“How do you see Cameroon?”, the natives would ask me. An entire countryside of peaks, hills, and divots, lathered in a patten of brilliant green and deep brown rendered words insufficient to capture the beauty of it all. We traveled through the countryside on roads made purely of dirt that turned to muddy rivers in the spots where the rainy season precipitation met the epidermis of chapped soil. We passed by men and women carrying loads of up to 200 lbs on their heads and backs; children selling fresh fruits, nuts, and bush meat; infants naked and barefoot running carefree through villages;entire families crowded on motorcycles going up to 60 kilometers per hour as the driver weaved in and out of traffic.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
“Snap me! Snap me!” the kids would excitedly prompt. But as I took out my digital camera, they would trade their eager smiles for austere expressions and I would assure them that, “it's okay to smile; you have beautiful smiles.” And they did. White teeth gleaming, big brown eyes twinkling, smiles that could generate enough warmth to light up a whole village.
In every village we went to we were greeted with a sincere, “you're welcomed” and an eager hand shake. A greeting that left me off-centered for I had never felt so welcomed anywhere before. But once the feeling settled on me like morning dew I took note to carry it with me wherever I went, never wanting it to wash off.
I found myself basking in that dewy feeling at the home of my translator, Lucy Bechem, a native Cameroonian. Sitting with her, eating green oranges, I listened as she told me of her Francophone roots and how hard she worked to teach herself English. I watched as the mouths of her three biblically named children, Melchizedek, Vashti, and Amram, were fed by the meager francs of her husband's preacher salary. I noted the vigor of her work as she washed the dirt from my long skirts in a plastic blue basin–Her arms strong for her tasks, her hands tireless, her fingers precise.
“Thank you for coming to my country. Especially at such a tender age,” She said, “You are such an encouragement to me; to all of us.” The sincerity of her words sliced through air particles to meet the base of my eardrums and as the vibrations begot sounds I struggled to find words that could begin to convey to her the thankfulness of my heart, but I was distracted by the purity of color in her dark skin, the yellow-orange color gradient of the setting sun, and the hills that rolled a pattern of brown and green beauty that billowed boundlessly.
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