Not long ago, Justin the founder of the Cameroon Football Development Program, lived in a village outside of our hoe base of Kumba. He was working with the University of Dayton, in Ohio, to design and construct a water system for a farming village that is set off of the beautiful Lake Barombi. The project was quite an undertaking, and after months of hard work the project was finished. Now Justin has returned to Cameroon, for the fifth time, to start the Cameroon Football Development Program. CFDP is designed to engage the youth of Cameroon, and eventually West Africa, in life skills, and HIV education on the soccer field.
I met Justin in the late fall, and we began working together. I redesigned their website on a wordpress platform, and integrated their blog, so that as things move along, whoever is managing their PR, and online presence, can easily mange everything from one menu. They loved the results, and now I am spending two months in Cameroon photographing their project, and shooting videos to help explain the different facets of the program.
Today, join me on a trip to Barombi, across the lake in a wooden canoe that I was sure was going to deposit myself and cameras in the lake.
The trip to Barombi... Every time the "boat" aka hollowed tree trunk, shifted my stomach was in my mouth
Work here in Africa is very different from back home in the U.S. Just preparing a meal takes many hours, and depending on the meal, preparation can begin days in advance. A good way to explain this is through a scene witnessed on Thursday. Mrs. Ngwane, “Momma” (the matriarch of our compound) is heading to the United States on Monday to visit family for a few months. She has been preparing food since the day we arrived in the country. This includes, drying bitter greens, smoking barracuda and pork, making cassava, and tons of other things just to be able to take some food with her to her relatives.
Momma and her friend preparing greens to go to the U.S.
While there is city water, that is expensive, so every day they pull water from the well to do all the washing in the compound. This could be a few trips a day, or on a heavy cooking day, many many trips to bring clean water as needed.
Carol draws water from the well for evening cleaning
Jayden carries water back to the house as the sun sets behind him
When we arrived home Thursday night, Momma had traveled to Douala (about 5 hours round trip on a bus) to bring home loads of barracuda to smoke before her trip to the states. The fish had to be cut by machete because it was frozen, remove the scales, clean it, and then prepare the smoker to be set over night.
Just an evening meal takes a very long time to prepare. With so much time on peoples hands, there is no surprise that a faster way has not become a way of life.
Preparing the fish for smoking
Preparing the Smoker for the night
Slow smoking over night
Today has been a great day. I was able to meet with the Womens Empowerment Center today, as well as the Delegate and directors of Sports and Physical Education, and I will be meeting with them next week to interview them on tape, and get a better understanding of the issues that face youth in Cameroon.
I was going to write a separate blog post, but instead I will share a letter that I wrote to those that I love.
I hope you are doing well back at home.
I am well. Do not fear about that. I am busy with the things that seem to take forever while I am here. I didnt start the video series yet, but today I am meeting with the director of the Woman’s Empowerment Center to interview her on tape, and start to understand the issues that west African youth face on a daily basis. We will also be going to the jail, talking to teachers, ministers, and local business men,to understand the wide range of problems and successes that people
It is so insanely hot here. Nicaragua is hot, and humid, but I sit in the room, eat breakfast, and within minutes I have lost all the water that I have been drinking from the night before. Last night power was out for a few hours, but God is good, right as I was getting in bed,the power came back on and I was able to turn on a fan! I woke up with mosquito bites, but I think that was from the night before because we had a “dance” party with the kids in the compound. It was pretty funny. They were trying to teach me dance steps that I couldn’t do well, most likely even if i practiced for days. As soon as I would figure it out the beat would change and I looked like and epileptic dinosaur stumbling.
Today will be a good day. It has been a quiet time with lots of
reflection, about life, what is important, and I can see so clearly
the places that I want to improve, not just within my own life, but also within my photography. I need to be intentional. Images are only as powerful as the combined elements will allow. Just because I am in Africa, it does not guarantee beautiful images. I need to focus more on being out of my comfort zone, and not hiding behind my camera. This
means meeting people and building relationships so that I can then make images that are more telling. Things like eye contact, take an ok image, that compositionally may be good, and turns it into a portrait that is really telling. It helps you to meet that person even though they are thousands of miles away.
It is so hot here right now. and I think that I have finally stopped sweating. There is nothing left to sweat out. Our meeting is soon, so I must go. I hope that this makes your morning more exciting. I will try and call through magic jack today, so keep your phone near.
I pray that your day is filled with joy and laughter, through the love of our LORD.
I have been in Cameroon Africa for the past week working with the Cameroon Football Development Program, and I just got internet into the office yesterday.
So here is a quick recap.
we arrived in Cameroon last Sunday evening. After a flight that was way to long, we got on a bus that was WAY to cramped and headed from Douala (the most populated city) to our home for the next two weeks Kumba. Our first week was really just getting situated, opening up our office, starting some meetings, and working towards solidifying the plans for the summer. It also to us a week of continual pushing to get our internet to work for the office. Its not a hard wire system, it is a small stick like you would buy from a wireless retailer, but This Is Africa…
The weekend was spent in the capital city Yaounde. I went to my first professional soccer game, and Cameroon tied with Senegal. This was a qualifier for the African Cup,and since Senegal was ahead of Cameroon in points, they needed a win to still be competitive. People rioted, tear gas was fired, and the stadium was left missing gates that were torn down.
After a long, cramped day of buses back, a breakdown on the side of the road, and waiting for a new bus, we finally arrived in Kumba to rest for a few hours, shower, and then for me, repeat half of the trip.
I picked Nick up at the airport, and after a long weekend of travel on buses, I was so thankful that both trips were on a bus that had a more traditional seating method. Two by two with an isle in the middle. IT WAS AWESOME! Still cramped, but significantly better than what I had been previously experiencing. For the first time I didnt feel totally suffocated and cramped. I didnt have to gently unfold my legs like I had been folded into an accordion, and wasnt seated next to five or six people on a bench made for three or four.
When we arrived in Douala, we made our way across town to meet up with a friend of ours named Biggie. Biggie works as a security guard, and used to be a bouncer at a club.He would fit in so well with the American night club scene… Dude is a hustler and a father of two beautiful children. We went to his girlfriends house, where his youngest baby lives,and hung out till it was time to shoot over to the airport and pick Nick up, In typical African fashion, we were late, and the odd thing his plane was early.
We made our way back across town and two taxi’s and 1000 FRC (about $2.25) we arrived at the bus park. Again, God was smiling down because we got on the same bus that we had taken into town, and while it is a bit slower, the comfort to me is worth the extra time that it takes.
Dinner was an amazing fish stew over rice, and since the power had gone in the house, we ate with a flashlight illuminating the room. A cold shower and a way to short conversation with you and I went to bed as sweat poured out of my body. A massive rainstorm then came, and cooled the room down to a nice almost comfortable temperature.
Today we worked out in the morning, and had crepes with a chocolate hazelnut spread (similar to nutella) and Im now at the office watching the electrician try and fix the fan switch, while Nick sits in the corner and reads, and Justin and the team are out meeting with a lawyer, and then on to the city council to try and get a permit for this health summit that we would like to produce.
After I finish this, I am heading out to shoot some portraits of people around the office. I want to shoot a video portrait series, in an unconventional way. If it works, awesome, if not it could be a massive failure, Time will tell. I am also going to be shooting photos. which is something that I have not been doing enough of, It is very hard to juggle cameras, and intent.
On the bus home: First day in Cameroon
Biggie with "little biggie"