Hello everyone, thanks for joining me this week!
This past week, I lived in a polygamist village called Batoufam, in the west region of Cameroon. I learned what it means to have a bourgeois mindset with a non-bourgeois lifestyle. So now I can truly say that I am a bougie girl who’s lived in the trenches. This past week has stretched me in every sense of the word. I have been physically, emotionally, and mentally challenged more than ever before, and I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life.
I say this because, for one, it has completely changed my worldview. For starters, I had to use the bathroom outdoors each day this week through a hole. When the hole at my house caved in, I had to use the bushes. If you know me, then you know everything about this experience was completely outside of my comfort zone. However, it made me so aware of the little privileges, like indoor plumbing and running water, that the majority of the world takes for granted. It caused me to think less about myself, and more about the others around me.
Another perspective of mine that has changed is my definition of family. If you come from the deeply southern parts of the United States, then you can kind of relate to what I experienced in the village community. Everyone talked to and knew everyone, and there is no such thing as a stranger. There were new people at my house almost every night, some who came to visit my host father, and some who just came to say hello and spend time with the family. This is something that I have observed to be common in Cameroon. The Cameroonian collectivism mindset that everyone is welcome is something that I truly admire, and it is needed in more parts of the world today.
I’ve also learned that sometimes ignorance really can be blissful. Everyone that I encountered in the village had a happy and hospitable countenance, and yet they sometimes had issues with running and portable water. From the outside looking in, it seemed as if they were missing the basic necessities which are second nature to most of us, and you might consider them unlucky and even pity them. But they were some of the most content, caring, and joyful people that I have ever encountered. They did not need the privileges of our everyday lives to live and thrive, but they were all content with what they had. Can you imagine a world where that was the norm?
For the weekend, we lived at the chefferie, also known as the king’s palace. Then on Sunday, we moved in with our host families. I lived with my host mother, host father, host sister, and host brother, along with some pigs, and a bunch of chickens that sometimes found their way into my room. My host sister, Fabiola, is 14, and she has a bunch of brothers and sisters spread out over Cameroon. I did say that it was a polygamist village, so technically I had seven host mothers, I just happened to live with only one. Some students had three host mothers, and brothers and sisters ranging from ages 13 to 30. Also, in the video below you can see that we talked with a traditional doctor, and he made it very clear to us the importance of reproductive medicine for the community.
All of the host families were chosen by the chief, who I am standing next to in a picture below. Also, they were all dignitaries, and for those of you who have seen the movie Black Panther, or understand the process of succession in a village, then you can understand the ceremony which my host father is dressed for in a picture below. He was chosen to succeed his late father and all his family from various regions came for the ceremony. They killed a goat in his honor, adorned him with leaves and traditional garments, while he ate the traditional dish of plantains and beans, and drank palm wine, known as raphia. He even has a totem in a place known as the sacred forest which is a representation of himself. After receiving this information, I proudly informed everyone I spoke with that the movie Black Panther had very real elements to it, and my host father was living proof of that.
Lastly, what I really gained from this week is truly understanding what it means to be blessed. I was blessed to have a new family, that cared for me as their own. I was blessed to have a great younger sister, who never failed to challenge me in the areas of testing my knowledge on the French and Batoufam language. I was blessed to gain amazing friends, who helped me and encouraged me in my language skills, and I was blessed to have a new place that I can call home. Even without the basic things that I was privileged to have in my everyday life, I still felt extremely grateful and blessed beyond measure. My life will never be the same.
Thanks for joining me this week, and I hope that you will continue to check out my blog and share what knowledge you gain from it. As I always say, when you know better, you do better!
P.s. there is an amazing boutique called Ibrahim sculpteur at the chefferie in Batoufam and there is a very nice woman who owns it. If you ever find yourself there, make sure you check it out!