Cameroon, Benin · 599 Days · 84 Moments · February 2017

Central & West Africa

17 October 2018

Daran schließt unweigerlich eine Frage: warum fliege ich dann überhaupt Business Class? Dazu anbei eine Reihe von Antworten, die ich von Kollegen, Freunden und Familie erhielt: - Alle fliegen Business. - Das steht dir ja auch zu! Ist ja schließlich eine berufsbedingte Reise. - Was spricht denn dagegen? - Du brauchst kein schlechtes Gewissen haben. Ab 4h steht das jedem zu. Ab 6h ist selbst die Umweltabteilung mit Business d‘accord. - Nimmst du es nicht an, wird dein Aktivisten-Image nur weiter bestätigt. - Business macht schon Sinn, wenn man direkt zum Termin muss. - Du musst das ja nicht immer machen. Stellt mich alles nicht so recht zufrieden. Ich weiß nicht warum ich business fliege. Sehr nah an der Wahrheit ist wohl: eine Mischung aus Neugier und Unsicherheit. Ein Business Class Flug nur wenige Tage nach Veröffentlichung des neuen IPCC Reports. Mit Verlaub: das ist absurd.
Ich fliege Business - zum ersten Mal. Und bin etwas überwältigt von den Gewissensbissen, die es in mir auslöst. Elitär-wirtschaftliches gemeinsam vorne sitzen. Sechs weiße Männer, ein Inder, ich. Schwarzes Mädchen. Ich spüre das Schattenkind in mir quengeln, gelangweilt vom Zelt aus Wirtschaftswoche und Handelsblatt, das rings um mich herum gespannt wird. Ja, Business Class ist komfortabel. Business Class geht schnell und schmeckt besser. Dennoch schmeckt es mir nicht. Es ist nicht für schwarze Mädchen. Wie mich.

5 July 2017

Yes, I'm still in Cameroon. Unfortunately, my phone broke a few weeks ago, which is why I've been keeping quiet for quite a while. (Getting an iPhone fixed in Africa is a hustle!) Good news: my colleague took it to an appleshop in Europe and is bringing it back this weekend :) Hence, Cameroon updates and pictures will be continuing soon!!!

23 April 2017

This was at yesterday's Maître Gims concert. It was planned to start at 4 pm. The main act was on stage at 2 am (!). Well...Cameroon.

20 April 2017

This year's Easter weekend was amazing. I spent one night in a Chefferie, where I've heard a lot about the history of the region and the importance that chefs had and still have in Cameroon. We've also met a baby monkey who likes women only, which is why he decided to spent time on my arms exclusively:) For the second night, we went to Foumban and stayed at the monastery. Foumban is a Muslim city and it was beautiful to see very different architecture, clothing and behavior of people. The most beautiful thing though, was an outdoor midnight Easter mass at the monastery. They had a huge bonfire and everyone was in white. The feeling was absolutely magnificent.

17 April 2017

This is at the police college in Mutengene, which I had visited two weeks ago.

11 April 2017

I've been quite busy working this week. We are currently having a very interesting mission, together with the World Bank, IMF, US Treasury and the Ministry of Finance. It's a new experience for me to be in such a hierarchical environment, so I'm slowly adapting to all those rules and procedures. And I'm learning hell of lot about taxation, which is great!

10 April 2017

I've talked about the motorbike taxis a couple of times in this blog. I've also mentioned that it's quite dangerous to use them. This evening an accident of a motorbike taxi and a car happened while I was having dinner outside a restaurant next to the street. As far as I can tell, no one got seriously hurt. It was still terrifying to see this happen right next to me.

6 April 2017

After spending a week in Douala, Yaoundé all of the sudden feels like a village. Even though Yaoundé is overcrowded by young underemployed men, Douala feels sooo much busier. It's especially the quality of the roads and buildings that makes Douala feel different. I will definitely come back to this city. Side note: in my travel guide Yaoundé is described as the country's biggest village :)
Training completed.

3 April 2017


1 April 2017

It has been a month in Cameroon now. Time is flying.
Police College in Muntegene. From my pov, the police is quite military-like. It was crazy to have the opportunity to visit the college.

31 March 2017

I am actually surprised about the amount of women in the field of international development in Africa. What I love the most about it? Soo many of those women are courageous, energetic and strong - fantastic role models.
This is my neighborhood.

