Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Yaoundé

Yaoundé is the nation's capital and lies approximately 140 miles east of Douala.  


The road from Douala to Yaoundé is a two lane, rural road known for its many accidents.  
The volume of traffic, the trucks and the winding turns make it dangerous.   


Getting out of Douala can also be a challenge.  
It took us over an hour to go the first 15 miles.  


The journey is sometimes more interesting than the destination - especially in Africa.  


Palm oil, a type of edible vegetable oil mainly used for frying and for 
cooking beans,  is sold by the side of the road all over West/Central Africa.   
The red oil comes from the palm fruit of the African oil palm 
tree and is very high in saturated fat.  

Roadside cafe - Cameroonian style.     


Traffic continued normally while this truck was on fire.  We could feel the 
heat inside of our car while we passed.  Abandoned and wrecked vehicles tend 
to be left by the side of the road - and then burned by "officials" to get rid of them. 


We assume that this one will be set on fire next.  

 This car in front of us has a LIVE goat on top strapped down.  
I suppose they want the meat to be fresh when they arrive.  
Notice the oncoming car has a CASKET strapped to the roof.  
You just can't make this stuff up! 

There were scenic parts of the countryside too.  

As we passed this area, we saw freshly killed grasscutter (similar to a super-sized rat) hanging by the road.  We also saw smoke in the distance.  Our driver explained 
that they were setting fires to run out animals in the bush to catch them easily. 
 Bush meat is very popular here and includes monkeys, snakes, grass cutters, rats - 
and everything else that might live in the bush.  When they catch it, they just hang
 it on a pole by the road and  someone will buy in within a short time.  A few 
minutes later, we saw an ENORMOUS fish hanging by the side of the road too.  
I guess if you stop, someone will happily sell it to you.  
Drive by, bush meat - at your service!     

Each little village along the way had a person collecting a "toll" to drive on the road.  
There were also LOTS of vendors selling wares as the cars slowed down.  I wanted to 
get a close-up view of the ladies selling bobolo, but this was the best one I had.  Bobolo is 
mashed up cassava steamed in cassava leaves and tied in a string.  It is usually eaten with fish.   The people behind them are sitting in an outdoor restaurant.  

Firewood can also be purchased easily.  

 Baskets grow on trees in some villages.   :) 
Bananas are sold right off the branch. 

 One of the rivers we crossed on the way showed the diversity of the landscape.

As we came into Yaoundé, it seemed to be dramatically different from Douala.  
The streets are well paved in Yaoundé and more crowded, yet its chaos seems more 
organized then Douala.  Yaoundé is greener and spread out on a plateau over seven hills, 
which surround the city.   It is also cleaner and boasts many 1970 style buildings, 
giving it an unkempt, dated appearance.   
  The motorcyclist is wearing a hard hat - backwards - as his helmet, and this is not uncommon to see.  Notice the oncoming bentiskin (motorcycle taxi) 
has a military man as his passenger.  
The wiring always makes me stare in wonder. 
There's such colorful activity on these African roads.  
I might mention that it is HOT here - and we are in the dry (hot) season in Cameroon. 
 Even though Yaoundé is less humid and a tad bit cooler than Douala, it is 
still in the mid to upper 80s.   I am always amazed when I see motorcycle 
drivers wearing long sleeve jackets and wool caps.  We were sweating!  
We also noticed that the traffic overall in the capitol city is MUCH worse than Douala.  

We sat in this traffic for a LONG time trying to get to our hotel.  

We stayed at the Hilton in Yaoundé, which was very comfortable.  
 I'm not sure that this particular bronze statue made us feel very
 welcome.  Possibly a man waving a machete with a head on a stick is 
not the warm, fuzzy feeling that I expected from the Hilton Hotels. 
 However, our room was spacious and clean,  and it is the nicest 
place we have stayed at in all of West -Central Africa so far.  

Driving around Yaounde brought typical scenes we have seen in other areas.  
However it still amazes me at the electrical lines.  I think that many of the little 
shops just add a cable to the main line and connect it directly.   
This is the original world wide web. :) 
Even with sand and rocks, you still have to make a living.  

Throughout Cameroon (and other places in this area of the world), mattresses 
and furniture pieces are sold by the side of the road - rain OR shine.  

We passed many colorful, busy markets in Yaoundé. 

It seems like women wear more traditional dress here than in Douala too.  

The green hills of Yaoundé were really different than the flat landscape of Douala. 
 It was a nice change for us and we had a wonderful visit to the capitol city.


Just in case we wanted to take the train, it runs daily between Douala and Yaoundé.  
We also enjoyed a wonderful diner at a unique restaurant called Cafe de Yaoundé.  
It was open to the outdoors with levels of gardens and a variety of seating.  
We enjoyed the dinner with friends in the wonderful ambiance of this eclectic cafe. 
 It was a nice ending to a fun weekend in the capital city of Cameroon.  

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Burns Night Supper

One of the advantages of living as an expat is being 
included in wonderful traditions from around the world. 


