Back in Berkeley!

It is pretty crazy to think that only two weeks ago I was in the slums of Douala, riding bikes through the jungles, and being called “white man” everywhere I went. I am now back in Berkeley for school and sometimes when I think about my trip, I feel like it was a dream. Luckily, I have photos of my trip posted all over my room to remind me of my experiences this summer, and the friends I made.

When my friends and family ask me about my trip, I can honestly say I would not have change a single thing about it. Going with a tiny Cameroonian research body rather than an American organization allowed me to travel places and see things I would never have had the opportunity to do otherwise. I also greatly appreciate all of the challenges I faced because if my experience was perfect it would have been a false representation of global aid and voluntourism. Instead, I was exposed to corruption, sexism, cultural insensitivity, and more.

Although I was able to do all the work I was promised this summer, there were many bumps along the way. My first week in Cameroon I thought I was not going to have any work to do because of organizational issues at my job site. I learned throughout my experience that much of the money being given to my organization was not being used as it was intended. Frequently, donations are be spent for personal use instead of the actual projects. It is my fear that even if my project is funded, the work I planned out may not happen. I had a wonderful experience working with my co-worker and meeting the communities, and it breaks my heart that I could not promise them that their voices will be heard and that my project will go through to completion.

I believe that this form of corruption is greatly due to lack of transparency. Many employees at NGOs are passionate about their work and donators can help them avoid money embezzlement by sending payments in different sections (rather than all at once), while requiring receipts and pictures to insure that the money is being used as it was intended. CAEPA, like many other NGOs, has the potential to do great work, but it must learn to put the needs of communities impacted by their work above their own.

I have my surveys, reports, and project proposals back with me in the states, so if you are at all interested in learning more, please contact me. This semester I will be in GPP 196, the post-practice experience class. I will have two hours every week to reflect with 10 other GPP students on our experiences this summer. One of my projects will be either to write a grad school application or a Fulbright application, and I am so excited to start!

Thank you again for following my blog and although I am incredibly happy to be back in Berkeley, I miss my time in Cameroon, and will be back in the future. This spring semester I am studying abroad in Argentina for 7 months, and I will make sure to post my new blog on this site when it gets closer to the date!

XO,

Julie

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August 6th- August 10th

 

Tuesday, August 6th– Ndop District Hospital!

Today I finished up my report in the morning, and in the afternoon I visited my friend Stanley who works at the Ndop District Hospital as a nurse in the emergency room. It was very interesting to see the facilities, or lack thereof. While I was there, a girl was brought into the ER room and I was astonished by the lack of attention the doctor/nurse paid to her. Stanley even asked me to take a photo of him while he was examining her! Although the actual facilities were questionable, as expected in a third world country, the scenery was amazing. I must say I would not mind being treated in a hospital in a valley with gorgeous mountains on all sides!

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Wednesday, August 7th– Cameroonian Drama!

Today was my last day of work, but it was definitely the most culturally shocking! Because of a disagreement between me and my boss there was a lot of discussing and arguing, that ended up involving the entire Cameroonian family I stayed with (you can ask me details personally). Somehow the arguing went from intense to them professing they were all family again. I was given a certificate of appreciation by my boss and he told me he would write me any recommendation I wanted, very nice of him.

Tonight I had a dinner at another missionary family’s house and got to munch on cheese, humus, and pepper spread, very yummy!  The family consisted of a mom, dad and 7 year old son, along with their friend Janelle who is 30 years old. It was great being able to talk to them about my work and Cameroonian culture; it is amazing how much you can learn from an outsider that locals don’t think to tell you!

Thursday, August 8th– Sallah!

Muslims around the world have been fasting for a month during Ramadan, and I got to go to Sallah, the breaking of their fast in a village called Sabga. The Jackson’s invited me to go with them and Chris drove me up in the morning, which took about an hour. This Sallah was pretty laid back and I spent most of the day hanging out with the girls. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous there, and I appreciated having a chance to spend one last day in the bush before I leave for home. We feasted on rice, beef, vegetables, and even got to have tea with real milk! I must say the meat here in Cameroon is a lost tastier than in America!

