"Will you take me back with you?"
These are the words nearly every Cameroonian asks me when we meet for the first time and I tell them that I am from the USA.
Cameroon is nice. People here are very peaceful; parts of the African wilderness are incredibly scenic; the fruits are exotic, and even free of cost at times if you are willing to walk through the forest, or "bush" as they say here, to pick them.
At the same time, however, corruption is prevalent, infrastructure can be poor, the electricity grid fails frequently, etc. And because people have limited access to small TVs and spotty Internet connections, they know it's not like this in other parts of the world. So it's obvious why many people seem eager to leave and go someplace else.
To me, the race to leave Cameroon is sad. People here are patriotic, happy to wear their country's colors on National Day, and dying to see their national football team return to the powerhouse it once was on the African continent. But in reality, no amount of patriotism would ever stop one from leaving Cameroon if they had the opportunity to go to Europe or North America.
I think it's sad to see people discontent about the state in which they live. You see that, naturally, people tend to move around and settle in communities in which they feel they belong because they live similar lifestyles, or share the same ethnic background, etc. You'll see in the US, for example, "Chinatowns" within many of our nation's big cities, or "gay communities," as in Provincetown, Cape Cod, Ma. It's nice to see that people are free to move around to settle in places where they feel they belong.
The saddest part, therefore, about the race to leave Cameroon is that although many people know other places exist and dream of visiting, for many, it is completely out of reach because the expenses of traveling out of the continent far exceed what one may earn over the course of months, maybe years here. It's not that Cameroonians are in a place where they feel they don't belong, but that they are restricted from traveling by obstacles that are completely out of their control.
I feel guilty knowing that to some of these people, I am a representative of what, for them, is a "better place." I feel guilty knowing that in September, I will return to life in a country with considerably more wealth and development. I don't believe, however, that the proper solution is to help everyone export themselves to Europe or North America. The proper solution is for us to help make Cameroon a better, more developed place so that Cameroonians can feel comfortable and happy in the land they call home, and that is why we at CFDP wake up and go to work every morning.
Anyway, the whole reason I have written this story is that today, a few of my friends left to run the race away from Cameroon. Four children that were living in the house in which I stay here in Kumba left for London, England. Their names are Jarret, Jadden, Ibrahim (Bubba), and Princess (Mama). Their father had already been living overseas and returned to Kumba this week to bring them back to London with him for good. Bubba and Mama are too young to understand the significance of their move, but Jarret and Jaden, who are each about 12 or 13-years of age, were obviously ecstatic. They had only discovered that they would be leaving for good just a few days before--truly, the African way--but throughout the week they were giddy with excitement.
Here are their pictures:
|Bubba proposing a toast.|
|Mama, really enjoying her cup of water.|
- Could you tell that they are two sets of twins?