Sunday, December 28, 2008
I hope your holidays are going well and that you got everything you wanted for Christmas. I want to give a shout out to Ethan and tlel him I hope he had a great birthday and to Lisa whose birthday is coming up on the 31st, I love you guys and I hope you had/have a great time.
So what does one do in Africa for Christmas well I'll tell You.
First off I havent been home for 3 weeks adn just arrived last night to enter my house and be lovingly greeted by my cat who in 3 weeks grew up and is now fisty and kills huge cockroaches! that's my girl.
For the first week I traveled through Yaounde picking up cool people as I went. I traveled with my friend Lisa from Batouri who has quickly risen to be my favorite person in country. She has boundless energy is always smiling and get super excited over very simple things. In short she keeps me from being down and makes it impossible not to have fun around her. We went to Bertoua and then Yaounde where I was able to go shopping at Landmark- the white man store (you can say that to the taxi drivers and they actually know what you are talking about). At landmark you can get exciting things like oreos, velvet mac n' cheese, brownie mix, smelly good candles, and where they actually played Christmas Carols. I also went to Pizza Roma and got a salad, liter of Sprite, and a mushroom pizza while lisa got a pizza and a vanilla shake! It was heaven.
We then headed for Kribi where we would stay about a week. Kribi is in the Francophone section of cameroon but it is a tourist location so there were a lot of white people there which was really odd. I was able to stay at a really nice hotel and breakfast and lunch was catered from the PC and they have been going there forever so they made french fries with every meal and actually put out Ketchup. The hotel was about a 2 second walk to the beach and there was a bar on the beach where the water actually laped just below the deck with tables. There were home made hammocks, cold beer, and gorgeous waves! It was really weird to see everyone again, mostly because it felt liek forever and also because you feel a bit guilty fo rnto keeping in touch! But honestly I was super happy to see them. I had a lot of really great discussions with a lot of peopel I really respect and I seriously enjoyed my time there. My counterpart was with me and he was quiet but seemed to be excited about the ideas we were generating and I hope that we can make some changes and be more proactive when school starts again next week. He's a good guy, even if I don't agree with some choices he makes in his personal life.
I also asked our Education Director if I could head a project where I consideated all the materials and lesson plans in the different subjects that have been working for people in order to give them to our counterparts as helpful guides and to future PCVs. I think thi sis a way for me to spread my ideas of using theater in the classroom while generating some great source material. I have also started a weekly newsletter that will include teaching ideas nas stories from Cameroon. So i hope that goes well.
In kribi we foudn this really great sandwich place that had fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese sandwiches and I ate there almost everyday. If you know me you know how I feel about sandwiches and i twas good to get my fix. Finally we went to the Limbe falls which is a group of waterfalls that is about 20 mintues away from Kribi it is the only plac ein the world where fresh water flows into the ocean. It's also really neat because the falls are in a cove and you can swim from one side of the beach across the ocean to another side. At first glance this seemed like an easy feat but after swimming agains the current I thought I was going to lose it for a second but my friend Fleurange was with me the whole time and made sure I was okay. Its really nice to have someone who is totally level headed around. We ended up figuring out the current and swimming really quickly back to shore so it was all good and I felt accomplished.
After kribi we went back to yaounde for a couple days and spent our time watching Christmas movies and shaking our packages while wondering what was inside. I also went and got Egg rolls at the chinese restaurant where they play R and B favorites! Oh Yaounde you are full of awesomeness.
Next we travled back to Bertoua and stayed there for Christmas. It was really nice and layed back. We prepared for Christmas day because we were spending Christmas in Djong (i spelled that wrong) or au village with our friend Reid. His family made us a big Cameroonian style dinner (he's living with a woman down there and her kids) and we drank palm wine and have a very interesting time. His village is beautiful and very quite and we stayed in a little house down the way from his thta only had a laterine and 4 bedrooms. It felt like a Camping Christmas because we were roughing it andwe didn thave a lot of amenities but it was definitly memorable.
We then motoed back the next day which is about an hour ride and my friend Lisa and I sung Christmas carols all the way to Bertoua. I'm not sure the driver appreciated it but I know know that Fa la la la la is the best song ever and I will never forget that ride. We then got back to Bertoua and made a lasagna with eggplant, and one wiht just cheese, salad (with home made salad dressing), mashed potatoes, stuffing (sioban got some sent from the states- i think i ate it all), green bean casserole (from scratch), sweet corn, glazed carrots, and brownies. It was an amazing meal and we made it a little under 2 and a half hours, we were really proud. We then opened our packages nad le tme say thank you a million times to my mom, chiggie, jaime and stephanie! Your packages made me so happy it hurt. I actually cried when I read Jaime and Stephanies letters! I've been downloading my new media since I got so much music and its making me really happy. I can't wait to read my new books and I am loving the crazy magazines. I also smell liek honeysuckle now which is a big improvement so thanks everyone!
I'll be sending New Years in Batouri so I can do some banking and hit the dance clubs. I guess they dont really go all out for christmas here but they really love new years so we'll see how it is. One thing that is weird is that its super hot now that its dry season and when we travled yesterday it was so dusty that when we got off the car my whole body had changed colors and I looked like I had been travelign on the Sahara, I guess I wasnt that far from it.
Favorite things about my vacation:
-Body Surfing in Kribi
-Wrestling in Dresses wiht my friend Fleurange and then hugging it out when we called a tie
-that my cat is still alive
-decorating the coz in Bertoua it looked like christmas
-opening my packages
-talking to my family
-my email from Chad
Love you all and miss you!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Yesterday was quite the experience for me. I woke up early to find that I was very happy. I was leaving in about a week for a tropical beach get away and I was going to see my friends for the first time in months. I decided to finish some work at the high school and whistled all the way to the school. I then came home to find out I had inadvertently put A Charlie Brown Christmas on my Ipod, which to my delight rang out proud and clear in my little house as I decorated it for Christmas. I found a huge leaf shaped like a tree and taped it up and then took silver rapping from the awesome cookies my mom sent me and made little Christmas decorations. I then scavenged for the right greenery to make a Christmas wreath. I even colored some pages in my Candyland coloring book and put up the peppermint man and the gingerbread man. I was feeling really good, even though a mist of rain kept disturbing the drying of my sheets outside. I knew in the afternoon I would be going to a funeral, but I had heard funerals in Africa were really like parties so I was thinking of it like a cultural observer and not really a person. The funeral was for my post mate’s counterpart whom she worked with everyday and who was an incredible man, he died suddenly and because there wasn’t the right medicine or medical care in the East and he was on his way to Yaounde when it was too late. He left behind two young kids, I teach the daughter at the Lycee and she is an incredible girl, one of the good ones. He also worked at the Catholic Misison so you can just tell this guy was good stuff.
