I arrived Bamenda one evening about a month ago. In just a few hours, I discovered the spicy food, the numerous holes on the roads, the heavy rain, and the frequent water shut-down. It wasn’t an easy experience in the beginning. Before coming to Cameroon, I was in Budapest, in Hungary, for a 6 months internship to organize the next International Degrowth Conference and to participate in concrete alternatives. Though there are numerous cultural differences between France and Hungary, Budapest is still a European metropolis with its cosmopolitanism, its cultural dynamism, and its social conventions. Being in Cameroon was quite a shock for me: social rules, ways to interact with each other, place of white people in the society, food far too much spicy for a weak French belly, everything was really different and needed a period of adaptation…
Thanks to help of my two German housemates, already used to the Cameroonian way of life, It took me two weeks to be able to adapt. I accepted with difficulty some aspects, such as the lack of cultural infrastructures (cinemas, theaters,) or the nice wake-up with a priest shouting on the street at 5 am in the morning. However, I enjoy some others like the spirit of community and solidarity, which is still very alive compared to the growing individualism in European cities. This still amazes me.
Studying political sciences in France in the city of Caen, with a focus on political ecology, I came to Cameroon to learn about the African context. Africa, always introduced as the “looser continent of globalization” from the European point of view, I wanted to see for myself, another reality and therefore decided to work for a local organization. The dynamism of the civil society confirmed what I was thinking. Despite the promises made by the “westernized development” for a uniform world, organizations are building an African system of transition towards new model of society. The symbol of the BWC ecovillage built near the useless airport infrastructure of Bamenda is a good metaphor of this movement.
Three times per week, I work in the BWC office. After spending some time, discovering the BWC environment, my first task consisted in contacting other ecological organizations found in Bamenda to set up a partnership against the Earth Day, on the 22nd of April. As part of the celebration for the Earth Day, we organized a movie screening – debate at the French Alliance with over 100 students attending. We keep shaping the dynamic transition in Bamenda by creating synergies between existing local organizations. I also go to the ecovillage for some practical work three times per week. Reconnecting with practical knowledge was very instrumental to my coming here, as this will help me rethink how to fill this artificial gap between manual and theoretical knowledge, in my studies.
The BWC philosophy about education was one of the reasons that attracted me and one of the main reasons why I applied for an internship here. The philosophy is that of getting rid of the dominant top-down system, by promoting permanent education and learning by doing. To me, these are part of the solution. Thus, even if all my muscles hurt, I feel I’m on the right track..
Now, everything seems to be falling into place. The permanent mess in the streets is still fascinating to me each time I see it , my pidgin vocabulary is getting better as the days go by, I have gotten used to the fame my skin color earned me, and I even begin to like Maggi.
I will get back to my French routines at the beginning of august, and will keep studying from next September. I would like to do a research in sociology, and to combine it with practical learning. I am very interested in the Degrowth movement, which focuses on building a desirable and sustainable model of society. I know this African experience will help me a lot to connect the dot. I still think that Europe should take care of itself. It should decolonize this neocolonialist way of thinking : Africa is already in its transition process , and African creative culture is designing this transition the African way…