There is a vast difference between my experience in Bangou and volunteers all across Cameroon. I’ve been able to visit other posts and other villages in Cameroon and seen how different cultures can be just a few miles apart.

There is Bangante where we had training. It’s is a medium sized village for Cameroon. Upon getting there I remember how there seemed to be mud and garbage everywhere. Most roads were not paved and there were large drains on the side of the roads that would fill with garbage, not to mention people using them as public toilets. A few months after being posted in my village and traveling a bit, I came back to Bangante, and I was amazed at how clean and orderly it seemed. It hadn’t changed, but my perception had.

Bafussam is the third largest city in Cameroon and my provincial capital. The training director called it ‘the Chicago of Cameroon’ because of its economic activity. It is like a more developed Bangante, except dirtier, more polluted, the clash between modernizing and traditional culture evident. You can find most things you need here, cheaper than in Douala and Yaoundé, and I go there often to get things I can’t get in my village.

Nkongsamba used to be Cameroon’s third largest village, once upon a time, but when commodity prices dropped, its economy suffered and has stagnated since the 1980’s. However it is the cleanest large city in Cameroon, has a decent market and you can find things there that you can’t find in Bafussam like mint chocolate ice cream. The volunteer swears that it is the best post in Cameroon.

Bamenda is in provincial capital of the northwest province, which is Anglophone. Although technically it means they speak English, they actually speak Pidgin which is basically really bad English. ‘How’ is ‘how are you’ ‘See you after’ is ‘see you later’ and ‘you go now’ is ‘Are you leaving now?’ When I went, I often had to tell them to please stop speaking English and speak in French. The town is surrounded by mountains and is quite scenic, but the best thing about Bamenda is that you can find DVDs of movies and TV shows, in English, and really cheap.

Yaoundé is the capital, also where most ex-pats, citizens of other countries that work in Cameroon live. The Peace Corps office is located in Yaoundé and we often go there for meetings. They have huge market but they are really aggressive when it comes to bargaining and trying to get you into their stores. You can find almost everything in the Central market, including a large supermarket with western goods and a 24hr bakery.

There are other more touristy places like Kribi and Limbe which are beach towns, Buea (pronounced Boya) where Mt Cameroon is located, the highest peak in West Africa, and Douala, the commercial capital and West Africa’s largest port. I’ve yet to explore the East and the North provinces, which offer more natural sights and natural parks and safaris, hopefully before I leave someone will come visit so we can visit some of these places.

Finally, there is Bangou my village. A small village between two medium sized villages that still retains its traditional values and culture, is welcoming to strangers in a way only a small African village can be and that still respects and respects its traditional leadership. Compared to all the other places I’ve been to, it’s small, there is nothing to do, you can’t find hardly anything and there is no running water, but it is my home here in Africa, and I wouldn’t change it for any other post.

Advertisements