Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cameroonian Fustration

The events of this week has left me totally frustrated with the way things work in this country. I was always aware of the inefficiency, but I do everything in my power to avoid them. This past week, I've had to deal with them first hand. Let me tell you, NOT fun. I grew up in Taiwan and thus was brought up with the Asian efficiency. There were times when I thought Americans were inefficient. All this just makes dealing with Cameroonian inefficiency that much more grueling for me.

I won't go into too much detail on all the mishaps, but I'll mention them in bullet-point forms. Yesterday, it took an hour-long run plus an hour of power yoga for me to get rid of the frustration. I don't need to talk about it in detail and bring that back again. So, in a nutshell:
  • two trips to Bafoussam to meet the new governor and finalize things for the ceremony and storage space. Two trips this week, in addition to many trips before, and still no confirmation on -anything-. The trips/meetings were for the most part pointless. Nothing they couldn't tell my over a phone call. In addition, I STILL don't know who the new governor is.

  • was informed two days ago that the Embassy can no longer clear our container from Books For Africa. Apparently there was a new policy change, and somehow no one informed me. The person in Peace Corps who told me a year ago that he'd help me with the process also had no idea. Did I mention a YEAR?

  • 23,000 books are suppose to come in one week. A ceremony and distribution of books are taking place in two weeks. We still have no idea on the following: how to get the container out of customs, how much it will cost, who will ship it to Bafoussam, if we have a place to store it for sure, the exact process of getting the books where they need to be, exactly how many people are coming to the ceremony, who is preparing for the food, etc. etc. etc. So basically, 95% of everything remains a big question. Yet, for some reason, people don't seem bothered by it. 
I know things will work out, but this whole waiting everything until the last minute way is driving me insane. I am the biggest procrastinator so I know all about putting things off, but not when it involves other people. Two days ago, during one of our pointless meetings, the guy said, "but the 19th is ways away". Did he think the books will sort themselves and the caterer and everything for the ceremony will magically show up? This is precisely how so many "festivals" that suppose to take place in this country turns out to be a bust. Because people apparently feel things will magically appear and organize themselves...

During one of my rides, I finally see why for the most part, Cameroonians are very apathetic. I thought, "I would be, too, if I was a citizen here." Why bother if you have food in your stomach and enough to get by in life? There are so many hoops to jump through in order to get even the most simple task accomplished that it's no wonder people just do what they need to, and let the rest be. Can you blame them? I know there are still plenty of Cameroonians who do care and are striving to make a real difference, and for that, I have a great deal of respect.

3 comments:

Tene said...

Feeling tense, miles away, thinking about the container of books, and wondering whether you'll be able to get everything out of customs on time. Good luck and "Patience!"

Kelsey said...

Ashia! We all had those days, some of us more than others... Here is a great, brief and vivid article by a fellow who works as a journalist in Africa and his R&R. I believe that i had a couple of the very same days as he did while I worked in the Northwest Province.

Take a break! http://postcardjunky.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/back-to-the-future-ish/

Anonymous said...

In terms of food preparation, I would suggest doing it the African way and having everyone bring their own dish and people bring the food. Or asking someone people to prepare a dish that you know and trust and have everyone else bring drinks. This is just a suggestion :D