I’m studying “Development and International Relations” at University and I work part-time with the Youth service in the London Borough of Newham, so I guess you could say I work in development, but not directly in International Development. I also work in the Accounts department of a charity that helps with community planning applications and government redevelopment scheme consultations (amongst other things).
During my time with Self Reliance, I taught accounts and IT to the young people on a summer course. I also helped with Internet fundraising for the various projects, that are either in planning or in action right now.
Kumbo takes about a day of travel to get there from Douala or Yaounde, because the buses only run twice a day and then the connections between Bamenda and Kumbo are infrequent, (but they are regular). It is quite hilly and the roads into town are very bad (only paved in parts) but there are no paved bits within the town, so it can get very muddy in the rainy season (approx. Apr-Nov) and dusty in the dry season (approx. Dec-Mar). The area is in the highlands, and is not the humid tropical temperature you might expect, so bring warm clothes. During the wet season it rains for at least part of the day almost every day, but the temperature is relatively even. I hear in the dry season it gets very hot in the daytime, but very cold at nights and in the morning. The accommodation was ok, and the people volunteering for the charity are very helpful. And just incase you’re wondering; it is feasible to carry a laptop. I’ve been asked that question before, so I thought I’d mention it.
The town is spread out into three main districts, which roughly forms a triangle. It’s either a 20-minute walk or a taxi (car or motorbike taxi called a “Chabba”) from one district to another. There is a lot of poverty (unemployment, underemployment and subsistence living), but there are also some people with a lot of money. They tend to treat European / American’s better than Cameroonians (which is quite a big problem for those indigenous people who want to create initiatives in the country).
The houses are spread out all over, so it is actually quite large. It seemed quite safe to me, but still take precautions with your possessions. The place is very green in rainy season and many types of food grow there – fruits (banana, plantain, oranges), root vegetables (potato, cassava), vegetables and livestock. They mainly eat corn Fufu, (which is boiled cornmeal, formed into a moist cake) “vegetable” (usually leaves of a couple plants “Okro”, “Bitterleaf”, “Aero” or “Huckleberry”) cooked up in some kind of “soup” (sauce). Meat & fish are available, but people can’t always afford it. There is a novel form of “Food on the Go”, which is that people cook up food and walk around with it in containers (usually on their head, and at a very reasonable price). (You could go to a restaurant, but what’s the need when the restaurant comes to you?) Mind you, the restaurants serve nice food as well (but not likely what you’d get in UK). And though some look kind of unkempt, don’t pay any attention to that!
The indigenous language of the area is “Lamnso” and the people are called the “Nso”. In this province of Cameroon they speak English and “Pidgin English”, but a few people also speak some French. Most people in the town speak English, but some (and most of the country people) only speak Lamnso and / or Pidgin. There are over 200 ethnic groups in Cameroon so there are other languages spoken within the province.
Bartering is standard for a lot of item’s prices, such as some of the “Food on the Go”. I’d suggest you take your time, and try not to accept the 1st price. What else… the culture there is very religious (though not everyone is as into it as it might first seem). Almost everyone goes to church or mosque and it tends to influence everything they do. There is a majority of Christians, but a large Muslim minority. It’s hard to explain everything, so if there’s anything else you want to know about, feel free to drop me an email: email@example.com
Take care and speak to you soon maybe. Nigel.