Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yes, we're here in Cameroon !

Hi fans -
We really apologize for the gap in posts. Internet has been pretty limited here and even now my battery situation is a bit limiting, so we'll get some stuff up that may end precipitously...

Below is Steve M.'s entry we tried to get up a few days ago!
Dr. Steve
Who is the most popular man in Cameroon?

A) Samuel Eto’o
B) Barack Obama
C) Paul Biya
D) Taylor King
E) All of the above

The correct answer is E, all of the above. Allow me to explain…

Soccer is huge in Cameroon. We have had the good fortune of traveling to Cameroon during the Cup of African Nations, which is essentially the African version of the World Cup. Cameroon is currently in the quarterfinal round, and following the games, from a party at Olivia’s home in Yaoundé, to (interrupted) satellite coverage in Bamendjou. It has been very exciting following this team in a country full of fans with a lot of national pride, and this country is prouder of no man than their star, Eto’o. He is plastered on billboards across Cameroon advertising for many corporations. On the field, the attention on the game revolves around Eto’o’s every move.

Cameroonians are keenly aware of international current events. Thousands of miles away from Washington, it is evident that Barack Obama’s approval rating is quite high here in Cameroon. “Obama” branded clothing, watches, bumper stickers (even Mayor Mukam has an Obama air freshener hanging in his SUV) are available in any Cameroonian market. It is not clear exactly where this excitement comes from. Be it continental pride that a half African man could become the president of the United States, or a strong belief that a stark change was necessary in American politics, one thing is for sure; Barack Obama is highly regarded in Cameroon.

Paul Biya has been the president of Cameroon for over 20 years. In presidential elections he runs virtually unopposed, consistently winning in landslide victories. While Cameroon is not a nation without flaws, political unrest is much less common than most nations, and Cameroonians seem to have a positive view on where their nation is heading. Paul Biya’s Portrait can be found in many homes, stores, restaurants and hotels, a testament to this nations respect for their long time leader.

Since landing in Yaounde, the question I have been asked most frequently is “Where is Taylor King?” (other popular questions include “where is Alyssa?… Sarah?… Sam?…Andrew?….” It is truly remarkable how much of an impact previous EWB trips have had on the community of Bamendjou. EWB UD’s last trip to Cameroon ended over six months ago, yet the people of this community remember travel team members vividly, and excitedly expect their eventual returns. Although each trip brings a different group (sorry, no Taylor this time), each team continues to strengthen the bond between a group of students from Newark, Delaware to a group of villages in Bamendjou, Cameroon. Yesterday, the Mayor proposed a strong desire to join Newark and Bamendjou as “Sister Cities”. In my opinion, it is clear that they already are.

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