“Moving” is an old boxing-club and I think the oldest gym in town. When I came to Douala three years ago there was another Swedish woman living here – Bibi – and I was so fortunate to have her. When you’re totally new to a place, it always feels safe to see ”one of your kind”, just somebody to talk to in your own language. Bibi took me to the women’s club that was called the ”Douala coffee morning” at that time, and it was such a relief to meet so many sweet and nice women. I remember I stayed until the bitter end collecting so many phone numbers. I was proud of my self, because it’s true, from a socialising point of view it’s really hard work coming to a new place. You have to find the strength and eagerness to keep on making new acquaintances. Nobody else will do it for you. Bibi showed me such a lot and she had friends that went to this gym called “Moving”; I went along with them and got charmed the very first time.
It’s not a posh place and you don’t have to be super fit or have the latest outfit when you enter this establishment. Just be yourself and work to your own ability. It suits me so well! I’ve been a trusty client all through the years. Sometimes I sit down and take a coffee after the class and chat with my gym-colleagues. I hear some gossip from other corner’s in Douala, not only from the expat-spots in Bonapriso and Bonanjo…this gives me an opportunity to feel I’m a part of the city and the country – even if it’s just for this morning-hour, it means a lot to me. I almost feel Cameroonian in this gym and it keeps my mind healthy, I think. I know that you can never be fully accepted, but if you can find some way where you can feel just a little bit that you somehow belong to the society you are living among, it’s good. At least, it’s important for me to slip away for a short time from the expat-community, that I nevertheless appreciate and like too.
My dear Bibi left only six months after I came to Douala. It was a bit hard, but also gave me a push to start meeting others. So now when I look back, I see it was perfect to have a Swedish super-guide at the beginning to prepare me to walk alone. As far as I know we are the only Swedish family in Douala, perhaps in all of Cameroon. I’ve never been to a place where I have met so many different nationalities. For me this is the true richness of Douala. So, I start off the day feeling like a Cameroonian, then at school (ASD) I’m an International, in my compound I’m more of a Francophone and in the evening I’m totally Swedish.
Vi ses! See you!
(This article was contributed by Maria in the second issue of My Douala, the newsletter of DWIG)