Well I arrive to the house of the family and it seems that all of Ndelele was there. They had created a little courtyard with a trellis decorated by local plants and flowers and they had the white casket set underneath that. A large picture of the gentleman was set out and a sign that read in French: You will be able to go to the sky, after you are on the earth. (that’s the exact translation but I’m sure its more poetic). I recognized groups of my students from the Lycee, the mayor, the principal, all of the important people in town, and then the family sitting on the stoop of their house. Hundreds of people were standing including Rachel and I and they had marimbas playing and awkwardly jolly calypso type tune.
First they had a Catholic mass and then they had speakers. The son spoke in Kako so I didn’t understand but he was pretty composed and for being about 16 or 17 he seemed to be taking on the man of the family responsibility pretty seriously. Then the sister went up and in the fashion of Cameroon she recounted his last days. She told about how he kept telling everyone he would be back to work in a few days and it was just a passing sickness. Then about how he went to Bertoua and they told him they didn’t have the medication that he needed so he would have to go to Yaounde. At this time he was so weak he could barely travel, and the conditions here for travel are horrendous. He was in the car on the way to Yaounde when he died. As the sister was telling this story she was very animated and clear spoken, but as she got to the end she became very emotional. She knelt by the casket and started to talk to her brother asking where he had gone and why God would do this. She then became hysterical and had to be walked away from the casket. The principal then gave a short speech that sounded like a well known poem and everyone was invited to walk around the casket and say goodbye. I followed the crowd and was very surprised to see that it was an open casket. They have these little door type things on the top of the casket, like a Christmas advent calendar, and you could look in and see him. It was very disturbing and Rachel got very upset because we were not prepared to see that. At this point his daughter, whom I teach became very hysterical and her sobs were horrible. They seemed to go out over the crowd and touched everyone. The wife was too weak to help her daughter so her friends and the other English teacher from the Lycee tried to calm her down. You always read about people wailing and knashing their teeth, its one thing to read about it and another to see it. But in a way, I think it really said something about the quality of this man, that he could inspire such sadness.
Next they buried him in their family’s compound about 20 feet from the service. It wasn’t the choreographed burial that Americans have, there was a huge pile of dirt and they had to try and put the casket evenly into the ground with ropes. Then they put long cement slabs on top, I’m not sure why, and finally the dirt. Then we were invited to go to the Bar to eat and drink. The family stayed at their home completely numb. The night before everyone was invited to the Catholic Church for the wake, which consists of everyone singing and sleeping in the same room as the deceased. Overall, it was an intense experience and I can’t help feeling helpless and very worried for the family. He had a really good job and was the sole provider for the family so you have to worry about what they do next, especially with so much grief. As an American it is hard ot imagine someone dying so quickly from something that can be cured. This man grew up in the East, went to school in the east, spoke the padua and was proud of this province, but ultimately it was the lack of development in this province that killed him. It’s just sad and needless for a good man to die when the world had come so far in medicine. Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to read about let me know what you think.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
sorry its been so long, evidentially when things actually happen to me I have no time to write them down, so now that I’m back in my village I’m ready to write my narrative! I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving and ate tons and prayed or listened to Godspell songs if you were around my mom! All good gifts baby! Anyway, my thanksgiving was in Batouri where my friend had been raising turkeys just for the occasion. Has anyone ever seen a turkey in real life before, they are freakin huge and pretty scary if they charge you. I decided to forgo the meat again seeing as how we had looked each other in th e eye and bonded for three months before he was dinner. Anyway, my friend is the chief of the tobacco company in Batouri so he’s sort of a big wig and has all of the amenities, he even has a pool which I mentioned before! So I got to Batouri on Wednesday night to see everyone else in the East province and we met a the bar and ate some bean sandwiches and caught up. We are quite the site, all speaking English and scaring the locals with so many white people together at one time. On Thursday we went shopping in the market, I was incharge of the salad, deviled eggs, and helping make key lime dessert bars, I also insisted on a lot of stuffing. We then headed over to Bens where he has a gorgeous kitchen with a Refridgerator and tons of good booze like Scotch and cold soda and vodka and beer! I helped prepare the stuffing I helped with the turkeys a bit and made my deviled eggs which let me just say were phenomenal. I was in the kitchen for the better part of the day sweating my butt off most of the time. We also had a makeshift green bean dish sorta like a casserole! It was pretty great though because as the turkey cooked I got to drink a beer in pool in November . But like every holiday we had a couple of people have a huffy misunderstanding. Between all 20 of us at the house we used up 10,000 gallons of water swimming and taking hot waters and ended up drinking the really good wine that we were supposed to save. Some people got upset and it really felt like a holiday with people being all emotional. Anyway, the holiday was good and I think everyone had a good time.
On that Saturday we went to a big party at the tobacco company for their 10th anniversary. It was the best party I have been to in Cameroon. They had a live band from the Anglophone region called Daddy Black that was really good and great dancing and a lot of good scotch. I ended up opening the dancing with my friend Ben and then danced with everyone he asked me to including the man who sweeps the floors, the best driver, the best guard and then the drummer of the band who evidentally had a thing for me. I was a dancing fool, one of the guys even picked me up and swung me around- which let me tell you is not easy to do! I think my favorite thing about the ‘roon is the great time I have when I go dancing, they don’t seem to mind my crazy moves here and can keep up with anything I throw at them, it also helps that everyone I dance with tends to have a superior talent and make me look good. Either way it was a great party and I stayed out until 2:30am for the first time since I got here!
Well that’s all I have for now, I hope everyone is having a good December. Sing come carols for me, I seem to have forgotten to bring some. Christmas won’t be the same with out you guys but I am going to kribi to hang on the beach and see all of the Americans because we have our In Service Training! I can’t wait, I leave next Friday! Love you all
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
This was an interesting weekend, and by interesting I mean pretty freakin awesome! I had a really bad day on Thursday because it was the president’s anniversary of getting inaugurated the first time (he’s been president for like 20 odd years) but they decided to still have class because we were going to have a fete Wednesday night but the power went out so they figured the kids wouldn’t be tired so we’d have class. Well the kids were insane and I’ve never seen them so unruly it was like a mob not a class of students. Well I went home and had a few drinks because sometimes you need to relax after such a crappy day. Well I get a text message from my friend whose birthday was Friday the 7th. She said they were going to do a lot of fun things in Batouri and she wished I could be there. So, not having anything to do on Friday and being insane (because it would mean traveling for about 8 hours in crappy Cameroonian conditions to be in Batouri for a day) I decided to go. I left the next morning and gave my very silly present to Lisa. Then we made omelets and took a long bike ride into the forest where there is this amazing rock formation that is like a mountain. We climbed up it and you could see the whole countryside. It was very cool and really beautiful, I have pictures and one day I’ll try to upload them. Then we raced back to her house because we were trying to beat this storm and we were GOING SWIMMING. That’s right folks, swimming! We changed into our bathing suits and let me tell you that was a weird feeling because we dress so modestly here that I haven’t showed that much skin in a long time.
