My Internship at Promhandicam

If you didn’t know to look for Promhandicam specifically, you would almost certainly never know it was there. You might see more people in wheelchairs than you normally would on the street heading in and out of a small entrance, you might see mothers carrying disfigured children into the backseats of taxis out front or you might see a blind person exiting, fresh from an eye check-up. But other than these small clues, Promhandicam remains almost invisible to the rest of the population of Yaoundé. Promhandicam, in the simplest of terms, is a school for both disabled and non-disabled children. It is one-of-a-kind in Cameroon. This means that there are essentially two schools in one: the integrated school which teaches non-disabled children as well as disabled children who are advanced enough to be able to work and learn alongside them and the specialized school which teaches children who are severely mentally and physically disabled and/or disfigured. Some of the children from the specialized school will move up to the integrated school, some never will. But Promhandicam isn’t just a school. It also provides physiotherapy for physically disabled children, teaches braille and sign language, does eye exams and fits children for glasses, does rehabilitation and has a psychologist on-campus who works with children individually who have been through trauma.

Promhandicam’s logo, their website is

My first visit to Promhandicam was overwhelming. I have had some experience working with disabled children in Kolkata, India, but not for an extended period of time like my internship at Promhandicam would entail. It happened to be recess when we arrived and it was pleasant chaos. To see the integrated school at work, was astounding and really showed me the power of an operation like this one. Children were playing a huge game of “Marco Polo”, clapping to give away their locations, because the blind students were able to play this as well. Others were playing hopscotch and Chinese jump rope – some had down syndrome or autism, some did not. We walked down the hill to the specialized school where we were immediately greeted by enthusiastic students wanting to hold or shake hands (Cameroonian handshakes involved snapping each other’s fingers), give hugs or kisses, ask us our names and drag us into a wild game of football, involving no ball, but an empty plastic bottle. The specialized students range greatly in age. Some are very young, five or six, and some are much older, in their upper teens. On my first day, I was assigned to the classroom labelled “Les Mignons” or “The Cuties”. All the specialized classrooms are labelled this way with “Les Anges” or “The Angels” being the next room, meaning that these students are ready to ascend up to the “sky” or the integrated school. The classroom where I worked was small and cramped with three wooden tables and enough chairs for the twenty students. My classroom was mostly frequented by non-verbal autistic students, but several students had severe physical deformities and one little girl was in a wheelchair and was extremely spastic.

One of the signs outside the classroom, (“The Cuties”)
Working hard or hardly working?…these two were a couple of trouble-makers
Intricate hand games are always a good idea
This was a kind of dance circle where two students would dance in the middle and everyone else would clap and chant

Let me start by saying, day one was hard. Before even thinking about forming relationships with the students, I had to figure out how to communicate with them when they often didn’t speak or even respond to my words. They could start crying at random moments, regularly would remove items of clothing and seemed to exist entirely in their own worlds. I felt like I would never be able to be of help to them, much less create a relationship with them. But after spending an entire day with them, I learned so much that I never would have known before starting. Farel, the girl in the wheelchair, was at the top of her class last year, and is as sharp as a knife. She was difficult to understand, but we were still able to chat about her family and my hair (which tends to be a hit in general here, my host sister likes to tear out clumps and play with them). At recess, the other classes came to hang out with me, tried to get me to buy them cookies from the little snack stand and generally dragged me around the courtyard by the hand.

Farel, who consistently has a huge smile on her face

The faces of Promhandicam!

The part of my experience that is difficult to accept, is how the students are treated outside of Promhandicam. Handicapped children aren’t often seen around Yaoundé because they are either kept inside and mostly abandoned or often not allowed by their families or communities even to live. Handicapped children have almost no place in society, (much like albino people), there is little to no education available for them and even parents of such children, are often overwhelmed trying to make ends meet and have no idea what to do with them. One of the teachers at Promhandicam explained how frustrating it is for her because at the school, the children are taught how to wash, feed and clothe themselves, but when they go home, their parents tend to do everything for them, not understanding it is important to develop independence. She explained how some parents don’t believe their children have the capability to learn and progress or don’t know how to help them do so, choosing instead to treat them like infants forever. The teacher mentioned one autistic girl who was starting to talk in full sentences before the summer holidays, but upon returning, has completely retreated back into her own world and no longer speaks. The teacher is forced to start from square one.

