Exchanging stories and dance with the Ekonjo Village
One of the highlights of our study abroad trip to Cameroon was the visit to the Ekonjo chiefdom, which is part of the greater Bojongo village in Cameroon. In 2008, the men and women in this village established a community farm. Here they cultivate things like corn, pepper, and cocoyam (just to name a few) in order to make some sort of an income for themselves. The objective of our trip was for us to truly dive into the African culture and get a sense of how the women in particular contribute to the development of both their families and communities inside the village. We were able to ask them a series of questions ranging from their marital status to how they cope with their multiple responsibilities in the home.
When we were given the assignment to interview the village women, I became nervous. Were they going to be able to understand me? Will they like me? So many different emotions ran through my mind, but I slowly became at ease when I heard the faint sound of the African drum and song growing louder and louder. All the people of the village came out in celebration, singing and dancing and welcoming us all with the warmest of spirits.
Before you know it we all were hugging, dancing and singing with the women and the village people. It was like a scene out of a movie. After the initial celebration we broke up into groups and the interviewing began. I met with a woman named Cecilia. I learned she once had her own farm but after marrying, had to give it up to her husband. I could see the pain in her eyes as I learned more about this extreme patriarchal society. It seemed unfair to me how she was doing all the housework and fieldwork but was not involved in making financial decisions for the family. I truly felt a connection with this woman as we embraced each other at the end of the conversation.
However, it was the next segment I feel had the most lasting impression on me. We all got into a circle and listened to stories from one of the men in the village. After his story everyone joined in a laugh as my friend Meggyn rose up and narrated the myth of the “Jersey Devil.” After Meggyn’s example, the village people encouraged us to tell more stories. Several other students stood up and told stories they learned during their childhood. The Cameroonian people particularly enjoyed Jaclyn’s story of the Corn Monster, which her mother and sister used to discourage her from walking through the cornfields after school. Looking around I saw the different shades of skin sitting together rejoicing. Who would have thought people who live so differently from us can actually be so similar? Through stories and song we all honestly connected on a level words could never describe. I think this was the first time I realized no matter what culture you belong to, no matter what shade of skin you are, we are all human beings. We all thrive for a good story or song, and we all want the same thing out of life – to be happy.
Just as welcoming as we came, they sent us off just as nice. Before we called it a night though we were blessed enough to meet the chief of the Village. This 90 year old man had the heart and spirit of a 12 year old as he was just as welcoming as his people were. The kindness of these people touched me forever. I’m having the opportunity to make friends all over the world and experience a life changing adventure. This particular trip taught me more than a textbook ever could. I will never forget the chief, Cecilia, the people, and that feeling I had singing songs and telling stories.