My parents were quite young at the time and re-located often and so they had almost each of their children in various states. I was born in Toledo, Ohio. Some of us were born in Washington, DC, Toledo, OH, Newbury beach, CA, and, finally in Cameroon. I am the third of five children (two boys and three girls). In 1984, we took a family trip to Jamaica, so we all (including my father) could see where my mother came from and see the rest of her family that was still in Jamaica. Later that summer we also travelled to Cameroon to do same for my father. By the end of the following year, my father, a surgeon specialized in urology, had decided that he wanted to practice medicine in his country even though it was not economically beneficial to him. He saw it as a service to his country and fellow country men as the medical services and resources back in the 1980’s were less than mediocre.
My move to Cameroon was not difficult since I was very young. We settled in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. We lived in a regular neighborhood, as the diverse ranges of middle-class would. I went through the Cameroonian-English school system just like every other Cameroonian child, going through primary (grades 1-5) and secondary (grades 6-10) school. When I had completed my elementary education and had to transition into secondary education, my older brother and sister were already in secondary school. My father had sent them to Bamenda, in the northwest province. This is a more rural region, about six hours away from Yaoundé, consisting more of rural towns and one major town - Bamenda. Bamenda is known for its missionary secondary schools, which are presumed to provide better education since the government schools lack a variety of resources and the teachers tend to be on strikes through the school year. I attended the Presbyterian Secondary School, (P.S.S) Mankon. This is just one of the many renowned secondary schools in Cameroon and students from these colleges usually perform better than the average as they find it easier to get into the higher education system in Cameroon.
I was ten years old when I left my parents home for P.S.S, and that was the beginning of the real world. It was going to provide certain structure and values for the rest of my life, which it has. In a nut shell, it was there that I discovered that everyone was different and came with something to offer. It was also there that I realized how hard life could get and how hard one had to fight within themselves to survive and to get somewhere. I was by nature a shy and precautious child and grew in the sheltered and naïve comfort of my parents’ home, so there was a lot that I was not exposed to. I became aware of the many different economic backgrounds of some of my classmates. I had understood that there were just three economic classes, the rich, the middle-class and the poor. It soon became clear to me that the middle-class was the most varied group and that there were so many who to me were poor in my eyes and yet they were middle-class because the poor literally had nothing. I soon realized that I was more fortunate than others around me in many ways. My exposure at an early age to certain resources and the education that my parent’s had attained made me aware of a lot of general knowledge about the world, technology and other cultures that most of my peers had no clue about. At some point, I was even considered rich because of the many things I had already experienced in my life such as the American culture (mostly TV, books, music and food), travelling and having a non-Cameroonian mother. It automatically created a sense of not belonging and being in a better situation than they could ever have seen themselves. However, there are people who were annoyed by my life and others who when they got to know me, have remained friends with me until today.
When I think of my life while at boarding school and at home, there is one thing that remains common to both of them. I loved the travel to and from Bamenda for school because I could admire the landscapes and nature close and over the horizon. There were always people on the streets at all times doing what life had called of them, either street hawking, begging or just hanging around. I often wondered about all those people especially the younger and older ones. Those trips offered me time to day-dream and delve into all kinds of imagery, right before I got a hold of life as it was before me.
As I completed my secondary education, I moved back to my parent’s home in Yaoundé, and attended Rainforest International School (RFIS); for high school (grades 11-12). RFIS is an American missionary school, with boarding facilities only for the missionaries’ children. The rest of the students who attended the school had to live at home and commute to school. It was here that I got another form of shock and I was not ready for it but nevertheless, I embraced it. I had spent five years in a co-ed boarding Presbyterian missionary school in a more rural setting and in the course of a few months found myself, one out of five black students in a school of about 70 students. They were all sheltered in their community and did not know much about the rest of student life in Cameroon. I was also shocked, yet excited, at their educational system. I did not have to wear uniforms to school, did not need to buy textbooks, and did not have to try hard not to get punished in class for any unstructured behavior. The Cameroonian-English educational system is cloned after the British system and we wore uniforms to school at all times and there was a strict sense of discipline in the classroom and in the school in general. However, at RFIS, there were a couple of things that were strictly observed. There was to be no Public Display of Affection (PDA), no derogatory language on school property and no indecent clothing (t-shirts with slangs or derogatory words and no skirts/dress above the knee).
Once again I got back into some American culture, but also presented Cameroonian and Jamaican heritage through food, music and clothing, when we had International day celebrations. When I graduated from high school, I left Cameroon for the US and have been here ever since. I attended Clark University in Worcester, MA and now live in Maryland. By the time I got to college, I was still going to get some more culture shock but it was going to be a matter of becoming more socially and politically aware if anything. Through college, I had all sorts of friends from various places in the world and shared a lot about my self with them and took as much as I could about them. I have been enlightened by many different people and cultures around the world. There is so much to learn about people and the unique gifts that they each have. I graduated with both a bachelor and masters in Environmental Science and Policy and currently work in that field.
In the US, I consider myself a true citizen of the world as I enjoy the many friendships I have with people from different communities. The one thing I kept seeing as I made my different and many transitions through my life was that no two people from the same country are the same or share the same perspectives/experiences because there are so many different socio-economic backgrounds and cultures even within countries. The Mid-Atlantic States (NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD and Washington, DC) truly are the melting pot region of the United States. There is everything and everyone here representing a flavor of culture that can not be found in this wavelength anywhere else. There is such rich culture that is area has to offer, with Caribbean carnivals in the summer and International parades and celebrations.
I love nature in every sense of the word and its landscapes. I am also fascinated by civilization and development and admire the handy work of a lot of architects, landscape designers, developers and engineers. I think that my enthrallment with nature and landscapes is that I often try to connect culture and behaviors with landscapes and their environment. I am an anthropologist at heart and have always been interested in the ways people behave and respond to nature. I spent most of my time while sheltered as a child day-dreaming and imagining and I never thought my day-dreaming would amount to anything positive. Well, now I liberate all sorts of imagery and landscapes that I create in my mind vividly on paper in my leisure time.