Volunteering abroad is funny thing. When taking the plunge to go abroad, our assumptions on difficulty are often corporeal, things like pit toilets, unbearable car rides, etc. But I’ve found that the real trials we international volunteers face here is social.

Recently, I was at the market with a fellow volunteer who asked the price of grapes. “Whiteman pay 500 for 1-1 grape.” Many Cameroonians have a way of seeing us foreigners as money bags. They assume we come from our palaces in the western world to give money and fortune. It’s the taste of discrimination and racism we face hourly.

It can weigh down on us sometimes, feeling constantly secluded and hostile from the people we came to help. But it’s important to look at the brighter side of things right? There are many very kind and open Cameroonians, and truly these are the ones that have a creative, independent mind frame that influence their peers.

A lot of it is cultural too. Cameroonians are a bit blunt to say the least. For example, they will come up to you and tell you you’re looking fat. It isn’t an insult to them, just pointing out the facts, showing they care enough to notice. But it’s not easy for us who’ve come accustomed to western inhibitions of “rudeness.”

They call it the “fishbowl effect” I guess, feeling as though you’re inside a fishbowl and everyone is staring and judging, (because they usually are). I’d have to say it’s the biggest hurdle we face here in trying to co-exist. It makes us a bit edgy and emotional at times, but we persevere.

We volunteers just have to appreciate we signed up for a difficult task. We are here to effect change at the core of the individuals here. It’s not a simple thing we are doing here, and through every day of social interaction via teaching, arguing over grape prices, discussing at the bars, playing football, etc we are opening the minds of Cameroon tomorrow.

The harder something is the greater its reward, both for yourself and others. “No so?”