This is something I have been thinking about for some time now but didn’t have the motivation to sit down and do.
And, it certainly was not because of laziness but, because of the workload that always came with each passing day since I set foot in this awesome country, Cameroon.
So, today I decided to add another assignment to the already demanding schedule, I am only hoping I can keep up with the consistency though.
I certainly will, I am not the type that starts wars and timidly run away a minute later. So Cameroon, where do I even start from? I want to talk about the food but, maybe later.
For starters, this is the longest I have stayed away from my country, Uganda, all by myself. Much as a colleague, Usher Komugisha is here, we are never together because of the different demands of our respective jobs.
Before I even left home, I recall praying to God asking him not to make me homesick, not even get ill and those prayers have been answered thus far.
It’s partly because the locals here have been so hospitable and welcoming, I am more or less, at home. And it can partly be attributed to Lawrence Nkede who appeared from nowhere, just like an angel.
I was still struggling with how I will leave Douala for Yaoundé to where I will sleep when Aminah Babirye hooked me up with Ndeke and just like that, this gentleman hit the ground running.
From wanting to pick me up from the airport to making sure I got a nice and relatively affordable place to stay, his hand was always up.
Well, the transportation from Douala to Yaoundé was sorted by global trotter, Komugisha, but what a journey it was!
Thinking about the fact that at the end of the tournament, I will have made the road trip from Yaoundé to Douala for my flight makes me sick already.
So, we left Douala at about 6 pm (8 pm EAT) and got to Yaoundé at about 11 pm (1 am EAT), with the body yet to adjust to the time zones, which was hectic.
Getting to Yaoundé was the easy part, now locating Ndeke was another movie of itself, without phone battery, we turned to the helpful chauffeur, who sorted the issue.
Nkede had everything sorted, to Phenix Hotel we went, checked out the place and I was sure I wasn’t leaving.
What made me fall for the place was the fact that it was a few metres away from the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, one of the two grounds hosting games in Yaounde. It’s a 10 minute walk.
That’s Saturday 8th and the next day, is the D-day- AFCON commencement, Cameroon is on fire.
From my Hotel, I can feel the sounds of the vuvuzelas, cars hooting and the piercing sounds of the whistles. This is at 7 am but the country is already in the ‘mood.’
But again, I am yet to get my accreditation tag, I walked to the Ominsport Gymnasium and after about 40 minutes, I received it. Now it was time to head to the magnificent Olembe Stadium. It was a challenge in itself since I am still pondering about taking French lessons.
Luckily, I bumped into a gentleman who had a tag like mine and I stopped to say “hello,” he spoke English (what a relief) and he was waiting for the media bus to take him to the stadium.
That felt like I had just hit a jackpot, immediately we began to talk, ten minutes later the bus arrived, jumped in and off we went.
But, en route, the people on the streets wanting to be part of this AFCON journey were overwhelmingly excited. It’s true, Cameroonians love football and their national team in particular.
It was hard to see a person moving without a symbol on their body. If they didn’t have a Jersey on, they had the flag, a cap, a wristband. It was mandatory that morning to have something Cameroon-ish on you.
Getting to the stadium wasn’t that hard, I mean we were being chauffeured like VIPs, went through the ever frustrating security checks, SFC-like. Well, this was more like it, President Paul Biya was to be present.
While all behind and now in the media centre, going through the reprocesses of getting the match-day ticket, the digestion system reminds me that I last attended to it at 5 pm the previous day in Douala.
I hate going hungry even for a minute because that always means no work will be done until the hunger is sorted.
I recall wandering around the stadium looking for what to eat, asking whoever spoke English where I could locate a restaurant to attend to my stomach demands.
I land on an elevator which was on the fourth floor, got in and just pressed ‘two.’ Laughable, right?
I got out and landed in a group of soldiers, covered from toe to eye. Being the brave Kyazze that I have always been, I walked up to them and asked if any of them spoke English, without any bit of fear.
The one I asked pointed to his colleague, I walked up to him and inquired. He looked at me, opened the door, I followed him, pointed at another door, walked with me and told me, there it is.
Wow! First of all, the place felt like heaven, the setup, the furniture, the ushers, it was a different world, at that point it kicked in that I was in the VIP section of the Olembe Stadium. Walked towards the counter, asked to be served, and got what I needed.
At that point it felt like I was enjoying a meal made from home, these guys’ cuisines are so Ugandan. The only bit missing from their menus is ‘matooke’ and ‘binyebwa’ but whatever you eat here will not surprise you.
Anyway, this already long story will be continued in the next chapter.