Wednesday morning was a blast. I had to get up at 5 and get ready to go into the field alone. It was my first time to go alone, but I had set up a meeting with some of the clients from one of the centers in town so I could do a few extra interviews. I had never been to the center, so when I reached the junction the center was at I had to start asking for directions. The first woman I asked was carrying a bucket of popoffs (fried dough balls) and was on her way to the market. She grabbed my hand (holding hands is very common here), and led me to the bottom of a hill. She spoke to a friend of hers who apparently agreed to show me up the next leg of the trip and placed my hand inside my new tour guide’s hand. We walked up the hill and reached the local water tap. Children were lined up with large buckets waiting to bring back water for their family to prepare for the day. There, I was given a new tour guide—a girl around 10 years old with what had to be 20 litres of water on her head. She didn’t spill a drop as we walked quickly to the center. In front of the center waited 10 eager and excited clients, all of whom rushed over to greet me.
After conducting my interviews, I came outside to find two of the members waiting for me. One was the center chief of this particular center. They were standing with the neighbours and called me over. The mama of the home was drying out her fried grasshoppers and when she saw me coming immediately yelled at one of the children to get a ‘big paper’ (plastic bag). She filled a fairly large bag with grasshoppers and I thanked her. We continued down the hill. We walked through some compounds (essentially like someone’s back yard), to get to the Emelda’s shop. On the way, one of the neighbours was cooking her grasshoppers still. She went to talk to Emelda and asked if I could watch them. Of course, I immediately pulled out my camera and started taking a video, letting a couple jump out. Abraham, the center chief, assured me that would have happened even if I was stirring them properly.'
At Emelda’s shop, or ‘off license’ which is similar to a bar, she sells beer, wine, cold drinks, and some food items. She wanted me to ‘snap her’ (take her photo there), but she had had to hide all of her drink items off the shelves yesterday when the tax collectors came by; she didn’t have enough to pay taxes this month and knew they wouldn’t be going to help her people anyway. So, she decided to hide her items and pretend she had been doing very poorly in business. Next we went to Abraham’s farm. Emelda helps Abraham on the farm as well. The farm was huge, he was growing cabbage, tomato, sugar cane, njama njama (leafy green vegetable), pepper (jalapenoish), fish (in a fish pond), you name it, he had it. They had created an irrigation system by digging ditches through their farm land starting at the top of the hill (the farm was all on a downward slope). The ditches crossed back and forth over the approximately 5 hectares of land, finally ending in the fish pond. It was pretty muddy and slippery, so it was suggested I leave my sandals at the top. As we were walking around, the sun was starting to get pretty hot; Emelda had an extra head scarf and tied it on my head to protect me. Abraham decided to cut down some sugar cane stalks so I could take them back to the office. He cut down about 6 or 7 huge sticks and tied them together with grasses. They were about 4 to 5 feet long; they came up to about my chin. We left the farm and made our way over to another friend of Abraham’s who also helped on the farm.
He explained to me that here in Cameroon, you should not try to do it on your own. Your business and life will fail. He says life is too hard here to try it alone, you need the support of others; even just to cover you when you have malaria or typhoid, you need support. That’s why he likes being with GHAPE, they all support each other. All of them work together to make their lives better. Not a bad way to approach a problem. This other friend had three large pigs that had all just recently had piglets. There were quite a few of them all trying to jump out as soon as I looked in. I think they thought I was bringing them food or that the camera was food, because after a couple minutes they all became fairly disinterested in me. We walked up to the road so I could catch an okada (local term for motorbike here) back to the office. I still wasn’t wearing shoes (I know, could have caught all kinds of worms and bugs through my feet) and was wearing Emelda’s head scarf still (she said she would get it from the office later—it was too dusty to take an okada without it. I was now also carrying 7 or so long stalks of sugar cane over my shoulder and snacking on grasshoppers out of a big garbage bag; needless to say, I felt very Cameroonian. As I hopped on the bike and held the sugar cane with one hand, I rested my grasshoppers in my lap and pulled out my cell phone with the other hand to send out a few messages. It was only about half way through the ride home that I thought, “what am I doing? Hold on to the bike, put your grasshoppers and your cell phone away! What are you thinking?” Everyone was really happy to see me come back to the office with gifts of grasshoppers and sugar cane. They all went outside and began chopping off pieces of about one foot for each person. I was lucky enough to get my own stalk!
I have run out of time here, and have to get ready for Foumban this weekend. Foumban is about 4 hours outside of Bamenda and apparently has a huge cultural festival every two years. I will add some more blogs when I get back from that. However, I will say that this week, I successfully created the first GHAPE website! It was a bit over my head, but with a lot of trial and error it is up and running! Check it out and keep in mind there are still a lot of little details I’m still fixing up. www.ghape.org . I also added new photos to jenmcq.smugmug.com/>