Somie blog

A blog written while undertaking anthropological fieldwork in Somié, Adamaoua, Cameroon/Cameroun

1 Dec 2003
On the plane. Idleness makes work. Or a time apart gives space for creativity: as an experiment I'll write my work diary as an off-line blog. I don't know how interesting it will be to others - or to myself but it seems worth the time to try and see, for this trip at least. So here goes: on the plane - disconnected both literally and metaphorically - and reading Barabasi's book 'Linked' all about networks. I enjoy the irony of thinking about networks when at my most disconnected. Why does distance make me more creative? Also: a possible visual anthropology project - to actually travel to Rugeley and use the album I bought at a car boot sale as the basis of research (see ). Exploring why human contact makes things different. So sending emails elicits no reply but maybe going to a local history meeting might. Thus far the journey has been very smooth - apart from the usual airport agonies: will I be hit for excess baggage? Will they decide my hand baggage is too large or too heavy? Or - now - containing forbidden items? Once on the second plane actually going to Cameroon the only remaining fear is that a) my bags have got lost and b) that the customs will give me a hard time. No films I want to see so I'm ploughing through my book.

2 Dec 2003
Admin and more than that working out logistics. Hard to explain why its all so difficult just to get to see people - all transformed by mobile telephones except they don't always work and also sometimes half work - I've phoned one number about 5 times before I got a line clear enough to discover that I'd been given the wrong number, so back to square one. Good news: the packages I sent in advance have arrived safe and well. I have changed money, seen the secretary from Unesco and had lunch with Andrew as well as sending an email to Anna. I even spoke to her once I'd put some credit into the phone - and rescued the number which was within a day of being cut off. Bizarre: I went to get some photocopying done, and of all the copyshops of all the towns in Cameroon I had to choose the one where Pierre now works. Extraordinary to see him again - we both walked out unscathed when our car spun then rolled on the road near to Foumban two years ago. Being that close to disaster creates a bond but neither of us really know what to do with it - I'd learnt that the phone number I'd had for him was no longer working so I had no other means of contacting him. Lucky happenstance. Which is how things all so often work here. Meeting up with Prof Francis: catching up with progress and with plans for grant applications and with the PhD student we are co-supervising. Some thoughts about where to go next. Then back to British Council residence where I finally get to meet Saa the man who I've been emailing over the last year: he remembers me when I first arrived in Somie but I don't recall him (one of the undifferentiated mass of small children). But we talk Mambila and he gives me the gossip. Mike my long time collaborator and co-author is dead. Recently. But Diko is still there! Extraordinary.

3 Dec 2003
Weds Rain in the night. Nice noise but I hope it doesn't persist - I've a busy day ahead. It's supposed to be dry season but Yde is sufficiently south not to care about such niceties. Cool though. 11 pm. Tired after a busy and complex day. Now all set to leave tomorrow: I've met with the VC and with Francis again. I've seen the house he's built with rooms for rent (25 p.m.). I've also met with the Canadian high commission and then sent email to Bruce - sent more later after Canda sent me to talk with Toa about his applied linguistic program. Then a brief meeting with Loa before out for supper with Andrew where I sorted out with him travel tomorrow (on taxis with a cousin of his to help look after my bags) and the return trip (in the car in January if all goes well). Managed to get through to Bda so that meeting is organised and then Neil phoned me from UK with news of a shift in the Fmban rendevous - weird because I'd not been able to get hold of them... 11pm Foumban Hotel Rifum. Well I got here - eventually. Missed the meeting with Unesco - uncertain and too late for travelling - hope it went ok. Got to Bafm ok but then the man I was supposed to meet was delayed - taxi breakdown. So I ended up with a very short intense discussion - and he impressed me greatly, I hope it works out - he's due to work as a RA for one of my students next April. Then off in a taxi for Fmban - left c 530 but because they dropped some people on the way then collected others to fill the spaces it was not a fast run - so didn't get here until 7 - dark. And they were phoning me worried that I'd not got there yet just as I walked in the door. Posh new hotel, posh but no water. Irritating but c'est afrique ici. Nice evening talking shop and trying to get to know both K and Le a Camerooonian biochemist. Nice to catch up with Mark who seems well. K is from Mauritius which I'd not realised - gives him an interestingly different perspective. He's enjoying (I think*) being described as a blanc. This led to an interesting discussion of what colour Christ was and how come the devil is always black? K and I said straightforward European racism, Mark and Le either less sure or more polite. Early start tomorrow. 6am aagh. * K having read this says no: NOT enjoying the confusion.

5 Dec 2003
Friday Bankim and aaagh it certainly was. I didn't sleep well last nigtht - no good reason just didn't so not in good form this am. No proper breakfast which I didn't like. Then down to Kimi - stopping briefly at Magba to leave a message at the EU Dev project - they're all in Yde (surprise). Met Sister Julie which was nice - so off to Bankim - arrived c. 8pm after easy 2 hr journey. I let hem go on to greet the chief while I sorted out accommodation. then walked in and saw JJ the photographer - who was waiting for me before doing anything about documenting the photos (surprise)! Then found K and team at the police station - all very straightforward. Back to dump bags when Hans came through - he's OK but apparently Frans is badly ill in Europe somewhere -kidney problems when in Egypt where he'd gone to learn Arabic. Then set ourselves up in market trying to persuade people to let us sample their DNA - very slow trickle of volunteers - lots of scepticism, what's in it for us sort of thing, or what is on the swab stick - there's medicine here. So a slow start but by 3.30 we'd 75 people so fine. Some interesting mixes of Kwanja and Tikar I think and several Mambila. I've met many Mambila but none that I know well. Somie tomorrow. Beer soon.

6 Dec 2003
8 pm Nkambe elev. 5400feet. That's quite high - lovely and cool. Quite a day we've had. Good night's sleep followed by fair start not too early but off by 7.30 ish. The main road from Bankim to Nyamboya is bad - lots of potholes so made slow progress. Turned off and wonderful(!) they are repairing to road to Somié for the first time since it was made in c 1990. And they've already done more than the first half which is brilliant. It will make my life much more comfortable I hope (or would if I had a car). So to Somié where we turned ourselves around very quickly and efficiently - the new chief sitting in the Palace with all the elders so I did big general greetings then off to mine to dump stuff greet everyone and confirm that Simon's wife Esther died in childbirth 4 months ago - I'd heard but hoped I'd misunderstood the message. Off then to Atta via Sonkolong where I left letters from Nathalie and J-Baptiste. Atta where I found the Simon photographer - just to say hello and then off across the plain - potholed roads and painfully large 'dos d'ânes' (sleeping policemans) - till we got to the escarpement and slowly up the tarred climb to beautiful Ndu the tea plantation, the highest town in Cameroon. Then turned right, new road for me along to Nkambe some 40 km off. On the way through one place (name escapes me) where I saw an announcement board labelled Wiya Youth and realised that this is where Jeffreys' Wiya papers are about. Later we passed a farm sign board proclaiming 'Animal Farm' no irony. Got to Nkambe c 230 First hotel had a string round it and a police truck. Couldn't work out what was happening - we were sent packing - end up in the gloriously named 'Holy War Hotel' ok cleanish and quiet. Then tried to locate the district officer - but everyone at the installation of new central district officer so I feared that was it because of drink but no: the number we'd been given which we thought was DO's house was actually DO's personal mobile - so we ended up seeing him in his office at 7pm. We were given a slightly hard time but in the end he decided we were harmless and told us to go away and do our research and not bother him. I think he had better things to do. Impressive that he was there in his office late on a Ssturday. He recognised Roger our driver from Bertoua (Roger said later) which is also impressive - he suddenly turned round and addressed him in French as if divining that Roger spoke no English (Roger later explained that they actually knew each other by sight - they lived in the same quartier in Bertoua when the DO had just been made sous-prefet).

