(This is an old entry written at the beginning of the trip to Cameroon but just now getting published.)
This is Holly again, and we all apologize for keeping you in suspense for so long. The journey started off with a bang, when Alyssa Schulze, Ashley Torgerson, Lindsay Simmons and I made the connection from Detroit to Paris with only seconds to spare. And I do literally mean seconds. Our flight leaving St. Louis had been significantly delayed due to huge thunderstorms moving through St. Louis. Once we were finally cleared, the flight was fairly exciting as we could see frequent lightening strikes outside our jet windows. Once we arrived in Detroit, the gate agent said, “Paris? RUN!”, and we did. Sprinting a couple hundred yards in sandals with carry-on luggage, we flew down the gang way and into our seats, with the door closing right behind us, and take off only moments later.
Arrival in Paris was uneventful, and we had a fairly short lay-over due to the late departure from the USA. We bought some water and snacks and boarded the flight for the last leg of our trip to Africa. Our seats were not all together, but that gave us the opportunity to meet other international travelers. My seat mate was a German general practitioner, working in Norway, who was on a bird watching trip to Cameroon. We had much in common and the dialogue was very stimulating. Health care anywhere in the world invites animated discussion. Our flight attendant was the main attraction and kept us all very entertained on the seven hour flight.
Once we landed we found our driver Georges easily, and he was incredibly helpful filling out multiple forms to retrieve our eight lost pieces of luggage. Even with his help, the process took almost two hours. We finally arrived at the Hotel Meridian and checked in after discovering that the restaurant was already closed, some ordered room service, some raided their mini bars, and some just collapsed in bed. Any guesses which choice was mine?
Sunday morning we had a fabulous breakfast buffet and tried out a little of our limited French. Dr. Neal Rosenburg, our resident Francophone, was already at the University of Buea, but even without him, we survived and ate like royalty. Next we converted some dollars in to CFAs, the Cameroonian currency, which would take some getting used to since the exchange rate is so different. We went on a tour of Douala, when even on a Sunday, there is a fair amount of activity. We walked around a park established after World War I and saw the King’s Palace as well as one of the city’s hospitals. By early afternoon we were on our way to our next stop, and were fascinated by the plantations of palm trees, bananas and rubber trees. After a long drive, about 3 hours, we arrived at the Seme Beach Hotel, and settled in to prepare for the opening ceremonies on Monday.
Keeping our fingers crossed for the arrival of our eight bags. I’m especially nervous as all the educational documents, handouts and other necessary documents were in my bags.