Elke and I are here in Cameroon to assist in running the BetterWorld Summer Camp.
Day one and we revisit the schedule, posting on stickie notes each activity, re-arranging them to maximize our time on the land. Nothing like a visual aid to organize one's thoughts. The camp attendees drift in slowly over the next week, a few are in and out with other more compelling responsibilities that have them missing chunks of the program.
The camp's presentations and information sessions are being held in a ground floor apartment, in a higher end part of town, although it's hard to tell from the roads.
The "campers" sleep there and we have our meals together. No furniture so Sonita brings some chairs from the office in a couple of taxis...
We introduce ourselves and spend some time determining what everyone has to offer, what they are expecting.
An introduction to Council Circle, The Four Agreements and basic communication understandings get us going.
Our first work day at the farm, we all pile into a taxi. Obviously the rates aren't enough because each time we are jammed in tight with more people than I deem safe. I finally say no when the driver has someone sharing his seat as well as the 5 people in the back and 3 on the front passenger seat of a Toyota Tercel, the standard taxi here.
On arrival our first exercise is observation.
Everyone finds a spot to draw their map from. I try to inventory all the trees I see from the edge of the cleared area. It really is too much. I'm unable to differentiate the different palms yet, along with a number of other unfamiliar trees interspersed among the rows of corn and cassava all interplanted with beans, sweet potato...It is a big list. I try a different tack from another angle.
Elke calls us all back and we discuss the exercise, I'm not alone in feeling overwhelmed, but we all have better sense of being there.
Next we descend the slope into an even denser, lusher area where there are some seedlings that we'll be planting out.
Up the hill and measuring the approximate mature span of the eventual crown size these trees will produce determines how far apart to plant along one edge of the cleared area and into the swales below.
As we head over to the next planting spot it begins to rain. Someone pulls some ripe ears of corn and we decamp to the shed where a fire is quickly built and the ears roasted. The rain comes down, Hard.
Big drops and intense, one can barely see the women who continue to work, making beds to be planted later, each covered with a large white bag one side slit to make a raincape.
They do eventually join us, soaked to the skin to dry out and have a roasted corn snack just before we head back to town.