7 Dec 2003
(written while waiting for food at Milenium hotel) 730pm long day and overall a good one but Le has been ill since yesterday - went to doctor this morning and has had treatment which has laid her out. We hope she's going to be OK but are making contingency plans to get her back to her friends and or family sooner rather than late - if necessary (which we hope wont have to be). Partly as a result of this and partly as a response to everyone telling us that no one would be about early in the morning, we made a slow start this morning - eventually set up in the centre c 11 am and then told we should get the approval of the Fon - having got permission from SDO we'd forgotten the traditional authority (particularly heinous from a card-carrying anthropologist)! Went to see him - led in and there he was sitting outside all alone -seemed to be pleased to have company, a nice man, sympathetic to visitors and having known several people I know - either in the flesh or as names in the archives. He insisted on being the first to be sampled. So then, eventually, we got going - and after a slow start it picked up then slowed down and then picked up again before we stopped c 5.30pm. Then off to celebrate here but we've been waiting almost 2 hours now - classic African restaurant scenario. Phoned home on K's phone which was wonderful yet weird at the same time: somehow the distance is too, too great to bridge? Clear skies today and now cooling down considerably. Brrr Nkambe freezes. It was an interesting experience tagging along with the genetic history students - it made me realise how much I have learnt over the years about how to deal with people here - both literally: how to behave physically in the presence of the DO or the Fon - and metaphorically: how to explain complex issues to those without a university education. And, more particularly, this is not (just) about cross-cultural issues - I could see the Cameroonian student loose people that he was explaining things to just as much as the English student. But, that said, that's not to deny that the Cameroonian students have considerable advantages over foreigners like me. A complex set of issues here.

8 Dec 2003
Monday 3pm installed in my house all alone but with solar panel installed in record time. Not that the battery is displaying any charge at present - I was hoping to avoid having to send it to Bankim to get charged. We shall see. I think if I disconnect it I will be able to do things in the daytime so not too too dire. Last night I slept badly - no real reason just did - so dopey all day. Started c 715am and got here c 1030 which is good going. Le still ill so they will get her to Bafoussam or possibly even to Yde tonight. This morning round Nkambe small square pyramidal granaries throwing weird geometric shadows across the hilly fields. Then the granary style changed to rectangular double pitched roofs - but the granaries empty at this time of year so open to the skies at the ends- more strange shadows. Beautiful (would be even more so in rainy season - skies clear of dust.

Back to mundane reality: my house smells of bat shit which may be a problem to shift. I have greeted some but not all of those who I need to see. Luke is planning my program with great energy. To some extent I'm going to let him get on with it. The new pots from Nigeria are a great disappointment. I don't like them half as much as the one I got last year. Oh well. More unpacking.

7.30 pm after a lovely vegetable sauce (manioc leaves; ground peanut and pepper) - how come I've never had that before? Still unpacking. Lots to do but getting there. Nice chat to the (new) chief about some of the projects I've got going. Both of us trying to work out the other. He trying to work out my weird Mambila accent as well!

It's cool at present - not as cold as Nkambe but pleasantly (for a European) cool outside. The full moon rising yellowy-red. Lovely. I missed by a day the preliminary Nggwun rite - I'd forgotten that despite this not being a year in which the dance is danced the medicine is done every year. Gaba assured me I can go to the rest. Ni the senior medicine/ ritual chief, has died. The chief was interested in the photo projects as well as some of the other stuff I mentioned to him - as well as, for course, the water project.

9 Dec 2003
There are times when I feel a pawn in the hands of everyone, and that the only person without a plan is me. I'm just doing what I'm told: the latrine must be rebuilt. Fine. I go and inspect my field and approve the planting plans which they've already made. Fine. And then I'm taken to greet a recently bereaved widow and stumble on a taboo of which I was unaware. And that's how fieldwork works. The method of following one's nose, doing what one is told. But how can I put that in a grant proposal?!

When I told the (new) Chief that bought I'd a video cassette of the previous chief I got a rather cool reception, especially in terms of the format 'Who uses VHS these days? We've only got DVD' was the essence! Put me in my place all right.

7pm Progress - the battery has taken some charge so may now start working OK. Part of the old village site has been cleared so I'm not doing badly at all.

10 Dec 2003
Busy, busy day. This morning to the old village to see the compound that was cleared for the archaeologists yesterday. Babu John told me the names of people I know who were born there - so I can talk to them about the place. A nice thing to do.

Then sorting out the rebuilding of my latrine - the foundations have been threatened by burrowing rats. Once that was underway I hopped on a motorbike to go to Atta to see Simon Finlak the photographer - who I found after I had greeted the Chief and showed him the photographs. He also told me that they'd got a water project underway with the EU development project at Magba. Then I found Finlak and we had a romp through the photos - he gave me lots of names and then we went out and asked some people who recognised many others. Everyone delighted to see old photos and an easy if exhausting (hard to keep up with what I was being told) session.

Back to Somie where work on the latrine base slab was progressing (somewhat). Lots to write up and a letter that I will send 100km tomorrow to try and arrange a meeting ( with the EU development project at Magba) - in the absence of phones and post I will have to pay a neighbour to take the message and bring back the response - otherwise I risk making the trek to Magba only to find that no one is there to see me - as happened when I went through Magba on my way here last week.

11 Dec 2003
Last night after I'd gone to bed Gan Jene from Ngaoundere arrived - delayed by a lucky escape from an overturned bush taxi. So this morning we went walking - first to the old village to see the site that had been cleared from him then off to Gumbe to greet Papa and the potters there. Setting things up. So good progress really. And meanwhile, back at the ranch, the concrete slab for the latrine was being made. So all in all a productive day. Also I talked to Mia about getting official land holding papers and showed him the old missionary photos. Then this evening drinking with Gan and it turns out he's more of an ethnobotanist than an archaeologist, but hasn't heard of the University of Kent ethnobotany programme let alone Roy Ellen (sorry Roy) - I think this is another symptom of the francophone - anglophone gulf....

I've started doing some of the follow-up interviews for the Diko project (but not with her - some opinion checking about sequences) and also shown Mia, the missionary photos. He was surprisingly unhelpful in the sense of not recognising people but a good informant in that he said so, rather than guessing in order to provide a name. Janvier (JJ's son) who is leading the crowd of children watching me type has started to imitate the gestures of someone typing. Cute or what?

JJ has not returned from Magba yet.

12 Dec 2003
Well he returned in the night with good news (I think) - the contract for the finishing of the water project has been signed! JJ brought a nice letter from the French water engineer in Magba who will be in Yde so can't see me - but also a letter from Napoleon who was there to sign the contract! So I hope it will now get finished.

I had a slow start today - I've got a blister on my foot from yesterday which means I'm hobbling around the village - but couldn't get myself going - for no real reason. But then Stu and I went to see Diko and in 20 minutes (I think) we managed to cover most of the outstanding questions that arose while I was preparing the E-P lectures. Extraordinary what you can do in such a short time - well extraordinary granted how many and how long we (the three of us) have been talking to each other. So suddenly one small question slanted in a subtly different way to the way they've been asked before elicits quite a different sort of answer.

Then later eating and chatting with Gan JJ, I'd not realised that there were ethnobotanists in Cameroun - I'd been introduced to him as an archaeologist and had not realised that his main interests was elsewhere...

13 Dec 2003
Frustrating: there's something in the sequence of greeting people that I'm not quite getting - I know I don't do it right because I can't manage the transition correctly from asking someone how they to being asked (or vice versa).

Everything goes via the Chief. So Luke and I have already been to see him twice this morning (its 8.30 am) on three separate matters.

The Feel of power: here I am rich and powerful. I receive requests and can bestow my munificence(?) /beneficence(?). It must be like this to be on the board of the ESRC or one of the big charities. OK here we are talking about far far smaller sums but I think the feel is the same: I can actually make a difference to some peoples lives. Scary thought really.

Fieldwork: from 2pm I spent more than an hour tracking through the market trying to find Gaba. Eventually I found him, and the followed him round as we went for Woa and Abraham (found him, lost him then found him again). As we went G. stopped several young men told them we were going to make a new ritual chief, that they should get drums and gather at Martin's. At Martin's from 4pm. G. then vanished. The young men came and went. Night fell.

