Guest blogger Alie Tawah ’11, a Hiatt World of Work (WOW) Fellow, is about half-way through her summer internship at the Ministry of Public Health in Yaoundé, Cameroon. She’ll be sending pictures along with her next post.
This summer I am in Cameroon, a country in Central Africa. I am doing an internship/research project with the Ministry of Public Health of the nation and it has been quite interesting. I chose to go to the country because it is where I come from and since I have spent most of my life in the U.S., I thought this would be a good opportunity to explore my own heritage.
In my project I an focusing on two main programs in the Ministry. The first four weeks of my internship have been spent on the Malaria Program and the next four weeks will be spent in the HIV/AIDS Program. Coming in, I was not very sure what I was expecting to get out of the internship. I figured I would learn something about public health, but I was not quite sure what or how. When I first arrived at my work site, I realized that a lot of what I would do and what I would get out of the experience would depend on me.
For the first couple of weeks things were somewhat unorganized since my supervisors did not really have any strict plans for me. I had to come up with my own plans and figure out the best way to make them happen. This is not to say that I am here without a purpose. I have an assignment — a report to write at the end of my stay at the Ministry. I have to write an assesment of the programs with suggestions of how to involve the youth of the nation. The problem I had at first is that I had to come up with a detailed plan of how I would acquire the information to write this report about nation wide programs in a foriegn country. I think I have found my footing and now things are going on pretty smoothly.
I left Cameroon when I was very young so although I am connected to it, I have found that it is a foriegn place for me. The culture is not that new to me since at my house we still eat a lot of the same foods and many of my family members keep up a lot of the traditions. The country is bilingual, officially. The two national languages are French and English. I say officially because in addition to the national languages there are about 300 other langauges that are used by the various ethnic groups. Most educated people in the nation speak at least four languages — English, French, Pidgin (a kind of broken English) and their tribal language. I was immediately placed in a different social category since I do not speak the tribal language from either of my parents’ villages, I don’t speak Pidgin and I am not fluent in French. The diversity factor here is quite interesting. Most people are of the same race but there are about 300 ethnic groups within the nation. From what I have learned, the cultural practices and climate changes throughout the nation. From the parts I have seen, what I can definitely say is that the landscapes are very beautiful.
The lifestyle here is very relaxed. People are never really in a rush even if they have a lot to do. Days start with the sun and end with the sun. Time is a simple suggestion, not a requirement. It has taken me some time to get used to the way things are done around here but I am adjusting. And learning more each day.
Alie Tawah ’11