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Walking on Gold


There is gold all around this region. No one knows how much. The locals “wash” the dirt and find small nuggets that they can then sell. They don’t make jewelry here, so the ones that find the gold don’t make the big money. The gold is sold to a few select businessmen who then take it out of these green hills and sell to manufacturers.

It is an amazing landscape. There are all kinds of fruits—mangos, papaya, watermelon, and more—and people have plots where they grow maize, tomatoes, and peanuts. As we drive on the small red-dirt roads, large trucks zoom by with huge pieces of timber. It is a land of plenty, but we are told that deforestation is happening at a rapid pace, and this is before big industry moves in. I wonder how long this “plenty” will last.

It took us hours to arrive at a Central African Republic (CAR) refugee site close to Kette, Cameroon. The men came out to greet us with smiles and extended hands. They say they are comfortable here. The biggest difference between life here and back in CAR is war. There is peace here, and three years after being displaced, they don’t see themselves returning “home” anytime soon.

I got the sense that they feel these hills are now their home. I don’t blame them. Home might be where the heart is, but more immediately, home is where the peace is. Another factor that might play a part in their feeling at home where they are is that, back home, they were semi-nomadic, connected to their animals and mov