Eventually he reappeared. May he have been drinking? Surely not! In the night then we went to my house and as they returned he and Woa struck JJ with the tail which made him Chief Nidibi (mind you J was drunk by this stage - that was the cause of the delay). So more beer followed and some drumming (eventually) and dancing of Nggwun at J's house. But oh the waiting was painful. Everyone was complaining, not just me (though I could only think it, not say anything). Interestingly the other ritual chiefs were complaining - they didn't know who was being chosen. It was a one man show.

14 Dec 2003
Up at 515 to do ritual for my field in private - where we found cows had entered - and the herdsman saw us which is a good thing (I hope). Then to Chief to report it and to drink the palm wine that I'd brought yesterday. So starting the rest of the day in a slightly distanced state....

And then the next two students from Ngaoundere arrived so the day spent mainly looking after them - settling them in and thinking about what they would do, how they would work (where and with whom). Then sorting out food and beer to celebrate their arrival. Also sorting out Luke going to Bankim to start the process of land registration for my field - which needed the chief to write an official letter.

15 Dec 2003
Early this morning Simon from Atta came to see me apologetic that he didn't come on Saturday as promised (some unspecified problems prevented him). He gave me a chicken for Christmas - I am always hopeless touched when anyone here gives me anything. I will try and get to Atta early next week to see a few more of the people in the old photos.

230pm funeral feast now in its last phase - disorder and drunk. The drumming has changed from hymns to more secular tunes and I've just woken up after a necessary nap - not much sleep last night because of the church choirs singing through the night next door - they'd borrowed a generator so had electricity and were determined to do No Elfy proud. As they did. Simon, her widower now asleep on verandas.

No archaeology today - just the commemorative feast - first food then prayers then beer and now dancing (and more beer). Hard work. I hope/think its all set for tomorrow and Wednesday. The plan is that Lala will work on pottery in Gumbe hamlet while George accompanies JJ. We will see.

4.30pm and the drumming continues. It is becoming a test of stamina and only the strong carry on - mind you the real test is tomorrow: there will be some stalwarts still drinking the left-over beer before it gets too acidic. And from Christian and secular dancing comes the tradition: we end up dancing Nggwun since its the chief's month and yesterday JJ was made a ritual chief so now he has his moment and is treated like the chief (in the dance at least) -so although this isn't a Nggwun year we dance a little bit of Nggwun and the old men and women finally join in - and that's what's most wonderful about these things - the best dancers aren't /the young, energetic though they may be. But Ti who must be well into his 70s by now can show them a thing or two. And he duly does - once the frippery of this Christian stuff is past and we get down to proper dancing then he's prepared to show us how to really do it (and ok by then he'd had sufficient drink to lubricate the joints (if that's the best way of putting it))

Then off with the students from Ngdere to plan tomorrow away from the noise. My money is running out fast - it's getting more and more expensive for me as I accumulate responsibilities. The more time I spend here the harder it gets to say no. Not what the stereotypes might imply. Of course as well as learning more about being here I have also got older and therefore more senior. And with seniority goes responsibilities (read expense).

Oh ho: my audience of 6 children has finally given up on me and left to go to bed. So I have had to say 'Goodnight. Till tomorrow' 6 times. Its one of the things I know I'm good at - I tolerate the children (most of the time) and answer them when they greet me - they don't dare do it to 'real' people, but I'm both 'unreal' yet speak Mambila - what a weird combination!

And with that I think I'll call it a day. Night night.

16 Dec 2003
I've just come back from Gumbe hamlet where Lala has started working on pottery. There are some 35 houses so I've suggested she looks at one house in 5 to see what pottery they contain (a 20% sample).

Many people are recovering from yesterdays excesses. I've got to get the paper work for the field registration sorted out. And this afternoon the ritual chiefs will be collecting leaves for the ritual tomorrow afternoon. Now 830 pm and its been a busy day. First sorting out Lala in Gumbe then with the ritual chiefs helping them (really) to teach JJ what to do - another exhausting session 1400 - 1900 mainly waiting for everyone to gather at various intervals. The strangest bit when we'd FINALLY got to the chefferie with all the different woods /roots etc and as we entered I said 'what about the gourd?' A palpable silence (meaning 'oh shit, we'd forgotten about that'). Then more delay as a suitable gourd was sought out... Food now. Then when it was finally finished (1900) and I went off to greet and buy beer for the archaeologists I managed to miss a short singing of mens' sua for Simon's wife - really interesting for lots of reasons (and unaffected by my missing the actual event -luckily) So a) mens' sua for a woman - mother of twins is the reason I've been given b) she was a devout Christian and all the funeral ritual so far has been solely Christian, and I was told that she was not a member of women's sua...

17 Dec 2003
1030 am and it was going so well. Just heard that Papa from Gumbe is dead - we saw him yesterday. His wife sent a message that she couldn't come to the old village this am because he was ill. But that's a bit different from being dangerously ill. That's how it is here. Must go to greet everyone. Don't know what this means for the archaeologists.

830 what a day. I followed the corpse the 3 km home to be buried but before the grave was fully dug, I and the other ritual chiefs who had gone there were called back to the chefferie for the nggwun ritual - which eventually did happen - once we'd waited for everyone to gather (and critically to return from Gumbe). But there was no dancing - only the ritual - because of the funeral. I can now hear the drums of mens' sua from Gumbe across the plain. I'm not going because the extra walking has reopened (is that the word?) the blister I got when Gan had first arrived. Finally, I managed to have a useful talk with Babu John - he has sorted out the archaeologists for tomorrow which is VERY good news. So I'll stick to my program and go to M Darle tomorrow. Then nice sitting around next door with a little bit of beer - talking about different death. BJ talking about how his father had died in his arms. Very moving. Not just me for whom one death evokes all other...

18 dec 2003
915pm Bankim. Overall the day has gone according to plan but it hasn't quite felt like it did at first. A nice start to the day - easy travelling up to Mayo Darle. Then I greeted the Mambila mayor - who I didn't actually know but had heard of just as he had heard of me - though I had the advantage of having known his parents! So I was able to leave the documents that I wanted and to establish cordial relations with him. No sign of JJ, but I found Yoa as I had hoped anyway (indeed JJ said later that he'd thought of asking Yoa for help). And bingo: he recognises some and for others he knows who to ask. So we document a few of the images very quickly then start walking around looking for others. One is near the cath. mission so I go and greet the Bishop - retired here as local priest - its almost 10 years since I've seen him and he seems to have aged a lot in the interim. But he was pleased to see me and I was able to greet the sisters as well and send the greetings from Dr Loa which was good. Eventually we track down some including one of the nicest images - it turns out to have been taken for the marriage licence - which explains a lot (perhaps more than I wanted to know - more prosaic than I'd expected). And after I'd finished taking photos of these people and their 8 children it was time to go but then we found JJ who'd only heard this morning that I was here so had come up to see me - very nice and I must have words with Y about bad message passing - so I left JJ with money and will meet him here tomorrow to finish the task. And I got in a minibus for Bankim. Big mistake - slow (I mean SLOW) and full of holes so full of dust. More than 3 hours for the 57 odd km from MD to Bankim. Got here c 630 and quick shower and then beer with the father. Then another beer with Sister Julie. Tried to phone home but answer phone. Hope Anna may try tomorrow. Good timing for money: Julie is going to Bafoussam tomorrow and can change some euros for me. Excellent. Now shattered after the journey and all the wandering about Mayo Darle in the sun.

19 Dec 2003
Bankim. I'm planning a quiet writing and reading day today - will go and find JJ later to tidy up some of the image documentation. 3.30pm managing ok. I didn't find him this morning - he'd not got back but he came to find me when I was having a siesta and we have an arrangement to meet at 5. Hope we manage to find the person we are after. Also I have some questions for him I realise about the photos... I've had a nice idea for an article about other photographs, and have started a letter to Anna to fax through later. Good session with JJ - he took me to the compound of the mother of a woman he'd recognised in a photo and our luck was in - she was there too! So we had a useful conversation and she still has the original which is perfect - although she lives a long way away. We shall see. Then what? Then chatting to Father JJ, and then Julie. Managed to be there when Anna phoned and got letter from her as well as sending mine. Brilliant - something to read while I wait for the taxi in a bit.