29 March 2017

Those guys were quite excited about my camera :)

28 March 2017

Clothes lines and power lines.

27 March 2017

So this is my first stay in a 5* hotel. I really don't enjoy being in a hotel room on my own, cause it makes me feel lonely. But I do like this room and the view :)
On my way to my second mission now. As one of only a few people who are fluent in German and English, I was requested to join a conference in Douala. Topic: police programs in Africa. I'm looking forward to a completely new (though interesting!) topic and to my first week in Douala- the largest city and economic headquarter of Cameroon.

26 March 2017

I had my first mission a few days ago. We went to visit two telecentres 2-3h away from Yaoundé. I've read about telecentres and their success factors in South Africa, but what I saw here in Cameroon was quite disillusioning.
I've talked about motorcycles already. Using them is said to be dangerous here in Cameroon. Especially because they're usually used by three people at once. Anyway, they are of particular importance in this country.

21 March 2017

20 March 2017

Julius and Leo came to Cameroon to travel and discover the country. Yes, to travel in Cameroon...that's quite unusual. I don't believe that there are too many places to visit in this country, but definitely enough places to spend one month of traveling. Julius und Leo where here for three weeks and after sharing the pictures they took and the experiences they've made, I admire them. For being courageous, adventurous and consistently confident. But most importantly for being so enthusiastic about the power and the beauty of nature.

19 March 2017

Nous ne sommes pas si different. We are not so differents.
Brooms and dust. Picture taken on the way back from Mfou to Yaoundé.
Armchairs and tables. Street vendors of Yaoundé.

17 March 2017

Team dinner

16 March 2017

Jerseys and shoes.
Goodbyes to my colleagues, who are heading off to their mission in the field.

15 March 2017

Some education for the break.
I've been told not to take the motorbike taxis. They're cheaper than the cars, but also très dangereuse.
After telling my sweet colleague Irène that she was looking beautiful today, she responded that it's her strategy to wear her best dress, when she's feeling the worst - "Ashia"
Office view.

14 March 2017

It is such a burden not to be able to speak French. I don't feel like I can freely move around in the city. I'm worried not to be able to explain to the taxi drivers where I want to go. Especially because no one knows street names and everyone uses landmarks for orientation instead - which is quite standard in African cities. Also, Google Maps is really crap over here :(

13 March 2017

For my friend Lamé, who's interested in the expats-locals dichotomy: This weekend I went to one of Yaoundés-expats parties. It was an open air live music event, organized by a group of French people. Even though most of the people I was talking to worked for the GIZ, the UN or one of the embassies, I'm pretty sure that there were also a lot of Cameroonian guests. Hence, it didn't feel like an isolated expats crowd. I occasionally ask people about their experiences too. A couple of times, I was told that expats communities are "more isolated" in other countries. But some also told me that they'd tried to get in touch with locals, which they'd given up after making some negative experiences. From my PoV, the Yaoundé expats community does have its own little universe, uncoupled from local Cameroonians. I think for some people it's just kind of difficult to admit. And I don't know how I should feel about it yet.
Apparently, Cameroonian street traders make kissing sounds or "sssssss sssss" to draw people's attention to their products. I've been here for two weeks now, but I still wince at these sounds each and every time. It sounds so dingy to me.
Fresh duvet cover every week- I'm loving it! Thank you so much, Elodie!!

12 March 2017

11 March 2017

I thought the living expenses in Cameroon would be very low. I also thought that I would EASILY be able to survive with about 900€ in a month. That was quite naive. My rent is more or less equal to a student apartment in Germany and in the grocery store next to my flat, I spend about twice as much money as I used to spend in Germany. So far, my life in Yaoundé is definitely more expensive than in Germany. That should be another motivation to LEARN FRENCH and eventually be able to go to the markets with proper bargaining power!
Me everyday: SO happy that I brought my smoothie maker to Cameroon!

