A June 2004 trip
to Cameroon by forever young
Quote: A tale of the other side of the world. Jungles, beaches, mountains, and local cuisine!
It was a ragtag team of all different backgrounds, assembled to be in a worship band and to do construction. Some were excited to be heading on this monumental adventure; others, however, were not as intrigued by the opportunity. I fell in the middle.
I was excited to travel once more. I had spent the previous summer traveling the Spainish countryside for two weeks with my classmates, but this was different. No matter how nervous I became, nothing could quell my excitement about this adventure.
We trained for 5 months, learning about the culture, talking about culture shock, going over saftey issues, and practicing as a band. Then the day came to leave. And that is where the adventure really begins.
We decided to fly out of Winnipeg, Canada, because airfare was cheaper. As we assembled and prepared to leave, we noticed that some of our baggage was mislabeled. Instead of Douala, the luggage was being sent to Duluth, Minnesota. We spent 20 minutes trying to figure out if our luggage would safely arrive on the other side of the world. We left and waited for the plane, thoughts of no luggage in a foreign country still lingering in our minds. There was nothing we could do but worry and pray.
We boarded the plane and within no time landed at the Toronto Airport. As we deboarded, we realized that we were running late. We grabbed our carry-ons and jumped the first bus to the international terminal. Once again, we boarded the plane, and we were up for a flight across the ocean into Amsterdam.
Now, flying has always been one of my favorite hobbies. Though an overseas flight is extremely expensive, because of my wonderful travel agent, I got a great flight for as cheap a price as I could.
If you want to splurge on something when traveling, I recommend it be either your flight or your living conditions, because I personally hate being stuck in the middle seat of a 12-hour flight with the large sweaty man on one side who takes up your armrest and steals your pillow and the old man or woman asleep by the aisle so you can't get up and use the restroom the entire flight.
Anyway, back to the story. We arrive after a long flight, a little worn out, a little (okay, really) crabby, and hungry. Amsterdam airport is a wonderful airport filled with anything you want, as long as you don't mind waiting in line or spending twice as much for a hamburger then normal.
I, being one of the only experienced travelers on this team, took this opportunity to walk around, stretch my legs and enjoy the airport. Why is this important? Because I know that this is not my final destination and in a few hours I will once again be back on a plane in the middle seat beside the sweaty man and the old guy. The hours of my layover quickly ticked by, and I changed into my wrap skirt, also known as a sarong, and hopped in the boarding line.
Once again, I found I was nestled in the middle seat; this time, however, I was led in by two team members. One of them was the leader of our team who just happened to have a portable DVD player. A luxury, yes, but I am very grateful for the many movies I played from Amsterdam to our first stop in Malabo.
Now our landing in Malabo was less than perfect. Of course, we landed without crashing, but the bumpy landing left more than a few passengers worried about take-off.
While waiting for the passengers to board from Malabo, I talked to a man headed to Douala. He told me to be careful and not to draw attention to myself. All I could do was laugh. How was a 5'5" white, 18-year-old female in a bright orange team T-shirt not supposed to draw attention?
The pilot directed us to sit down and buckle up. I crossed my fingers, prayed to God, and went into the crash-landing position as we prepared to take off. Surprisingly, the take-off was much better than the landing, with only a few bumps and a strange grinding noise.
Only one hour to go before we landed in Douala and the start of a strange and amazing adventure.
I deplaned and went to show my visa and my passport. As I stepped off the plane, the stifling heat, combined with the extremely high humidity, made me pause. Were people actually able to breathe, walk, and talk at the same time?
I walked down the hallway leading to customs and baggage claim. The walls were cement, and the windows, well, they weren't really windows. They were huge window-shaped holes with no glass and no screen.
Grand Forks, North Dakota