’t receive a salary, so people bring him food, booze & money).  Instead, he had some women dance and sing (and also made us join in…. cue 6 very awkward looking white people bending their knees and swaying slightly!) and gave us a live chicken to make up for the fact he wasn’t feeding us.  We brought the chicken back with us and one of the other volunteers’ cooks killed and prepared it (I watched, and was slightly perturbed by the fact that she didn’t break its neck first!) for us on Monday… I have to say, it was pretty tasty.  Saturday evening there was a party in Fundong as a couple of volunteers were leaving… they were Spanish so there was plenty of tortilla patatas to go around.  This made me very happy.  The journey back to Belo on Sunday was rather more eventful than we’d been anticipating as one of the guys we were with didn’t have his passport on him so was almost arrested because he wasn’t willing to help the policeman 'solve the problem’ there and then.  In the end we managed to talk him into letting Andy go home to fetch his passport and bring it back, only for them to have left when he did!  (Wasted hour and a half round trip with a substantial hangover… glad it wasn’t me!)

On Wednesday we took a day off from work to go to a tea estate close to where we are.  It’s the largest tea plantation in West Africa and after the failed attempt in Malawi, I actually got to have a cup of tea on a tea estate!  I also learned many, many things about tea (which I will remember forever, as Joshua insisted on asking each progressively more senior staff member who came to talk to us the exact same questions).  We’d got motorbike taxis up there and after a couple of hours looking at tea we hiked back down to Belo.  Where the estate is is also old Fulani land (previously-nomadic Muslim herders from the north) and they were having an equestrian display that afternoon.  We didn’t have time to stay and watch, which was a shame, but did see some of the awesome blankets the horses are dressed in.  It’s also really made me look forward to the trip we are planning to the North Province in March.

In other news, the rain is persisting (good for crops but not good for me not being covered in mud!), my tan is still largely absent (rats) and I gave myself a haircut the other day…. I actually think it looks OK!  Oh, and best of all, we’ve been told about a German nun in the next town along from us that makes cheese!!  This is the most exciting news I’ve heard in a while, I know what I’m buying myself for Christmas. : )

This weekend's adventures to follow shortly!  Hope everyone is well and enjoying all the Christmas food that I'm sure is starting to appear!

xxx
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