So there is this ex-pat and former volunteer named Ben who works for a Tobacco company in Batouri and he has this house that has an above ground pool with chorine and no creepy diseases and its amazing. We got to his house and met his pet monkey who was very friendly and enjoys climbing on people’s heads! Next, we made a whirl pool and swam for about an hour or so and it was awesome. I’m an Aquarius so I love to swim! Then Ben, who used to manage a ton of restaurants, made us this amazing pizza because he has an oven! We ate two kinds of pizza- with real cheese! It was an amazing day and we stayed up very late talking about all manner of things nad drinking good wine- from a bottle not a box! It was really great and Ben has had quite the life so it was fun to learn about that too. I left at 5:30am the next day because I had stuff to do in lele and unfortanuetly got a bit sick and I’m feeling a bit better now. I have had a fever since I got back but it broke last night as I was trying to sleep but was listening to this huge storm with the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard! Anyway, it was a great day.
Happy Birthday Lisa!
Monday, November 3, 2008
Blog: October 31st
Wow, have I got an update for you folks! It’s been one heck of a week and I am in very high spirits. Its funny how you realize how alike your parents you really are. For instance, I knew I had this big trip to go to the provincial capitol of Bertoua and meet up with the other volunteer of the east and talk about business, but some of the anticipation for weeks was the best part. I packed and unpacked my suitcase. I made a Halloween costume from scratch, and I got new clothes from the tailor. I even made travel tortillas for when we got hungry and saved my last pack of gum to share with the Americans who would appreciate it. My dad taught me that half of the fun of a vacation is looking forward to it and researching, so I did and it was great, except it turns out the actual meeting was just as fun as the planning, even more so! So here’s what we did.
I left Thursday morning with my postmate to Batouri where my close friends live (about 5 hours away). It’s rainy season so the roads are horrible, you wouldn’t think it was possible for a bus to get through some of these potholes (I’m not sure that’s what we can call them though because they are so massive- lets go with craters). Well one crater was so big that when we went through water actually came up through the floor of the car, which is pretty crazy! So we got into Batouri at a good time and I ate waffles, and homemade yogurt and a very cold Sprite. There is the Catholic mission who has a waffle maker and we always go there to eat, and I’ve never really seen anyone else in there, but I’ll tell you, its heaven. Next we went to the bank and finally picked up some more money so I could go shopping and buy exciting ‘white people food’ as the locals call it. I got food such as Ketchup, sweet corn, and laughing cow cheese. Then we had dinner at my friend Mattie’s house, we had Senegalese rice, which is sorta like rice with a tomatoey sauce. The next day we traveled to Bertoua and the road was a lot better. We had 5 people in the bus and we created quite the stir because people don’t see that many white people together everyday. Every baby in the car starred. We were also talking really loud in English like giddy school kids on a fieldtrip (which is sorta what we were). We even tracked our progress on my friend Mattie’s GPS (he personally designed a map for Cameron because there weren’t any existing ones that were cheap). Next, we arrived in Bertoua where we were staying at the Peace Corps Leader’s house, she is actually the girl that lived in my house and had my post before me so we had a lot to talk about. We came in and saw CNN on the television and got super excited, about television and American television no less. She also has Discovery channel so we watched animal shows for quite a while. Then, I was lead into the back room where in a huge pile I found 6 packages all for me. Christmas came early folks! I want to thank my mom, Jaime, Chiggie, and both my grandmas for sending me such great stuff! People laughed atme as I got teary looking at Jaime’s package and all my letters. I also ended up sharing a lot of food with people because there’s nothing like Americans to appreciate why ranch sauce or Starbursts are so good.
The next day was our meeting where we all give reports on what we are doing and discuss a possible project for the whole province to participate in. A lot of people wanted to go to the most remote village in the region and do a sort of workshop so we could teach about health and whatever else we could fit in. I proposed an idea where all the schools have there students create an artistic impression of how they view themselves and their local trips. I though we could pick a theme and then compile a book or a slideshow to show in the capitol as a representation and expression of who the East is. It’s a sort of undefined idea but I hope that we try it, I was the only one pushing an artisitic idea and people where a little hesitant but some people thought it was cool. Later that night I went to the market and shopped for our dinner which was for 16 people. I ended up making tacos with beans, Spanish rice, and tons of tortillas. The tortilla crew which I was a part of, worked for about an hour and twenty minutes and made about 60 tortillas or so, I was pretty proud of us! Then had our party for Halloween! My friend was a hick because she found overalls at the local Frippery (or goodwill sorta), one guy was a moto driver (taxis here are just motorcycles and the drivers all look like they are dressed up for winter because of the wind I guess, and they have numbers on their chest), three people decided to be beer girls for the beers (there are about 4 kinds you can get anywhere- Castel, 33 trente-trois, Mutzig, and Guiness). And of course there was me, I dressed up like an add for condoms. I made a shirt with the local brand of condoms- Prudence and made this huge graduation type hate that looked like the packaging. I figured since we are all out here to promote AIDS prevention, why not be blunt about it! It was pretty funny and I think I won the contest because everyone kept taking pictures of me. We then got changed and went out to the dance club. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a celebrity? Just be white and come to Africa! We showed up and they let us in for a discounted price and gave us two bottles of whiskey and played American music for almost 2 hours (which is pretty unheard of- but we out numbered the locals so I guess it was a smart call). We danced our buns off and I ended up dancing with one of the other volunteers friends who she works with and he was an amazing dancer. We salsaed and swing danced, and everyother type I can think of. It was a great night and not one I’ll forget soon. We ended up going home and talking and joking around until early morning.
The next day was another travel day and when I got back to Batouri I found out I had to stay for two more days for a teaching conference that no one told me about. I got to hang out with my friends for even more time and it was awesome. I ended up getting home Wednesday night carrying a ridiculously large bag full of my new treasures! I just set up my kitchen and it looks like I went to America and not Bertoua! I also spent last night eating tuna on crackers and having raviolis that I found at a ‘white man store” in Bertoua! The only problem with the trip was that its going to be really hard to get back into the working groove. It was great to speak English and be around people who get you! It defiantly didn’t help my French, but I’ve got time to get better and I’m surviving. I hope you are all well and are feeling optimistic about the upcoming election! Love you all and miss you!
