I’m sitting here quietly doing my work and watching as one of my students struggles to make it through the many security checks on her Facebook and email accounts.  We’ve entered in codes provided to us via text message and she has entered and reentered the bot check letters over and over again.  I’m watching her get frustrated and every now and again I offer my help.  She refuses – she wants to do it on her own and I respect that.  It’s obvious that she would much rather we not have all these precautions attached to all this technology.


What a striking difference between our two cultures this brings up.  In the US we clamor for more security, more privacy, and more means to hid ourselves from strangers.  Here, my students don’t think twice about “friending” people they don’t know (despite my protests) and they certainly would be happier if they did not have to confirm their identities every time they changed computers.


Their parents too aren’t big on safety either – at least not by American standards - from what I have seen of other parents around Buea.  Here kids as young as 6 or 7 ride in cabs by themselves without anything resembling a seatbelt.  I’ve seen little girls setting up BBQ pits in preparation for that night and the impending sale of BBQ fish.  I’ve bought fried potatoes from a young lady who goes to my school at 1AM.  She stays up selling to party-goers around Molyko and then drags herself to school the next morning.


I had a hint of this a while back in a conversation with a friend of mine who grew up in Eritrea.  He told me that his mother thought nothing of him staying out late at night when he was very young – “she knew I would be with family;” family for him meant anyone in a 10-mile radius.  As long as he was in their village he was with family.  You can see similar things here – cab drivers take extra care to help out their young passengers and children travel in big packs down the road.  Most of the kids in my class don’t live with their parents.  They live with extended family and friends of their parents who pay their fees in exchange for housework. 


Can you even imagine a family in the US doing something like that?  Maybe it happens but it’s not common like it is here.  We have a sense of possession over our children.  One adult would never tell another how to discipline another adult’s children.  As we saw in the Penn State case some adults are even too obsessed with minding their own business that they won’t stop a man from raping a child that isn’t theirs.  I can see the evil and benefit of both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.


I would want my children to live with me no matter how poor we were and I would find a way to make that happen if I had to beg, borrow, or steal.  I would be insulted if anyone ever questioned my parenting choices.  But, I would also like to live in a world where other adults, regardless of whether or not they themselves have kids or even know mine, feel some responsibility to my children’s safety and security like they do here.