I have allowed two weeks and three days to pass by before posting again! and well, that is just plain irresponsible. I have much to share about life and work here in Njinikom, but once again, very little time.
After being trained at Pa Sala’s farm and meeting all the widow groups around Boyo Division during the first two weeks, we finally started working alongside the widows on their farm. I cannot believe how strong the women are here. Whether the hot sun or freezing rain is coming down, they are always working, never stopping and never seeming to tire. It is incredible. Not surprisingly, it puts me to shame, though I’m pretty sure the apathetic goats eating grass off to side could do that too. Just kidding. Sort of. Like Christina said, the work we’re doing isn’t complicated but it sure of heck is difficult! However, despite being spent at the end of each day I think it is also making me stronger. The other day, for example, I meant to lazily flick a bug off of me only to watch it shoot out of existence. I felt kind of bad but was pleasantly surprised by the power of my index finger and thumb.
Aside from working at the widows’ farm we’ve also continued another part of the project at Pa Sala’s farm on the other side of the hill. (Interestingly, both farms are in valleys but on separate sides of the same mountain which we appear to be near the top of – it provides a funny sense of symmetry and a healthy amount of walking.) Other than his role as teacher, he is also in charge of growing the plantains that are to be distributed to all the widow groups throughout Boyo Division. This means Njinikom, Belo, Fundong, Mbingo, and Ashing – over 500 women in total. It is unfortunate that due to time constraints we will not be able to work on farms in these other locations but because we were able to build the propagator (Ben did most of that actually) and plant the koms (which are roots of plantains that will produce the seedlings to be distributed) we feel more secure about the success of the project after our departure.
Another thing we were able to do before our time is up was set up the business skills training for the women after we leave. To me, this may be the most important part of the project as it’s most important that the women are able to help themselves. Even if we gave them no money, if we give them knowledge then we give them the power to help themselves and not have to rely on others. The main problem here is that due to the nature and structure of society here widows are forced to be reliant on others who have no desire to take on the responsibility of supporting them and therefore they are often the most neglected members of the community. So dependency then is the direct opposite of what we came here to achieve and getting this in place allows us to overcome that. The person who will be heading the training often works with different NGOs and charities and he also mentioned that with this project we were really targeting one of the biggest and most prominent problems in Cameroon. So it felt really good to get that confirmed and in place.
Anyways, that was a lot in those three paragraphs. I could keep writing pages and pages about our project but there are also lots of other things I’d like to talk about before I run out of time or the power goes off (this post wasn’t up on Thursday for that reason).
I mentioned before that on the weekends we get to travel around the region we’re in and it’s a really great way to get a larger sense of what Cameroon is really like. One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed is that even though we’re traveling to places that are all really close together, almost everywhere we go we encounter new cultures. On the surface things don’t seem all that different but after a bit you can start to get a sense for what makes this certain part where you are unique, just like the differences you might feel between Dripping Springs, Austin, and Dallas. I remember reading in my guide book that Cameroon was like a smaller version of Africa because it has so many different groups and tribes in it. Even though I haven’t left the Northwest Province I can definitely feel how that is true.
A really good example of that was when we went horseback riding just this past Sunday. We traveled to Fundong in a taxi and then trekked up into the country to where we’d be meeting our guides. Our guides were Fulani, a Muslim group of people in Cameroon that typically live high up in the mountains and herd cattle. I couldn’t believe how hospitable they were and just how much fun we had. Ben fell of the horse, I slammed my knee into a tree, Christina couldn’t get her horse to gallop, Stephanie didn’t have stirrups or a saddle, and of course we were all feeling rather chaf-tastic afterward but it was hands down one of the greatest experiences I’ve had here.
Anyways I’m out of time. This will probably be my last post before leaving Cameroon. Sunday there is no access to internet, we leave Njinikom and Boyo Division Monday morning, and once we’re on the road we probably won’t have time to stop anywhere. So I’m saying goodbye for now, though I hope you check back in for my one last follow up post. Perhaps for once in that post I will be able to tell you all that I have always promised to. Until then, Ahsha (I am with you).