20 Dec 2003
715am going to be a slow start today. Julie is sleeping in and I've not sorted out money with her yet so I must wait for her. Oh well - market day so should be lots of taxis. Enough for now.

I got away from the mission c 830 and yes there were cars at the taxi park and even one to Somié which left by 10, so home by 12.00. Lots of strangers around - a big cow vaccination program in progress - large scale I mean, not aimed at large bovines. So I greeted various people like Asana and Yoa and went to the chefferie but didn't really talk to the chief. No avocados at market which was a disappointment but got a couple of eggs. No bread neither which is unusual. Probably I was simply too late. In the afternoon I was interrogated by one the Ngdere students, Liah, about various things in my work- most strange (and not unpleasant at all - but tiring) to be trying to teach about Somie in Somie! So rare in UK that I can really talk about Mambila to students - a very refreshing change.

Then off to Gumbe on a motorbike to apologise for missing the 3 day feast this morning and to see the site they've started digging inside the trench there. Hope they find some useful material. Talking to Stu about money and then with the archs and Babu John food and beer. Tired now and ready for bed.

21 Dec 2003
1300 before I go and rest. A slightly odd day: small ritual to begin with - closing the village to evil and then drinking beer to mark the oath taking that followed. Then off with the archaeologists and their GPS to note the circumference of my reforestation field plot. Since then I've been sitting around, not sure what I want to do.

1500 not feeling too well (not too too ill either) - hope it will pass.

2000 still in the land of the living. Been thinking about the video diary idea and how difficult it is proving to find someone who can stand in front of a camera and act naturally let alone be able to talk about themselves to an unknown audience- suddenly sympathise with casting agents at home. It isn't really a straightforward thing that I'm asking though I thought it was at first. Interestingly difficult.

Liah came to ask more questions which was fine. I'm doing ok. I'm going to read now I think. Best thing: read then early to bed (since must get up very early tomorrow - in order to go to Atta).

22 Dec 2003
Feeling better. A busy day so far - up at 5 to get a bike to Atta at 6am so as to catch people there before they went to the fields. Cold in the breeze! Brr. But a very successful trip - found Jean Foa at home and yes he had the original photo, plus a couple more identifications then stopped at Sonkolong on the way back and eventually I was sent off on another bike to a couple of outlying hamlets where I managed to identify a few more people. Most peculiar though - turning up on people's doorsteps with photos of them taken years ago. Here people are surprisingly happy to see the prints and unfazed by me trying to document them.

I returned a little before noon to find I have no latrine - old one demolished as planned but they've decided it was too full so I need a new one excavated. More delays, more expense. Builders, what can I say? (See my articles in AN). 1900 Bone tired. The new latrine pit is almost 2 metres down. I must simply write off last years work to make concrete steps to the old latrine.

Irritating. Oh well. Tried a new person to do the video diaries. We shall see what happens - how it works out. Also Liah has given me her thesis proposal - only now do I realise that the whole thing is supposed to be about Mambila - I'd thought is was more general in geographic scope concentrating more on pottery. Confused. Confused how to react about the huge subject she has given herself (the history of everything Mambila for the last 2 centuries) and confused how to react now I realise that to some extent at least she plans to follow in my footsteps - odd feeling. Not that there's any competition granted the breadth of her interests but it means that her work will contain far more of interest to me than I'd realised. But it also means that I'll have to think more carefully about how to pitch my comments to her - just as I'm concerned that if she interviews those who've read Mohammadou they'll be getting Mohammadou second hand, I'm in danger of giving her Zeitlyn second hand! Weird position to be in. Nice in some ways. Intriguing. And I like this sort of intrigue.

Apparently the French tourists on bikes (that I'd seen and talked to in Bankim) came through towards the end of the morning but didn't stop to greet me. Oh well. Their choice. Childishly, I was quite looking forward to showing off to them for a change. They're probably at Atta or Sabongari by now.

23 Dec 2003
7am no sign yet of the latrine digger. Cool morning - 15 outside (nice say I, Brrr says Ne). I've got to decide what to do today. Still waking up. Noon. Long list of things it's hard to explain. Such as what's the point of the video diaries? Why am I concerned about burning piles of dry maize husks? What sort of an idea is it, that such burning should be useful? Good writing session. Making some sense of a draft paper which had a big hole in it. Now (partly?) plugged.

1530 Luke has gone through the accounts with me and I'd been confusing last year with this year - so guess what? I owe them money! Extraordinary. Horrible thing is that I feel I'm being squeezed (or shaken down) most of the time which is not a nice feeling and why I sometimes get disproportionally cross over requests which are on the face of it, tiny and also why I am disproportionally pleased when someone buys me a drink...

The latrine has passed 5m depth. Luke suggest we stop at 7m - should be enough as long as the door doesn't get forced again - a few years ago it was forced and left open so became a communal latrine which is why it is now full - that and the rats in the foundations...

21.30 Stars. No moon. No light pollution. Wish I knew more about what I'm looking at and had binoculars. It is amazing. Good news is that according to the Solun software I put on the Psion a while back there's a) a meteor shower due 4 Jan and then in April when I hope to be back here there will be a solar then a lunar eclipse (I wonder: are they always linked? It's likely).

24 Dec 2003
Cold morning: c 14 at 6 am now at 7 its warming up (16). I'm waiting for the kettle to boil then will think about getting going. Not planning too much today. Kings Carols in the afternoon. I've been trying to find the Pastor to show him the old missionary photos (including his parents) but have failed to find him over last few days. Should finish digging the new latrine today and possibly move the slab over it - then it will just be a question of building the walls.... Will NOT be over by Xmas but by New Year. Ah well - that's builders for you - I had the mason here just now saying that IF the well diggers had come early this morning (still no sign of them) and finished then he could have got on with the walls but as it is... its unlikely that it'll happen today.

In the words of Colin Clement 'All work and no play makes Jack a windowsill'. 10am and the well digger finally appears - had important other things to do - checking the fish hooks he'd set 2 days ago. Ah well c'est afrique ici, after all so what is a few hours, the cool hours the best hours of the day?


1600 Kings Carols on the radio. Progress this morning: the latrine digging has been done - not as deep as originally intended but should be ok, and the concrete slab levered sideways over it. First row of bricks now being laid - and a concrete step laid in front. Will get finished on 26th Dec. I hope - assuming they're not too hungover. I've been doing the hard work of 'patron': sitting and watching the work and cheering them on. Then will go to see the archaeologists to inspect the shards they've collected.

How many Christmas's have I spent here listening to Kings Carols while A is in UK? Most of the recent ones certainly. Must be more than ten by now? An odd way of spending an odd time of year. In but not in amongst. Tomorrow is a big party certainly and people have spent the day preparing, washing clothes, spring cleaning houses and pots and pans - and beer has been on the go for the last few days. But apart from that it has not been dominating everyone's thoughts and minds in the way it does in UK.

25 Dec 2003
Cold. Everyone has swept their houses and is huddling over fires from the sweepings, Last night drinking with the Ngdere students who leave tomorrow after a funeral commemoration - it was exactly a year yesterday that Sitene died on his way to hospital - it's one of the things that I have to insist on to students: here it is easy to die of a hernia (as he did). By the time you get transport let alone arrive at the hospital your illness has had many many hours to progress. The other thing of course is that medical evacuation is a last resort so - from the point of view of the doctors and the patients - is often done too late to save them. Sorry: morbid thoughts for Christmas morning. I don't feel morbid and nor was last night. I came back c. 9 pm to find Teya and Christine not at church (many people had gone off c. 8pm) but busily preparing chicken for today - a not unfamiliar pattern!