NEVER camera shy

The kids do everything for and with each other. If someone is crying or spills something, it is the students, not the teachers, who help sort everything out

School in general is very different her, with punishment being mostly physical. Nothing too violent; slaps, pinches and ear-pulling are used liberally, even among the disabled. This can be hard to watch at first, but as I have learned over the course of my time here, it is important to understand the context of everything. Culturally, this type of punishment is accepted and even considered by some to be beneficial to a child. Similar to how it was in India, disabled children aren’t considered to know the difference between right and wrong and so respond only to punishment and reward. Rewards being scarce, teachers resort to punishment. The students, for the most part, are unfazed.

The boy on the left is a real ham, he waited patiently all through lunch right next to me, until I could take his picture

I will be spending my internship at Promhandicam exploring all the different sections of the institution. I have so far only been working at the specialized school; helping them learn to write letters, numbers and do simple equations plus basic skills like saying their names and how to properly communicate with others in society. It has been an extremely challenging, but also a progressively rewarding and eye-opening experience that I am so excited to be able to continue to explore.

They LOVED the camera! Especially getting to see what they looked like after

Markets and a Middlebury School Day

On a typical school day where I only have classes at the Middlebury center and not at UCAC (Université Catholique de L’Afrique Centrale), I wake up at 6am. The rest of the family has been up since 5:30am or sometimes even 5am. Because of the traffic, we have to leave the house very early. Often, Sandra gives me an avocado, a papaya or some bread to eat at the center on my way out, and I walk down the hill to meet Arjun outside his host family’s house. We line up with the other Cameroonians on the side of the road on the hill and yell out our destination as the taxis roll by. Usually it’s “Polyclinique Tsinga, deux places, huit cent francs”, but if we don’t get any takers, we raise the price to “mille francs”. This is still a taxi ride that costs under $2. It’s always tempting to grab one of the MANY moto-taxis, but we have been strictly forbidden to take one since there are no helmets and thus many horrible accidents every day. We have seen moto-taxis with up to five kids plus the driver, moto-taxis carrying live goats, freshly killed pigs, newborn babies and store window mannequins complete with outfits. They are often stacked with towering piles of plantains, wooden plants or sheet metal, defying the very laws of gravity as they dart between cars and fly down the bumpy streets. There isn’t really anything a moto-taxi can’t transport. The drivers of the moto-taxis are often dressed head-to-toe in ski gear, apparently it’s cold here (?), and sporting fur hats and women’s sandals. Crushing gender norms!!! It takes about 40 minutes in the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced (absolutely no rules, signs or traffic signals will do that) to get to the center and we drop off our bags before heading out on a run or a hike. We’ll run in the street until we get to a wider road which may have sidewalks. It’s a little hairy; we’re avoiding cars, motorcycles, kids walking to school and vendors setting up shop. But at 7am it’s relatively cool so it’s the best time to go.

Arjun and I on one of our hikes! We got very lost that day and ended up walking for three hours.
We went on a hike with Lucresse and Boniface, Arjun’s host sister and brother, over the weekend.

After half an hour or so, we’ll be back at the center where we can shower and eat breakfast (hooray for consistent running water and electricity!). Breakfast there is whatever we bought at the supermarket earlier in the week. Maybe yoghurt with chocolate cereal, maybe baguette with avocado or chocolate spread. But always Nescafe instant coffee and some sort of fresh fruit juice. We have class there starting at 9am. We have Cameroonian literature for two hours with Professor Ngabeu (Ariane) and then history and culture of Cameroon for two more hours with Professor Fofack (all in french of course).