Addition: So I got my cat, my very own little ball of joy. She’s super small and we are not sure is she should even be away from her mother yet, but the people that had her were not nice to her, it would seem that s got bleach poured on her, or she got into some bleach, and she’s so young she doesn’t eve make a meow song, instead its like a half meow. Anyway, last night we started to get to know each other and she ended up peeing on me and puking on me through out the night. I do not think we will continue to be bedfellows! She is super cute though and she keeps me company which is good. They don't say meow here when they are talking about cat noises, they say meeno- its pretty cute. Oh and I found a leech in my bathroom! Oh Africa!
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Greetings from the land of rain and more rain. Not that I mind it, but I guess if I decide to move to Seatle it won’t be much of a transition. Except there are paved roads there so you can actually get from point A to point B with out getting your feet and the back of your dress totally dirty, not htat I’m complaining mind you, I still find all of this adventurous. Give me another couple of months and I’ll start complaining like a real native! So I have some updates for you. This is my 7th or 8th week in Ndelele and I feel as if I’m starting to get the hang of it. This week was exam week, which is sorta the best for a teacher because you just play fun revision games and the kids actually care about learning because they are able to imagine an actual grade they have to give their parents. I’m starting to actually like teaching again, which I find a relief seeing as how I was going to kill someone if things kept going the way they were. My 5eme class which I have now deciphered has 108 students in it is actually my favorite. I know who the trouble makers are and they are the kids who are older and haven’t made it past the class yet, I’ve decided to use shame with them or just to give them some more respect so that they’ll see I recognize they are older but I’m still not going to let them give me crap.
This week was also Rural Women’s week! Talk about awkward. I had this big moo moo (totally not how you spell that) dress made that was pink and had the different plants that the different regions cultivate on it (all fabric or pagne here is totally busy- those crazy Christians on channel 23 would love the flash). It also has pictures of women with babies on their back and working these grinding machines they have here. I felt like a poser because I do not carry babies on my back, I don’t really eat the local plans (because maniac has no nutritional value and is the consistency of snot), and I don’t work in the fields. POSER! Anyway, I still went with Rachel and we ended up having to be in the presentation. We mouthed the songs we were supposed to know and we danced and ended up parading down the street of Ndelele. This was funny because it was a very simple song and I caught on fairly quickly, even though the words were in Koko. Well after a refrain you turn 3 times and bend down and then continue walking. Well when I joined in people started laughing and pointing and getting all around crazy! I guess if you are a crazy white girl and you are actually doing some passable French dance moves its funnyi I guess it’s the same when we hear a non native speaker try to speak English and we think its adorable. Anyway, rural women’s day was a success and people were very exicted to see me in native dress and all day people yelled ‘Bon fete’. The only problem is that I have no women friends in the village because getting to know women is super hard, especially because there aren’t any at the Lycee. For example, today I brought some Papaya to my tailor and her friends (or her husbands other wives, I haven’t figured out how exactly the family is set up) and I passed out the fruit and they continued to talk in kako and it was really awkward until I took some pictures of them and then left. Aww well small steps I guess. I do have one woman friend and she’s Anglophone and the directrice of the Bilingual school.
I started working at the Bilingual school last week and its totally the best thing I do here. I just show up and sing songs. This week we sang about the face and drew a face together. We are working our way down to the torso next week. Who’s excited? The kids are! They are so cute, none of them speak English because this is only the second year of the school and there are only 2 classes. The youngest kids are 4 and the oldest are 7 so it’s a pretty awesome crowd. Some of them only have little chalk boards to write on and I find myself thinking about little house on the prairie when I show up. I hope to increase my time there and start some theater exercises. The teachers give me complete reign of the classroom and anything I want to do (which doesn’t seem very organized, but they are tired and they don’t get a reprieve all day) so I play games and try and throw in some interesting things for them to learn English.
Now for the most frustrating part of this week, we had a ‘debate’ at the school Thursday about discipline. The sous prefet (big guy) came and watched viewed some posters and left, but here’s how the day went. The students stopped their studies at 12 and stood in the hot sun for an hour and a half. They had not gone home to eat yet. Then the sous prefet arrived and they sang the national anthem and then stood in the sun some more while he looked at posters. Then they sat down in the conference class room (which is just a bigger classroom with a tin roof and goat poo everywhere. There were 4 teachers who were giving the points of the debate and everyone was supposed to listen. Well it started raining, crazy loud rain where you couldn’t hear yourself think. We ended up waiting another 30 minutes so it would let up and we could hear the speeches. Then the teachers gave these ridiculous 10 page long speeches where they rambled about discipline and the problems of the school and how the students suck. Well I though this was a very important assembly and it was handled so poorly. The students weren’t listening because they weren’t being talked to they were being talked at. There was no participation or interesting activities or simple activities like asking the students questions. The teachers just droned on and on and on. Wow don’t give some of these guys a stage or you’ll be there to the end of time. So finally the speeches were done after an hour and a half and we opened the floor for questions. At this point it was 30 minutes after the actual school day and the students still hadn’t eaten. The kids asked some questions most of them about how the teachers were disciplined if they didn’t come to school or weren’t prepared or had relationships with the students (these questions made me laugh). I’ll tell you what though, the whole thing was totally frustrating. As someone that helped set up performances for the better part of my life and who understands how to get people interested in a topic, it hurt to watch. Later as the teachers were congratulating themselves I asked me head of department if I could give some suggests for the next time or be involved in the planning. I was obviously passionate about this and he listened to me when I gave some ideas and explained what I think the problems were. Then he condescendingly told me he would take my thoughts nto consideration and that they didn’t have a lot of time to plan and this is just how they do things here.
This is not what you tell a riled up volunteer that is here to make change, so now I’m determined to help the students. I have talked to 3 teachers about my thoughts so far and most people agree with me so I’m hoping I can change the program for the next time, if not to spare the students at least to make it worth their wile. The language thing is starting to get annoying though, because when I become passionate I am the worst at speaking in another language and it’s a lot easier to condesend me, and how I hate condescension! Anyway, I’m happy to report that I understood almost everything said during the debate and I no longer just nod my head to agree with people because I actually know what they are saying. All I need now is to be able to respond in kind.
