Ethnographic Field School
Six students, five from Dickinson and one from Emory University, arrived in Douala, Cameroon on May 25, 2000. They spent two days in Douala at the Catholic Mission, getting their first taste of Cameroonian food and culture. The next day, they moved on to Limbe and settled in at the Holiday Inn Resort Hotel, their home for the next five weeks.
The first week students familiarized themselves with the local area. They took day trips to the Limbe Zoo, Mount Cameroon and the beach. Dr. Cornelius Lambe, Dean of the Social Science Faculty at the near-by University of Buea and an old friend of Dickinson, welcomed the students with a party in his family compound. Dr. Lambi's wife, Grace, (right) accompanied the students to the Limbe market to buy kitchen supplies and graciously agreed to cook for the group two nights a week.
"Coming to Cameroon is stepping into another world, an experience difficult to describe, but easy to understand once you've been here. The first thing is, be prepared to be a minority. This is more difficult than it sounds."
-- Emily LeVeen
By the second week, students had decided on research topics and were beginning to organize interviews with local residents. They were helped by three program assistants, Elvis Kometa and his cousins, Sunday and Georgiana Kometa. What were their research topics? Rural-to-urban migration, hunters and conservation, child-rearing practices, and women's issues. Julie Rupsis, whose project was on migration, stayed overnight in a rural village to talk with people there about their reasons for leaving the country for the city. David Edelson interviewed Daniel Akala, president of the Batoke Hunters Union. As a group the students also visited rural villages outside Limbe and in the third week, Crater Lake at Dabunja on the north coast of Limbe.
"Some advice that I've found handy: try to remember that just as you come with your ideas and background, so does everyone else. As obvious as this sounds, it's amazing how much more you'll understand about people when you keep that in mind."
-- Julie Rupsis
"You will learn patience. In a restaurant, it will often take 45 minutes to an hour to get a meal out to you."
-- Julie Hicks
"My trip to Cameroon was the best thing that I ever did in my life. No matter what anyone tells you, shock will definitely be one of your experiences."
"Just a quick tip: learn some pidgin.and get used to being one with your dirt and sweat."
Research projects were wrapped up in the fifth week. The last week was spent in Bamenda in the North West Province and as guests of Dr. Lambi in his home village of Babungo. The group was introduced to local political leaders and to agricultural and domestic life in rural village compounds.