The mural in the center where we do a lot of our work

For lunch, our favorite spot is on the corner of the street where the center is located. Hassan is the chef and he whips us up individual spaghetti omelets (I know what you’re thinking but these are the BEST). He also pours steaming cups of chai with condensed milk for sweetener. We sit on the benches attached to his little cart and chat with him or the other people eating lunch there. It is a popular afternoon destination. Then it’s either back to the center (if, like today, it’s downpouring) or we’ll explore another area of the city for a few hours. There’s always the Marché Centrale to keep us occupied, selling everything under the sun and situated in the center of the city. It has many stories and it situated in a circular building. Upon arrival, a man quickly attached himself to us and became our tour guide. His name was Rasam. We expected him to demand money for his help afterwards (as is the case sometimes), but he was genuinely just trying to help him out. Arjun got a traditional Cameroonian football jersey at less that half the suggested price (Hooray for bargaining!) .

View of the Marché Centrale from above

Other afternoon activities may include: exploring the Brique, or Briqueterie, which is renowned for it’s fabrics, trying a new restaurant (Chinese, Turkish, Vietnamese, etc.), going for a walk to buy street food (meat on a stick, sugar cane, tiny doughnuts, plantain chips, etc.).

A view on our walk to the supermarket
Always exploring!
Arjun in one of the many tiny alleys around Yaoundé

We usually grab a taxi home around 4pm and it’ll take longer this time of night because everyone is headed home from work. It takes around an hour with traffic and if we have a taxi driver who insists on stopping to get grilled street corn and to chat with his MANY friends along the way. Once back in our neighborhood, Montée Jouvence, we go to our separate homes and will relax, do homework and eat dinner with our families around 8pm. Families head to bed early here because of the early mornings, so we’re usually in our rooms by 9:30pm. Especially for me, because my family is young, the girls go to bed pretty early. It’s actually nice getting to sleep early and waking up early! The crazy birds here wake you up at the crack of dawn anyway.


Host Families and our Second Colline

While meeting a host family definitely seems daunting at first, especially if they don’t speak your native language, I almost instantly felt at home with the Muluems. Sandra and Kennedy have three girls: Manuella and Gevévia are 8-year-old twins and Célia is 2. It was easy to get comfortable with the girls in particular, once I gave them the scratch-and-sniff sticker books and hair ribbons I had brought them. We spent hours on those sticker books! The twins are chatty, slightly hyper and hilarious. They love doing my hair (ALL the time), “checking the time” on my phone and having me correct their homework, but actually give them all the answers. Because I have an 8-year-old sister, it’s so nice to have that energy around the house, especially when living abroad here can be stressful and sometimes lonely. Célia crept into my room Saturday morning to wake me up which was adorable!

Genévia wearing a t-shirt from Rochester, NY. She has no idea where that is.
Célia’s favorite toy: the ribbon that was around her present, not the present itself

In the Muluems’ house, I have my own room with a cupboard and closet for my clothes, three bedside tables with drawers and a large bed with a mosquito net draped over the top. My window looks out into the front courtyard, because we are on the first floor of an apartment building. The building itself is surrounded by high walls with barbed wire on the top, all the doors and windows have bars on them and there is a night watchman at the front gate at all times. Like Sandra says, “Everything is about security here!”. It has been strange getting used to being locked in at night, but I definitely feel very safe and well looked after.

Homework done on my bed is always more fun
My bed (with mosquito net)
The apartment building (from the street)

Kennedy works as a doctor which is an extremely difficult and taxing job in Cameroon. Sandra explained to me that it’s often like volunteer work, with Kennedy treating people who have no money to pay him. There are so many people who need medical attention, that he is almost never home. The lack of social security here makes it so that people who need medication often can’t afford it and so have no choice but to go without. This is why many Cameroonian doctors who are trained here, go abroad to countries like Germany, Belgium or the United States. It’s sad that families are separated, but it can be difficult to make a good living here. Sandra is a pharmacist, so she works all day during the week. Normally they have a “femme de ménage” or a girl who helps with the cooking, cleaning and looking after of Célia, but she has been on holiday since I got here. Célia, who only goes to school until noon, is looked after by her grandma who lives nearby. Families and friends are very close here and they spend a lot of time together.