930 and I've already had second meal of the day! Its going to be hard work. Cutting Grass (cane rat: lovely meat, slightly gamey but not too too much. Just my taste) then chicken. Mmm)

26 Dec 2003
Noon. Exhausted. Yesterday was a marathon of eating and drinking. And this has continued today though with added distraction of some building work on the altrine walls and this am the archaeologists left - leaving me to pay their bills! So suddenly I'm running short of money - and I'll have the builders bills soon so will have to change some more Euros I suspect. Will have to count the reserves and start doing more calculations - once new year is over then the end will be in sight... But travelling is expensive, and I've yet to go to Bankim to lodge the papers for the field registration - yet more expense in prospect.

Yesterday was busy trawl of wandering round the village being given food and local beer. Trays of food were delivered to my door - I ended up feeding the archaeologists c 1300 before we all told to go to Mia's to keep eating. Ended up at Man's drinking beer and dancing a bit after they told me that I had to pay their fares home - I'd thought they'd been given return fares but no.

1600 Now done a check on remaining cash and it's not as bad as I feared. So as long as I change some of the remaining Euro's I'll be fine and still have a reserve. I've asked Caam to note proverbs - which still I'm finding very hard to document. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with. That might make a nice Mambila language publication (not sure how that will play with the RAE but still a nice thing to do anyway).

27 Dec 2003
7am cold and I've got a cold. Rats. Scared by the realisation that when I get back from Banyo after New Year (i.e. a week today) I'll only have one clear week left in the village. Suddenly it feels like there's a lot left to do. 1530 Vacant - I've a heavy cold and the day has passed in something of a blur. Most of the building work on the latrine now finished: official inauguration tomorrow (apropos: where is the Queen when you really need her?). Then about 1300 Napoleon Mfontem the water engineer arrives - he's a meeting with Mgba officials here on Monday to finalise the work schedule. Brilliant news indeed. So went with him to greet the chief. Then left him to settle into his room while I went round the market looking for Edward to give him his photos and to officially present palm wine to the mason (on Luke's instructions). At the market I failed to find larger shoes but did find avacados - will have them when JJ returns...

28 Dec 2003
7am even colder (13 at 6am!) but my cold is getting better despite a terrible nights sleep - music and kungfu video sound track blaring loudly across of the village. I've got a bad toe - probably a jigger but cant see it to dig it out - just to distract me more in the night. Weird broken sleep dreams. Have now inaugurated the latrine in the absence of any British diplomatic representation or member of the royal family. Frankly, I'm disappointed by their lack of support in this, but then British international diplomacy is not what it once was...

1700 Hot feet. Had a busy day: this morning first with Luke and Napoleon to see chief and talk about what would have to be sorted out tomorrow, then with L and N we walked off to the water source - N said he wanted to go today so I said lets do it now while still a bit cool. The path had been cleared in October and the climb up to the actual source had recently had a bush fire so it was clear but still the final climb is not easy - and the descent worse - ash or dry leaves where not burnt quite slippy and the dusty soil itself quite friable* in places (*nice word, if not entirely correct in this context? What a lovely language is English). So we staggered home c. noon to wash and rest. Then I've looked at BJ and Soa's video reportage and its going to be OK I think.

Then talked to Chief again about tomorrow. Bought sweets to be distributed in my absence at New Year - when children bang on door and say 'Bonne année, Bonne Année OH' (repeat endlessly). Also talked to Gaba about making a collection of shards with different decoration for doing pile sorting.

29 Dec. 2003
9am The latrine now has the old roof back on it. Final patching round the top of the walls now underway. Later the people from the PAPT (EU funded development project) are due to come to discuss the water project - they have agreed to take on the final part of phase one so that water will actually arrive in the village (having done the main engineering works with British High Commission support).

I've shown some of the old missionary photos to people but they were having problems getting their heads around the photographs being fifty years old so the people in them are either old or long dead.

1200 Eventually, the Magba people did come and have now gone off to the source in the mountains - I've left them to it! Such a relief that they have turned up when they said they would - I'd begun to fear the worst. New fashion: I'm no longer pursued through the village by young children crying 'Huomnuar ha mÏ kalong' (Huomnuar give me money!) This year it's

'Huomnuar kweh mÏ foto' (Huomnuar take my photo!)

1800 Waaaa. The Magba people have only just gone - they counted every pipe. It sounds as though there will be trouble about adding extra stand pipes - there's already trouble about some which were started but not completed - and, according to Napoleon, not paid for. Money palaver. I had my say about the needs of the village then bowed out. I cannot get involved in the money side of things. I'm shortly to rendezvous with Napoleon to hear what he thinks about it. I suspect he's not too happy - he risks not being paid twice! Once by Helvetas and once by PAPT. I hope my intervention helped. Tricky to know whether (even by my presence) I help or hinder these sorts of negotiations. I fear my cold is coming back. Early start tomorrow: final sortie in search of photograph documentation.

30 Dec 2003
1600 cold has returned and so have I. Early start after a bad nights sleep, got to Sonkolong where after a short stop got a car to Sabongari. There amazingly I was able to trace the family of the carpenter who I'd been told had gone to Takum. True and his family were there and confirmed it. Then to the catholic mission where they failed to recognise another photo. Eventually after an hours wait I got to Atta where I was told that the photo was from Sonkolong! Then huge Canadian lunch with the sisters after an inspection tour of their new dispensary which is (or will be) almost a mini-hospital. One of them told me that a couple of nights ago the temperature there was 10 in the morning - as cold as she has ever seen it!

Then a ride in a car to Sonkolong where I quickly found the parents of the woman in the photo and then a motorbike home to find the latrine being plastered. So I sat and watched the work while JJ cut my hair. So now a little shell shocked since no siesta (but at least I should sleep well tonight), and not a little shorn.

Napoleon stayed an extra day (to smoke a cane rat so he could take it back to Bamenda for the New Year feast) so I ended up drinking with him again in the evening. Nice chatting in English for a change. Avoided talking to Luke about the Atta sister and the roofing sheets which threatens to be a complicated ongoing saga.

31 Dec 2003
My cold has returned so little sleep punctuated by abrupt sneezes. Feeling sorry for myself.

1600 Banyo. Aiii. Left at 7am got her 1400. Bush taxis. no breakdowns or punctures just slow. Waits for passengers at every possible place plus police points. There's a rumour that its dangerous to travel at the end of the year so there are fewer passengers, so longer waits. Ah well. I'm now fed and rested and clean(ish). Soon will go into to town to try and phone home - the satellite phone is working again apparently.

Definitely feeling out of steam. Need a couple of days break reading trashy books to recuperate.

1 Jan 2004
930am Surprise: a late start! Managed to stay up to well after 1am so after seeing in New Year local time we watched Big Ben via the satellite dish an hour later. B and I sung 'auld lang syne' for the sake of tradition, as it were.

My cold seems better after the rest, whisky and having talked to A at home. 11am I'm working through the files on this machine trying to sort out the tasks that remain to be done while I'm here. A manageable list I think. Just about. As ever in recent years when I'm in the field I do some more work on some theory pieces which when in UK read very differently - and which journal reviewers tend not to like. Interesting how the change of perspective makes so much difference: here I feel BOTH the fluidity and creativity of how people are inventing and creating their lives; the narrative basis for sociality AND the uselessness of most social science theory (especially postmodernism) in helping understand that. It's a weird combination.

1600 Big lunch and a siesta. I am beginning to feel better. Must talk to B about backing up my files. Done - a victory for WindowsXP and Psion both! I generally try to leave copies where ever I can just in case...

2 Jan 2004
8am Last night watched a video with B and the sisters. The American President. I thought it stood up to repeated viewing quite well although I was also playing the game of mapping from the film to West Wing casting and plotting. Teehee. Don't know what the sisters thought of it.

Now about to whiz through a thriller that B has lent me. Have written letter to Kevin. I must get some addresses from B and then that's about it - ready to return to the fray. Only just over a week. Extraordinary how fast the time has gone. Not sure whether to go back today or tomorrow. There's a priest due to pass through today and so I may be able to get a ride with him - if there's room in his car. We shall see. Before then I've promised to help Bernard set up his scanner.

1600 Computers. Windows. Now you see it now you don't. Cant find a driver that works although it did once, the first time, then never again. Knowing it's possible makes it all the more frustrating. All set to leave tomorrow am. Refreshed and ready (as ever) for the final burst of sorting things out.

