How You Dey! (Week 1)
Day 1: Fifteen excited education professionals met at Columbia SC airport to travel to Cameroon to participate in the Kamtok project. The group consisted of K-12 Educators, College Professors, Deans and Administrators. The initial flight took them from Columbia, SC to Washington, DC to Brussels, Belgium and eventually to Douala, Cameroon. The group was greeted by the Cameroonian hosts from Saint Monica University (SMU).
The group then traveled to Buea, one of the former capitols of Southern Cameroon and currently one of the provincial capitols. President Asongu and other administrators from SMU welcomed the group and then provided them a delicious dinner of Cameroonian dishes and the Carlos Hotel. The group was also introduced to their educational partners. They provided the group with cellphones, further demonstrating the great care taken to ensure that every detail for the group was accomodated. The group ended the evening by checking into to our accomodations at the Chariot Hotel.
The group gathered again for breakfast at the Carlos Hotel.
After breakfast the group went back to hotel and debriefed on their experience thus far. Dr. Asongu took the group to lunch at the home of a couple connected to SMU. At the lunch a large number of community members had gathered for their local "thanksgiving" celebration.
After lunch Dr. Asongu and other hosts provided the group with a tour of significant landmarks in Buea. The group visited Reunification Monument and the tea plantation.
The evening ended with a large gathering of SMU faculty and staff at the home of Dr. Asongu. The group presented the hosts with a gift from the US and the group was once again provided with a sumptuous Cameroonian meal.
After breakfast the group gathered in the conference room of the Carlos Hotel. The participants divided into their various groups based on their assignments to their educational partners. Each group participated in engaging conversations that helped to further frame their research and projects.
A lecture was given by Dr. Lange on Cameroonian history, geography and politics.
The group was then treated to another wonderful meal at the Hotel Carlos. There, they had an opportunity to meet Mr. Carlos, the owner of the hotel.
The group packed up and prepared for our next stop. After breakfast, the group began its travel to Bamenda. There was a brief stop in Kumbe. Along the way the group encountered several challenges which included mechanical issues on the bus and the search for dinner. After the long journey, dinner became an interesting challenge because in that region most people eat in their homes at night. However, the ever gracious hosts succeeded in getting the bus restarted (twice), and found a full meal of chicken, fish, beef and plantains. During dinner Dr. Asongu shared more of the history of Cameroon, the evolution of the country's name and the chief/government structure. The group continued the trek (now in darkness), slowly due to the condition of the roads. Finally the bus arrived at the "prestigious" Azam Hotel after traveling for 13 hours (the trip was expected to take 4-5 hours). The weary travelers were happy to be in a hotel that had all of the comforts of the modern city.
The group rose early the next morning to enjoy omelettes, avocado and tomatoes for breakfast. Dr. Asongu arranged for a new bus to transport the participants to the stops for the day. The first stop was at a market in Bamenda, where the group received gifts of custom shirts and dresses. After the market the group visited the Sojacah School for children with disabilities. Lunch was then served at the home of the family of one of our hosts (Magdelene) in the village of the Bafut people. At the home the children danced and the young boys sang, "Welcome!" The next stop was at the Palace of Bafut. We were graciously provided a tour by the queen mother who shared the history of the palace and the Bafut people. The group ascended 54 steps to the palace museum to get an in depth look at the various artifacts of the region. Finally the group was escorted to the royal courtyard. The King, who is now 95, addressed the group and answered questions. He informed the group that, although he was 95, and had 100, queens and 100 children he hopes to have 150-200 children before he "disappears". There was then a ceremonial performance of music and dance. As it ended the group was invited to join in. Everyone then traveled back yo the city to dine at a local restaurant.
After working on individual projects in the morning, the group went to the home of Cameroon's most famous author Dr Linus Asong. The group was greeted by the wife of Dr. Asong who passed in 2012. She along with Dr. Asongu (SMU), shared with the group the significance and historical context of Dr. Asong. After lunch, the group listened to one of the area's literary critics, poets and authors. She was a former student of Dr. Asong. During her presentation, she shared two poems written in honor of the legacy of Dr. Asong. The wife then gave each member of the group various copies of his books. She also shared a summary of a few of them.
The group had an opportunity to go to the Bamenda Main Market. There, several members purchased clothing and fabric. It was an excellent opportunity to see the "art of negotiating", as our hosts, Magdelene and Dr. Asongu, ensured the group received the best prices for their goods. After lunch, the group traveled to the Palace of Mankon. A tour was given by one of the chief assistants to the King/Chief of Mankon (also called the Fon). He has been in place for almost 50 years. The group was escorted to the innermost courtyard where the Fon was introduced to the members of the delegation. The group was served soda and beer as a show of hospitality. The tour concluded with a visit to the museum where historical artifacts were contained. The guide also shared the often complex and controversial ties to the Germans. After dinner the group had an opportunity to enjoy themselves at a local nightclub, the Dallas Cabaret.
After breakfast the group had time to work on individual projects. After lunch, a few members went back to the market and purchased more "western" items and snacks at the local "Supermarche". That evening the group took a deep dive into their experience thus far, their projects and shared any immediate concerns.