Jam na? – networking cameroonian style

Starting a new job normally involves getting to know how things work and who calls the shots. Figuring out who does what – or knows what – is always critical to navigating uncharted waters and plotting a path towards workplace effectiveness. Getting to know the community is also a complicated task.

Now, getting introduced to both work and life in Maroua takes this necessity to a new level.

Whether you’re buying tomatoes, getting clothes made or looking to build monitoring and evaluation tools into HIV/AIDS programs – every move is made along paths bounded by relationships. For us, the nouveau arrivées, introductions are critical. Without them we don’t have a prayer – we can’t be effective at work and definitely can’t get good prices in the market!

Fortunately, Cameroonians and other VSO volunteers happily help us build the ties we’ll need if we’re to live and work here. So we’re spending a lot of time sitting down, engaged in what’s known here as bavardage – chatting.

It all starts by asking Jam na? –Is there peace with you?

After our introduction, a hardware vendor taught us about the complex manipulations of the Nigerian currency market.

Jam na?

The regional delegate for public health wanted to chat about what makes Montreal a great place for conferences.

Jam na?

An administrator for urban vaccination campaigns counseled us that putting Vick’s Vaporub up our noses would help guard against the waves of dust constantly drifting through town.

Jam na?

Finally, with the transportation delegate – Maroua’s master of all things that sputter and spark – we discussed the weather, tourism and enjoying each day that comes.

What did we learn from all our visits? Being seen, getting known, and letting relationships grow is key to working in this culture.

Taking the time now will help us – eventually – become effective at supporting our partners at work. It will – eventually – also help us use Nigeria’s currency fluctuations to our advantage in getting a good price on that ceiling fan!

Jam! – There is peace with me!

~ by Greg Spira on November 20, 2009.

3 Responses to “Jam na? – networking cameroonian style”

  1. Sounds like it’s a much less complicated, less jammed network system. If you’re lucky to know what you have to do and follow the rules of etiquette sounds like you’re in much more quickly. Jam !
    P.S. I like the mini language lessons.

  2. If “Jam ” means “I am at peace”, how do you say, “I am not at peace”. or ” They are at peace. ” Etc.

    • I’m not at peace would simply be “Walla” which means “Nothing”. And “Jam” is a generic response that would go for I, we or they. There are personal pronouns in Fulfulde but they’re not used in this ceremonial greeting.

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