The sparrow hawk strikes. Usually you don't see it until its too late - you look up to the sound of squawking and the beat of wings and all you see is the hawk leaving with a chick in its claws. Today was different: it missed at its first strike, the mother hen squawked loudly and spread its wings wide so it presented a larger target. The target chick was injured so couldn't move fast. It limped towards some bushes as the hawk circled then struck again - too late to catch the chick but timed perfectly so I could see it for once. Tiny compared to the kites, but beautiful. A deadly beauty.

In the evening first one group of priests arrived delayed because their axle had broken outside Ngdere - so now in a borrowed pickup while they go to find a new axle. Then the Bishop of Kumbo came through on his way to a big Bishops meeting in Ngdere. I'd not met him before but he seems nice and approachable: he wears his position lightly which I like. He ate with the sisters (who are from Kumbo) so we didn't see much of him - made an early start on Saturday.

3 Jan 2004
1900 Somie. Lots of disturbance in the night so bad sleep. Got back in taxis by 11am. Not too bad. Had a good session with Kate with the old mission photos. She thinks she recognises people - even Chief Degah as a baby! Ya has his doubts. There's no one really to gainsay either. It's such a wonderfully weird thing showing people in their 60s photos which are fifty years old. Can you remember what your parents looked like when you were young? Can you really remember without the assistance of photographic prompts? I'm sure I only know because of the family photo album. In the absence of photos people here depend on their visual recall and this it seems is - understandably - patchy (to say the least). The photos seem to work as a sort of Rorschach (sp.?) test - a canvas which prompts and on which people project their memories - the set of a mouth evokes an old woman from those days remembered from childhood via the teasing song that was sung about her. Another death - Too David at Luo after long fight with heart problems (so the sisters in Atta told me last week). Not a surprise that he's died but still everyone is sad. And then I'm told that Mi Mark's grandson died 3 days ago not long after his father - I went to that funeral a week or so ago.

You begin to loose track.

4 Jan 2004
0700 slept well, very well.

Added later: then with Luke to my field where we buried the boundary markers prior to the official survey for land registration. Back c 930 then to see chief and then c. 1100 I went to Luo for the burial of Too David.

1430 Argument over prices. A young boy with a motorbike asked 400 to take me to the funeral at Luo. Since its only 500 to the crossroads and Luo is halfway I offered 300 but he refused. An onlooker joined in, in English, encouraging me to pay the 400 - I think it was him using English that wound me up - I got cross, shouted and walked off in a huff. Later I found someone else who took me for 300 and Charles confirmed that this was correct. But often I have to fight for a halfway decent price and it is wearing... From my fieldnotes: 7pm Ne. Odd - children are playing outside while he was inside talking to me - they were chanting something with a refrain of 'Messenger'. I asked what it was and he said 'they're falling the chief' {an old traditional dance in which one person stands in the middle of a ring of others and falls back into their arms in time to the rhythm of the clapping - they continue until they loose the rhythm whereon someone else goes into the centre.' It was common in the mid eighties but by the 1990s it was no longer danced.} I expressed surprise because I didn't think children did that any more - and they don't! We went and watched and it was something quite different, and all the chanting is in Fulfulde. But for him 'falling the chief' is synonymous with children's games so he can see one game yet call it 'falling the chief' meaning it generically.

The odd thing is that he doesn't see why that's difficult for me. We were talking about maize harvest rites which he was describing - until I pressed him - as medicine. Just that: 'they do medicine'. He just doesn't see why I get irritated by that sort of bland generalisation, and all the more so the longer I spend in the village. But that's why some people are better informants than others....

5 Jan 2004
Goats in the night outside my window. Deranging me as they say in French. Woke from a classic falling dream after climbing the cobbled? unpaved/ narrow street up from the millpond past the old Friends Meeting House. Odd the fragments that one remembers

1030 am an unsuccessful session with Yaband the old photos - he's a good informant since he's cautious and won't commit himself when uncertain. And he's not sure that one of the young women was his senior sister in law although two other people have separately identified her. All I can do at this chronological remove is record ALL identifications and treat them all as no more than 'possible'. It occurs that I may be able to use this as a test of some of the fancy new face recognition systems. Will investigate on my return.

Luke is supposed to be fixing the roof: he has turned up then gone twice so far today and now its getting hot. We shall see what happens. I've started filling holes in what remained to be done.

1700 Still hot. Its getting hotter; less cool at night: first signs of a change of season. Time to go David. Work on the house now finished. All done. Tank gott. Did some more odds and ends. Hole filling. And sorting out logistics with Luke - tomorrow to Bankim to try and confirm that the car will come for me as planned. And to complete the field registration documents. Etc etc. I'm now waiting for Napoleon the water engineer to show up after his Magba meeting - not yet - bad sign. Also waiting to see if a loan of 10 sterling will be repaid as promised. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

2000 Napoleon a lucky man - accident between Magba and Bankim: avoiding a girl crossing the road the driver rolled the microbus. N. very VERY lucky escape with a scratched leg. And so it goes: but all set for the water project and the extra standpipes HAVE been approved which is brilliant news indeed. And now I hear that the Donga dam is going ahead after 15 year rumours with SAGEM doing the work. I wonder how they will respond to my approach?

6 Jan 2004
1500 Back from Bankim already. Slow start after an early start - waiting for a taxi at the crossroads for about an hour before we got a ride to Bankim. Where, what a surprise, the file had not been processed and we must return on Friday! I then went to the Catholic Mission where I managed to get the satellite phone to connect directly and easily to Andrew but there are problems with the car so we've agreed to meet in Foumban on Sunday. So at least I know - far easier if I know what is going to happen. So I can plan the journey in advance. Then I found JJ and arranged for him to go to Mayo Darlé and also about the weekend.

Then got a ride quickly back and in a private car so not too crushed. Resting now to do some sorting things out. Easy.

1930. Luke not back yet; poor him. I wonder if he's had to sleep at Magba. hope he's alright - worrying after Napoleon's story. I've got to gird my loins and sort myself out. Not feeling like it though. Oh well. Be better tomorrow I tell myself - whizzing to Atta to see Simon Finlak and I hope to repeat the photographing of Dembea's portrait... hope I can find everyone at home OK.

What else to do? Letters to Gan etc? I had a nice session with Sara sorting out the sequence of the late Chief Degah's conversion from Christianity to Islam: it was after he became Chief. Classic pattern. Luke returned c 9pm - long wait for cars after a futile trip to Magba - no one there. Situation normal.

7 Dec 2004
1130 slept long and well last night then off for a quick dash to Atta - to deliver message to the Priest that the Bankim catechiste's meeting was off - Luke had been given a letter and to see Simon and to try and repeat the photos I'd taken before. So far so good.

Back and saw the chief to arrange time to fix boundaries for my house. Tomorrow am will go with him to my field to inspect the boundary markers we put in last week. Must start packing. Or at least getting my stuff organised. Almost but not quite the same thing.

1300 Aaagh. How can I be so stupid. Cant find the little exercise book which I was using for rough notes. There seems to be something in there that I've not copied across. Oh no.

2000 Aaagh. Just when I thought it was all going well it all gets complicated again. I invited the notables to witness the boundary markers going in at my house and G started going on about our boundary dispute which I'd thought had been sorted out last year. And L reacted so they hard a shouting match. Very difficult and of course I couldn't follow the details of the shouting. Mainly about L taking money that I'd allegedly paid for the land - so I'm told. so now must inspect the field boundaries and perhaps shift some markers to be safe, so as not to cause offence. That's tomorrow sorted then - what with also going to Mike's to greet ahead of the funeral commemorative feast which will be Saturday morning before I leave. And then Luke goes to Kimi and Magba again tomorrow afternoon. Then I'd better start packing since I'm back to Atta on Friday afternoon. End very close all of a sudden. Stu came to ask for money. Lots of money palaver as ever at the end, and since it is the end I'm feeling worried that there's not enough left - I'm anxious to preserve my reserve stash - and feel besieged by host of people all with legitimate calls on what hey regard as an infinitely large pot! This means I'll have to say no to some requests for loans. Rats, so I end up feeling bad (again). Situation normal: no way out of this, although recognising as much in no way helps deal with it.

