City vs. Village

November 28th, 2015 by | Tags: | No Comments »


After living and working in Cameroon’s third largest city as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I finally had an opportunity to get a taste of living and working in a rural village with another Peace Corps Volunteer, Alex.  It’s important to note that I have never visited another volunteer’s post except for one who lived about 20 minutes outside of Bamenda for a dinner.  Two weeks ago, I took a 12 hour train ride from Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, to Ngaoundal, a town closest to Alex’s post.  Alex and I greeted each other with a big hug at the train station at 6:30 AM in the morning.  We were so happy to see each other again after not having seen each other for a month.  Alex then took me to a car heading to the town closest to his village, Tibati.  Alex and I both got in the front seat and shared the seat together.  In Cameroon, drivers squeeze as many people as they can in car.  There were eight people including us and plus the driver in the car heading to Tibati.  The drive was two hours on a reasonably paved road.  I was honestly surprised by how well paved the road was.  I thought the entire road would be unpaved.  Once we finally reached Tibati, we found a moto bike driver to drive us to Mbakaou, the village where Alex lives.  We then took a one hour moto bike ride to his village.  Once we arrived at his village, I immediately noticed many differences between living in a village and in a city.

The travel to Alex’s village gave me the feeling of wanting to give many volunteers who live in the remote villages a tremendous respect for the travels they have to face every month to the capitals for banking or other administration related reasons.  There are many banks at my post but there are no banks at Alex’s post.  This means that Alex has to travel an hour bike ride, a two hour bush taxi ride and then a train ride every month to the capital of his region just to get his monthly allowance.  If I get sick, I can take a two minute walk to the nearest hospital.  Alex has to take an hour moto bike ride to the nearest hospital.  However, there is a small health clinic in the village but it can only provide basic medical care needs including prenatal care and labor.   While I have running water, Alex has to go outside and get water from a well.  While some villages have no electricity, Alex has been fortunate to have good access to electricity due to living very close to a dam.  However, every night except for the first night I was there, the lights were out.  This was unusual according to Alex.

As I walked through the village center which was about only 20 meters long on one road, I immediately noticed there was a lack of variety of food.  In Bamenda, while I can find tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, water leaves, onions, avocados, watermelon, potatoes, oranges and bananas on daily basis, I only found onions on daily basis in Mbakaou.  I did see avocados and bananas a couple times.  Because Mbakaou is located by the lake, fresh grilled fish are found on daily basis.  I was able to taste the grilled fish and it was so good that I ordered another fish.  It tastes like a very high quality fish that came from a fine dining restaurant.  Because there is an abundant amount of cows, fresh beef is also readily found.  Speaking of the village center, there are a couple shops that sells basic needs such as toilet paper, soap and bread.  The village does have a market but it happens only once a week, and vendors come from other towns nearby.

In spite of some downsides in the village, I found so many beauty in the village that made me wish sometimes that I was living in the village.  There are big sprawling fields with trees scattered everywhere along with big bushes of gorgeous dandelions.  Goats were spotted everywhere.  While I have seen a few goats in Bamenda, I think I have seen far more goats in Mbakaou than I have in a year in Bamenda.  The fields provide an ample amount of space for farming.  Children are spotted everywhere playing outside.  In Bamenda, while there are children, I rarely see them playing outside.  As I spent some time playing with children from Alex’s compound, I commented to him that I wished I have the opportunity to play with children in Bamenda.  They were so adorable and playful.

During many mornings and evenings, Alex and I took nice strolls outside to enjoy the beautiful sceneries.  We not only enjoyed viewing sunrises and sunsets but also stars, which is something that can’t always be sighted in the city.

Like with anything in the world, there are pros and cons to living in the village and also the city.  Regardless of where PCVs are posted, our experiences are unique.

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A vendor sells fresh beef.

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A neighbor has crocodiles as pets.

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Baton de Manioc, one of Cameroon’s most common staples

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A village mamma grills fish.

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Local village residents at the market buys food.

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Used clothing are often found at the market.

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Orange, a mobile company, came to the village with a big truck and big speakers to advertise themselves.

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