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!!!

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:13 AM  
Blogger crazymrsnancy said...

Wow! As I'm feeling nostalgic and missing Cameroun, I started googling for yaounde pictures and stumbled upon your blog. I haven't read it yet but I just read that you're leaving! I just posted a few pictures on my own blog too hehe.

I'm off to read the rest of your blog!

Nancy

5:23 PM  
Blogger katie said...

Jen- great post, I hope that I can say some of the same things at the end of my first year there! When do you fly back? I leave on the 18th of August! So soon, but that is okay - see you soon, have a great break! :)

3:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi i was looking at the blog and didnt quite find what i was looking for: idiots who spam post ways to make more money. oh wait...i DID find that. HO ARE THESE PEOPLE???

seriously, though. you should put maps up and nerdy logistical stuff, like when does it rain and when is it hot season.

and then you can make over $900. sheesh...

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I STUMBLED ACROSS YOUR BLOG AFTER LOOKING UP YAOUNDE.WHAT A GREAT JOB YOU ARE DOING! THANK YOU FOR BRINGING CAMEROUN CLOSER I GREW UP THERE ,ATTENDED THE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL FOR 6 YEARS AND COLLEGE DE LA RETRAITE AS WELL IT IS SO MUCH FUN TO SEE FAMILIAR PLACES.

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jen,

My name is Jean-Brice. I live in Indiana and am originally from Cameroon. I was browsing on the internet during one of those nostalgic moments and happen to stumble on your blog.
You seem to have had even more wonderful time in Cameroon than I have considering the fact that I was born there. I am getting jealous (…just kidding). Reading your daily experiences (some of them) reminded me of so many and I will be glad to hear from you.
Thank you for sharing.

Jean-Brice
574 202 2067
jbngouen@yahoo.com

2:44 AM  
Blogger janove said...

People like you simply make the world better. Other blogs about cameroon emphasize all the negative aspects of cameroon, no doubt , cameroon is far from perfect, but often it's beauty is not recognized, while the negative aspects overemphazied. Ah , I am from cameroon and really got jealous of you as it is long since I last went there. keep the cameroon flag flying!Ah, may be you should add road maps and useful information for tourists on your blog.
Take care. Dilemmajanove@libero.it

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I am in NYC and married to a wonderful man from Douala, Cameroon. I visited Cameroon in 2004 and felt in love with the country and the people. I have been to Douala, but not yaounde. Now we are thinking moving there for a few years to give our children the chance to experience this rich culture. Keep blogging! I want to read more.

Marjorie

4:59 PM  
Blogger EARL K said...

I KNOW WE JUST MEET TODAY AT THE INTERNET CAFE HERE IN LONG BEACH ON PINE AVE MY LOVELY FRIEND. AND I WAS VERY GLAD TO TALK WITH YOU SOME AND I THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME SET UP THIS SITE AND I KNOW THAT YOU ARE LETTING THEM IN CAMEROON KNOW ALL OF AMERICA AFRO-AMERICA ARE INTERESTED IN THEIR COUNTRY BECAUSE OUR FORE FATHERS CAME FROM THAT COUNTRY AS SLAVE AND WE WAS TREATED LIKE DIRT IN THE FOUNDING OF THIS COUNTRY UNTIL THE KENNEDY'S CAME ALONG AND TO A CERTAIN EXTENT WE STILL ARE BEING TREATED LIKE SLAVES ESPECIALLY WHEN CONGRESS REFUSED TO RAISE THE MINUMUMM WAGE FROM 5.15 AN HOUR WHICH BEEN I N PLACE SINCE 1997 AND THE COST OF LIVING IS OUT OF CONTROL TO THOSE WHO MAKE A LIVING THAT WAY. BUT CONGRESS CAN GIVE THEMSELVES A RAISE BUT THEY FORGOT WHO HELP MAKE THIS COUNTRY WHICH WAS POOR SPANISH , WHITES AND BLACKS WHO LIVED IN SHACKS THAT STILL STANDS IN PARTS OF MISSISSIPPI AND THEM OTHER STATES I DID NOT MENTION . YOU CAN SEE SOME AS YOU DRIVE ON THE INTERSTATE THRU THEM AND LOOK OUT ACROSS WIDE OPEN SPACE . THINGS LIKE THIS STILL DO EXIST. THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR FRIEND SHIP AND PLEASE LET THEM KNOW WE DO UNDERSTAND THEIR STRUGGLES ALSO.

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's August and I am waiting for your return to hear more about Cameroun.I hope you had a wonderful summer and are rested and ready to teach. Ton ami!

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI Balabala woman see you at school!

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello from Dayton. Just checking in. Love your site and look often for updates to your exciting life in Cameroon. Keep posting my friend. Hugs from the Chapins.

3:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jen where are you??Thought you'd have at least a September blog if not August!!!

5:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

howdy cameroonranger!
taste the balabala cactus good.
I hope that you survive in this dry climate.However good luck in ethopia!
Yours truly 4 cowgirls!

9:04 PM  
Blogger T. Wanaku said...

Hi JK,

Great blog you have here.
Enjoy reading about your adventures in "Shrimp" Country.

Quick questions:
Do you speak French?
Have you learned to speak Pidgin English?
After 10 months in this country, will you consider it a French-speaking, English-speaking, Bilingual country or none of the above?

Thanks for the updates
rgds
~w~

10:45 PM  

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