Ever since I knew I was coming back to Cameroon I planned to do the Race of Hope up Mt. Cameroon, the highest peak in West Africa. I found some people in Kumbo and began training with them last November. One of the people I was training with, Kasimo, helped me register for the race in December. At first he said I could register as a Cameroonian because I have a Cameroon identification card. He sent the money to Bamenda and a few days later he came back and said that I had to register as a foreigner and pay even more for the registration. I obliged and sent a copy of my passport and the 50,000 CFA (~$100) registration fee. About two weeks ago Kasimo came to my house and said that I couldn't do the race at all because I was supposed to do a qualifying race to prove that I was strong enough to compete. The person in Yaounde refused to put my name on the registered list even though Kasimo tried to convince him that I didn't need to do the qualifying race because I registered as a foreigner and had been training with him. But it was to no avail. The only option seemed to be to go to Buea and demand my 50,000 CFA refund since they would not let me race. I arrived in Buea late Wednesday evening, two days before the race. On Thursday the people from Yaounde never came. On Friday I went to the starting area and still couldn't find anyone who could give me any information. Friday night I decided that I would use an old race number and still try to participate. After all, I had paid the registration fee and it didn't look like I was going to get a refund. Early this morning I, and two other girls working at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Buea, went to the starting line to see if there was still a possible way I could participate. We arrived at 5:30, well before any other of the participants, even though the race was supposed to start at 6:15. We sat down on the bleachers of the stadium and waited. A few minutes after we sat down the guy in the picture below sat down in front of us.
Around 7 am we all lined up behind the starting line. Only an hour after it was supposed to have started.
The whole experience was so typical of Cameroon--being told different answers to one question, charged more money because I'm a foreigner, last minute decision-making that limits adequate planning, meeting the right people and just the right time, singled out for pictures and questions because I'm white, and the solidarity and kindness of Cameroonians that ultimately triumphs over the difficulties.