Back in January, our students wrote descriptions of ‘how things are done in Cameroon,’ and then learned how to share these on the YAN Facebook page.  You may remember some of the topics—how to take a taxi, how to buy goods at the market, how to cook a traditional meal, how to prepare for a soccer game, how the education system works…

The beauty of these descriptions was that they gave students the opportunity to write authoritatively about activities they knew, and simultaneously set the stage for what proved to be a very interesting cultural exchange.  We sent copies of these descriptions to the 7th and 8th grade class at the Friends School of Portland, in Maine (where my mom is the head of school).   There, students learned about pieces of Cameroonian life through the eyes of our Buea high schoolers and wrote descriptions of specific activities/themes central to their own lives in the U.S.—getting to school in the morning, breakfasts in America, skiing, the role of animals in U.S. society, how to make potato leek soup, New England seasons…

As their teacher explained to me: “this was a good assignment and brought up the issue of writing for a particular audience and not knowing very well how much the writers and readers have in common.”  She asked that I look their descriptions “to see if they are too explicit about things your students would already know or too assuming about what we think they know?” 

Josh and I printed copies of the ‘how things are done in the U.S.’ pieces, and have been sharing them with our students during free class moments.  We attached several simple questions with each piece:  What is different?  What is the same?  Do you have any questions for the author of this description?

Here are some of my favorite comments and questions posed by our students—they speak for themselves:


·      “They take breakfast in America as an important meal for the day, while here in Cameroon many people do not consider it as something important.” 

·      “The fact that breakfast is being eaten before brushing your mouth.  In Cameroon it is very strange for someone to eat before brushing his/her mouth.” 

·      “I have learned that you guys take breakfast with many different foods.  Here in Cameroon the most common breakfast is tea, bread and fried eggs and spaghetti.”

·      “In Cameroon we usually take just bread and tea with some fried eggs and for the rich, they can include juice. “

·      “I learned that pancakes are usually served with maple syrup.  It is different here in Cameroon because pancakes are eaten with egg fried and frapped in or eaten empty.” 

·      “In Cameroon lunch is the most important meal, but it does vary in certain climates like in the rainy season people tend to eat much in the morning to get warm.”

·      “We normally sauté potato or leeks with groundnut [peanut] oil and not butter.  This recipe is different in that it’s fast to prepare and looks really tasteful.”

·      “This [potato leek soup] is a very different dish.  I don’t think if I am given this dish to eat I can because the ingredients can cause a damage in one’s body for example the leeks.” 

·      “The car pool stuff I think is different because here either our parents drive us to school or we use a public transport or our feet, you know? Also taking lunch to school to us it looks embarrassing.” 

·      “In Cameroon, we are not allowed to take food to school, it attracts punishment.” 

·      “I learned that the student in his free time is distracted by his computer while in Cameroon students don’t have computers.”

·      “In Cameroon, most kids aren’t privileged to have computers so have to do other things.” 

·      “I learned that cats are raised as pets.  This is amazing because here in Cameroon people regard cats as a wild animal.“

·      “She always plays games with her family and that is not a practice in Cameroon.”


“People in both the United States of America and Cameroon are distracted by social medias.”

·      “I learned that dogs are working animals.  This is similar in Cameroon because some people raise dogs to protect their homes from thieves.  And also dogs are used for hunting mostly by hunters.”

·      “After dinner you go to your bedrooms and do your homework or other house chores.  Here it is similar because it is exactly what happens here in Cameroon.  After dinner every child has to do his/her homework or do house chores.”

·      “The manner in which potato is prepared.  It is similar because we also prepare potato until it gets tender and soft. “

·      “The way pancakes are made in America is similar to how they are made in Cameroon.  The batering of eggs, milk and flour makes it similar.”


·      “I think I didn’t understand what chicken broth was or meant.” 

·      “Can you eat potato leak soup with something else than bread like for example bananas, plantains, yams, rice, or any other tubers?”

·      “I would ask that if a person from Cameroon eats this Potato Leek Soup how will the person look like?”

·      “I would ask the author if he paid for the Internet connection he had and if he paid was it monthly or weekly.”

·      “I would like to ask the meaning of camping trips and going on hikes in the woods.” 

·      “Do you see a lot of animals as you hike?”

·      “I would like to ask the author if the animals which are raised as pets don’t litter the homes with their waste such as exreters and urines.” 

·      “Why are some animals unevenly distributed in the world?”