Culture Crossed

I’ll be straight up. It’s been a while since I’ve written, but I want to start making it a regular thing again…so will you take me back? Even though I have been back from Cameroun for 2 months now, being in Canada again feels like a whole new adventure to write about. In my final week before I left I was staying in Yaoundé with a few other volunteers, but as each of our flights approached, and some of us went back to our placements after the Rencontre Trimestrielle, there were only a few of us left in the city. I’ll write about my final adventures in Cameroun later, but for now I just want to give you an update on what’s been going on in my life, what new projects I’ve taken on, and how I’m readjusting and dealing with reverse culture shock.

My final day in Cameroun was pretty relaxed, I had said goodbye to everyone already and had made all my transportation plans. I spent the morning making sure that I had everything in order and selling my phone. The phone that I had in Cameroun was of pretty good quality, but very clearly a foreign brand (Tecno). Basically, I never would’ve been able to sell it in Canada. I spent the afternoon at the Cuso office reading while I waited for the airport taxi to get there, and the next 24 hours in flights and airports. I had an 8 hour layover at the Paris airport, so I was obviously really tempted to leave the airport with all that time, but carrying bags all over a city that you don’t know didn’t feel like a safe bet even with all that time. I challenged myself to some Xbox games at the airport instead, and eventually found a big screen TV that was playing the French Open! This was pretty sweet for me and I was almost disappointed when it was time to get up and go. I had a window seat in my final flight though! This was amazing because I got to stare out the window as we descended, and marvel at how geometrically our cities here in Canada are laid out. By the time we hit the ground, I was so excited about Canada that I felt like it was a whole new country for me to explore. My mom, sister (Lynn), and Roland met me at the airport. We spent the entire car ride back to Grimsby catching up, and (of course) sometimes I’d throw in a comment about the perfectly clean streets and manicured lawns.

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I didn’t want to go out to a restaurant on my first night home, so instead I had requested that we do a homemade dinner. My family can be pretty loud and cheesy, so I just knew that we wouldn’t be able to be as loud as we wanted if we went to a restaurant. Sometimes we even break out into song. But having dinner at home wasn’t just perfect because we got to be as loud and cheesy as we wanted, but also because I had been waiting so long to get home…and that’s exactly where I wanted to spend my first evening in Canada. As a plus, my younger sister (Robin) really likes to cook, so she was happy to stick around the house with my dad and work on that until we got back from the airport. Once we got home, I had the best shower ever and put on one of the kabas that my colleagues had given to me as a good-bye gift. They had also gotten a kaba for my mom, so I brought that down and presented it to her to wear. Like I’ve said before, kabas are really comfortable, so this was the icing on top of the cake that was just the perfect welcome home from my family.

I spent a lot of the first month that I was home meeting up with friends and catching up with family; I went to Toronto a few times, and I’ve now been to Niagara-on-the-Lake (sometimes considered Canada’s prettiest town) three times since I’ve returned. My honeymoon phase upon returning home was amazing, but sometimes interrupted

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Home in time for strawberry picking

with the stress of rooting myself back to life in Canada. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but I had to get a new phone, get my laptop working, apply for jobs, get started on my e-volunteering project for Cuso, and I had to do all of this and more without a mode of transportation to call my own (sometimes I really miss moto taxis). Even though there have been stressful times, and times where I’ve just flat out missed Cameroun, I’ve still managed to have a really good couple months back in Canada so far, and it’s nice to be able to say that I’m keeping busy (even if I am unemployed).

In the first month that I was back, my younger sister and I spent a lot of time together, and lived basically like an old married couple. Some days we baked, other days we were productive, and sometimes we’d just sit around and talk most of the day or watch The Office. She had been in Mexico the month before I got home, and we actually came home within a day of each other (she got home first).

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Mbongo and plantain

My dad was upset when he found out that she was going to Mexico for a month, and complained that too many of his kids were gone, but then she reminded him that she’d still get back before me…surprisingly it didn’t make him feel much better. But I think we made it up to him with all the cookies and meals that we made during the day, there was even one night when she helped me make a Cameroonian dinner. Before I left, Blondine had given me all the necessary spices to make Cameroonian Black Sauce (Mbongo), but it took me a little over a month to actually get around to doing it. Eventually the stars aligned, and I was able to gather all the supplies for Mbongo, and most of the family there to travel back with me to Cameroun via way of food. I have tried to continue to cook meals somewhat regularly for my family, but Robin went off to Chile for four months so it seems that it’s gotten a little more difficult without the second person there. Now I have to make my own oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

One day my parents, Robin, and I went out for Breakfast, and we went to the Beamsville museum afterwards.

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Kids section at the Beamsville Museum

This was only one of the many historically related outings that I’ve taken with my family since coming home, and it seems that Canadian history has become something of a hobby for me since my return. I even started volunteering with a historical house in my town called the “Nelles Manor”. It was finished its construction in 1798, and belonged to one of the original settlers in Grimsby: Col. Robert Nelles. At the beginning of my second month back in Canada, my family and I were sitting around the breakfast table talking about historical houses in the town. There is one house that is falling apart at the seams (or should I say beams), and we were wondering why it doesn’t just get torn down. It turns out that the town just can’t because of its status as a historical monument. But the Nelles Manor has a different story. My mom brought

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Old porch in the manor

up how there actually has been one family in Grimsby that put the effort into restoring one of the oldest buildings in the town (and probably in all of Niagara); the Coutts. The Coutts bought the house from one of the Nelles’ family’s late descendants back in the 70’s, and have spent the last forty years restoring it back to its original glory! I looked up the house online after breakfast and just fell in love with it. I thought it would be a good idea for me to volunteer somewhere in town to become more a part of the community while I’m here, when I got an hour that day I decided to just head right over there and see if they needed my help as a volunteer. They gave me a couple books to study so I could lead tours, and I was back the next week to help them with their website as well.

 

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1798 Nelles Manor

In some ways my trip to Cameroun helped me appreciate the lives of people living somewhere that felt like an entirely different world, but in other ways it helped me to appreciate home a little more. I didn’t find such historical gems in Grimsby when I was living here during high school, but now it seems like I can’t get enough of them. I hope that my work in the future, what ever I end up finding, involves learning about history in someway. I just hope I can do a good job telling these stories through film and website development like I’m doing for the manor.

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