Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Extreme North Weeps at our Departure

Foiled again.  Quite possibly I'm just bad luck.  I have been less than forthcoming with information regarding the security situation in the Extreme North of Cameroon.  We are supposed to keep tight lipped about what we are doing and with good reason.  There are terrorists afoot.

Back in February a perfectly nice French family was kidnapped in the Extreme North of Cameroon by a terrorist organization called Boko Haram.  C'est l'Afrique.  The Peace Corps responded immediately and everyone consolidated into what were not bunkers but that sounds cool so let's just say that's what happened.  Complete with armed guards to wait out the storm (that part is true).  I was down south for training so I had it easy compared to the close quarters of those left behind.  You'll remember when I went to the beach and played in waterfalls.  Like ya do.  They did a security evaluation of the situation--the terrorists are based in Nigeria and the kidnapping took place right at the boarder--and decided that every volunteer near Nigeria, on the way to Nigeria, or with bad reception in the area was shut down.  That was it and I went home.

Fast forward to a week ago and all is happy go lucky.  It was sad to see about half the volunteers up here leave and so many people displaced, but things were moving on.  Quite a few of my friends ended up staying in Maroua, our regional capital, so I still got to see them, maybe even more often.  Some of my projects started up and I was really feeling integrated in Bogo.  All the little things that bothered me had pretty much turned into quaint quirks I was pleased enough with.  Then somebody decided to pay the terrorists off and release a few prisoners so the family could go home.  Good for them, bad for the rest of us.  Foreigners now have a going rate (four kids and three adults go for around 3 million USD).  That coupled with some rumors of other devious activity (well funded activity) and the whole Extreme North is shut down.

We're all gone now which is why I feel I can post this.  I only had two days to say my goodbyes.  It was emotional.  I think most people understood why we had to go for the most part, but no one was happy about it.  Bogo itself is really as safe as can be though and a lot of people felt cheated.  It's a good community and everyone always looked out for me.  My Lamido felt prudence was best and even gave me a beautiful parting gift.  I've been hearing a plenty of hate toward Boko Haram as causing all the foreigners to leave is going to shut down a lot of development programs here and leave tourism basically non existent (Waza, Rhumsiki, and Maga are all hot spots in the Extreme).  Hell a restaurant owner was almost in tears when we told him the news on the way out of Maroua.  There were far too many tears already in Bogo and Tchabawol.

Usually a laid back and in the moment person, I still find myself presented with an idea or thought for something I'd like to do in Bogo and have a flash of sadness or anger that I can't follow through. One of my first thoughts when hearing the news was that I'd never see the rainy season.  Well it rained the night I told everyone I was leaving.  And it stormed all day the next when all the volunteers came together to leave our home in mass.  The Extreme North wept.