Friday, February 27, 2009

The Complicated Ways

You know how at interviews when they ask, "Describe a time when you had to think quickly on your feet to respond to unexpected problems", or "Describe a time when you had to solve a problem creatively"? I think living in Cameroon has allowed me to have at least one story a day that answers to these behavioral type questions.

I never realized how wonderful store hours are. You know Wal-Mart is open 24 hours a day except Christmas and Thanksgiving. You know Walgreens and the gas stations are always open. On Christmas Eve, you can always go see a movie or rent them at Blockbuster. I know I can find all my living stables at Target or Trader Joes. The only time I remember not finding something I want is when it's some bizarre thing like a pink, transparent see-through ipod case (I never actually looked for one of those), or just the right pair of black heels for my little black dress (I did have a black heels crisis). I am reminded of the wonder of store hours every time I trek all the way to the carrefour and they don't have something I totally need. Because you bet I am not going all the way there unless I have to. It's so natural for stores to be "out of something" or just simply not open at all.

When I am in my house, there's how to best utilize my limited water supply as not to waste. Recently I've rearranged my schedule so I can be out and avoid the kids coming by my house after school. But the downside of it is I don't have plenty of water fetchers ready to work. I do laundry, and then I wash the floor with the soapy water. I always have to make sure there are water for the filter, because it is not good when there aren't water to cook or drink. And I usually have to spread out my chores that requires water, which includes shower. Today for example, I took a bucket bath, and then did dishes, and that depletes the supply so much that I must wait to do other cleaning later.

All of the above mention things are all quite minor and daily, but last night I was encountered with a classic "this is Africa" moment. I had been searching quite a while for flights from Yaoundé to Taipei. Either the entire trip on one booking is simply impossible, or insanely expensive. After many comibnations and logical thinking, I narrowed down to two separate bookings with Air France. Then because my Internet is too slow and spotty, I decided to walk my sister step through step of booking on the Air France Cameroon website. We got through everything until when it's time to input payment info, and it wouldn't work. So I go to Air France US website and it tells me the flights aren't available, which is obviously not true. Then I go to Air France France website, and it still wouldn't work. Finally, I sat online while my sister called Air France US and booked my flight on the phone. Apparently all flights out of Africa aren't allow to be booked online, because there are too many fraud. Then the problem came with the credit card company freaking out because it's paying for a flight out of Africa. A flight out of Africa is apparently more thief-esque than charging two Macbook laptops in the same month. In the end, Air France had to submit a bill to credit card company and confirmation will be delivered within 24 hours.

Through it all, I was actually more amazed at the efficiency of Sherry getting on the phone and able to get something done in a flash than the complication of this process. I'm used to this, but I'm not used to getting things done. Sherry was concerned about my extended layover where my luggage won't be checked through. I said, "I will enjoy checking and rechecking my luggage because it will be SO efficient." I will need to do some serious mental preparation before I land in Asia. The Asian efficiency is going to put me over the edge!

1 comment:

Megan said...

Man that is so crazy that it is so hard to even buy a plane ticket out of there! Mental preparation for culture shock is going to have be at it's peak in May and June for you!