Love you all, thanks for reading this, I know they tend to be long and ranty! Miss you all and love you.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Today is teacher appreciation day and it is a big deal in Ndelele. I don’t know why it’s a Sunday but not a lot of what they do here makes sense. So this morning we started the day with a ‘Marathon’ at least that’s how it was explained to me. All of the teachers were to meet at 6am at ‘the meeting place” yes, there is actually a place called the meeting place and people meet there even though it sorta in the middle of nowhere. Well I’m not a big one for completive running but I wanted to be part of the gang and at least represent the women seeing as how I’m the only female teacher. I was also quite inspired by miss Maryann Green and all of her running (if you are reading this I hope you are doing well and kickin some butt). So last night I have all of these dreams about running, and in one I’m stealing Tyler’s running shorts and Ethan’s shirt that is supposed turn your sweat to a cooling system or whatever- the ones he got from working at U of A. Anyway I’m all hyped and I get up at 5:30 and do some stretches and run to ‘the meeting place” and of course, as Cameroon will do, no one was there. I don’t know why I thought this would be different, maybe because it was a race and I didn’t want to miss the start. Anyway I stay there for about 30 minutes and the Chef shows up and then slowly a couple people come. After an hour and a half the proviseur (principal- I will call him proviseur from now on so keep up) he shows up on a Moto (of course he wouldn’t walk, or even run!) and he gets all upset because there are festivities all day and we need to be on time and where is everyone. I was glad he was as impatient as I was. Finally he calls a bunch of people, and my friend who has just come to say ‘go’ and write down who won, gets yelled at for not participating and has to run in a sweater and sandals. So it ends up that there are just 4 people running and it’s not a marathon, we are just running about a mile around the village (that’s how big the village is). We have a couple of media people there (but they are at everything and they know when the Chef coughs or sneezes because its probably news). The race starts and we run behind some guy on a moto who is blowing a whistle- I guess this was so that people would make way for us. 3 of us are jogging together pretty nicely but when we hit the last stretch, which is of course up hill they put the fire on and start running very fast. I’m proud of myself for not stopping, not being winded, and pacing my breathing, anyway I’m not that competitive. But then my friend with the sandals and sweater starts to gain on me and I have to leave him in the dust as I cross the finish line (which they have written in chalk on the dirt). I came in 3rd of 4 and 1st of the women, but I was the only woman so I guess I can’t be that proud. I also got interviewed and was very political by giving my comrades props and saying, “they challenge me in sports as well as in the classroom to be the best I can be.” People will love this!
Later there will be a parade where everyone is supposed to wear the same teacher’s day fabric (but it didn’t get sent to Ndelele so that won’t happen) Anyway if you know me you know I’m not into matching people (I made fun of ethan a lot when I heard him and Becky wore matching Easter clothes)- but any time I cannot stand out here is good! After the parade we will go to the stadium and there will be a football match and a handball match. I hope not ot have to play football because they are so serious about it here and I’m horrible, also I have twisted my ankle a couple of times and its starting to get pretty swollen. After that there will be a ‘balle” yeah that’s right, another name for fete is ball- like Cinderella. But really there will just be food and drinks and the party should last all night long. I asked about school the next day and my friend said that the proviseur will just change the start of school- he can do that, he’s the chef.
I find it very funny that the people here told me at that the fete would have a lot of Castel beer and legumes (veggies) I didn’t realize everyone knew my beer preference and that I’m a vegetarian! It’s pretty funny, but as long as I’m not eating monkey and drinking a cold beer the night seems like It’ll be really fun, maybe I’ll break out some of my famous dance moves. Sometimes I like to decide what beers my family would like the most here, I think dad would like Castel and ethan would like 33 and mom, she would hate them all, and chiggie would go for a Beauforts light, Tyler would hate them all but drink Fanta or Pomplemouse (grapefruit soda)or Grenadine (red soda) with wisky- you should come to Cameroon and see if I’m right! I love you all and miss you!
Continuation of the Fete of the Teachers!
So I ended up not going to the parade because the leader of it was supposed to call the white people and tell us that it had started, but he forgot to call and I had to lay low because my proviseur was a little upset- but it was a fete so no one really cares that much, and my friend Mattie from Batouri was in town so we had him as an excuse too. We then went to the dance party and here are my impressions:
First of all, I think it was Jane Austin meets Africa. Its very interesting because there is strict protocol here for everything. When the ‘grandes’ or people who have important positions in society arrive you have to greet them a certain way and say certain things. Well because we were at party and there were grandes around they invite the important people up to ‘open the dancing’. Of course because I am one of only about 8 women at the fete and I’m the new white woman they choose me as one of the couples. Turns out I am introduced last with the sous prefet- who is the big cheese in my village. He’s the top dog, and technically this means I’m the most important woman at the party- no pressure. Then we do some awkward slow dancing to some saxophone jazzy versions of bad r and b songs. Turns out the ‘opening of the dance’ is only about 30 seconds which suits me fine. At least I didn’t fall on my butt!
So next we are all served a round of beers and people get up and cut a rug. Now let me just say I expect everyone to be great dancers, but even the best dancer can not be brilliant for the 8 minute Cameroonian song. (do you know how long 8 minutes is when you are dancing?) The music here is like a mixture of a Salsa type and African drums. Its really easy to dance to and they are minimal on movement. Even the worst dancers would do great here because it doesn’t really take any skill.
Well, I hate to say it but this is sorta the first time I’ve been on stage in a while (because everyone is watching the white woman to see how she dances) so I am hamming it up. The best dancer there keeps stealing me from my partner and we are doing all these crazy turns and shimmying down and stuff. I guess lots of people formed a circle around us as we were dancing. It was really fun and really tiring but I totally loved it. This is where the Jane Austin stuff starts though. I get asked to dance and led out to dance by a number of my colleagues from the Lycee including the Proviseur. It was one of those- wait how many times has the white girl danced with so and so and does that mean she’s interested in so and so. I guess everyone was keeping tabs on my dance card. One guy in particular who has been paying a little of attention to me tried to dominate my dance card but I gave him a lecture on how American woman are independent and can handles themselves and I went and asked some new people to dance. Anyway, what ensued was a sort of pissing contest between a lot of my admirers in ndelele and it made me a little angry. I was there to have fun and people were more interested and showing off that they were dancing with the white woman instead of dancing with Elyse. It’s not very fun to be a symbol of something instead of a person. But, either way the night ended up fun and I defused a lot of the situations by hanging out with the happily married men and women or talking to the men that are old enough to be my grandfather and have no teeth. I wish there was a way to go on the radio and say “I’m not here for romance people so move along” Anyway love you all and miss you!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Today was a very good day. I woke up feeling not up to the craziness of teaching, because yesterday was the end of Ramadan and we got a day off (though I realized this after meeting some people in the market who were confused why I was dressed up for work). Its nice to have a surprise day off but it really screws up your week and your mindset. The next day to work is always a bummer. But yesterday I spoke with the two Anglophone teachers at their house and they seem very interested in my help and my ideas, though I think I overwhelmed them because I throw so much at them at once, they seemed a little confused. I guess if you are Anglophone it doesn’t mean you can understand American English, I guess it’s the same with me when I try to understand Cameroonian English- its very funny.
