Cameroon is a country in West Africa located in “the hinge of Africa”, on the Atlantic coast, next to Nigeria. It is often referred to as Africa in Miniature, because of its huge diversity in relief and culture. The relief ranges from beaches and rainforests to deserts and mountains. Cameroon is remarkably diverse in its culture as well. The population is about evenly divided between urban and rural dwellers. Cameroon is slightly larger than California and has a population of over 20 million.
Cameroon is a bilingual country with 80% speaking French and 20% English. English is spoken in the Northwest and Southwest Regions as is Pidgin English – a mixture of German, English, French and tribal dialects. There are also over 250 tribal languages. BA Cameroon is located in the Southwest region so English is the predominate language.
Climate: BA Cameroon is located in Buea in the Southwest Region. The town is located at the base of Mount Cameroon so Buea tends to be cooler than most of Cameroon. We experience rainy season from June to September so those may not be the best months to visit.
The territory of the Cameroon prior to 1884 was populated by various indigenous African ethnic groups and was organized into empires and kingdoms. It became a German colony in 1884 and was divided between France and England after WWI. In 1960 the northern French portion won it’s independence from France and in 1961 the southern British portion merged with it. It is now called the Republic of Cameroon. There is a tension between the French and English regions.
Religious practice includes Christian Protestants and Catholics, Muslims, Pagan and Animists. Both polygamy and monogamy are practiced in Cameroon. There are a variety of native indigenous cultural religious practices, which include witchcraft in some.
Many images come to mind of what people think they’ll experience when they get off the plane in Cameroon. They may expect to see babies with swollen bellies covered in flies. They may expect to sleep in a mud hut and pee outside in the bushes. They may think they’ll see elephants, giraffes, and monkeys parading through town.
They’d be surprised that most Cameroonians are well fed as there is a rich farming culture here with some of the world’s tastiest dishes being cooked from fresh, organic ingredients. Unless you take a trip to the bush, you won’t sleep in a mud hut. You only have to pee outside in the bushes if you don’t time your drinking and outings right, as there are few public bathrooms (none that you may want to use anyway). And while you won’t see any jungle wildlife in town, you will see chickens, goats and the occasional herd of cattle.
Cameroon is not as developed as some places in the West so there can be frequent problems with power outages (although they rarely last long). There may not be running water 24/7 – water is either rationed to either hours of the day or maybe even every 2-3 days in some areas. In that case, water is stored in drums for daily use. You may develop some nice shoulder and arm muscles from “carrying water.” Few places have hot water heaters so you may have to take cold bucket baths or showers or spend time waiting for water to heat on the stove or with an electric coil. Internet can be painfully slow, but is widely available in most places. The currency here is the Central African Franc (XAF) and the exchange rate is usually 500cfa/1 USD. Money can be exchanged easily or can be withdrawn from ATM machines in town.
The food in Cameroon – most people either love it or they eat out of their suitcase while visiting. Most African dishes take hours to cook and are loaded with spices and plenty of pepper. The menu is largely starch based – rice, plantains, yams, coco yams, or fufu served with some sort of “soup” – either a vegetable dish or spicy soup dish such as pepper stew or groundnut (peanut) stew with a small amount of beef, chicken or fish. Cameroon also has the BEST tropical fruits – pineapple, papaya, mango, guava, passion fruit, and bananas.
While most cultures in the West are task oriented, African culture is very relationship oriented. Interpersonal relationships are highly sought after and valued. Since we don’t have the usual distractions like movies and malls, most of our leisure time is spent enjoying a great meal with plenty of laughter and great conversation.