I just arrived in the U.S. and am readjusting myself from a month of traveling. It is difficult coming back to reality after such a journey. I am already overwhelmed with all there is to do. Hundreds of emails to look through, along with a basket full of mail, an empty fridge, no clean clothes, demands of my new friends and family to see travel pictures right away, and then there are all my patient clients who have waited for me to arrive home to see their images. To all of you that fall into the last category, please continue your patience as I will get to you as soon as possible. I will officially begin working and taking new requests as of April 24th.
In the meantime, I have so many stories from my travels, but all I can think about at the moment is missing my family in Cameroon. They each touched my heart and I already long to go back to be with them. My husband is the eldest of 9 children, and in addition to his parents and siblings, there are countless cousins, grandchildren, a very special Auntie and several Uncles. Not to mention the “adopted” family that are always present. Before sharing some of the stories, I would like to introduce you to his wonderful family, most of which live in a remote village called Tinto, in the tropical rainforest of Cameroon.
Here is Cellas’ parents. His father is a fun-loving man whom everyone enjoys to be around. The villagers call him “the man of the people” and I could clearly see why. His mother was very quiet while I was around, although I was able to get a sense of her tender, nurturing, and regal qualities. She does not seem to age and has passed on her beautiful smile to her children. His parents grew up next door to each other and were married young. Together, they have created a beautiful family. They continue to work very hard to feed and provide for their family as farmers.
Here is the eldest of the bunch, my husband Cellas of nearly 3 years. Before this trip he had not been home in over 4 years. I can now see why he longed to go back. Life is simple in Cameroon, no pressures to pay credit card bills and high living expenses. One just buys their land and builds their home using the local materials. The average person does not have the modern convinces that we find in America, but this makes for a very creative and hard working population of people. If one wants a bunch of bananas or a toothbrush, they do not rush to the grocery store. Rather, they walk along the street until they find someone selling it in front of their house. It seems everyone has a business here, Cameroon is a country of entrepreneurs. It was laundry day the morning that this image was taken. We spent most of our days in the city, living in the pink house behind Cellas.
This is Agbor, and two of his three children. I admire this man more than he realizes. Tradition demands that the eldest child stay close to their parents, caring for them as they grow old. Cellas, being the eldest, was committed to this position until Agbor volunteered to do so. He currently lives with his wife and 3 children in a well organized room in his parents home. He recently purchased a plot of land down the street from his parents and has dreams of building a house on it someday soon. It is because of Agbor that Cellas was able to leave the country and eventually meet me. I thank Agbor for his continued sacrifice and giving Cellas the opportunity to be who he is today. I am touched by his commitment to the family and the hard physical labor he must endure on a daily basis. I was not able to say goodbye to him as he had to go to the farm the morning we were leaving the village. I look forward to spending more time with him in the future.
This is Deba, his woman and 2 children. They live in a city about 4 hours away from the village. I have so many wonderful images of his eldest, Alice, as she was incredibly photogenic, and not shy of the “large white woman” or her camera. Most of the children in the village were very shy of me the first day. They do not see many people of my type in their area. Once in a while I would hear shouts of “white man” in the distance. The countless stares at me were uncomfortable at first, but I quickly realized that is was a fact of life when traveling to such places. I was not able to make a true connection with Deba until just hours before we left the country. I am grateful to finally get to connect with him and I realized that we have much to talk about.
This is Loveline (pronounced “love lean”), the first born girl. She is holding her niece whom she helps care for. She lives in Limbe, the city which we spent most of our time in, about 8 hours from the village. Loveline has achieved the highest education amongst her siblings (with the exception of my husband). She has aspirations of becoming a nurse, and we hope to be able to raise the funds so she can achieve her dream soon. Cellas and I have made the commitment to gift his siblings with a good education. Along with tuition, we send money to Cameroon for their books, uniforms, room and board (if needed) as well as covering medical expenses and other miscellaneous projects we are supporting . Loveline is the eldest of 6 in school at the moment.
Meet Effi, the brother I affectionately call my “angel”. Of all the siblings, he spent the most time with us. He was Cellas’ right hand man while we were in Cameroon helping us with every small and large task that was asked of him. At one point in our trip we were stranded with a flat tire when we went to visit the 1999 lava flow from nearby Mount Cameroon. Unfortunately, our spare tire was worse off than the original flat. With only villages around us, Effi quickly volunteered to take the tire down to Limbe to get it fixed. He rode back up to our rescue holding the newly fixed tire on a two wheeled taxi (aka: motorcycle) with no helmet or eye protection. This is one example of countless angelic things he did for us. He has also proven to be a fantastic student who holds himself to high standards. Effi has held the record of top student in his class of over 100. He is studying in a technical school eventually to become an architect/contractor. I was very fortunate to spend some good times with him and create lasting memories. Because of the mutual connection we formed, we are both missing each other very much right now. Thank you Effi for your never ending service to us. Words cannot describe how honored I am to have you as a brother.
This is Tabi, he is in secondary school and living in the village with his parents. I was told he would like to be a lawyer in the future. Every time I saw him, he had a smile on his face. One day he wore a t-shirt that read “Big Brother Africa” that has stuck in my head when I think of him. I have big hopes for him and his future. We did not get to spend much time together, but he still left a lasting impression on me.
This is young Martha and her 7 month old daughter Elizabeth. Martha was in secondary school when she got pregnant, and we have hopes that she will soon go back when the baby is old enough. She was working hard during my entire time spent in the village. I admire her perseverance and hope the best for her future. We only spent 2 nights and 3 days in the village. Because of this short, and very busy time, I was not able to learn as much about these younger siblings.
Meet Julie, the youngest girl of the bunch. She is the one wearing the Brazil t-shirt. Unfortunately, I had no interactions with her, as she was always running around doing things while we were there. The only pictures of her I was able to capture are candids of her working. This photo was taken during a brief rest she took in between tasks. We arrived in the village on a Saturday evening and the word that Cellas was bringing his wife from America spread quickly. Nearly 300 people showed up to greet us on that first night, and many never left. They celebrated through the night, not even a sudden rain storm would chase them away. Because of the overwhelm of people, the family worked very hard to provide food for the villagers. No one had a moment to rest, I think we are the only ones who slept the first night.
This is the youngest, Tabe. I am told he is about 9 years old. Many people do not know their exact ages here. They do not keep track of them the same way we do. They relate their age to the ones around them. There is a structure of respect for elders. As long as you know who is older than you and respect their rank, you are fine. Tabe was as shy as can be. We never talked, but there were many times I tried to get pictures of him. I was finally able to get this happy image of him in the middle of trying to fetch some water. He appears in the background of many of my images from the village. He, like his sisters, was constantly working; getting water, sweeping, preparing food, watching children… I could truly see the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” in action while here. I hope to bring this same system of values and care for our family to be.