Saturday, June 10, 2006

A bientot.. See you soon.

This time last year, if you would have asked me where I wanted to teach, I would have told you either Europe or South America. Of course, everyone wants to go Europe and practicing Spanish in South America would prove beneficial. I imagined myself taking a coffee in an outdoor café as the warm sun hit my face, while observing pedestrians walking along stone streets shopping for trendy clothes. But, never had it occurred to me to live in Africa. Yes, I dreamed of trekking through Morocco or marveling at the Great Pyramids, but never to experience black Africa. I don’t remember exactly when my mind turned away from Europe towards Africa, but I remember reading about the many teachers who wanted to live in Europe and the competition behind receiving a contract in schools there. So, I researched some of the African schools, deciding to look at a few places that were not so popular.

I hadn’t met too many Africans while growing up in the United States. In college, I had a friend named Gilbert, a very warm and clever person. We had many conversations, although, hardly about the continent from which he came. The talks we had mostly concerned academics or our social life. Also, in college, I was involved in AIESEC, an organization dedicated to finding internships for students abroad. And, even with all the students we placed, none went to Africa. I don’t think I even remember internships being offered in Africa. What I’m trying to convey, is that I had very little knowledge of Africa before moving here. Unfortunately, like many people, I saw Africa mostly on high definition televisions, where an uneducated woman wearing shabby clothes, sat barefoot outside a hut trying to make money to feed her children. And sadly enough, this is the view many people have when they think of Africa.

I would be lying if I said that I had misinformed ideas about Africa. No, I never thought that all Africans lived in huts. But, I knew Africa was different-I knew it was not Europe. During the time I was searching for a job abroad, I met an Australian couple while flying to South Carolina to visit my family during the Christmas holiday. We stood in a long stagnant line that stretched to the next terminal. A line that is a constant sight at LAX. They spoke about their recent stint in Kenya. I was quite amazed and very curious about their life in Kenya because of my recent decision to look towards Africa as a place to live. I must have seemed like a child to them, asking so many questions and hardly able to wrap my mind around such a place.

I explained to them that I was considering moving to Cameroon. And, I was interested in the social life they lead. “Well, I’m still very young and I still want to be able to go out you know. Are there clubs and places to go out?” I inquired. After asking the question, I felt immature and wondered what this couple thought about my lack of knowledge of Africa. But, I didn’t care, I needed to be in a place where I could have fun and enjoy myself.

Before heading off to study in Mexico, I formed an idea in my mind about how it would be to live and study in Mexico. Even before moving to Los Angles, I imagined myself becoming a pro surfer and leaving work to hit the waves with my bodysuit and hundred dollar surf board (like many such thoughts, it was not in the stars for me to be a pro surfer). However, before moving to Cameroon, I never formed such strong expectations. Most of my expectations centered around teaching Fourth grade, a grade that I had never taught before.

When I told people about moving to Cameroon for two years, I ran into a storm of questions. What will your lodging be like? Why are you going for two years? Where is Cameroon? But, for me, I was more thrilled at the idea of moving to a place where the majority of its citizens are black. I grew up in mostly white neighborhoods and went to mostly white schools. So, I was very fascinated at the thought of being amongst black people.

So now, it has been ten months of Life in Cameroon. And looking back on my journey from the time I received a job to now, I can only categorize it as tremendous. I can’t out right say that I have changed, but its something that I feel. I feel more mature and knowledgeable. These feelings I cannot speak about, but most likely will be evident in the way that I speak or enter into different situations and experiences. My time here in Cameroon has been nothing short of wonderful.

As I speak with people about living here, I always begin with my horror stories that occurred over the first four months. I speak about my knee injury, the amoebas, and how my car was broken into. Also, I tell about lying in bed for days straight, bored out of my mind, with horrible stomach pains, wondering when the bad luck would end or if I would even make it out of Cameroon. I also look back at the wonderful people that I have met and the places I have visited.

I am proud and happy with myself that I made the decision to come to Cameroon. It has been an experience that I will carry with me for life.

This is my last day in Cameroon. Keep coming back to the blog and read about Life in the United States… By the way, I do return to Cameroon in August!!!

Bamenda Trip

A Long Long Long time ago I took a trip to the NorthWest province.It happened to be one of my favorite trips this year in Cameroon. Even with that said, I waited to the last minute to type up a post about it. I don't know why I waited until my last day in Cameroon. I will tell you that this post won't do the trip justice. However, I did want to share some photos that I took while there.

We visited the province of the fons (village chiefs). Their palaces where amazing. I learned so much about the history of Cameroon. Especially, which I find most interesting, are the large numbers of different ethnic groups, each with their own language. For example, the Bamum Script from the people of Foumban is a language that was developed before colonization.

We had a great time drinking rafia wine, visiting palace museums such as Babungo Museum , and enjoying friends.

Of course no trip would be complete without me getting sick or injured somehow. So, of course the first night I had food poisoning and threw up the whole night!

Bamenda is a special place. I will return there again and you will hear about all of the adventures.

Friday, June 09, 2006

This is a shot from Upstation as we descended into the city of Bamenda.