It has been so interesting talking to my host family, Sandra in particular, who are incredibly open when it comes to their lives and their struggles here. Everyone loves to talk about politics (and African politics are fascinating), especially about the current president, much like in the U.S.

Arjun’s host family is also very nice, but almost the polar opposite to mine. His host parents are older with children who now live and work abroad. The host father is a university professor here and the couple host three Cameroonian children at their house to help cook and clean, like many well-off families here do. They live in a large house behind tight security and definitely don’t have as much hubbub as my host home has! But it is nice getting to switch between the two houses whenever we want, as the families are good friends.

We tried La Maison du Café or The House of Coffee which grinds local Cameroonian coffee beans. It also had amazing crêpes!

This morning we decided to go for a 2 hour hike up another one of the seven mountains around Yaoundé. At this rate, we’ll have them all done in a couple weeks! This one was significantly steeper, but very densely shrouded by banana and papaya trees and had an amazing summit view of the city. We were stopped near the top (as apparently we had wandered near a military base, this kind of stuff happens all the time here) by two Cameroonian soldiers who wanted to chat. They asked us about America, which is apparently their “dream country” and repeatedly demanded our WhatsApp phone numbers. We responded with a smooth, “we’ve never heard of WhatsApp! It’s not in the U.S.” Giving out your number here is agreeing to receive texts every few minutes, invitations to go out and definitely undesired attention.

View from the top of Mont Mbankolo
Goats, chickens, dogs, lizards and often longhorn cattle roam the streets everywhere
Some trees overlooking the city

And…day eleven passes right by. Unbelievable!

Mont Fébé, American Embassy and Touring Yaoundé

Looking back on the past few days, I feel like I have barely had time to let it sink in that I am in Cameroon. I am writing this post in the dark, my electricity having gone out shortly after a thunderstorm began. The torrential rain is so heavy that it often dislodges power lines and since we are in the midst of the rainy season here, I am mentally preparing for many more dark evenings. Luckily, the rainy season only means a few minutes of heavy rain and dark clouds a day. The rest of the day is hot, misty and humid because we are in the Forest section of Cameroon. The country is split into four people based on the climate: The forest people, the water people, the desert people and the grasslands people. Hence why Cameroon is called miniature Africa; this country has it all. I woke up at 4:30am the other morning to do a traditional Cameroonian activity. Ariane led us up Mont Fébé, one of the seven mountains surrounding Cameroon. It was a tough hike, mostly uphill and in the pitch dark. We were surrounded, however, by hundreds of other Cameroonians doing the same thing. It was an experience like no other. Some people were even descending the mountain as we ascended meaning they started their hike at 3am. Ariane does this hike every day. It was wet (due to the constant mist) and noisy with birds, monkeys and frogs. The view from the top was a panorama of the entire city and the six other mountains – well worth the early morning.

The view on the way down from the summit of Mont Fébé. Notice the mist on the mountain!

During one of our first days here, we were invited to visit the United States Embassy and to have a meeting with the American Diplomat. It was fascinating to hear the perspective of someone originally American, who has spent the majority of his life outside the United States, often in African countries. He stressed that in order to criticize and discuss issues in Cameroon and in Africa in general, one must understand the context and in order to really do so, one must have experience living in Africa. The media is so biased and often mis-informed as to what goes on here, that those abroad have skewed ideas of Africa. We also met with the Cultural Affairs Officer who had served in the Peace Corps and we got to pick his brains on current affairs. Although interesting and informative, it was disheartening to learn how little contact American officials such as these have with the people of the country in which they are living. Provided with all they need within the walls of the Embassy Compound, they rarely interact with the ordinary people of Cameroon – an aspect that should be changed.

Photos of the American Embassy from the outside. It was like stepping into the United States!