For the past few years, we have been a part of the Caledonian Balls in Lagos, 
so we were thrilled when a good 'Scottish' friend told us that she 
had brought haggis back in her suitcase!!  

It was all the motivation we needed to help create a Burns Night Supper.  :) 


January 25th is the birthday of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796).  
Every year - on or around this date -  there are worldwide gatherings 
of Scots, celebrating the Bard's birthday.   People come together
 to pay tribute to the life, works and spirit of "Robbie" Burns.    

Five years after the death of Burns, a group of his friends gathered to fondly 
remember the poet.  The event soon became an established tradition.  
The first Burns Supper was held in 1801, so we carried on the 
tradition in Douala that has been ongoing worldwide for 215 years!! 

The evening began with John (our Scotsman) giving a welcome and
 introducing the evening.   

Richard (our other Scotsman) gave the traditional Selkirk Grace. 

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Then to the tune "Scotland the Brave", we piped in the Haggis.  

For those who aren't familiar with Haggis, it is the heart of a real Scottish 
meal - and crucial to Burns Night Suppers.  Haggis is a mixture of
 sheep's stomach stuffed with diced sheep's liver, lungs and heart along 
with oatmeal, onion, suet and seasonings.   If you can forget what 
you are eating, it is really tasty.  I had it in Scotland twice 
and liked it before I figured out what I was really eating.  :)  

As the bagpipes played, the Haggis was ceremoniously brought in on a
 silver tray by Richard and placed on the table.   

John did a great job with his "Address to the Haggis".  

Here's part of his 'Address" below in a short 1 minute video.  

John cut the Haggis and it was moved back to the kitchen for serving later. 

The Haggis was toasted with a dram of Scotch Whisky 
and signified the beginning of the meal.  


The first course was Cock-A-Leekie Soup with bread and butter.  
Cock-A-Leekie Soup contains chicken, broth, onions, leeks, carrots, thyme, 
parsley, rice or barley, salt & pepper and prunes (to add a sweet flavor).   
It was delicious!  



Somehow I missed taking a picture of the main plate with food!   
The dinner was Burns Night traditional and contained Haggis and 
minced (ground beef with seasonings and gravy), 
Neeps and Tatties (turnips and mashed potatoes), carrots 
and green peas.   It was a hearty dinner and 
every single bit was flavorful and fabulous.  
And yes, I ate the haggis!  :)  


However, the piéce de resîstance was the Sticky Toffee Pudding
 for dessert.  This is a decadent piece of deliciousness and one of 
my all time favorite desserts.  The pudding is made with dates so it is  
moist and tasty - but the caramel glaze just puts it over the TOP!   
We served it with ice cream (yum!)  followed by Scottish Shortbread
 and a cheese board.  We were stuffed - but very happy!  
Notice that I did NOT forget to take a picture of the dessert. :)    

As the night progressed, John kept the comments going and then turned it over to Peter.  

Peter did a Toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns.  
He did a wonderful job telling us about the poet and capturing the spirit of the evening.  
"So simply and eloquently did Burns express his feelings
that they have become part of our everyday dialogue.
Without thinking we often use his words and thoughts.
How often while reading the morning papers have we
pondered "Man’s humanity to man" or resigned ourselves
 to the truth that "nae man can tether time or tide" or
 steeled ourselves with resolve to "Do or Die"?

Stewart read a "Red, Red, Rose" which was one of Burn's most famous poems.  


Richard recited "To a Mouse" in his Scottish Brogue, which was mesmerizing.  

Charles did a toast to the Lassies (women), 
which was comical and an ode to the "fairer sex".  


Laura did the Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, 
followed by Janet reading a poem which showed appreciation for the Laddies (men).  

It was a wonderful evening and no one wanted it to end.  
We moved the party to the photo Booth.  
The sign above says Haggis, Neeps & Tatties along with a picture of Robert Burns.  
  We enjoyed our international crowd.  

 Madhu and Rudra  from Calcutta, India 

Andrea from Germany - Reuben from Spain 


Laura from Washington DC and Stewart from North Carolina (and Washington DC) 

Sue and Peter from England 



Charles and Janet  (Texas) 


Thao (Vietnam) and Thomas (France) 

Joanne and John - Aberdeen (area), Scotland 

Leila (Algeria), Peter (England), Kelly (Texas) 


Veronica (Singapore) and Richard (Scotland) 


The Laddies looking debonair.


And the Lassies enjoying the evening.  

The group shot cut off a few people, but this was the best one that we had.   :) 
In true Highland fashion, the evening wouldn't 
have been complete without Scottish Country Dancing.  
With lively music, we danced to 'Strip the Willow" 
and had plenty of laughs along the way.   
It was so fun! 
At the end of the evening,  still following Burns night traditions, 
we concluded by singing "Auld Lang Syne" - complete with a rousing 
ending by our resistant Scots.  

So in the middle of West/Central Africa, 
in French-speaking Douala, Cameroon, 
we celebrated a Scottish tradition
 along with 19 friends from the USA, France, 
Vietnam, Germany, Spain, India, England, 
Algeria, Singapore and Scotland.   

What an experience!