However, today my students were angels. I’m not sure if someone scared the life out of them or what happened but they were great. They were interested in the lesson and I varied the lesson and they were understanding things and motivated it felt like teaching mattered again. Then I taught an hour early in my 4eme class because they don’t have a professor before me and I used the idea of getting out of school early to make them behave. This lesson was productive but we are already totally behind. I also taught the kids how to do the I-love- you sign language and they keep doing it to me and I think they are raising their hands, its very annoying. But what can you do?
Something very interesting happened today though. I was out for my run- which was incredibly brutal because its been terribly hot all day- there’s nothing like Africa with no air conditioning, tin- roofs, and no air-flow to get you sweating! Anyway, I’m running down a particularly rural road which I run down often and this woman stops and starts doing this interesting hand gesture to me and muttering lot, so I take out my ear phones as I’m running past her and say Bon Soir, and she continues in sorta a daze and looks as if she is either blessing me, protecting herself from the white woman, or sending me courage and health on my run. She didn’t seem upset or scared so this leads me to believe that I’ve been blessed today, literally, which is sorta cool.
I’m sorta mad though because now as I’ve been running more my knees and my ankles are killing me, is my young body not as awesome as it used to be? C’est vrai!
So I’ve started using a new tactic in my English classes, I’ve started using a lot more French. I find that the kids are behaving themselves and very happy with me because I’ve relented, maybe we’ll get somewhere now.
Also, tonight my neighbor who I made tortillas pb and j sandwiches and popcorn for came over and gave me dinner- legumes (mixture of vegetables that has an interesting taste to it and looks like its made of grass) and plantains (these can taste like potatoes if boiled, sweet French fries if fried, and a mixture between a banana and potato of heated and that’s my favorite way and that’s how he made htem. It’s pretty exciting to not have to cook one night, but now I have to eat the veggies I bought this morning for breakfast or they’ll go bad. Anyway, this post is really random, I’m watching diamonds are forever as I type- Connery is a bit old in this movie- but at least they aren’t dressing him like an Asian.
Lov eyou all
Thanks for the emails from everyone- elyse
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Yesterday was Wednesday, which to me means two things. 1- Hump day and 2- Boring meeting day. Every Wednesday it seems the school calls these incredibly boring meetings which take up 5 hours and bore everyone to death. No one questions these meetings or challenges them, they just accept- like a dog with a collar. I guess it takes the new girl and some very interesting doodles on her paper to shake things up a bit. After teaching for four house (which doesn’t seem like a lot until you’ve been in a Cameroonian classroom when you are still figuring out how to discipline kids with out hitting them- everyone else’s method). My kids had deranged me insanely all day and I had to send some to the Discipline master which I hate doing because I know he beats them. Well I was already feeling the stress this week because I’ve been here a month and still haven’t made any significant friends except my post mate- Rachel’s- cat whom I was taking care of. Well Rachel returned on Wednesday and I knew I had to give the cat back. There was a light at the end of the tunnel though, I am going to Batouri to fill my gas tank for the weekend- and I am super excited. Well anyway, I was very stressed out and after the meeting started 40 minutes late I sat through the reading of what seemed like dozens of pieces of paper talking about different problems with the education system- the same problems we had all discussed last week with no solutions. Anyway, I’m doodling away and most of the teachers are watching or falling asleep when the Proviseur gets a phone call. This is no uncommon and he exits the meeting which he is running and talks for a while. While he is gone th eDisicpline master decides its time to humiliate me. Infront of everyone he starts telling me that my classes are too loud and I’m not trying and I’m not strong enough and I need to hit the kids. This is the first I’ve heard about this and he decides to yell at me infront of all my collegues. I try to tell him that I am having a competition in my classes where the students are in teams and they are given points for responses to questions so they are very involved in the lesson and often loud. This doesn’t seem to matter he is still angry.
So I am a bit upset but its all good, critizism even if it ocmes in a crappy package is still good and constructive. But then the meeting continues for another 2 hours and as I am planning a quiz for the next day and not even trying to listen because my French skills at this point are totally gone, I hear “Miss” and in French “are you paying attention this is all about me” Then the proviseur (principal) proceeds to echo the comments that he didn’t know the Discipline master had already yelled at me about. Except the proviseur has even less tact, I’m not even sure he knows the word. After a while I am in tears and trying to be cool and deal with the meeting. No one backs me up and no one lets me explain- if I could in French. So the meeting continues and now when I finally think its over- it turns out we have to all eat together and then get a beer. Well after a little cous cous I call it a night because I have to go get Rachel’s cat and give it to her.
So I walk home very upset and trying to not be overwhelmed. I get home and clal my very good friend Gloria who is an angel and she starts talking me off the ledge, when my neighbors arrive with the cat- they are holding it upside down by the tail. They tell me it got run over by a motorcycle. Wow- could the day get better?
Thankfully Rachel was totally nice about it and said it was okay and it happens (but she didn thave to see the body) I take a ridiculously long run so I don’t freak out. But when I get back- after being totally upset, I realize I have 10 texts from different people in Cameroon who care about me and are sending me their love and support. Then today I decide to tlak to the proviseur about his lack of tact and my new method of discipline and after having a very annoying discussion where I wasn’t understood or given a chance to speak, my friend the German teacher asked me what was a matter. And sometimes you just need a sympathetic ear.
We ended up talking for an hour about discipline and tact and my experiences and my new teacher status and pedagogy- all in friench! And it was awesome, I even cried which was totally embarrassing and he was really nice about it. Then I taught and it went a really well and the students were very nice to me even after I punished them, like nothing happened. Then I went to Rachel’s and had a great time talking about her trip to England and meeting her new cat (she brought one back to give to someone but decided to keep it). Then my neighbors came over (2 12 year old girls and their 5 little sisters) and we translated French songs to English and english songs to French for each other and talked for a long time. Then I went to the market and met a man on the street who talked with me a long time about various interesting things. I think it’s the first time I’ve had an actual interesting conversation with someone.
I realized that shitty things happen, but people are the same anywhere- they have your back and care about you, they just don’t know how to show it when you aren’t very well acquainted. I’m going to continue being myself and doing what I do and trying to understand the culture I know there are going to be some really crappy days- but even if I feel totally alone I’ve got friends all over the country, well the world that have my back and care, and sometimes you jus tneed a text message that says ‘screw it- when you come to Batouri this weekend we’ll go dancing” That’s what got me through today with a good outlook. I’m doing well everyone, even though shit happens. Love you all and miss you! Elyse
I wrote this a few days ago so I just wanted to update it and say that I went to Batouri and had a fabulous time! We made stuffed tomatoes adn went dancing and watched tons of The Office season 3. I'm really glad that only 5 hours away are some really great people that have my back I love you all and please don't worry about me, I"m having a great time and enjoying the challenges that every day brings.