On a lighter note, lunch that day was my first experience eating fresh, Cameroonian fish. While Ariane considers the head the most delicious part of the fish (Cameroonians even eat the bones), I preferred the body of the fish, sans bones. Ariane laughed at her experience with other American students, “you feel guilty about eating fish so you eat the eyes first and then they can’t look at you!”

Hassan makes spaghetti omelettes (trust me on this one) and amazing chai tea at his stall near the Middlebury center!

The next stop was the new quarter of Yaoundé. It has apartment buildings and houses built by the Chinese which stand empty and which Cameroonians can’t afford. A four-lane highway was built (which seems enormous after driving on only unpaved, dirt roads) and we were the only car on it. We were gestured out of the ghost town by a man wielding a long machete and by a herd of longhorn cattle being corralled by another man. Driving around the city is constantly entertaining and stimulating. Every time I look out the window, something new and exciting is going on. Someone is carrying something insane on their head, someone is holding a litter of newborn puppies for sale, someone is carrying enormous rats by their tails in one hand and the leash of the dog used to catch the forest rats in the other.

A typical street in Yaoundé with a football pitch in the background. Just before a huge rainstorm.

To talk to the people who live here, there is an incredible amount of pride about Cameroon, as well as discouragement and disheartenment as to the President (Paul Biya) who is 87 years old and has been in office for almost 40 years, yet who never leaves his palace and never speaks to his people. There is a desire for change, but a corrupt system which makes such change almost impossible, even for those who are educated and worldly. There is an incredible amount of suffering and like Ariane said, the misery is right out in the open where everyone can see it, not in hospitals or homes. To get to spend time here, I’ve already learned, is the privilege of getting to understand and see first-hand why violence and poverty exist in Cameroon. One can only read and watch so much, being here is entirely different and has opened my eyes in more ways than one to the struggles of a people to succeed and overcome when their own government seems to be working against them.

Taxis, primate parks and pirogues

I don’t think I could even pretend to be in Cameroon if I didn’t write about taking taxis here. For some basic visualization, the taxis here are yellow, ancient Hondas that probably shouldn’t still be on the road. The doors are often stripped on the inside so someone has to open them for you when getting out, wires and light fixtures are hanging out, the outside lights are DEFINITELY smashed in and the windows are often cracked or simply non-existent, so plastic wrap is a good alternative. They have seen better days. Cameroon imports all its cars from abroad and unless done privately, they are used cars. Watching them go by is a lesson in claustrophobia resistance and fitting many people into a tiny space. The five-seaters fit up to three people in the front (there is no shyness about sitting on a stranger’s lap) and up to five in the back with people literally sitting on top of each other. This isn’t including luggage strapped to the roof or tied to the open trunk. Keep in mind, it is 80 plus degrees out, humid and dusty, with cars, trucks and motorcycles pumping black exhaust into the air. Arjun and I, were nervous.

But we had to practice because taking taxis here is hard at first. A taxi will pull alongside the curb where there can be 50 plus people waiting, it will barely slow down and you have to yell where you want to go, how many people are going with you and how much you’re willing to pay. They may drive away, meaning you’ll have to raise your price or just keep trying, or they will gesture for you to get in, speeding off before you can even close the door. I had been warned by Ariane that people would strike up conversations, notably asking about my marital status. If I said I wasn’t married, the man who asked would try to convince me to marry him. If I lied and said I was, he would simply remind me that my husband isn’t in Cameroon, therefore I can definitely leave him and marry that man instead. Other topics of conversation include, Trump (apparently, we represent the entire American population) and homosexuality which is a strict no-go. Homosexuality is misunderstood in Cameroon based on a history that involved rich and powerful men luring young, poor boys into their homes to have sexual relations. Cameroon continues to be unable to detach the homosexuality of today, from the predatory acts of the past and so, no matter our real opinions, we were instructed to remind anyone who asks that America is a free country and Americans can love whoever they want.

