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When life takes another turn | Conrad Arnold Manjoh

There’s a saying that everything happens for a reason. Although I was born in a rural area, I’ve always disliked living in such places. I grew up in Buea, one of the largest cities in my country, Cameroon. There, most people had white-collar jobs or personal businesses; nevertheless, many had menial jobs and their condition of living was not so enviable. I was always happy and grateful my parents didn’t have to do such jobs or activities for a livelihood. I could only imagine how hard living under such conditions could be. Little did I know that one day, life would take another turn.

In 2016, a civil war erupted in certain regions of the country, including the city of Buea. Within a few days, everything paused; cities were under lock-down; schools, shops, businesses, and even hospitals were inaccessible. We barely had access to basic necessities. Crime and insecurity reached unprecedented levels. The constant shootings made most people afraid of even stepping out of their homes; however, staying at home wasn’t a guarantee of safety, as many people got harmed by stray bullets. Everything had changed, but by the grace of God, we could safely travel to my grandad’s village, Amodu, in Enugu, Nigeria, by road, where we lived with my grandparents. We had to abandon our home and belongings and travel with the bare minimum.

The village was not my liking, even though I had been there a few times before. In the village, we had little access to potable water; hence, we had to buy water for drinking and consumption and depended on rainwater for home usage. As if it wasn’t bad enough, we had to farm and do small jobs to raise money. We became refugees. Life wasn’t what we wished it was, but we didn’t have much of a choice; It was waking up to gunshots, sleeping under the bed, and living in constant fear. At that moment I understood how harsh and hard life can be; some people don’t do the jobs they do or because they want to, but because they don’t have the luxury of choice. While we lived there, we had to do our best to get on our feet and survive. We had to cultivate farms, clear bushes, and do some menial jobs to raise money for living expenses. The first two months were the toughest, especially for my parents; adapting was an uphill task. However, with time, we began getting used to the new lifestyle; we interacted more with the other villagers and even participated in community activities and festivities like the Eyo festival. We learned how to farm more effectively, and it was less tedious; I even planted my first crops, which were yams and corn. I began having fun; I even developed a love for farming and spent most of my time on the farm. I learned how to weed grass, make plant beds, and harvest crops. However, it came with draw-downs such as blisters and body pains.

About eight months later, the level of insecurity reduced, and we were able to return home in Cameroon. I can happily say that moving to the village in Nigeria was one of the best things that happened to me. Not only did we acquire new skills, but we were able to experience life from a different perspective, being part of a new community and experiencing a culture different from ours. Furthermore, I learned to value the resources and opportunities I have because as common as they may seem to be, many people can only dream of them. We now have a garden and feed from it, and sometimes even have enough to share with others. I would love to apply my acquired knowledge to provide better living conditions such as solar electricity and potable water to people in such areas.

- Conrad Arnold Manjoh'23 | Open Dreams

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