This post is by Alie Tawah ’11, a Health: Science, Society & Policy and Biology double-major. Alie was a a Hiatt WOW Fellow who interned in Cameroon in July 2009.
It has been two years since I began my story of my experience in Cameroon. I gave an introduction then disappeared from this site and went on to live my life. Now things have changed. I finished my summer in Cameroon, went back to Brandeis for my junior year, studied abroad in Geneva, Switzerland the fall of 2010 and graduated in May 2011.
Reading over my previous entry, I realize that I did not do it justice. My descriptions were very general and did not give a true personal look at what was going on at the time. I did not describe the extreme heat that I felt as I landed in Douala, the country’s largest city located in the littoral province, because of the lack of air conditioning in around 90 degree Fahrenheit weather. I did not describe the joy I felt to be picked up from the airport by a cousin whom I was used to seeing at my house in the United States but looked a little different in her territory. I remember seeing the lush untouched forest green trees that covered the mountain tops as we drove a hour from the airport in Douala to Beau, a city in the south-west province, where I would be staying for the next few days until my father came to take me to Yaoundé, the capital of the nation located in the central province, where I would begin my two month internship.
Due to my lack of description and follow-up you never had the chance to get a glimpse of the mix innocence and purity of the people of the nation that lived in the cities I visited, or the mix of luxury and poverty that was evident as you drove through a neighborhood: next to very nice modern-looking mansions stood shacks made of plywood and tin coverings where families lived. I did not describe the characters I met along the way that believed so much in their countrymen and the need for change that they spent their whole lives working with and around the corrupt system of the government to do what they could to improve the lives of the country’s citizens. I did not describe the mothers that worked tirelessly at their farms and in the market selling whatever produce they harvested to try a feed their young children. I did not describe the students I met at the university who were a few years older than me and very eager to learn but found themselves unable to do so with the limited resources at their university. Within this group I met one who dreamed of becoming a research scientist but knew that his school did not have the materials necessary to conduct experiments and there were very few centers in the country that did.
Looking back I realize that I was not being fair to the people I met along the way of the people who read my entry as I gave general overviews of everything as if I was a reference textbook. I hope that all of you take this as my apology and realize that I have learned this lesson. The next time I choose to write such a blog I’ll be sure to paint the picture so you can have a glimpse of my true experience and hopefully give me a glimpse of yours.