I've spent the last several days here in Maroua staying at Meena's place and I thought I'd share some of my observations. (Meena is a new VSO volunteer from Canada.)
Maroua is a really nice place. I like the size of it — large enough to have different areas of town and a decent amount of nightlife but small enough that you can get the "lay of the land" pretty quickly.
One of the great treats of Maroua are the fish ladies on the side of the road across from the Avion Ma Laisse shop, and Meena is blessed to live one block from there. So two nights now, we've gone to get freshly grilled fish with fried plantains and salad from the fish ladies. I'm pretty sure the fish is capitaine–a substantial white fish which in medium size is about 8 inches long. Delicious.
It suddenly got cold. When I first came up to the Far North it was quite warm and I was even beginning to regain some color (my tan had faded almost totally away since I arrived in Cameroon). But then, the day before yesterday it went cold. Around Bamenda it has been really cold in the mornings, but by midday it gets hot. But now here in Maroua it is cold in the mornings and it "warms up" to brisk by midday. I wore my fleece almost the whole day today and as we were heading out to get fish this evening, Meena remarked, "I never thought I'd be wearing a jacket here." Me, either! I was talking with her next door neighbor yesterday and he said that this weather would last until the middle of January, which is only two weeks really, so that's not bad. But of course, I have found that people here are happy to make quite definitive statements about the weather that then prove to be completely false, so we shall see.
I was going to start my long trek home this morning, but I've put it off a day because I don't feel ready. Mostly I didn't yet want to confront having to fit everything back into my backpack (how???). So that is the project for today, because I have to be at the bus station at 5:45am in order to catch the first bus, so I can get to N'Gaoundèrè and buy my train ticket and catch the 6:10pm train to Yaoundé.
I went to sleep around 10pm or so on New Year's Eve. Meena had tried to get me to go out with them ("we're just going to have a drink down the street and then go to Claire's for a little bit"). The drink lasted past midnight and morphed into a trip to a nightclub and she got home sometime after 1:30am we think, so I am very happy I didn't go. I was tired and would have been really cranky. By Cameroonian standards, she was a party pooper, I think, because in the neighborhood here the party was still going on when the call to prayer happened (a bit later than usual) at 5:30am! The music did finally get switched off somewhere around 7:00am I think, but everyone started partying again by 3:00pm this afternoon. Such stamina!
The internet café close by, at the Sahel Hotel, has an almost-US class broadband connection. When I realized I could actually download stuff from iTunes I almost had an orgasm. It's not as fast as sitting in the US, but pretty close (I'm guessing it's low-end DSL speed), so I've bought several albums in the last couple of days and have spent hours at the internet café. Why isn't this possible in Bamenda? Only the shadow knows. . .