Though my family emigrated from Cameroon to the US when I was a young child, truly before I was able to make any of my own memories of it, it’s always held a special position in my mind. Our parents worked hard to fill our home and lives with whatever traditions, foods, and music they could hold onto from their life thousands of miles away. Like many children of immigrants, growing up in the duplexity of a home culture and the predominant American culture, I often felt like I lacked on either side when in the company of either. Alone, I felt enough. Being around family and not knowing the latest dances or speaking our dialect, suddenly made me feel awkward and out of place.
Somewhere between the almost 10 ten years between my only trips to Cameroon, I managed to romanticize what it would be like to return as an adult, and an even more enthusiastic photographer. I thought I would have some cultural awakening, maybe that the accent I must concentrate to call on when attempting to speak pidgin would flow from my lips like palm wine from a calabash by the end of my two months abroad. Instead, It still stumbles out in bits like cold palm oil. I understand the dialect fluently, but I can’t repeat it to any semblance of native comprehension.
It’s not quite the same Cameroon I left behind in my teenage years. Its government has pushed its citizens to a point of civil unrest and violent protest. Roads we traveled a decade ago, where the biggest obstacle was traversing the untarred red clay pits, have been paved over by the fear of forested ambushes and kidnappings. The privilege of being a bush-faller, is even with the turmoil raging outside of city boundaries, my biggest daily concern was when the wi-fi ended up being inconsistent.
The sleepy beach town, Kribi, is still…sleepy. The men on the coast were only roused from their afternoon naps at the prospect of pushing overpriced goods, on not quite tourists visiting a small nearby waterfall. At the end of my stay, beyond the emotional developments I made seeing family members for the first time in almost 10 years, I left with these two shots. A postcard-esque romantic goodbye to the idea of what’s enough and a reminder of what is, is simply perspective.