We took taxis all over the city, through Niki Mokolo, a huge marketplace that is extremely dangerous due to the high levels of stealing and hands-down the most crowded place I have ever been in. We gave up trying to get a taxi from there when we witnessed a fist fight between two men trying to squeeze into an over-full van, the van moving down the street as then men hung off, fists flying. The market can be seen from almost any high location in Yaoundé.

Arjun, our history professor, Éric and I at the primate sanctuary
hand-made beads hung in the entrance to the village huts in the park
Our guide and friend Victoria beside an enormous tree.

On to the primate park. Mefou Primate Park is outside the city and was started by the English. Many organizations still support it, primarily Ape Action Africa. We took a tour through the large park, stopping to be shocked by an enormous millipede as long as our hands and as fat as two fingers together. Our guide relished our disgust as he told us that they are sometimes eaten here. It was essentially a hike through the dense rainforest, stopping at different points where the fences containing the apes made clearings. We saw chimpanzees, gorillas, baboons and an assortment of other native monkeys. The park works to rescue monkeys affected by deforestation or by the commercial monkey and gorilla market. We were within a foot of the animals which was amazing.

The millipede we saw at the park with Arjun’s hand to show the size.
One of the chimpanzees at the park.
This baboon was the largest male and the fur on his back was a fluorescent rainbow to demonstrate his position.
One of the silverback gorillas. These animals had a huge amount of space to roam.

Our day ended with a trip up the second longest river in Cameroon, the Nyong, in traditional, hand-carved wooden canoes called pirogues. We sat two to a skinny boat in dining room chairs with their legs sawed off and a guide paddled us up the river, showing us how the people in the village use nets to catch fish. We stopped to explore the rainforest and found a 100-meter ancient tree that the villagers’ ancestors used to consider a god. There were trees that whose bark acts as a Viagra (much of the bark was stripped!) and those whose bark is drunk by pregnant women.

Relaxing in the pirogue
The river Nyong
Cocoa trees were everywhere in the forest

Now off to meet our host families and to move in!

Arrival and Day One in Yaoundé, Cameroon

Yaoundé from the Middlebury Center when the electricity went out as the sun set.


I’m sitting in a hotel room in central Yaoundé, fresh from my “shower” which consisted of a full bucket of cold water and a drain open in the middle of the floor of my bathroom, barely able to keep my eyes open from the excitement of my first full day here. Last night Arjun and I were greeted at the airport by hundreds of taxi drivers gesturing and grabbing at us to get us to take their taxis. We were forced to ignore and often shout “Non merci!”, so our logical response was to do the same when another man began gesturing at us. After a back and forth, he broke out in a grin and whipped out a “Middlebury” sign. This was Olivier, our driver, who also dabbled in practical jokes. He led us to our car where we met Ariane, the directrice of the program. She enveloped us in hugs and presented us with goody bags full of giant water bottles and local snacks: peanuts, dried plantains and dried chickpeas. On the ride to the Hotel Diplomate, Olivier fell in behind a stream of cars driving diplomats from the airport. By keeping both his signals flashing, Olivier slotted us right in and all other traffic ground to a halt to let us by. This is an example of “Traffic d’Influence” or “Traffic of Influence”. We got to the hotel in record time, barely avoiding crashing into women pushing carts laden with fruit and fabrics and men stacked four to a tiny motorbike (Traffic lights are merely a suggestion). Safe to say we fell into bed.

Since I hadn’t really gotten a true impression of Yaoundé last night (streetlights and electricity in general are scarce and unreliable here), I was excited to open my curtains this morning. What greeted me was a city of vibrant color. It is so green and lush with fruit trees, vines and thick bushes everywhere. Ariane says that if you planted something in the city, literally in the middle of the red dirt roads, it would grow. The sky was hazy with low clouds and it was hot, although not as hot as I had expected. We went to eat breakfast at Ariane’s house, fried plantain, pineapple, omelets, avocado and baguette with soft cheese, and met the rest of her extended family who live in her small, one bedroom apartment over the school where she teaches French and where her two children, Serena (10) and Franklin (5) go to school. She also has her mother, her older sister and two local children living with her. Plus, a young woman from the university who helps cook. We then headed to exchange our USD for CFA (Cameroonian Francs). This was an adventure for sure. We pulled into a parking lot, Ariane cracked her window and handed all our money to a seemingly random man. He then handed back CFA and we drove away. It took less than three minutes. When asked why we don’t use the bank Olivier and Ariane roared with laughter. “The BANK?!”, they asked, “They would give you such a bad rate that they would be stealing your money.” That was good enough for us. “L’informel ici c’est mieux que le formel” or “The informal is better than the formal here” is Ariane’s motto. The police are too corrupt to help and no one gets paid enough to encourage them to do their jobs with much gusto.