10 March 2017

(1/2) Yesterday, I had a couple of drinks with one of my colleagues and her friends. The bar we went to was on top of the Hilton Hotel (audience and prices accordingly). That evening made me come back to some thoughts I was already having during my first two days in Yaoundé: for the first time in my life, I feel like I'm belonging to some kind of "elite". Even though I'm only an intern, I earn more than the majority of the people in this country (GDP per capita and year of 1328$, which is roughly what I earn in a month). There is a chauffeur, wearing a suit, who drives me from one place to another. We drive a clean white branded SUV, while being surrounded by loads of tiny junk cars (majority are taxis). But it's not only those obvious aspects, it's all these little things...the blouse, the handbag or the type of shoes you wear AND the fact that they're clean.
(2/2) I even have a cleaning lady (Elodie) hence, I don't tidy up, clean or do the laundry for the first time since I moved away from my family. She would even do the groceries and cook for me if I would ask her to. International people are here to spend their time and energy on their job. Everything else is being done by locals. Which is good, right? It means giving those people jobs and a secure income. Of course, it doesn't feel purely good. What if Elodie had the potential to do my job, but lacks the opportunity to? What if she wouldn't have adopted her niece at the age of 19? What if she had a financially supportive family or donor? But she doesn't. Sometimes I can still enjoy belonging to an "elite", which surprises me. I think I could enjoy it even more if I would be sharing this experience with those people, who are important to me.

9 March 2017

City view from top of Hilton Hotel
City view from top of Hilton Hotel
City view from top of Hilton Hotel
No filter

8 March 2017

This is where our gardien sleeps.
Happy Women's Day

7 March 2017

I don't know what my concluding remarks on this topic will be by the end of my time in Cameroon, however, I do have a lot of thoughts on the lifestyle of our 'gardien'. From my impression, he is about 21 years old. He alone is responsible for the security of the whole building, with about six apartments. Hence, he's supposed to be sitting at the entrance or strolling around the building 24/7 (!!!). From what I've heard, it was his personal wish to be the only gardien. I genuinely believe that this is true. Why? The city is overcrowded by young men, who come to the urban areas, in order to earn money, which they send to their families in the rural areas. Our gardien works in the entrance hall, eats on the street outside the door and sleeps underneath the stairs of the corridor. He tries to have some smalltalk with me every time we meet, but each time I feel like saying "bonsoir" - on a good day I might add "ça va?" - and sneak off to the third floor. Facing his poverty makes me so sad.
I can't understand the shortage of small change in this city. Whenever I'm purchasing something, people ask me for smaller bills or coins. But the cash machine doesn't give any coins! Who the hell is in charge of all the Cameroonian coins and small bills and why are you not kind enough to share them with everyone else??
In my first days, I was thinking that I might have already settled in Yaoundé. Pretty quick and smooth. Now I'm realizing that I haven't settled yet. In fact, I think that it will take a while. I was expecting it to be difficult, especially because my latest experiences were those at UKZN, in South Africa. Everything was so unrealistically easy. I was surrounded by all those young people, who were interested in getting to know each other and have fun. Some of those people were full of love, which they were willing to share. I haven't experienced an environment, where I felt people's love sooo much ever before. South Africa was beautiful. Of course it is different here. I knew it's going to be more challenging. Come on Aida, take up that challenge!
They love the fishes

6 March 2017

Sometimes, when coming into a new environment, I have those moments or days, where I feel out of place. Like a foreign body in a place I don't belong to or fit in. I didn't have much to do at work today. I know, this is what usually happens in the first phase of an internship. And I know it's going to be different in the next weeks. But it still triggers this very unpleasant feeling of not belonging to where I am right now.
This is a traditional dish from the anglophone part of Cameroon. The vegetables were quite nice, not sure about the maize meal dish, though :-/

5 March 2017

Anna and myself spent the afternoon at Club Noah. The club is owned by the former tennis star Yannick Noah. Most of the visitors are part of the expats community of Yaoundé (diplomats, development workers, etc.). It is popular, because one can swim in one of very few clean pools in the city. Unfortunately the entrance fee is too high (4000 CFA / 6€) for locals.
Club Noah
My room.

3 March 2017

Today, I moved to my apartment. I'm sharing it with Anna (a Swiss GIZ intern) and Susann (works for the Goethe Institute). I spend the morning chatting with Anna and we decided to do some grocery shopping together. I admire her for being fluent in French (Switzerland...). She's also already been here for 5 months.

