Thursday, Sept. 11
Limbe, Cameroon

Limbe has it all. Mountains. Beach. Nightlife. Friendly locals. And, most importantly, my favorite Cameroonian food: fresh fish grilled by women on the side of the road. Fish mamas!

This town is the first place I’ve visited during this trip where I could imagine myself living happily for a few years. It reminds me of a laid-back mountain resort town in the States during the off-season.

Limbe, in the southwest of Cameroon, (Click here to see it on a map) is surrounded by tropical bush and in the shadow of Mount Cameroon, the highest peak in West Africa. The mountain is an active volcano, so black sand covers the beaches.

It’s relatively clean for West Africa, lacking that putrid open-sewer smell I’ve grown accustomed to, and has a remarkable number of paved roads for a town of 50,000 residents (citation: Lonely Planet). Cameroonians and expats who live in nearby Douala flock here on the weekends.

View of Limbe from my hotel.

View of Limbe from my hotel.

I’m here visiting a Cameroonian, Beatrice, a bubbly character who has welcomed me into her home and shown me around Limbe.

My connection to Bea is somewhat convoluted. Her brother graduated from my alma mater, Colby College, and the editor of the alumni magazine there sponsors Beatrice’s 8-year-old son Terrypaul, paying his school fees so he can get a quality education.

Outside view of Terrypauls classroom.

Outside view of Terrypaul's classroom.

All students in Cameroon have to pay to attend school, even kids who go to the low-quality government schools, so those whose families can’t afford it simply don’t learn. Since Bea gets help with Terrypaul’s tuition, she sends him to one of the better private schools. We visited yesterday so I could check it out:

Terrypauls class in Limbe, Cameroon.

Terrypaul's class in Limbe, Cameroon.

Bea gets her hair washed.

Bea gets her hair washed.

We’ve also spent hours hanging out at the hair and nail salon where Bea works. I cracked up when I saw the sink they use to wash hair. It’s just like the sinks at hair salons in the States, except there’s no plumbing system. Instead, the dirty water drops into a bucket below.

Limbe is one of Cameroon’s few English-speaking areas (eight of the country’s 10 provinces are Francophone). Locals also speak Pidgin English, what some people call “bad English.” It sounds like another language entirely, with just a few English words here and there. I can’t understand it.

Yet I managed to make friends with some locals here last night, while chowing down on grilled fish at a bar. Here we are listening to Cameroonian music and discussing important details of How Whites Live, including how we manage to breathe with such small noses.

Hanging out at a Limbe bar with Cameroonians Stanley and Sam.

Hanging out at a Limbe bar with Cameroonians Stanley and Sam.