The last two weeks I have been living in a Chefferie in Batoufam, Cameroon. A chefferie is a Bamiléké Chiefs palace. I am researching family farming in Cameroon, with Batoufam as a case study. The experience here so far has been amazing. I share a bedroom with another girl in the program, who is studying traditional forms of conflict resolution. We share a house/office with one of the chief’s older daughters, Paule. She loves to check in on us, and make sure that everything is going well. Every morning I saunter over to one of the two areas where the chiefs wives live, and spend my morning with Mama Martine, the other student and sometimes Paule. We drink Citronelle tea, a life changing tea that is made over an open fire where Citronelle leaves seep in a big pot with boiling water. Our breakfast varies from life changing omelets, avocado salad with tomatoes and onions, or bread with Tatina (a chocolate spread) and honey. To say the least being a Cameroonian princess is the life.
The lifestyle here in Batoufam is much different then the lifestyles I have been introduced to through my other host families. The people of Batoufam live off the land, and produce most of what they consume. Many farmers also sell their remaining crops in local markets to have money to buy the things they cannot grow or make themselves, as well as to be able to send their children to school. Many of the wives here at the Chefferie work in the fields, as well as many of the children too. It’s much harder to compare the lifestyles of the people of Batoufam, and the lifestyle of average Americans. I was asked the other day, which was better, Cameroon or America, and I could only respond that they are just too different to compare. Though in the U.S. everything material comes easy and there are many things that most of us don’t have to experience like problems with electricity and running water, real hunger, and having to grow and feed ourselves off the land, but there are other things in which I believe we miss out on. In Cameroon there is much more of a sense of community and family. There seems to be much less stress over time and business, and the phrase ”time is money” definitely does not relate to Cameroonians in the slightest.
It’s hard to convey sometimes to people I talk to here, that what they see on TV and in magazines about the US is not really the reality of what it means to be an average American.
13 days until my return home, it will be interesting to see how the semester concludes.