The Trip to Cameroon
Pre-Departure to the soil of the Motherland
At 2:30 pm, left my parent’s house for the last time until May. I laughed because the next time I would be there, the two foot pile of snow in the driveway would be long gone and I would have to pack away the coats and gloves for shorts and sandals. While sitting in the car, waiting us to arrive at Dulles airport, I looked at the landscape around me and realized in a day I would be half way across the world.
Arriving and getting my bags from the car was easy. Saying goodbye to my parents for four months was a little harder. We tried to take a last minute selfie, and my dad, a 6-foot 3 inch man with a huge wingspan could not understand the extended arm concept. Finally, we got a successful picture using my significantly smaller arms.
So after we said our goodbyes, I walked down to the bus terminal to get to security and my gate, excited about my new adventure.
The security portion was interesting because I never have had a TSA person ask to check my hair. Maybe it is because I have not been on an airplane since I went to college back in 2013. The process overall was pretty quick and the people were nice.
Finally I get to my gate and it is only about an hour wait before I am set to depart to Brussels, Belgium for my connecting flight to Yaounde, Cameroon. I meet a wonderful woman from the Congo named Dorcas. She and I sit and talk for a while and she explains to me that she is going back to Congo in order to create an orphanage because she loves children and believes they are the future. She was a woman of my own heart, very sweet and gentile. We talked the entire hour and walked on the plane together. Unfortunately we did not sit together on the plane but I met another woman that helped me all the way until I arrived in Yaounde’s airport.
This woman’s name was Claudette. A very interesting and charismatic woman from Douala, one of the other major cities in Cameroon. She kind of gave me a crash course in what I was to expect in Cameroon. We were together the entire flight and on the plane to Cameroon.
So this is where the story gets interesting. We arrived at Brussels and 7 am their time (2 am EST) and the airport staff in Brussels was a little rude to the both of us. I do not know what was going on with that but I felt a little uncomfortable.
The flight to Yaounde via Douala was scheduled to depart at 10:40 am Brussels time. So please explain to me why I was in the airport until about 4 am Brussels time. So from 7 am –4 pm I was sitting in a foreign airport with a lot of Cameroonians and limited French speaking skills. It was quite an adventure. What I will say is that the Cameroonians were very friendly to me and most of them were bilingual. I will come to learn later that there is tension between the francophone (French speaking) and anglophone (English speaking) Cameroonians and that explains some of the things that I experienced in the airport.
I talked to a couple women and a man about their experiences in Cameroon. The people of Douala kept telling me that I must go to visit because it is so much fun and they party a lot. Maybe because they knew I was an American college student they expected me to party. In actuality, I am a social introvert that wants to save the world in the simplest of descriptions of myself. But that is besides the point, Claudette and many other people adopted me as their little sister. At that point, I knew I was going to have a family away from my actual family.
So I saw the fiery side of the Cameroonians when they delayed our flight one hour and then three hours. Every time a delay was announced, the were a lot of Cameroonians cussing, shouting, and arguing with the people with Brussels Airways. I did not have any Euro with me and I was starting to get hungry, I was saved by the vouchers for 15 euro. I got pizza and water because I do not think that croissants and coffee would do my stomach any justice. Finally around 2 pm, they finished giving out the new boarding passes and we were waiting to start boarding the plane.
The plane ride was very interesting a sense that even though a lot of these people did not each other prior to the start of this journey, they talked and carried on like they knew each other for years. There was like a party on the plane and NO ONE was adhering to the seat beat signal. It was amazing to watch and I just felt love radiating on the plane. The people were singing and dancing and laughing and it was so warm.
The flight was about 7 hours long. Two of those hours were just about getting to the border of Algeria, the other five were crossing the Sahara. So I know that I wanted to go to Cameroon for my study abroad because the program is centered around development. I realized once I saw that I was in Africa that this was like a psychological and emotional pilgrimage for me. It is like I am putting my skin color with a place. I am equating my history with a tangible place. I know that I do not know personally where my ancestors came from but I do know that somewhere on this rich soil holds the bones, sweat, tears, and spirit of my ancestors.
I never realized until I got here that this was conformation to me that my color was not inferior and that I can be beautiful in my natural state and it is wonderful to be around people that look like me. Not only look like me, but hold family and community on the same pedestal that I do. Here, there are no words for aunt, uncle, or cousin. Everyone is either mother (for women of child baring age), father (men of child baring age), daughter or sister(this could mean young female stranger or cousin), and son or brother (young male strangers or cousins). I think that for me, because I am a firm believer that a village takes a child and we are all people that should help each other, I fell in love before I stepped on foot on the ground.
I also understood that the maps that we are taught in American school are extremely bias. I say that because the map of the world that is taught in American schools, completely dismisses the size and the richness of Africa. Like the distance between Nairobi, Kenya and Yaounde, Cameroon is something like 1700 miles which is about 1000 miles shy of the distance between Maryland and California. That is the thinner portion of Africa, after the Sahara. It is amazing and scary that a land mass that is so huge and rich has a lot of people that are impoverished, sick, and starving. It is actually very saddening.
So after my initial shock of how huge Africa is, I sat in my seat anxious to get to my destination because after and hour of looking at the desert on the map, I started going a little crazy. Plus, my butt was starting to hurt from sitting in an uncomfortable chair within a row of four people.
Finally, seven hours, two 2-hour films, about 50 songs and many conversations, I arrived in Yaounde.
Now I am here experiencing and taking in the culture and people. I will try and give an update at least once a week and then after we go out and complete an excursion. Thank you for reading about my flight experience, I hope you will continue with me and my journey.