Feeling the gentle light of the early morning dawn, I lie still in that half way place between dream and wake as I vaguely remember dreaming all night that someone must have a pet monkey in the next room. Then as I slowly gain consciousness, I hear clicking noises out the window and realize the obvious fact that the incessant chatter that was disturbing my sleep was not the pet monkey of some guest, but rather the sounds of a real animal right outside of our room. I am struck by the fantastic reality that I am waking for the first time in Africa.
I step out on to the veranda and to see the sun breaking over the river Cheri as it snakes its way in front of the hotel. I can see the fisherman poling across the lazy river collecting the morning catch and on the far bank in Cameroon farmers are already busy working their plots.
I walk down to the grounds and up to the barded wire fence that separates the hotel from the muddy banks of the river below. There are families living in huts and plots of crops growing along the river banks below. There is a family below and woman holds up two, 3 foot long catfish, and asks me in Arabic if I would like to buy them? I try and explain that I am mostly a vegetarian and everyone laughs in that uncomfortable way that happens when you don’t share common language and neither side can understand what the other is saying. As I politely decline her offer, I am struck by the reality of how strange it is to explain the luxury of my picky eating habits to people who know what real hunger is. I’m not sure how much lactose intolerance or vegetarianism exists here, but my guess is that people are probably just grateful when they have something eat.