Justin's Cameroon Travels – Weeks 2-5

Preamble: It has been a while since I was able to update this, but as there was about as much excitement in these four weeks as there was in my first one.

Days 7- 11 (July 17-21) – I spent five days in the project house in Yaounde. Not just sleeping there, but hanging out there during the day as well. The crew from the WRJHCP were all going crazy getting ready for the first trial run a new cohort study that Nathan is starting up at the HEVECAM rubber plantation. The project house was ground zero for setting up and testing the computer equipment. The end result was that I spent most of the time just trying to stay out of the way.

Days 12-14 (July 22-24) – We drove up tor Kribi, where I stayed along with the German cohort consultants until space freed up at the rubber plantation. No one was around the plantation for me to interact with over the weekend so I spent it on a beach just south of Kribi. There is a nice hotel there called Ilomba that has all of the features that you expect from your tropical paradise: places to lounge on the beach, fruity drinks, clean bathrooms, oil platforms in the distance... This was the vacation part of my trip, reading, eating grilled fish, swimming, and getting a Doxycycline enhanced sunburn.

Days 15-18 (July 25-28) – For the next four days I made the commute from Kribi to HEVECAM with the consultants every day. An hour or so on pot holed roads, sometimes starting out at 6:30 am and not returning home until after midnight. While they often had things to do all day, I was just making my first forays into working with the hospital staff, so I would have one or two meeting a day. We had to have a meeting when I was introduced to the entire senior hospital staff, while oodles of patients were waiting to be seen. I had to meet with the head nurse of each section individually to be told exactly what they did, once again at the expense of the patients. I was generally treated like a VIP, meanwhile all I wanted to do was sit in a quite room with the medical records. The most exciting thing about our days was the yummy, yummy omelet shack we ate at in the morning.

Days 19-21 (July 29-31) – The majority of the cohort staff left so I finally got to move to HEVECAM. The laboratory staff stayed around so I was not completely stuck out on my own yet. Oliver, Joseph, and Cyrille took me to Village 2 (all of the plantation villages are numbered) where they showed me the best grilled fish shack in town. Best of all, on Friday I finally got to start looking at medical records!!!

Days 22-27 (August 1-6)- A week on my own in HEVECAM, which meant no French speaking support and taking Moto-Taxis everywhere. Still, it was a welcome respite from living life on other peoples agendas. Mostly my days involved sitting around wherever I could find space, looking through records, and entering data in my computer. The records are old log books that are kept in a cabinet in the statistics office of the hospital. There was no overall organization so finding what I was looking for was often a challenge.

Days 28-31 (August 7-10) - For my final week at HEVECAM a skeleton crew from the cohort study returned in order to do the post enrollment follow-up. Mostly I just continued going through records all week long. On one day we did go to a restaurant where we were served some Meat of Unknown Origin. It was disgusting, but probably not because of what it was. More likely the cooking technique of boiling it until it is devoid of all texture and flavor was responsible.

Day 32 (August 11) - My last full day at HEVECAM was an exciting one. I had finished up my data entry and a preliminary report, that I presented to the administration. After presenting my report I returned to the hospital where I bought Mr. Koum, my de-facto host at the hospital, his lunch break beer. This turned into a two hour political discussion with all the people in the shop. While I was in agreement with most of the people there about our illustrious president, there was a lot of explaining to do. No, not everyone in the United States has a job. No, not everyone is fat. Yes, there are a lot of guns in Texas. All in all I think I managed to get through it without offending anyone and perhaps leaving them with a more realistic impression of the United States.

Afterwards I went for a walk with the intention of getting a photo of a goat. There are goats almost everywhere in Cameroon, and I had yet to get a good picture. After my foray into the closest village I ended up with a gaggle of boys running after me shouting “Le blanc! Le blanc!” In the spirit of good international relations I counter with a “Les noirs! Les noirs!”, which they got a big kick out of.

That evening we had to give a technician a ride back to Kribi so we had an excellent dinner at Pieds en L'Eau (not Pieds en Mer as previously reported), where I showed that my fish eating skills had greatly improved, though perhaps not yet up to Cameroonian standards.

Day 33 (August 12)- After a late start out from HEVECAM and a very lackadaisical trip back, I finally arrived back in the big city of Yaounde and was reunited with the Internet. Best of all, I got to take my first hot shower in three weeks.

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