Footprints to Zanzibar

Trip Home from the Congo to Cameroun cont.

I want to finish the account of the trip from school in Congo home to Cameroun that June. We were a fifteen-year-old, a sixteen-year-old, and a seventeen-year-old, all foreigners. The one who got sick later on turned out to have suffered a bad malaria attack. His fever spiked so high, within short hours that afternoon of the trip, that we, the other two, actually feared he was going to lapse unconscious on us in the Douala airport or in the rattletrap taxi. He had a splitting headache, he quickly became dehydrated and his teeth chattered audibly as his whole body shook and shivered.

There was no telephone, there was no ambulance and we had no acquaintances in that city.

J.’s other schoolmate, the 17-year-old boy, and I found an obscure telegraph office in a back corner of that rickety airport and, scraping together cash from our wallets, we sent off a typed telegram on a paper-thin pink form saying, “J super sick stop Williams not home stop please advise stop.”

We decided to have the 17-year-old use some more of our pooled, limited cash to take another taxi ride back to the Williams’ house and see if they’d gotten home, which he did, but after another hour he returned.  No such luck.

We sat at the chipped formica restaurant table upstair. I went to the restaurant counter and asked to borrow a bar towel. I went to the smelly dark bathroom and soaked the towel in the slow drip of water from the sink faucet, wrung it out, and returned and draped it over the face of J., to try to help lower his fever.

Then an announcement came over the crackling loudspeaker, in French, of course, and it said that our eight o clock p.m. flight to Yaounde was CANCELED, without explanation, and there were no more flights until the next day!

J. was in terrible shape, trembling and hot as a furnace.  He’d been that way for many hours.  I tried to get ice, from the bar, but they kept telling me they didn’t have any.

We prepared to stretch out in the corner on the restaurant floor to spend the night.  Between the three of us we did not have enough money left to take another taxi into the city, let alone book in a hotel.  I remember being incredibly tired, incredibly hot and sweaty, and the none-too-clean tile of the restaurant floor feeling cool under the side of my face!


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