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Friday, August 9th– Bye, bye Bamenda!

This morning Stanley picked me up at 7:30 AM and whisked me off to the bus station. We took Amour Mezam, a nice little coach for the 7 hour drive from Bamenda to Douala. It was cool seeing all the sites again with the eyes of a more experienced Cameroonian traveler. We arrived in Douala at around 4:00 and took several taxis to get to Stanley’s co-worker’s family’s house. As it turns out, this house is very close to the airport and is actually in the slums outside of Douala. However, it has a guard at the front and the family is well respected and known in the area. I stayed in the reverend sister’s room for the night, and got to enjoy all of the loud noise of the city!

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Saturday, August 10th– Last day in Cameroon!

This morning we went into town to check in with Brussels Airlines and visit around. It is very reminiscent of France and the disparity between the slum in which the family lives and down town is pretty astonishing. However, I feel safer in the slum with all of my Cameroonian contacts than in the city; all of the tall buildings and development is a reverse culture shock to me! Right now I am sitting getting my hair braided Rasta style. Let’s see if my mom reads this before she picks me up at the airport tomorrow!

I have had a phenomenal time in Cameroon and I am sad to see it come to a close. Thank you all for you prayers for a safe return and I promise to not miss any of my flights if I can help it! I must specifically thank all of my donors and family members; I would not be here without your love and support. I must also thank Molly for leading me to the GPP Minor, Chetan and Sean, my GPP minor advisors, and Clare my pre-practice professor! Thank you for following my blog and believing in my even when I have doubted myself and my work here. I am so excited to learn about other GPP students’ experiences and to give everyone a big hug!

August 3rd- August 5th

Saturday, August 3rd– Julie Gets Lost in the Jungle!

This morning I was picked up by Stanley at 10:30 to go for my last weekend in Zang. On the drive there we took a different direction so I we were able to travel through a partial savannah. Cameroon is considered “Africa in Miniature” because it has all of the different types of vegetation you can find around Africa. We were almost to Zang when our taxi driver got stuck in the mud. He tried for about 20 minutes to back up and keep going, but in the end abandoned his efforts. We decided I would walk the rest of the way and Stanley would grab a bike to carry all of the food. I walked, and walked past one Zang sign, looking for the next… I did not realize the next was a half hours walk away. When I got to that one I mistakenly asked for the directions to Zang and not The Guest House (their house), and was led COMPLETELY off track. I finally realized I was going up into the hills and ran back down for 20 minutes, grabbed a moto, and made it safely to their house. Very luckily I was lost in the jungle than in a foreign town!

After I bathed (warm water again!) and rested, Celeste took me to the Meta’s championship football game. When they saw they had a white man in their midst, they asked me to kick off the ball, quite an honor. I was led out to the field with all of the important leaders then when the whistle sounded I ran at the ball and kicked it straight; who knew everyone could cheer so loud for a whit e man? After halftime Stanley and I went over to watch the women’s handball competition- which is pretty much football but with your hands. Nothing at all like American handball! To finish up the night we went home, ate, and watched the Amazing Spider Man, a favorite movie of mine.

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Sunday, August 4th– Last Day in Zang

This morning I went to church at Mama Salome and Pa John’s Presbyterian Church right in their quarter. It is the size of a small classroom, very personal, and I even got to participate in the music making; I was given a shaker! At the end of church Mama Salome introduced me to the congregation and explained how we met back in America when she and John were living with her son Gideon, and they all attended my church. It is amazing that 4 years ago she was in my homeland, and that I have now had the opportunity to travel to hers. That is when the crying started, and all on my part. I am not a big crier, but the Cameroonians must be bringing it out in me!

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Mama invited the entire congregation over for a farewell lunch. At lunch I sat in the middle with Stanley while all of the guests surrounded us. After lunch Mama Salome got up and led everyone in a song that I learned from her back in America. Then Pa John got up and gave me a farewell blessing and prayer. He said that I should not fear that I will not see them again, that I will always be connected with them in the spirit. That is when I started bawling, in front of everyone. He even stopped to check if I was okay, but I reassured him it was just because I would miss them all! We then went around saying goodbye to everyone, and then started our journey back to Bamenda.

