Travelogue: S.A has me thinking we’re cursed… but not for the reason you think
It’s been a while since I’ve written a travelogue, a post about a travel experience. Well, as I’m presently studying in South Africa and will likely have my longest experience as a foreigner here, there’ll likely be more travelogues with impressions.
As expected, a frequent question one receives when in a new place is “how is it over there?” to which “fine” is for once an impolite answer. You’re expected to elaborate. Describe how new the streets are, how often you see skyscrapers and the flamboyance or extreme poverty or both. You are expected to share info people could use in conversation even if they haven’t been there. Like we did in boarding school; tell the person of the ease of getting a car in S.A – if you’re South African of course- so they can share the worldly knowledge at their Njangi meeting “You know my daughter is in South African and she says South Africans are…”
I am doing a poor job at relating these expected elaborations. When I am asked ‘how is it over there’? I can’t think of anything out of the norm. For me, the country ‘was as imagined’. It neither exceeded my expectations nor did it particularly underwhelm me. What it has done, however, is make me wonder if Cameroon may be cursed.
I know what you’re thinking. That I have likely been asking myself “why can’t Cameroon have this [insert visible aspect of development here] or that’? Well you’re wrong. That is not what has me considering a national curse.
My thoughts on a Cameroonian curse are quite literal, I do believe we may have been cursed, as in jinxed, having angered the dead. See, when people ask me to describe S.A this is what comes to mind: nearly every other street is named for Mandela, statues of the ‘national patriarch’ consistently feature in all urban locations such that you can play ‘connect the dots’ with ease. Every campus has some hall honoring some apartheid hero/heroine, students actively protest the statues and emblems of former oppressors, the history of the people and their champions are so well-recorded, the stories of those who sacrificed made easily accessible… I do not claim that all South Africans know their full history, but they recognize their heroes’ names. They remember those who went before, what they once had to endure, those who died for what is theirs today. And for this reason, I can only wonder if Cameroon carries a curse.
Imagine yourself as Ernest and Martha Ouandie, Um Nyobe, Ndeh Ntumazah, Njoh Litumbe, A.N Jua and many more… matriarchs and patriarchs whose efforts for our nation has gone barely noticed. Their names selectively taught in history lessons across the country depending on the location of the school, or the teacher’s predictions for national exams. Their stories and sacrifices almost forgotten, left to the Twitter pages of @HisotireduCameroun or @Dibussi to remind us with “In this day in Cameroon history”.
With each day I walk around my campus, I see the halls named for South African heroes and on days commemorating them, I see posters with messages by them. For the life of me, I cannot recall any quotations from Um Nyobe, no posters or memes highlight inspirational words from Foncha for me to share as the host of Cameroonian friends share memes with ‘quotables’ from Martin Luther King Jr. or Mandela on their respective days. Our history is lost to us, the efforts and mistakes of our own have been ignored, is it any wonder why we’re currently repeating history? When did we ever learn it enough to heed it?
I’d like to think I’m fanciful, that I’m being superstitious with this… but what if it’s true? What if we’re cursed? That’s what comes to mind each time someone asks ‘tell me about S.A’.
I’d like to respond with, “S.A remembers somewhat, here you can feel that the people know where they’ve been even if they don’t know where they’re going”.
S.A forces me to realize that in Cameroon we know neither.