Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Me

I woke up on the Endurance ferry from Calabar to Limbe just in time to catch the end of a rain shower outside and a Nollywood video inside.

Where is my passport? I was starting to get nervous. A man with the shipping company had taken my passport at the start of the journey and I'd figured it would show up eventually. Now I was getting worried.

We pulled into the Limbe port and anchored.

My, Cameroon was green. Deep, rich, Central African green. I was glad not to be crossing the green mountains between Nigeria and Cameroon in a vehicle. That's the kind of forest that sucks you up and spits you out at its own pleasure, with complete disregard for your schedule or wishes.

I followed the other passengers off a steel gangplank, onto the pier, and then down to a container-turned-immigration office. The sun was fierce and had burned off any coolness from the rain in moments.

Immigration officers sweating inside the container had piles of passports. Ah. Mine would be there, then.

We all waited, and I panicked about the sun. I wasn't wearing sunscreen, and I crept around the crowd to shelter in the container. This was actually hotter than being outside, but the sun couldn't get me here.

My passport was processed last—presumably because of the extra paperwork involved. The ferry official who'd been insisting I had the wrong visa—"You're transit, not tourist,"—actually sought me out to apologize after my passport was stamped "Tourist." By then, the minibuses to the ferry's office on the outskirts of Limbe had left.

This turned out to not matter at all. I got to the ferry office late. But the luggage got there even later. We all hung around, bored. I sat next to some women with really hairy legs and commiserated.

"The organization here is terrible," said a Nigerian woman.

"It is."

And we all sweated and waited.

When the luggage did arrive, we were all shooed out of the arrival hall. The luggage were unloaded from the truck, and the gates were again opened to us.

"They are treating us like animals," groused a Cameroonian man.

We all went in, collected our luggage, and then showed it to Customs. I had to unzip my bag, but as usual, they gave it a cursory glance, marked it with a checkmark in chalk, and sent me on my way.

Outside, after fleeing a man anxious to carry my bag ("You are depriving my family of income by carrying your own bag" "GAH!") a taxi driver stuffed me into his taxi.

"Where to?"

"An ATM, please."

"Which ATM?"

"Any. I have no money."

This made him eager to please, since I couldn't pay the fare without an ATM.

He left me at the center of town, where I had to use my Visa to get a cash advance. The bank that takes my Mastercard-branded card didn't have an ATM this time.

I hadn't decided yet whether to go to a nicer budget hotel, or to splurge on the nicest hotel in town. It was my birthday, don't forget, and some of my friends had sent me Paypal money to treat myself. I decided to ask for help, and crossed the street to talk to a policeman.

"Do you know Savoy Palmz Hotel?"

He just about melted, and hailed a motorcycle-taxi.

"This is a great place."

The moto-taxi driver agreed.

"Is it too expensive?"

"No, it is more than the others but it's okay. And worth it."

That's exactly what I needed to hear. That a local didn't consider it an insane pointless luxury.

I went to the Savoy Palmz and checked in. Hot water. Wi-fi. Real mattresses. Toilet that I didn't need to first fix to get it to work. CNN that had sound long enough for me to see a piece about a friend's friend's restaurant in Astoria.

And later, a nice dinner.

But alas, Savoy Palmz had no cake. Still, I went to sleep quite content. Out of Nigeria and into beautiful Cameroon. Not too bad a way to mark the end—or beginning—of another year.


  1. Is it just my browser or did this post disappear?

  2. I just recreated it again, and it erased it again. Clearly, Blogger knows that I'm about 2 centimeters away from a breakdown from having too many people screaming at me to do things for them.

  3. Third time appears to have worked.