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Monday, July 5th– Last week in Bamenda

I cannot believe that I only have 5 more days in Bamenda! I am partially SO excited to go home, and also sad to be leaving everyone. This may be my last post before I leave, but hopefully I will make it to the internet on Friday. I am taking a night bus on Friday night with Stanley to Douala (about 6 hours), and spending Saturday at his friend’s house in Douala, and then going to the airport and leaving from there at 9:30 PM. My flight plan takes me from Douala to Brussels to Newark, and finally to San Francisco. My mom will pick me up on Sunday night from San Francisco and take me immediately to my family vacation at the B&W.

This last week I promise to stay safe, and appreciate every moment to its fullest! I miss you all and cannot wait to see you in person again!  

July 29th- July 31st

Monday, July 29th- Last week of field work!

Today I started my last week of field work by visiting another agricultural community at Mile 4 called Menda. The main environmental challenges this community suffers from are the irregularity in the rainy season and poor soil, both which affect their yields. There has also been rampant deforestation to make room for development, but whether tree felling is occurring in the bushes as well as in the neighborhood is unclear.

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In the afternoon, I went over to the Jackson’s house to visit and use their fast internet (the American family). Their house is only a 10 minute walk from mine. I was able to skype with my family and catch up on some AXO work. I ended up staying the whole afternoon and got to eat dinner there too. The family is incredibly welcoming and their house is like a little oasis. Very exciting to be able to use a flushable toilet for the first time in Cameroon!

Tuesday, July 30th- The Jackson Village ❤

Since Menda suffers from very few issues, the surveys were very short today and I finished work at around 11 AM. I went over to the Jackson’s again to buy some coffee from the father, and stayed again all afternoon to type up my reports and hang out with the girls. Although, I cannot say that I got that much work done! The Jackson‘s house is called the Jackson Village, because there are always 10 or more people in the house; and they consider all their friends as a part of the family. It has been very lonely back at my home for the past week because Mama Regina has been on a trip to Yaounde and the boys keep going out, so I really appreciated being invited to stay for dinner for a second night in a row. ALSO, I learned that they have two horses!!! Caitlin said I can go riding with her if I like; something I will have to take advantage of next week!

The Jacksons’s Kitchen! Karissa on the right and Loom on the left! 

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Their view! 

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Horses!!!

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Wednesday, July 31st- Over the hump!

For some reason homesickness decided to hit this past weekend, and stay until today, but I think I am finally over the hump! I was up late last night worrying about trifles and felt really off at work so I left the field early to go on a run and clear my head. This was my first time running in Cameroon and although a little tough, it was beautiful out and the views of the town are gorgeous from the hills (I do cardio kickboxing in my room to stay in shape, but no running!).

Afterwards, Karissa Jackson invited me to go into town and grab coffee with the girls and some visiting friends. We went to Prescafe, the restaurant next to the craft place, and I got to have a delicious cappuccino. The Jackson’s and their friends are hilarious; I could very easily live with them all year round, and I already feel like part of the family. It is always fun to go around with them since they speak pigeon fluently and know how to handle themselves in the market. We decided to head home after some thrift shopping when it started to rain.

Prescafe! Karissa, Loom (their Cameroonian sister), me, and Johnathan (a friend from the US) 

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Karissa was driving us back home in their family car when an idiotic taxi driver drove into the side of our car. Immediately we were surrounded by Cameroonians on all sides fighting over what had happened and who was at fault. Amazingly, Karissa kept her cool while insisting she was not at fault. We were blocked in by the taxi and unable to drive away, but she was able to finally convince the driver to back up and let us through. Our car was scratched, but his entire bumper was falling off and the side of his car was crunched in—his own fault. We drove away without further discussion, since the taxi driver did not want to have to deal with paying us for the scratch. Driving in Cameroon is crazy, and we were very lucky that we were in the North West Region, since elsewhere the witnesses might have insisted that the white person was at fault purely because they are white and are more likely to have money. However, the general public is a lot more accepting here than in other regions.

My day was made when Mama walked in at 6 PM with all of her luggage. She has been gone for a week, and I am so happy to have her back!