2 March 2017

I live quite close to the office (about 15 mins walk). But I've decided to take a taxi if it's this hot (~30 degrees) or rainy. I'm assuming that it's gonna be hot or rainy pretty much every day during the rain season. Anyway, the taxi to my office is only 15-30 cents (depending on my bargaining efforts).
Concerning my skills in the French language, I have some positive and some negative insights: I am surprised about my abilities to follow and understand conversations- even in a business context. However, my attention span in a French meeting is shockingly short. Coming from the University, I'm used to following lectures for hours. Nevertheless, a French meeting that lasts for longer than 45 mins (after the lunch break max. 30 mins) feels heavily exhausting to me. Also, building full sentences in French takes soooo much time and effort! How's it even possible to understand so much and reproduce so little?!
This is Ben. He will compete with me on Mario Kart after finishing maths homework. Btw, how does long division work?? 🙈
I can finally try Abi's birthday cake :) it's a carrot cake and self made carrot juice.
I fait très chaud 😣

1 March 2017

Today, it's not only my first day at the office, but also "l'anniversaire d'Abi". On this special occasion, I decided to give avocados another chance. I've never liked them. Sometimes I thought that my body was telling me to stay away from them. However, not trying Abi's avocado salad on her birthday seemed very impolite to me. Now I feel sick. Excusez-moi, Abi!
I was quite nervous about attending meetings in French. Funny enough the first thing I did at the office this morning was attending a meeting in French. I think it's quite special to be in a working environment in which people discuss whether the meeting is gonna be in English, French or German. Most of the locals prefer French or English (depending on whether they're from the Anglophone or Francophone part of the country), but some of them do understand or speak basic German as well. It is also amusing for me to see how most of the Germans (to me) sound perfectly fluent in French, while they struggle with some terminologies in English.
I like this drawing, which I've found on the wall of the building my guest family stays at.
This is one of the restaurants right across the office. I had my lunch break there today with some of my colleagues. 1600 CFA (2,40€) for potatoes, salad, bread and a bottle of water.
It's the first day of March, which is my first day as a GIZ intern. For the next two weeks, I'm going to complete an introduction into the work of the GIZ in Cameroon and of course especially into the projects I'll be involved in.

28 February 2017

C'est moi avec mes amis Julius et Leo sur le Mont Fébé.
One of the most commonly discussed topics in reports about Cameroon (similarly to other African countries), is the transportation system. Even though I've already made tones of experiences with taxis in South Africa, I was still not very confident to enter a Cameroonian taxi for the first time. The taxi market in South Africa is extremely well organized. For Western people it might seem chaotic and inefficient, but the more you get into it, the more you understand it's benefits in the African context. Clearly, I didn't expect it to be as well organized here in Cameroon. And indeed, it isn't. There are no taxi ranks, no common routes, no fixed prices. This is a picture of my first taxi ride in Cameroon. Here is how it works: you put forth your hand to stop a taxi; you tell the driver your destination and the price you're willing to pay; if he honks, he accepted your offer, otherwise he'll pass you.
The neighborhood of my guest family in Bastos.
Petit déjeuner.

27 February 2017

This is Ben's room, which I will be occupying for the next five days. It's my first time using a mosquito net. I like that it feels canopy bedish :)
I forgot how inconceivably stupid one feels not being able to speak or understand the common language of people. I feel absolutely handicapped having to ask people to repeat a sentence again and again. I've learned French for 2 1/2 years, however, being in a predominantly French speaking culture makes me feel like a fool. I've learned the words, I've learned the grammar, I know how to use my voice, but being in an actual conversation, I completely forget how to put all three together. By the end of my stay in Cameroon, I want to be fluent in French! (Is that even realistic AT ALL?!)
It feels only like two hours ago that I've been having dinner with my mom. And today I'm being pampered by Abi - the lovely nanny of the family. It's my first time of experiencing another person (except my mother) cleaning, tidying and cooking for me. However, I already fell in love with her last night, when she welcomed me at 3 a.m. reprimanding my driver that he shouldn't fall asleep while working. Anyway, that's another story...
Merci beaucoup, Abi :)
Farewell, recommencement, loneliness. Not too easy for an emotionally driven person like me. Highly motivated not to start overthinking things on the flight, I had promised my mom not to cry. Now, I can proudly announce that I kept my promise :) I haven't cried. Not at the airport, not on the plane and not even on my arrival, when my driver, who was supposed to be waiting for me fell asleep in his car. Lucky enough I found him after 45 mins of waiting. I wish I had taken a picture of him before getting into the car of the sleepy, confused looking guy.

26 February 2017

On y va!