Emely Joost (How Fast Time Can Fly)
“The longer I stayed, the more I was shocked at how fast my stay in Cameroon was coming to an end. I still remember the first days in Cameroon, when everything was so new to me; the market and the way people were selling things on the streets on their heads, taxis and the crazy traffic, my new colleagues and the whole structure of the CBC Health Board. Nine months later, all those things became so normal to me that I even forgot the many differences between Germany and Cameroon.
At the market the people had now known us and most of them didn’t try to cheat us anymore. Some of the workers became friends and I was no longer confused with people who at first all looked alike to me. I really enjoyed my time in Cameroon. After our stay in Banso, I became aware that Bamenda had really become my home.
Maybe I should start from the beginning of my stay. For me it was very good to have a short seminar after our arrival in Bamenda. It was good to hear about the cultural differences and the expectations towards us volunteers from Cameroonians point of view. When we started work after this orientation, I was happy that somebody took the decision for me and told me where to work. With all the different programmes and offices I would have had a problem of where to go. That’s how I came to the lab. I enjoyed my time with Nico, Evelyne and Sylvie very much. Sometimes I was a bit annoyed when they were talking in Pidgin and I could not follow them. That’s why I decided to learn Pidgin as fast as possible. The work in the lab was interesting and I enjoyed the fact that my colleagues gave me more and more responsibilities for different machines and tests. With my interest in medicine, I was happy to learn more about HIV/AIDS.
While still working in the lab, the work with the Youth Network for Health (YONEFOH) started for us. During the seminar in Banso, I learned a lot about the lessons of YONEFOH and improved my knowledge especially about HIV/AIDS. I’m glad that we had this seminar and it made me to understand the values of YONEFOH and the way the programme functions. Still, the seminar itself was very charged with information and with the language that was still new to us (after a few weeks in Cameroon) it was sometimes very tiring. It would have been better to go through fewer lessons and instead have more time for discussion and questions.
After the seminar the work with YONEFOH gradually started. I enjoyed especially the month of October when we went for Voluntary Counseling and Testing. I enjoyed my work with Vivian very much because she always gave us the possibility to bring in our own ideas and opinions.
In November and December, I was working with the Extended Forum of Care. To me, it was very interesting to get an insight on contact tracing and partner notification. I really enjoyed the times we went out for field work. Despite my expectations towards myself, I did not feel ready to counsel clients. By that time my Pidgin was not good enough to have a flowing conversation about such a private topic. That’s why after sometime, I was mostly doing data entry. I enjoyed being with Eli and Winifred in the office but the data work was not really interesting to me.
In January after Salome had to leave Cameroon, I took her place in the Lab again. To be honest I didn’t enjoy the work so much again because I had planned to intensify my work with Vivian and YONEFOH. What I missed in the Lab was the chance to realize my own ideas or leave my own little foot print. Still, I know that I was of help to Nico because he was the only one working after Sylvie, Evelyn, and Salomé had left.
Early March Kathi, Hannah, and I finally moved to Banso to work with Life Abundant Primary Health Care. The work at Bamkika’ai was interesting but I’m not sure if I was really of help to anybody there. Still, I really enjoyed the trip to Oku, to experience the important work that LAP is doing in the one hand, village life and the friendliness of the people living in the village and working in the Primary Health Centers (PCHs) on the other. Also the Resource Pool (meeting of all the Field Supervisors, Field Assistants and PHCs) was very interesting to me because it gave me more insights into the work and structure of LAP.
Finally, I want to say that I really enjoyed my time in Cameroon. Almost everybody, not only at the workplace, treated me with so much love and understanding and – everybody in his/her own way – showed or taught me something about the life and culture of Cameroon. I want to thank Christy and Glory in a special way for their assistance especially during the first time. I know that even today, Christy is always there to help me if problems arise. I never felt homesick for long because I always felt like having a second home in Cameroon.
I am really happy that I met so many welcoming people but I am sometimes frustrated that I didn’t have something to give while receiving so much. Probably I had high expectations towards myself. I should accept that I was not supposed to help like a skilled volunteer but to learn from this stay in Cameroon! Still, I hope that, one day, I will be able to come back as a doctor and give some of the help and love that I experienced here back to my Cameroonian brothers and sisters”.