Tag Archives: development

Public Service 24/7 is not possible

There is a favorite beach in Limbe, far from downtown that features cold drinks, an armed guard (it is the Gulf of Guinea after all) and a beautiful black sand beach. Most of the time, the crowd consists of a few scattered ex-patriots and other volunteers. As you walk into the lukewarm equatorial water, you can turn around and stare at apparently untamed mountains that meet you right at the coast. It is a very undeveloped coastline and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
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A few months ago, I was with my three girlfriends at the beach and we were feasting on an enormous pile of mangoes and taking pictures, trying to look skinny—just being silly and relaxing together. As the morning bled into afternoon, there were maybe a dozen very obviously American families at the beach. We started talking with a very tan and friendly couple; they were the kind of couple that has been married for decades, plural, and still hold hands. They told us the families were missionaries from all over Africa vacationing Limbe for a conference. We each shared thoughts on ex-pat life and compared living conditions in Cameroon and Ethiopia. As we parted ways, the wife looked at us and said with sincerity, “Thank you for serving.” That was the first time anyone had told me thank you for giving up two years to come here.
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn June, I spent a day working with Knock Out Malaria to deliver mosquito nets to two orphanages in a small town in the Southwest. We arrived at the second orphanage where I led an impromptu session on the Hokey Pokey Dance followed by a more formal session on malaria prevention from Sonia. As I sat there daydreaming and watching the children, my friend Erica whispered to me “Do you think we should get some cookies?”. Without pause, I answered “No thanks, I’m not hungry.” Erica looked at me over her glasses with a simultaneous scowl and smile, looking at me in a way that only she can to communicate that I just said something pretty ridiculous. “They aren’t cookies for you! Get out of your head and stop thinking about yourself”. For the record, there is no good way to react to a faux pas like that. I can only be thankful she is one of my best friends here and so she is likely not to write me off as a jackass.
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I feel like a fraud for being thanked for serving because, most days, living in my transient little village feels like regular life to me. I have the ability to put my foot in my mouth in two languages now. The whole of me is neither of those scenarios. That is me, a public servant, climbing on top of a bus trying my hardest to cuss out the driver while freeing mine and other’s luggage to the horror of the agence. I am also a public servant as I go into a prison once a week and work with the men to learn entrepreneurship and leadership skills. They are two polar representations of daily life for a public servant that is positively flawed.

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Moto Man Monday: Smith

imageName: Smith

City: Wum

What are the challenges of driving okata?
“The stigma is most challenging. The public has a notion that this is the lowest type of job and is meant for the lowest type of people, frustrated people, illiterate people. Young girls insult me because they say driving bike is for dirty people. I have changed some peoples minds about this, starting with my family; they thought that when I started driving my education was over, but I challenged them by registering myself for the O-level tests this year with the money I made from driving bike. I take pride in the appearance of my bike and in my own appearance; I show girls that riding okata is not for dirty people and is something to be proud of.”

Moto Man Monday: Alfred

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Name: Alfred, President of the local Moto Man Union**

City: Tombel

“Tell me about your wife.”

“Our being together was natural. Why? Because she is very tall and I am a short man so we balance eachother. We’ve been married for 15 years now.”

**Alfred is a special Moto Man because he is also the leader of a union of 300 moto men in the region. He told me that men who formally sign up to be part of the union get some very needed services in the area. If a man goes to the hospital, then the union pays the hospital fees. If a man is stuck somewhere, the other members have a responsibility to stop and help them. In the event of death, the union gives the family money to help the grieving family.

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