(Recipe at bottom:
Late Summer Slaw with Balsamic & Prosecco Dressing)

A colleague of mine is leaving for the Peace Corps in Cameroon.

While I could spell it, I had no idea where it is. Likely, you don’t either, so here’s a map.250px-Cameroon_(orthographic_projection).svg Still, I have no idea what’s there. Like you, I looked it up, in the time-honored tradition of Wikipedia. (I figure with a country’s facts at stake surely someone would’ve corrected it, had it been wrong.)

The first indigenous people were Pygmies. Portuguese sailors landed in 1472 – there was a lot of global travel going on then, with Columbus heading out of Spain in 1492 for the “New World.” What did these people hope to find? Gold, riches, escape from their current lives?

Rhumsiki Peak

Today, Cameroon relies on France for its military protection.  English is understood, but by far, French is the dominant language, with about 80% of the population speaking some form of it. The population in 2011 was over 20,000,000, almost equally divided between urban and rural dwellers. Forty percent are practicing Catholics.

It has lovely names for its cities – they make me purse and widen my lips to make round vowels: Douala and Yaoundé, Kumba and Bélabo.  220px-YaoundeUnityPalaceTheir exports include bananas, cocoa, oil palms, rubber, and tea. Inland they produce coffee, sugar, and tobacco, and in the north cotton, groundnuts, and rice. The citizens enjoy football (soccer, Americans) and a wide variety of music. This building is called Unity Palace.

Here is the not-so lovely news. The roads are terrible and are blocked by police and gendarmes, who collect bribes from travelers. The newspapers are corrupt, “beholden” to special interest groups. Their timber industry, which contributes $60M annually to the government, has very little policy in place.220px-Baka_dancers_June_2006

And then, there are the refugees. Let me quote this, since someone went to the trouble of accuracy, here, and I should not complicate it:

“On June 4, 2014, AlertNet reported:

Almost 90,000 people have fled to neighbouring Cameroon since December and up to 2,000 a week, mostly women and children, are still crossing the border, the United Nations said.

“Women and children are arriving in Cameroon in a shocking state, after weeks, sometimes months, on the road, foraging for food,” said Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).[115]

Tourist area by Limbe.

I don’t really know where she’s going. I can’t claim to know her well – I sit at the front desk, she sits in back,  and there’s a divide. I care for her safety, but clearly she is called in her heart to care for these people. She’s walking in, a 23-year-old white woman, to speak about health care and personal health risks to the village in which she’s assigned.

We’re having a goodbye lunch, of course, because what else can you do for someone who needs to travel lightly? So I’m posting a Late Summer Slaw recipe I made tonight – vegan, because Emily is, and it’s an acknowledgement: I see you.

Beyond that, I keep thinking of the lyrics to a Diana Ross song (from the movie, Mahogany):

Do you know where you’re going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to? Do you know?

We are, at once, global and colonized, divided and subdivided by race, gender, religion, history, understanding. I hope the learning curve is soft and gradual. I do not really know where she’s going.


Late Summer Slaw 002Late Summer Slaw (vegan)

3-4 cups broccoli slaw
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 (or 1 c) diced English cucumber (1 cup)
1 Gala or Fiji apple, cored and diced
1/2 cup roasted (not salted) sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 lemon (squeezed for juice over salad when tossed)
Assemble ingredients. The lemon juice will keep your apples fresh until you toss with dressing. (Vegetarian version: serve with crumbled goat cheese for additional protein.)  Serving side: sesame sticks.

Balsamic & Prosecco Dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 – 1/4 cup prosecco (a good use for leftover – don’t open a bottle!)
1/3 cup spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
salt & pepper
Whisk all ingredients – this binds nicely and has a lovely mellow flavor.