Yaoundé in the daylight! The city is so vibrant and always busy. The mountains are usually covered in a layer of mist.

We drove to get SIM cards next which took a while since we had to hand in our passports and be fully checked out before getting the cards. Unfortunately, my phone was locked and so I had to get that sorted at home first (what a nightmare, unlock your phones before going abroad, people), but eventually we were off to the Middlebury centre. Along the way we drove through the Muslim quarter, the most dangerous part of Yaoundé. Ironically the main street of the quarter is named after St. John Paul the Second which Olivier said shows how the Catholics and the Muslims in Cameroon get along very well, unlike in Cameroon’s neighboring country of Nigeria. I was impressed by the balancing skills of the people in the street. A man balancing a stack of at least 15 folded chairs on his bare head darted nimbly across the street, avoiding traffic without disturbing his load. The streets here are crowded, but smell amazing with street food being cooked everywhere. We stopped to buy fresh peanuts which were in soft shells and tasted nothing like any peanut I’d ever tasted. They were more like a bean. If I had been blindfolded while eating them, I would have never guessed they were peanuts. At the Middlebury Center, we had a mental health talk with a psychiatrist who had spent a lot of time in Maryland and New York. He talked to us about settling in, culture shock and homesickness. He assured us that he is at our disposal any time, which was nice and reassuring. We then had a huge lunch chez Ariane because it was her daughter’s 10th birthday. We had chicken stew, rice, spaghetti, an amazing black bean dish, papaya and teardrop shaped donuts which we helped make by squeezing dough through our fists into hot palm oil. We had bakery cake and champagne and sang happy birthday in French and English (Ariane’s family has spent a lot of time in the states). Then it was back to the Middlebury Center where the electricity promptly went out. Not a surprise since in the last two weeks there have only been two days when the city has had power. It was crazy to look out over the city and see only darkness. Luckily, a while later the electricity came back on and we watched it spread towards the hills. We were pretty exhausted by then so it was back to Ariane’s house for a light dinner; boiled plantain and sweet potato, more papaya and rice, before we came back to our hotel. Tomorrow promises plenty of more firsts and wild adventures!

Introduction to my Study Abroad Adventure!

Hi Everyone! My name is Grace Manning and I am an English and French double major with a Peace and Conflict Studies concentration. My family currently lives in Dublin, Ireland, but is in the process of moving to London, England. Having gotten the opportunity to live around the world with my family in places including France, Canada, Ireland and most recently, the United States, as well as the chance to travel to over 20 countries, I developed a love of exploration and discovery. I hope to be able to share with you my experiences as I study abroad in Yaoundé, Cameroon, West Africa. I am writing this just a few weeks out from my first trip to Africa which seems insane to me! I have never been to the continent, much less to the coastal country of Cameroon, so I am trying to go in with as few expectations as possible. I recently was given my host family, Sandra and Kennedy Muluem and their three children, nine year old twin girls and a two year old girl, and I am overjoyed to get to spend my time in Cameroon with a family similar in structure to my own. I have been dreaming of going to Cameroon since my freshman year, so the program I have chosen through Middlebury’s partnership with Holy Cross is an incredibly exciting one. I can’t wait to meet the other student on the program and to arrive in Cameroon’s capital city, Yaoundé.

Wish me luck and be sure to read along as I start this adventure on the other side of the world!