Budget traveling in Cameroon is an experience – there is so much beautiful countryside to look at – as long as you don’t pay attention to the fact that it’s 100 degrees, your squished into a van with 20 other people, and at any one of the numerous checkpoints along the way you could be pulled out by a soldier and asked for a bribe. 


The drive up went relatively smoothly – but the ride back exemplified all that is horrible about traveling in Cameroon.  It started when the bus company tried to squish another two people into a van with 5 people across each row.  The passengers exploded in protest – literally.  This was an all out bus against driver riot – everyone had an opinion, except for me that is...I kept my mouth shut.  The two who were trying to get on the bus were asking for sympathy – they would have to wait hours to get on another bus.  The people on the bus demanded justice – why should they have to suffer because you want to get on this bus?  The bus drivers just wanted more money.  Eventually the compromise was made, the two kids would stand for the five-hour ride back to Buea.


The argument between the passengers was interesting.   Some believe the two should get on the bus and claimed that the others were too snobby – telling them to get a private car if they want to ride comfortably.  Those against the cramming of two more people claimed that the others needed to be more assertive about their rights and they needed to “travel” implying that anyone who would put up with this obviously doesn’t know that in other parts of the world this doesn’t happen.  The duality of the insults struck me.  On the one hand a person can be too snobby and on the other a person can be too country.  Striking a balance for Cameroonians is a delicate dance and in the agreement I heard people moving back and forth between the two constantly.


Once we got on the road and leaving Yaounde we were stopped at a checkpoint.  I stupidly kept my headphones in when I handed him my passport and he saw money.  Even though my visa expires November 7th this soldier insisted to the whole bus that I was illegally in the country.  He pulled me off the bus and proceeded to speak to my traveling companion in French – ignoring me completely.  We explained that the date of entry on my passport was well within my visa time limit.  He insisted that because the visa was issued in July that it was expired.  When he showed it to his boss the man shrugged and said I was legal.  The soldier STILL thought he could ask for money – I was incensed. 


I huffed and stole my passport back – walking away back to the bus to smoke.  When I got back on the bus the collective asked whether or not I had paid the man.  I resoundingly said no – and the bus let out a collective chuckle.  I’m still not sure whether they believed me. 


What bothers me the most about this is that the people here have to deal with that everyday.  To travel they must deal with soldiers and cramped busses.  They have to want to better themselves but not get too well off.  I know I have my own cultural norms to deal with in the US – but, they seem a lot easier then what the Cameroonians deal with daily.  On the trip I spoke to a guy about the election.  He was surprised when  I told him I knew that Biya would win again.  I listed a plethora of ways in which the Biya government is accused of fixing the election - he just smiled and nodded his head.  I'm not sure whether he believe me or not - or whether he thought I was wrong.

Later on the ride we talked about the protests in the US.  He apologized and expressed sympathy for the "riots in the US."  I told him that I was proud of the protests and that it shows how our country works - the people CAN express their discontent.  They may be beaten and nothing may come of it.  But, in the end I don't have to pay bribes and, while I complain about our electoral system, I've seen five Presidents of the US in the time that Cameroon has only seen one.  That's a good thing and it's a product of the fact that we can protest.  I'm proud of that fact above all.