I’ve tried my best to withhold my impressions on Buea from this blog – focusing instead on the work being done and my personal challenges.  Come to find out that’s a wrong course of action.  My personal reflections are more than welcome on this blog.  I’m still hesitant though – I’m afraid to have a written record of what I see and think about what I see because impressions change as time wears on. 


Right now, many things are strange to me:  the men peeing on the side of the road; the way you can order food from one place and eat it in another; the commonality of “tipping”/bribing for even the slightest request; the way men blatantly stare at my breasts when I ask about the price of a cab; and, the fact that most people here seem to have a desire for better than what they have but no clue how to achieve it.


I’ve said before, it seems strange that a person would not want clean water pumped into their homes or a President who is not “president for life”; that women would rise up and kick men who treat them with no respect.  I’m still not sure whether or not people are fine with the state of their community.  I can’t imagine it myself, but the state of apathy and contentedness among the people here is apparent.


People are content because they are not starving – Buea is the breadbasket of Sub-Saharan Africa.  People have access to medicine.  People are poor, but not so poor as to make them destitute.  People here don’t seem to like their leadership, but don’t seem too inclined to take action.  Unscrupulous people steal from non-profits and corporations alike and those with the moral high ground are quick to separate themselves from these people with a shrug, “what can we do.”


It’s unnerving to see an idolization of modern/western clothes, pop stars, money, and status but very little motivation to do anything beyond idolizing.  It makes me think maybe they don’t want running water pumped into their homes.  It makes me wonder about development in general.  I have believed, since I got into the game, that poor development work was a product of trying to provide without taking local opinions into account.  Perhaps instead the problem with development is development in general.


In school I learned that development is not a linear path.  If anything, it is a winding circular shape that changes and continues on forever.  But, what do you say when it seems to stop moving.  There are very few international NGOs left working in Buea – plenty of volunteers and churches, but no big money like you see spent in other African countries.  That seems right to me – here, Malaria is an issue, Cholera, poverty, and AIDS but none have the devastating impact I thought.  Slowly but surely, these problems are diminishing and yet not.


There is plenty of AIDS medicine – but people don’t take it.  Why?  According to Walters it’s because they cannot eat while they are sick.  They can’t work and so they cannot eat.  I want to scream that there are so many ways to address this issue.  But, it only leads me to the same circular conversation in my head since I arrived.


So, why wouldn’t someone apply for government funding to start a “meals on wheels” program?


Because, the government is corrupt and doesn’t support these kinds of start up initiatives.  


Why wouldn’t the people elect a new government?


Because the elections are rigged.


Why don’t the people take a stand?


They have tried and there were few protestors who made very little impact.


Aren’t there international monitors for the elections?


Yes, but they have their own State interests and to be frank are not all that concerned about Cameroon. 




Because Cameroon is a peaceful country where people are not dying in masse from famine or genocide.  They seem content.  Basically, the squeaky wheel gets the grease and Cameroon is like an old truck that has seen better days but still runs.


Then why won’t people take their damn medicine if they are content and can live a good life?


In a way it reminds me of what I am always complaining about in the US – apathy.  People are so mad about the loss of life in our two wars, but how many of them have ever written a letter to the editor or gone to a protest?  People claim they hate corrupt politicians and corporate hacks – and yet they still miss voting on Election Day and never demand a candidate not affiliated with one of the two parties. 


I can’t take this comparison any further because at least in the US the vast majority of the people have electricity and clean water.  At least, when our elections are rigged there is a uniform process by which our rights are stripped away (Bush vs. Gore went all the way to the Supreme Court).  Both nations seem powerless to take control of their State and yet one, at least, has the infrastructure to take part in the global party:  the roads, cables, waterways, and bureaucracy to produce the Gates Foundation, Apple, Tom’s, Oprah, Michael Jackson, and a strong middle class for politicians to placate to.  Of course, the trade off for these things is corporate bailouts, global hegemony, war, and a national debt that now seems insurmountable.  Moreover, the product is a Nation that thinks it’s better off than the rest of the world, which it is, but with very little understanding that the benefits of being an American often come on the backs of poor people in other countries.


Here they are apathetic to the lack of good clean water for the majority of homes.  In my country we are apathetic to the process by which we achieve these modern niceties. 


So, what is my impression of Cameroon?  They are missing a lot of the party.  Like every other developing nation Cameroon is stuck in the back serving appetizers.  They are like Americans, apathetic and unaware of how to break out of their lot in life.   Is it possible to have the niceties of modern life without 3 military occupations, a corrupt corporate and political system, unfair global economic practices, and a shrinking labor class?  I don’t know.  Cameroon makes no noise on the global stage while the US shouts – but I cannot see much difference in the powerlessness of people to claim their rights and responsibilities.   We are all just content to pass the buck and throw up our hands – wanting for someone else to fix it.