Prologue (to Cameroun)

After months of waiting impatiently, its finally time for me to go to Cameroon and see Akilah, and not too soon if you ask me. So my final preparations began.

Where do I start? Well first and foremost, if you’ve never been to an African country, it may be a good idea to first call the embassy to make yourself familiar with the entry procedures.

I just happened to call once for information and found out I needed to obtain a visa to enter the country (a three months visitor’s visa costs just under $63). Actually, when I told the gentleman that I was planning a trip to Cameroon and needed some information, he asked if I applied for a visa. Of course I said, “Oh, I wasn’t aware I had to.” He then chuckled and said, “What did you think you were going to do, just enter the country?” (Of course being unfamiliar with the procedures, that’s exactly what I thought).

Well, I went through the application process. Which took longer to complete than it did to purchase my ticket. Here’s what you’ve gotta do . . .

Be sure to have two passport photos, a copy of a recent bank statement (be sure its a copy, as they do not return it to you), a copy of your ticket or itinerary, as provided by the travel agent, of course the completed application, and most importantly, a certified document/letter from whomever you are visiting essentially saying they are inviting you to visit them in Cameroon and will be responsible for you during your stay.

Let’s just say that obtaining this letter sounds easy, however, it’s anything but. First we had to figure out, what was meant by “certifying” the letter. After weeks of calling the embassy and being told, “Your friend you are visiting knows where to go to have it done, any official can do it.” Of course, this statement was despite the fact that the conversation began with me telling the gentleman that she does not know and I needed some assistance in determining where to tell her to go.

Finally, one day I said, “You keep telling me she knows, and I continually tell you that she doesn’t, please just give me specifics on where she can go to obtain certification of the letter.” This phone call took all but two minutes, as he was able to give me specific titles of people she could go to. This would basically be the police in the town where the person is staying or the local gendarme office.

The letter was finally certified (this was in the end of October/beginning of November), at which time she gave it to a visiting Peace Corps (PC nurse to mail from Yaoundé. Well three weeks went by and I hadn’t received the letter, it was now about November 20th. Did I happen to mention that my date of departure was December 21st? I didn’t panic yet, for I knew it was coming.

Another week past, it was November 27th. Another week past, December 4th. Now I began to worry. Thinking, I’ve made all this preparation, and here its about to go down the tube. So during the time of our weekly call on the 6th, I was unable to reach her on the phone. Now I really began to become concerned. So I passed a message on to her mother to let her know (the next day when she called) I’d not received anything.

I was told to email her my fax no. And she’d send it that way, as a back up. On the 16th I received a fax copy of the letter, however, there was one important portion missing. . .THE CERTIFYING STAMP! Now my mind is like, “I have no way to contact her, because my departure date has been moved up, and I’m now leaving on Wednesday. . .what do I do.”

After a lil’ prayer, I went to my post office box on December 11th and guess what I found? A letter from Cameroon! I’d finally received the final piece of what I needed to apply for my visa. Now I was ready to go to Washington, D.C. and complete my application in one day. Not!!

I called the embassy to find out what time I could arrive to do so, and was promptly informed I could not sit and wait, however, I was more than welcomed to deliver it in person or via Certified mail with a return envelope (like FedEx or UPS) and it would be ready in three days. With reluctance I did so. The visa application was dropped off, on December 12th; and ready for pick up on December 15th.

Now I’m ready to go.