Monday, March 2, 2009

“Would you do it again?”

“Would you do it again?” is the question I’ve been asked more than once, when I start to tell of my experiences in Cameroon. The answer has to be, “Yes, certainly!” because, despite the challenges, this country has a lot going for it.

The opportunity to spend time in such a different culture will probably not arise again for me, and I don’t regret taking up the challenge.

What’s good about this place? Well, the food is abundant and very good on the whole, the climate is generally good, and you can soon get used to the heat.

What’s not so good? Unfortunately, the corruption has to be mentioned. Of course, there is corruption everywhere in the world, but in Cameroon, it has almost become an art form. “People are confident they won’t get caught”, a lawyer told me. The press contains stories almost every day about officials misappropriating funds, but very few are ever brought to justice.

I’m writing this in Yaoundé the capital where I’m spending a few days before flying back. It’s interesting to compare Bamenda and Yaoundé. The capital is much more developed in turns of its buildings, its roads and its businesses. I can now see why citizens of Bamenda complain about being neglected by the big cities. The differences are compounded by the language barrier or linguistic differences. As is the case in Wales, while the country is bilingual, not all its citizens are, so Yaoundé looks both privileged and foreign to Bamenda people.

I have met some extraordinary and committed people in this country, such as the volunteers for charitable organisations who do not even receive travelling expenses for their efforts. I have also met people who live in very difficult circumstances – no water or electricity, no lock on the door – who smile and take delight in simple pleasures.

Regarding religion I have met Bahais, one Buddhist and with Christians of all colours. Many of the Christians take the commitments of their faith seriously, but I have seen evidence of ‘religiosity’ too.
I had a really good meeting with the High Commissioner this morning. He gave me 45 minutes - more than I expected and after talking about my topic, we moved on to discuss place names and Celtic languages.
The pictures show Desiree who came in to see me especially on Saturday morning to give me a gift, then the market stall at Santa.

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