a look at two 20% hardship posts

Manila is 20% hardship, Yaounde is 20% hardship. Having lived in both places, I think I know what the reality is between the two posts. Yes, people have to leave Manila because of medical situations all the time. True. But there are a ton of flights to amazing cities within a 4 hour flight time around Manila. Cameroon had while we were there three flights that left each week to Europe. I know there are other hardships in Manila, this is true. It is worthy of the 20%. I would like to take a moment to compare the two.

Traffic and pollution is the number one thing people complain about here in Manila. Here is a shot of traffic and the pollution in Yaounde.


Here is a shot of Manila’s traffic and pollution. Please note the lack of people selling things on the street, the paved, well marked road and the fact that there are actual over passes (there is one in all of Yaounde), sidewalks, a metro system (We aren’t allowed to use it and for the size of the city is really isn’t so useful, but it’s there), and stop lights, something else that is lacking in Yaounde. In the back you can see the pollution. I will say it is worse here in Manila than it was in Yaounde. You can get a sense of the density of Manila. 111,000 people per square mile according to Wikipedia.


Here is where our housekeeper got our fruits and vegetables in Yaounde. After she returned home from this market she would have to wash all the food because they were covered in mud and most of them were grown using water from the “sewers”, then she would bleach them for 30 mins then rinses them for 30 mins then let them air dry.


Here is where I get my fruits and veggies in Manila- Power Plant Mall Rustan’s. I could buy almost everything organic and even organic bagged lettuce that’s been triple washed.


Here are a few butchers in Yaounde:


Yes, that is a monkey.



Here is a butcher in Manila:


Coffee shops in Yaounde were basically nonexistent. There was one that was on the main road from our house to the embassy. The parking was terrible, they played super loud terrible music, the seats were the cheapest things I’d ever seen and the food/coffee was terrible. Basically, it was not a place you’d want to sit and read or study.  Oh, you see a pizza shop there… just kidding that is the absolute worst “pizza” I’ve ever had and it costs an arm and a leg.


Manila has a Starbucks on every corner. We have one walking distances from our house. There are also Coffee Bean and Tea Leafs and Seattle’s Best and a hand full of other hipster places that are amazing. Here is my favorite Starbucks. It’s in The Fort, has a drive through, great free parking and the upstairs has a great view of the city. It’s quiet, peaceful and feels just like I’m sitting in a Starbucks at home.


Let’s talk about malls. My housekeeper in Yaounde had no idea what a mall was. Is that good or bad? You decide. Here is the Cameroonian equivalent to a mall, their Central Market.


Here is the inside of the market.


Here is the newest mall in Manila:


Here is the inside of that mall:


Here is where I bought my shoes for the Marine Ball while in Yaounde (Shoe Head Guy):


This is where I could have bought my shoes for the ball in Manila had I needed shoes then:


Here is where I bought my phone loads while in Yaounde:


Here is where I went to get my iPhone set up here in Manila:


Need a tool? Here is where we’d go in Yaounde:


Here is where I go in Manila (yes, that’s an ACE Hardware):


Fast food in Yaounde:


Fast Food Manila:


Need some new furniture? Here is where you would get some in Yaounde. Yes, those are on the side of the road on a “floor” that is held up by sticks that are stuck in the river.


Where you could buy furniture in Manila:


Our movie theater in Yaounde, yes this is our living room, there was not movie theater in Cameroon.


Here’s an ad for a new theater in Manila:


You’re tired of being stuck in the capital? You want to get out of the city? In Cameroon you can drive 175 miles for 5.5 hours on one of the most dangerous highway on the continent and get to Kribi, which is a nice beach where there is one ok “resort” that doesn’t have a website. This longer weekend would cost us around $1,200 for three or four nights.

If you are in Manila and have 5.5 hours to travel you can get to any of the following places:

All of SE Asia, amazing beaches and China. Plane tickets are from $30-$350 and you can find sick resorts for pretty cheap too. The travel is endless, cheap, safe and awesome. It is easy to get out of Manila by car and have a nice weekend away on the beach as well. See my Buri posts.

Ok, I think you get the point.The more I compare the more I feel like I’m putting down Yaounde. Which I’m not trying to do here, I’m just making some observations. We survived Cameroon. We are thankful for that. While we were there we made some of the best friends we will ever have. We made bonds that are made only when you rely on people the way we did in Yaounde. We knew how to have fun!



4 responses to “a look at two 20% hardship posts

  1. Having done a tour in Africa I completely get this! There’s hardship and then there’s hardship. Love the illustrated point-by-point comparison.

  2. This is excellent and so true.
    I remember my first post was in francophone Dakar with 15% hardship and people coming from anglophone more developed Accra (25%) had a huge surprise and commented it should have been the exact opposite.

  3. It seems like your perception of hardship is defined by how different a place is from home. I definitely agree that life in Africa is hard for Westerners but Cameroon offers an insight into this fascinating continent with a lot less difficulties than other countries. It’s sad that your family has had opportunities to experience “Africa light” and that you’ve chosen to spend your time complaining. Maybe you should spend that energy adapting to your new environment and trying to see the positive aspects of Yaoundé.

    • Hello Nathalie, thank you for your comment. I’m sorry you came away from reading this post as me complaining about Yaounde, if you read to the end the post I even commented on this feeling. The State Department’s official website defines a hardship post as “places in foreign areas where conditions of environment differ substantially from conditions of environment in the United States.” So, yes, my definition and the State Department’s definition of hardship is defined by how different a place is from home. Also, if you have read any of my other posts about Cameroon, you will see that we did enjoy our time there and the culture, most of the time without complaints. I am only responding to your comment because as expats, I think we should be building each other up and being sensitive to each other’s situations. There is no need to put me down via this outlet especially when you don’t know me. Please consider this as you make other comments on other people’s posts. Thank you.

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