Muah- Big hug
Monday, September 22, 2008
Today was hilarious because I decided to go for a run in between the crazy rain that' s been going on and I was running down the main road- where all these 18 wheelers come through every once and a while and I'm listening to Eye of the Tiger and I'm running up this crazy hill and I see these boys who have a puse - which is like a three wheeled cart they use to gather wood and then push back up to their house (the verb to push is congegated puse) anyway, the kids love to sit in the puse and roll down the hills- well I guess in my mind they can steer because I see them coming toward me and I think- hmm that's looks fun and I think- oh they'll move. But then they get closer and we do one of those- both going to the same way moves and of course I am about to get hit by this huge cart barreling down a hill and I decide to ditch it. I jump off the road into the ditch that is full of mud and I realize after I get back up that two of my colleagues from the school are taking a walk and see the whole thing. I'm sure it'll be the talk of the town tomorrow.
So I had a really good weekend because my friend decided he would take me around town to take pictures. Since he speaks Kako- the local language it was so much easier to meet people. We passed a house that had a monkey tied to a tree and we played with it a while. I have a video it was awesome, but then Will told me that they were going to eat the monkey. Which is really sad! I also went and saw where the Pygmies live and I met some of them. It was really awkward because it was obvious we were coming just to see them like they were an attraction and they treated us like royalty. It was really interesting. They use coke bottles as grave markers and they half dig them into the earth and they represent their lost children. One of the women explained this to me and I found it really interesting that they used old coke bottles. Here the glass bottles are a very serious item because you get money back for them and they reuse them- i assume it would be a sign respect to not turn in a bottle and use it for a grave marker.
I am trying to start a theatre or dramatics club at the Lycee but its really hard because things don't happen here fast. Everyone tells me to wait until school is underway (which it has been for 2 weeks) and they want me to be head of the English club instead! Well too bad they are going to use their imaginations if it kills them. We'll do theatre exercises in English!
The people are starting to warm to me I think- on Sunday I had tons of visitors to my house including my two 17 year old friends who come and take care of gross things like when the cat eats mice and brings them into my house or sweeping my porch. This friendship is a little odd but I have had extensive conversations about how they are my brothers and nothing else. then I have 4 young neighbors who show up and put on my bike helmet and touch all of my things- which is annoying and a little cute. Then I have some girls that come from the Lycee that ask for gifts and touch all of my things and dance to my music. These girls brought their baby brother who is probably 9 months old and he wasn't wearing any clothes. One of my big questions was answered when he started to pee in my house and it went everywhere. Lets just say I cleaned my floors a lot this weekend.
Well that' s all from me. My internet is becoming more reliable and with it my sanity is returning. I think its very interesting because I thought that I was goign to be battling the tough living conditions and different food- and that's hard and all but you can get used to anything. Right now its just hte lack of friends and an oppurtunity to have some fun that I'm missing. It'll all come with time but its hard not to be able to go out and get a beer after a long week!
Miss you and love you!
Happy Belated birthday to Sam and Tara!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Just wanted to let you know that I love you all tons and the fact that my internet connected tonight actually brought a tear to my eye I was so relieved. This is very funny because I was on the internet 10 days ago and some volunteers will only be on once a month, but when you go to crazy measures so that you won't be crazy isolated it really sucks when your region decides it doesnt want to give you the internet, but with a little prayer it seems like I'll be able to get it every week or two which is good.
Right now it is a little hard for me because I'm going through a big adjustment. I know I've said before that living in Ndelele is like living in Wikenberg or some passing throuhg village. I wanted to give you a visual so I actually looked at the layout of the town and realized its about as big as the U of A Campus. It's really spread out so htat's why, there are definetly not as many things as the campus has. My walk to school from my house is about as far as Centennial Hall ot the Administration Building and my walk to the restaurant Amadus (where the y sell omlets and beans daily) is liek from Centennial Hall to University Street. Baturi (the big city where the other volunteers are) is like west phx but just takes 3 times longer to get there because of the crappy roads adn cars.
somethings that you might find interesting:
The people of Ndelele are getting used to seein gme running and are now telling me I look beautiful when I run- which is weird but whatever
Small children are now visiting me and I'm not really sure how to entertain them. They do however always end up eating all of my bananas, which I normally have about 4 of for random snacks- little vultures
I put up those Gap adds of Aaron Eckhardt and Jeremy Bivens on my wall and they are a nice complimetn to the three maps and pictures of the beach I have posted with random pictures of everyoen I love as well.
In a hilarious moment when those kids were at my house they were looking at my pictures and one runs over with a picture of me and Chad and he says, "C'est Chuck Norris." Oh man I fell over laughing. Evidentally I'm best friends with walker Texas Ranger.
I went to a big fete for literacy recently and I got to dance with everyone and I made friends with a Japonese Nun- it was a very bizarre day.
Rachel's cat, who i'm cat sitting, likes to bring me little lizards and mice as presents which is weird and relaly odd when they are still moving. I've stopped being so freaked out when I see it though.
I am slightly obsessed with the Office and have watched all the seasons except for half of the seond and half of the third, but i think they are hilarious and watch the 4th season over and over- I am so happy for Jim and Pam!
I think that's all for now,
I will write a longer more comprehensive blog soon now that I knwo the internet will work every once an da while. Don't forget me and know I totally dig you guys!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I'm officially in my house, in my new village where I will live for the next two years. It was quite a trip trying to get here because its been really rainy (go figure, its the rainy season) and I had tons of stuff. I had a mattress, 5 bags, a bike, and a trunk. We had a car hired for all the people going East which was awesome, but then when we got to Batouri we were on our own! I ended up staying in the big city (reminds me of Tucson- where as Bertoua (the provincial Capital) is sorta like Glendale). I live in Surprise before anyone ever moved there or had heard about it. Or maybe I live in Wikenburg- that's probably more applicable.
Anyway I finally got on my car for Ndelele yesterday afternoon and the Chef of th eAlliance Voyage (the car that takes me to Ndelele from Batouri) is super nice and helped me a lot. But unfortunately our car broke down and after a lot of yelling we were told we were going ot have to go back to Batouri afte we were half way. so our car turns around and drives for 10 minutes and then all of a sudden it turns around again and heads for ndelele, I dont know why they decided it would be okay but we ended up getting there. Unfornuntatly it started raining and I was sitting by the window, where there was no windwo pane and I ended up getting soaked wiht my computer bag under all my clothes- I took one for my electronics.
