Ms. Calarco brought her 360 degree camera and took lots of photos!
You can look at them here. Which one is your favorite?
Our day started at a school started where special activities were taking place all day to celebrate National Youth Day, which is held every year in February in Cameroon. This day celebrates children all over the country!
We met a new friend named Linda who goes to area schools and starts Peace Clubs. These are so important in Cameroon right now because of the fighting taking place in the Northwest and Southwest regions. There are families who have had to leave their homes (including Farmer and his family) because it’s not safe for them to be there.
We were honored guests and sat in the front row. Students sang, danced and recited poems about Peace. They also showed us some of the things they created in Peace Club, including a Peace Pillow they presented to us. We gave them soccer balls, art supplies, bracelets and bookmarks made by our students.
On the way home, we stopped for ice cream, which was so refreshing! The temperature in Cameroon has been in the 80’s and 90’s every day, and it’s hotter than we are used to! We rested a bit, and then went to a Youth Festival, where we met teenages who have started Peace Projects. These students won awards for their projects and we had the honor of presenting the certificates!
Everywhere we go, there are people who either know Farmer or have heard about the wonderful things he has done with gardens and providing access to clean water. He really is a hero in Cameroon!
It was fun spending time with Tantoh’s cousin, Walters, who owns a cocoa farm and is an artist. He took photos for us and cut up the sugar can we brought home.
Farmer has done many water projects, but one of the most important was bringing water to a village called Njirong. For over thirty years, they were able to take advantage of a spring from a neighboring village because of conflict. In 1997, a boy was out hiking with his dog, and discovered a source of fresh water in their own village. Three years ago, Farmer helped set up a water system so the people could easily get water, however they have to go down a hill to get it. Now he is working on raising money for a solar pump so the water can be pumped up the hill for the villagers. We met a man from this village and Farmer showed him the book and the page in the book about Njirong; he was so proud of Farmer!
We ended our evening like we have been doing every day - sitting on the balcony and sharing stories!
Every morning we sit on the balcony, watching the city come alive. This morning, there was extra excitement when we saw what looked like a small parade of young people in uniforms heading up the street toward the soccer field. Farmer Tantoh explained it was a soccer team being led by someone who was heavy - in Cameroon, you don’t see many heavy people, probably because their diet is different than ours. The rest of the team was chanting to support this person. We thought this was a really nice thing for the team to do.
Breakfast this morning consisted of delicious bread (served, of course with plantains, french fries and an omelet). After a ride along a mountainside, we stopped at the studio of a well-known artist in Yaounde named Mr. Ndofoa. He has been doing artwork for over twenty years and everthing around his studio is painted or decorated. We each bought one of his paintings!
On to one of the highest points of the city! Mr. Ndofoa painted the decorations on the rock we stood on for the pictures. We stopped and purchased some sugar cane from a man selling it on the side of the road, then stopped at another market and bought a few handmade items to bring home.
Then we had a birthday party for the book “I am Farmer” - today was the day it was officially published and people around the world could purchase it! Farmer and Quinta’s boys had never been in a swimming pool so we arranged to spend the afternoon swimming at the pool at the Hilton Hotel in Yaounde - that was so much fun! Amazingly, while we were swimming we were lucky enough to experience a beautiful rainstorm.
Afterwards, a quick stop for pizza (we were so hungry we forgot to take a photo!) and a visit to a doctor who is from Farmer’s village. Farmer’s dream is to have a hospital built in his grandmother’s village, in her honor (she is 95 years old). Early to bed tonight!
Cameroon is made up of many regions. Farmer Tantoh’s Eco-Lodge is located outside of the city of Bamenda where there is currently conflict between two groups of people, There has been fighting and people have been hurt, so Farmer thought it best if we didn’t go to that part of Cameroon. That means we aren’t able to help put in the well, but we are still able to post the pictures of it being put in. Here is a video of Farmer Tantoh explaining the process.
Today Farmer Tantoh drove us to the Mefou Primate Sanctuary, located in a forested area outside of Yaounde. A primate is a classification of mammals that includes gorillas, monkeys and other similar animals, including humans! Hunters, also known as poachers, have tried to kill these animals and sell them. They leave the babies, who can’t survive on their own, so the sanctuary rescues them and takes care of them in this natural environment. There are about 400 animals here, including gorillas, monkeys, chimpanzees, mandrills, baboons and guenons (a type of monkey).
Do you see the HUGE tree we are standing by? The wood from this type of tree is used to build ships. There were many other types of trees in the forest. The people in Cameroon have discovered how to use the leaves and bark for medicine.
As we drove home from the sanctuary, we saw a man selling handmade African drums, so we stopped and each purchased one. We stopped by the market and purchased more bright-colored African cloth, and headed home for a delicious dinner of spaghetti with a fresh tomato sauce made with fish. We ended the evening receiving gifts of Kaba dresses from the man whose house we are staying in, and we sang and played drums together.
We started Friday with a delicious breakfast of plantains, fish stew and Cameroonian coffee to prepare us for another day of learning and helping out at the farm. The owner of the farm, who we call “Ma Justice,” because she is a judge, joined us.
We took a long walk around the farm and saw fruit and vegetable trees and plants, as well as fish ponds. There are also many forest areas, unlike the farms we are used to visiting in New York. We watched Farmer Tantoh’s friends Julius and Mary harvest leaves from the Huckleberry plant (also known as black nightshade).
When we returned from our walk the cooking began! Farmer showed us how to de-feather and butcher a chicken, which was grilled over an open fire. We removed the leaves from the Huckleberry stems, chopped them up, washed them and put them in a pot over another open fire. We made fou fou out of corn flour and water and cooked that over an open fire, too. You can see from the video of Ms. Calarco stirring it that it is hard work!
When the fou fou was done cooking, we wrapped it in banana leaves to give it extra flavor. We ate a communal meal, sitting on benches. People in Cameroon eat many of their meals without utensils - it was fun to lick our fingers, and not have to wash extra items!
After a short rest back at the house we had a wonderful dinner with Ma Justice and her husband. I gave their grandson, Davy, the bookmark that Eddie made. We will be giving the other bookmarks out when we visit local schools.
To end our evening, we went out to hear some local musicians sing and play instruments (piano and keyboard). Farmer Tantoh loves to sing and dance, and went up on stage with them!
(And he also shared the great news that the materials for the well have been purchased - with the money YOU donated - and work will start on it tomorrow!)