When I was 8 years old, I went on my first trip to Cameroon with my family. Located on the West Coast of Africa, it’s where both my parents were born and raised.

On our first trip, we ate many types of street foods, from spicy meat pies and cassava pudding to sweet stuffed pastries. We played games in the fields with village kids and made a weekly trip to the town square. There, we watched the Pala Pala wrestling matches every Sunday after church and learned bits and pieces of the native languages. Each day, we embraced our culture more and more. For an 8-year-old girl who had never been abroad, it was a magical adventure.

Twelve years later I found myself boarding a plane headed for Cameroon once more. It was 3 a.m. when we first landed in Douala the December of my junior year in college, and I was exhausted from the 20-hour flight. I was cranky and still had my mind on whether or not I passed my final exams taken only a few days before. However, when the sun rose in the morning I was able to see the same bustling city that amazed me when I was a kid.

During our time there, we did many familiar things like brushing up on our rusty French and Douala and visiting family where we participated in traditional songs, dances and celebrations. We were welcomed home.  

Though I was no longer a young kid looking at a new country with wonder, I was still able to find the magic of Cameroon in the people and culture. Being greeted with sheer joy, endless hugs and tears of happiness from family members who had last seen me as a little girl is a feeling that I wouldn’t dare trade for the world. The food, traditions, family and history are what make Cameroon my home.