Friday, July 07, 2006

Reunification celebrations

So, for those of you who don’t know (and my own father didn’t despite the fact that his daughter has been out in Cameroon for nearly a year!), Cameroon is historically a divided country. Occupied in part by the British and the French (hence the bilingual tie) the country was reunified on the 20th May 1961. This date couldn’t be bypassed without celebrations therefore, especially considering there are celebrations at every possible opportunity here!

The fact that the 20th May celebrations were billed as the biggest of all the yearly celebrations frightened me somewhat, considering how big the other ‘fetes’ had been! In true Cameroonian celebratory style, marching was involved (including the marching practice and three days off school!), along with dancing and general merriment as well as that evil alcohol substance we call beer.

At school, things are still going well. Club activities have now stopped, as has teaching! Although exams weren’t starting for another two weeks, students no longer really came to school unless a lesson was programmed by the teacher…..and many teachers had already returned to their villages! On the plus side, the marking has all finished as these are national exams which are marked elsewhere, yet this relief was substituted by the mind numbing task of invigilating! FOUR hours of staring at a ceiling (or open air if it was one of the classrooms lacking a roof!) and not even being allowed to sit down. No chance of sneaking a sit down either, as there is even a teacher invigilating the invigilators!!

Other news and I have had the privilege of being invited to formally join one of the women’s group in Moutourwa; ‘Les Femmes Dynamiques.’ There are around 30 women in the group that meets once a month at a different woman’s home. There, we discuss money issues, eat a meal of fufu and sauce, drink a drink, dance around the village and then head home. The group itself provides immense support to the local women who are members. Each member has to pay the equivalent of £3 to join, and this money is saved and distributed when one of the women is in need. For example, one of our members children was ill last week, therefore we provided her with enough money to pay for his hospital visit, as her family could not afford to do so. The group also gives the local women the opportunity to have some autonomy over any money they have. Most of them work selling produce that they have made in the markets, and the group gives them a chance to save it. Each month, the women can deposit as much or as little money as they like which they can access at the end of the year thus providing them with a Bank-esque service! I have only attended one reunion so far, but I am looking forward to becoming a regular attendee…I have even bought the outfit that we all wear! The only thing left now is to brush up on my Fulfulde language skills as the majority of the women only speak limited, if any, French. At least I’ll get lots of opportunity to practise!

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