8 Dec 2003
1000 after checking field boundaries with chief. Chief and Koa are now sorting out yesterday's dispute. I have paid for a chicken and given 5000 CFA (c. 5 sterling) to calm things. I've also been over the hill to greet Mike's widow and give them the old photos of him that I'd got from the Norwegian missionaries, as well as making a contribution for Saturday's commemorative feast. Later Luke will go to Bankim and Magba: as long as divination doesn't threaten the journey in the light of yesterday's argument. He is worried. I would be too - it feels threatening to be shouted at like that, no matter what one's personal belief system. That's the lived reality of these things. It really doesn't matter what religion you subscribe to; the expressed hostility of an act of cursing is unambiguously and personally hostile.

1400 Still waiting to hear what's happening. Hot.

1600 Spattered in blood. The chicken - beheaded in the dark, behind closed door so women couldn't see - jumped and thrashed around the room before it settled - finally - with its right leg up most - a good sign. So Luke has gone to Bankim with a happy heart and my money! I must do proper tidying tomorrow. Easiest to blitz it. Not much to do really. I've folded the clothes that I will leave and JJ will do a wash tomorrow morning. I must make backups on the other CF discs - tomorrow I think. I've had a short collar fixed - I'd wanted him to turn the collar but he misunderstood and patched it. Oh well it's the bush here.

1930 Tired but fine: beer and avocados! Slowly getting myself together. Nice chat with Diko despite her being less well today than usual over the last few days. Now she tells me she got a photo of her from the early 1950s. If she can find it I look forward to seeing it tomorrow! Children now drumming and singing in Fulfdulde in the light shadow (is that the right term?) of my eclectic (I prefer the mis-corrected typo to the original) light - moon not yet up.

9 Jan 2004
Friday 7am. Is this really my last full day in the village? It feels sudden and impossible. I've only just arrived and got back into the swing of things after all - and started noticing things like Rosa leaving the house of her husband every morning despite having told me that they separated last year! (That noting this adds to the view of anthropology as scurrilous gossip is bye the bye (sp.?): the way I see it the gossip is the bare bones the substance of which we try and make sense - and its not as if she is hiding or trying to leave surreptitiously very early in the morning. Its more that it takes a while for ME to notice the regularities AND be told things that help interpret them...)

My services as photographer are called for next door - but not quite yet - clothes are being changed and feet washed so as to be proper for photograph - 1030 Have copied an old, hand-coloured photo of Diko that had been in a trunk in her bedroom for years and years (and which she'd never mentioned before). Have talked with Gwillaim and Chief about our boundary dispute and agreed to pay for another chicken(!). I'm not quite sure what else I've agreed to: G is an accomplished rhetorician and I don't follow everything he says. Have showed chief and others the old photos and got a few more names.

1100 Now should be packing but don't want to. Full of inertia and lassitude. Something about the thing with Gwillaim has somehow unnerved me. I don't like this sort of emotion/anger/upset.

2000 Ki, what a day. L has still not got back from Bankim and Mgba. I have been to Atta and back as well as doing packing and doing the rounds to greet and pay people. Gwillaim had not found a chicken earlier so we will do it tomorrow am. I expect to be told when - I expect it will be early which suits me. there's not that much to do - I've left all the electrickery (solar panel and wiring) until tomorrow but apart from that there's a little bit of folding clothes but its basically all done. Easy easy.

10 Jan 2004
800 packed and had small contretemps about money with L who returned in the night and now feels maligned. I find I've been committed to a large future payment! But I'm now more or less ready so can go shortly to the funeral feast with an easy conscience! No sign of BJ which is a tad worrying. I suspect he's trying to finish the tape.

11 Dec 2004
1700 Bafoussam Hotel Federal. Waaa. Lots to catch up on - I couldn't charge the computer yesterday in my room in Bankim mission (plug didn't work) so I used this as an excuse not to write anything. Leaving is always very difficult - unending succession of people to greet and requests for thing and or money or both.

So to recap. L came then I moaned about the expense of the registration process - they keep discovering more things I have to pay for in Bankim. (Milkl that cow; milk it!) which I find irritating - and hard to plan for. Then took solar panel down and finished packing.

No sign of Gwillaim. I met him outside the chefferie - we went in and he said to chief that there's no problem between him and me so no need to so sua. L I'm sure would see this negatively. It gave me one less thing to do so I was relieved. Not sure what the chief thought. Then BJ - asleep having been drinking and dancing at Mail's most of the night! But had finished the tape. Over hill to Mike's funeral commemoration 9-11 a protestant service - since most there had danced till dawn many were nodding asleep - so one of the pastors presiding went round when others were preaching and wopped people with his bible! A woman was prodding sleeping women with a stick! Then sitting around while they organised food. I chatted to Noa Smart and Ma Martin who I'd not talked to properly. One of the senior visitors came and said you don't remember me do you? (True) I'd stayed in his house in Chana (Nigeria) on one of my trips through Nigerian Mambila - in 1990 I think. Then I gave up at Noon - neither food nor beer forthcoming - of course it appeared just as I left but that's typical and I couldn't wait. Back to greet chief and Diko - to get blessing from Diko for the journey and to say farewell again again.

Final wandering round market, greeting and collecting letters. Gave clothes to Sondue, some money to Luke to make him happy and car to Bankim with JJ c 230 arrived c. 5pm. Washed and beer with fathers. Julie not back from Yde which was a pity - but in the end a good thing -she was able to give Andrew the money to get here!

So today - slept badly up early - charged phone and then left it on the bed - now realise. Fool that am - only discovered it when JJ and I got to Foumban c 1130 after taking a car to Magba since there was nothing in Bankim direct. In the end I have given JJ some money and he has returned to Bankim to fetch it. Beer and a meal then giving advice to the hotel owner how to make the hotel attractive to tourists (ie only have phones in the rooms if they work, and phones are more important than TVs for tourists). Washed then Andrew arrived so a complete change of pace and off we went to Bafoussam where ~I left message on the answerphone and sent emails, had a haircut and now have washed (twice in one day what is happening to the man? - hot water that's what). Is there a special category of blog written nude? Soon to have beer with Andrew. And the computer is now fully charged. Wish I was.

12 dec 2004
630 feeling better: slept well last night - at least until a car alarm went off at 6am. Welcome to the modern world! Pause to kill cockroach crawling on my can of flyspray (a cockroach with a sense of irony perhaps?). What was I saying?

Soon to do battle with the bank. Should be interesting to see how long it takes? 1 or 2 hours? The last time I was only changing cash not travellers cheques and that took a LONG time for no clear reason that I can remember. It also involved me going down into the vault to actually be given my money. 2200 well the good (?!!) news is that I'm not so stupid after all -or differently stupid. It seems that JJ ahs not returned bcos they couldn't find my phone which means it was stolen in Mgaba. Where I strolled while my bag was on the front seat I thought I had it in view but on reflection of course not always...

Today ok Bank ok less than an hour and although no email connection this am we got away ok - to Mbouda by 1030 to find that J and Eddy had documented the photos in qn. So little left to do so went on to Bda and got the gong for Anna. Back to wait for Eddy and jean. E turned up but no sign of J - eventually phoned Bankim via satellite and gathered that they'd not found the phone which meant it had been stolen so JJ had not bothered to come up -we should have discussed this possibility but didn't. Didn't loose too too much time - a bit - bcos of this. Got to Baf by nightfall. Tomorrow will be hard but ca va. Have recharged A's phone so can start calling - and checked that I'm expected tomorrow which is most important I suppose. More calls tomorrow.

