WEEK 1 IN FUNDONG
The only thing that seemed changed when I arrived in Fundong village, was the house I had lived in on each of my seven visits. It had a fresh coat of paint. The rocky dirt path was still a rocky dirt path with a bunch of broken wooden planks wedged over a ditch.
As the two sons of my neighbor Vivian, came rushing up the hill to help carry my bags, I was shocked by how emaciated they were. Another sad tale, their mom had been in hospital for a month and the grandmother who was watching them, had no money to buy food. They had been on a serious deprivation diet but they didn’t complain.
The young woman who rents a room here on the side of my house, is a first grade teacher and treks to work. Since she has not been appointed by the government, she is paid by the PTA (just like ours) $40 a month. She gave birth last September to an adorable boy,another single mom. She has to use the outdoor bathroom and when there is no water in the communal tap, she treks down to the stream. We have a tap in the front of the house, but she isn’t allowed to pull water from there because the landlord said the bills were too high. When she told me she was going down to the stream, I said I would fill the buckets up in my house.
One of the young girls I had known for years came to greet me in the house. She said she had something to tell me but was afraid I would get very angry. Not murder or thieving, she had gotten pregnant last year again and had her second child at 19. Overburdened and living in 2 rooms with 6 family members she failed her final exam and did not graduate from high school. She was part of our student sponsor program.
Babies with dirty clothes and runny noses are as abundant in Africa as pets are in America. The sad part is we take better care of our animals than they do their children. Women get pregnant here because men refuse to wear condoms, women don’t seek out advice on birth control and organized religion is a big part of people’s lives. Both the Christian and Muslim churches support an archaic law making abortion a capital crime.
The monotony of life in Cameroonian villages is depressing for me and for many others who never say anything unless I ask. Few have refrigerators, indoor bathrooms or running water in their houses. Since I don’t have a frig here, ziplock bags have saved my life but most buy food each day.
Today I gave one neighbor $3 to buy a 20 liter plastic can to carry water from the tap. My neighbor’s kid, a high school student, asked for $2 to buy a notebook. Many live in wood shacks or mud brick dwellings, with one room and too many family members. Kids in school complain they can’t study, there is no electric and there is no money to buy kerosene for the lamps.
The average Cameroonian eats a high starch diet, cooking with red palm oil. Not only is the oil unhealthy, while heating up in a pan, the stench of gasoline is pervasive. Rarely have I gone to a dinner here and seen fruits or vegetables on the table. Meat and chicken are only accessible for the wealthy. When the majority lives on a dollar a day and a small watermelon or pineapple costs 800 cf ( $1=590 cfa); fruit is inaccessible to 80% of the population.
Keeping clean is another challenge since most have to fill up containers with water and carry them home. This chore is shared by women and children. I have never seen a man at a stream or a communal tap.Saturday I took a communal taxi to Bamenda to buy most of what I eat. Here in the village its either a few vegetables in the market, bottled water and toilet paper. The dry goods in the run down shops are covered in dust and dirt and whatever else is running around.
Returning to the usual supermarket, I always buy crackers, cookies, and pasta imported from Europe. Disappointed and dismayed I found mostly imports from India, Tunisia, Oman and Turkey. Probably the merchants realized they could buy cheaply from these countries and make a bigger profit. The excuse I got from the manager was the wholesalers said those products were out of stock.The electric went off this morning at 8am.