13 jan 2004
2300 crikey. Back in the land of the whatsits and no mistake. Wonderful meal waiting for me - nice welcome which I found here when we finally arrived c. 1800. Just time to get washed and A phoned so we were finally able to talk properly. Then sat down with beer and a thriller when J returned. Nice evening talking about diffs between USA and Cam - certainly more, a lot more corruption but compare a gendarme taking 1000 CFA with Enron person taking x-billion. C--works differently. Hard to see which is worst despite the different types of corruption that they have in their different countries - and certainly about very different weight being given in the two places. Horribly early this am. Will sleep now more tomorrow.

15 Jan 2004
7 am catching up - back in land of what's it and suddenly this goes by the board. So recap:

Tuesday: early start out of Baf and then after a few false start found our way to a smallish Bamileke village called Bahouan, a few km off the road to Dla. Very spread out, large houses, some obviously by people living elsewhere sending money back. Big chefferie traditional style with raffia pole houses and carvings. Stopped in n ear deserted square and asked a few people and tumbled on a man who was Chief's driver and also worked on censuses. He took us to one old man to confirm what he thought. Walking off the road into a compound with inner fences, separating a small square but v. tall 'ancestral building' - intriguing. Old man confirmed that we should go to another quartier- from which there had been much emigration to Mbouda/Bda. So he got in car with us and another 5 km into bush then found quarter head on the road. Showed him the photo and bingo! So then another 5 km and actually found the house - with 6 peaks - a sign of rank and his sisters and youngest children. So have a name for the young man. Extraordinary! Lovely to be able to have given them the photo, nice to have seen his tomb. Fitting somehow. Then on, back to the main road and after a stop for breakfast at Bangante, made distance. At Bafia went off back onto dirt roads for Ntui. Far longer than I'd realised, and bad road, so we didn't get there until 2 - a 3 hour trek on bad road. Got there and inevitably found neither the two people we were after. What a shame. Onwards to Yde involving a ferry crossing across the Sanaga - small slightly rickety ferry. Obviously tricky in rainy season.

Got to Yde c 1800.

Yesterday: most of the time was putting up the pictures for the exhibition - went fine but hard work. Luckily Mark turned up and helped. Then quick drink with him and Andrew before final session at BC - waiting to see when journalists would come. Mark has given me more of his work to read so I've started working through that. Back to marking, eh... There's no escape. Failed to get to see the Rector. Shame but I'll try tomorrow.

15 Jan 2004
2100 Busy day with gaps in! Early on finished the captions and printed them out without any problem. then with Andrew to see orange and MTN but no joy except learning a little more about who to contact. Then JJ turned up as arranged and we went off for lunch which was nice, talking about what to say to the press. Long wait once we returned to BC before eventually went off for radio interviews. Big contrast - two different stations one in a tiny studio recorded straight to hard disc via a mixing board. Then another in a big echo-y office into a cassette recorder held near the face since it had a built in microphone... Some difference.

And that's it. Doesn't sound much but its been trying and lots of things haven't quite happened - like never met Toa in the end. He was due to travel... Very tricky. Done some email in the gaps. Ah well. Time for bed.

17 Jan 2004
7am quick recap on yesterday. First to see Prof Loa since he lives round the corner. Nice to catch up with him but I'm not sure if we can work out the details of a collaboration. Different sort of research, different styles of doing research and that is harder to bridge. Then to the National Museum where I got caught up in the official visit of the Unesco Chief - there were teams of traditional dancers limbering up outside and a red carpet and all sorts of people fussing around preparing official welcomes and 'protocol'. I slipped in and had a quick look round then slipped out. There was a photo show I wanted to see - modern stuff so less interesting that it might have been to me - the main museum looks better than I'd been led to believe. I'll go back properly next time.

Then to BC offices and hung around until it all started at 3 - with some minor dramas like a photo falling off the wall an hour before - when the spare velcro was in a room where an exam was taking place. Mark came so we had a tutorial on his text which I'd been able to read and mark up over the last two days. So some important discussion about use of language and concepts in writing. I was fierce. Hope it helps. Then c. 3 pm no one came! But it's Africa and so by 4pm there was a fair crowd and even the TV came although Stephen had said that he didn't think they would. So a fair crowd for the formal opening speeches. And the nicest thing was that there were several Yamba there who recognised people in the photos and so SJ was called - who I'd not seen for years - now a big man in Prime Minster's office - and so I'm back in touch with him. Great. And I have an invite to his baby's christening party tomorrow! And then on of the BC porters came in and recognised his aunt - got very excited. Lovely! And that was that really. It all went very well. Back here eventually supper and collapsed in front of satellite TV - showing Levinson's early film Diner which I'd never actually seen before. Nice period piece. The only irritant is a message from Air France that I need to reconfirm in person so I'm up early today to go to their offices before a newspaper interview at BC office at 930. Hey ho. Supper at Andrew' tonight.

18 Dec 2004
8am Pill day. Done. Yesterday long and slow. Tomorrow threatens to be long and VERY busy. So recap: I walked down to Air France office. First in queue when it opened in and out in 5 mins. No idea why they wanted to see me - I didn't ask and they didn't mention that it had already been done. I give up. So whizzed round supermarkets. Got some passport photos done old style - b/w photo developed on the spot and multiple contact prints. Then into BC office where did email while I waited for journalist to turn up. Then radio interview and that was it, done for the day. Little more to do so went back and did reorganisation of my bags, charging of video batteries and slept (badly) not feeling in top form. Reading detective thrillers and recharging self. In the evening to Andrew and Nathalie. Wedding photos which were fun and lovely food. Very generous hosts. Relatively early back - found Alistair McGowan on BBC Prime then early to bed slept long and well. Now waiting to be collected by Stephen from the BC to go and eat pepper soup - not quite sure what else is planned, how long it will take or anything. We shall see.

The only irritating thing is that in tidying up I have confirmed a suspicion: that the first tape I videoed in December is not there. It probably fell out in the roof space when stashed there so will be sitting there probably disintegrating in the heat. Good test of the tape quality. Will have to get it next time I'm in Somie. Very irritating - my fault unless like the phone it turns out to have been stolen (less likely).

Noon. This morning was fun: off with a crowd of journalists after their main Sunday morning broadcast to have pepper soup and drink a bit before calling it a day (for them) and going off duty. So we left here c 9am and I returned about 11. Nice gossip and banter about different levels of corruption in ministries and how to change the world to remove it. Little different from journalist gossip in London I imagine. Now should go and do more packing before a siesta. Then this afternoon will go and greet SJ.

1800 Last light fading. After a rest I phoned and was given directions to near his house - he came and collected me in his car - to take me the half mile to his house - a mansion on top of a rise. He is older and more successful than I ever realised. Children in States and Germany and another one returned here doing computers. The party was for his 20 year old daughter who has just voluntarily been baptised - so there were lots of prayers and hymn singing ( and clapping naturally). Then food and I took some photos - finished my film which is tidy - then made my excuses and came back. I think will have a quiet evening - I spoke to Francis and he's on his way back but will not be around in Yde until too late to meet tonight. So I am to phone him once I get clear tomorrow.

19 Jan 2004
700 nice and cool. Well today's the day. Going to be busy and hectis. First a quite gentle start. Clambering back into consciousness with first light - bush habits that can be helpful in the town. Only thing is means that I'll get back to UK out of synch - but then a sleepless night in the plane usually helps for that. Didn't speak to Anna. Will check email first to see if I need to make a quick call. If need be from Andrew's phone. Program: Toa, MTN, Unesco?, Uni Rector? then Francis. Ideally also phone Orange in Dla.

Can't plan more than that, and even that much seems ambitious! We shall see.

2200 Dla airport - in plane and so we're off. Busy day and fairly successful overall Good meeting with T this am then failed to find a mobile phone man but greeted people in Unesco office - next door which was useful - and then found someone to give me a name and number for big phone people in dla. Called and got an email. Then to BC where Gufler's monograph - finally - and said farewell. Then to university where after long wait was able to have a very short talk to the VC. Then to Francis which was nice and back to BC residence where we recorded his lecture and looked at a little of the video diary I'd commissioned. Great success. Andrew took me to airport. Mark arrived late to hand over document for Neil. No hassles in airport.

So far so good. About to be first test of noise reducing headphones.