I got here and 4 boys helped me with my luggage to my house and all I had to say was I was the replacement for Miss Kate and they knew where I lived and everything about me. They found my house, which I couldnt have done in th edark and the rain, where I showed up holding my flip flops- totally soaked. We got all my stuff inside and I paid them for their help and started moving in. I was smart enough to buy dinner so I ate a sandwich and started setting up my place while watching the Office.
This morning I met my post mate- Rachel, who is super awesome and really nice. She brought me breakfast and we went to th eMarche where I bought some necessities. Then we met the Mayor and paid him because he's my land lord. I then spent a large portion of the day arranging my 4 things of furniture in various configurations and learned what lived behind those pieces of furniture. I met my friend MR. Mouse and we chased each other around while I killed more Spiders than I have ever seen in one place. I dont have a lot to complain about though, my place is really clean and I probably woundt have met these creatures so soon if I hadn't moved my furniture.
I really like my house, its small enough that I wont feel lonely adn big enough that its comfortable. Some things that are trerribly amusing is that I get my water for my house from a well in my compound. Now I'm talking, freaking bucket on the end of a string- Jack and Jill shit. It's awesome, until the bucket fell in and I was told I could tell any child adn they would climb down the well adn get the bucket! Haven't they watched CNN- Child in the well is a classic tragedy, anyway I guess they are adept at this so I'll trust them.
I also went for a run today and got stared at liek I was wearing a Mouse costume or my hair was on fire. Evidentally a woman running is super impressive and odd. I'm glad I can give them excitment. I also had kids running with me but I"m glad to say that I smoked them. Though it might be because they are malnuritied and wearing flip flops.
I'm super excited to make all of my own food now. Today I made sandwiches adn found carrots and ate them with the ranch sauce mom sent me. It was delicious! Rachel and I also made veggie fajitas tonight and it was more nutrition that I could handle! I think I am raring up for a new bucket bath so I shall depart but Its good to know my internet works here as long as I have reso, so you'll be hearing from me!
love you all and miss you like woah!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
So there is this game that the kids play in Bangangte, I’ve titled it le mot dernier I’ll leave you to translate that. Its where the kids says Bonjour and then you say Bonjour (or Bon soir if the kids is confused about the time) and the kid continues saying Bonjour as you reply. I, unlike most stagaires, am focused on winning and making sure these kids do not get le mot dernier. Yesterday I walked down a whole street exchanging greetings as the child ran after me. I was bested! Evidently, if you grew up in a town where le mot dernier is the only thing to do, then you have more practice than a stubborn white girl. Did I mention the kid that I was doing battle with was probably 3, does that say anything about me?
Other updates- model school is over and my club de danse performs today, I get to dance on the side in the front because our girls asked because they are scared they’ll mess up! Well who says I wont mess up- its also the first time the other stagaires will see me dance which is not exciting for me- especially because my sports bra is still drying (too much info?). I am all about performing but I’m not totally confident at this point so I’m a little worried, but its all in fun and the girls are around 9-11 years old so the bar isn’t too high. There is one super ridiculous thing that me and Connie the other stagaire that essentially fixed the dance and made most of it and taught most of it- while I supported her, anyway while we were choreographing I encouraged her to add a ‘drop it like its hot’ move. If you know what this is the thought of a bunch of pre-teen Africans doing it will probably make you laugh or disappointed in me- but let me tell you, these kids are dancing sexy at much younger ages here. I think that if we didn’t add some sexy moves they would be disappointed, It’s also true that half of them came to model school to get a husband so what can you do- just go with the flow, I’ll help them developmentally when I get to my post, during stage I’m just learning the way of the locals.
In an exciting tidbit- I received 3 packages from my mother recently and it was like Christmas. I’ve never been so happy to see Frosted Mini wheats, shock tarts, and mac and cheese. I almost cried it was so exciting, it was the best Swearing In present. I also received a post card from Staci- I hope she is reading my blog because it made me so happy and it was so unexpected! You rock!
In other news, evidently if you want to be a teacher here you have to be a math wizard because nothing is computerized. I have spent the week calculating averages and weighting grades and stamping papers so they look official. I’m glad I have the practice though because my papers look like the white out monster attacked them- wow deleting a document and adding new numbers is so much more efficient than making friends with white out. I’ll try not to complain about the computerized public school systems in the US ever again, I have no problem sitting in front of a computer and inputting grades- bring it on!
Last night I had the best meal I have had in Cameroon. Lets talk food- Normally because my mother here has recognized that I am turning veggie and I’m super scared of their fish, she gives me veggies or cous cous with crazy sauce. Well last night we had company and they made spaghetti with fried eggs and peimont (red peppery stuff) and it tasted like pad tai or asian noodles. I ate so much that I was up all night trying not to die. My stomache has shrank quite a bit and I ate 3 bowls of this stuff. My family kept commenting that they’d never seen me eat so much and all of these crazy things! I’m not sure how it rivals the awesome sandwiches I have been making but I’ll tell you what- I’ll be making this at post, and I might add a bit of peanut sauce!
Sunday, August 3, 2008
You have to love Africa on Sunday morning. Everyone is going to church and they are all in their best clothes and the kids take off their shirts with the holes in them and their broken shoes and wear their one nice outfit and they all go to church. Somehow they all sit for 3 hours and listen to a very long sermon and sing and dance their hearts out. And me, I get up early and I go for a run. Often in the mornings it is lightly raining and I put on my trail running Nikes and I take off. I run to the football field which is really just a dirt clearing and I run laps and then I run up and down the hilly paved roads of Bangangte. It’s crazy because the people here all look in wonder, some look at my shoes and say in confirmation, “tu fais le sport?” “You are doing the sports?” They really like to point out the obvious here it sorta cracks me up and sometimes it makes me really annoyed. For instance, last week when I was washing my clothes my host cousin who has been living with us for a few weeks sat down and watched me and even took a picture of me saying, “Tu laves” yes I wash, its pretty amazing to see a white woman doing work I guess.
Anyway this morning was fabulous because I think I got some of my frustration out by taking my run. Its also great because the power and water are back on. Yesterday I used all of my computer battery on writing lesson plans and the final exam for the 6eme class I’m teaching but I really wanted to watch episodes of Alias. Have you seen that show? It’s awesome and I didn’t even like Jennifer Garner, but I do now! Go check it out, the pilot is amazing. Anyway, yesterday was also pretty sweet because I had my final test in French which determines if I am qualified to be a volunteer or if I have to stay behind for two weeks for more training (this would suck because I’d have no down time to move into my house before school starts and I wouldn’t be able to go to the cool parties we are going to have after swearing in). But my test went pretty well and I’m pretty sure I’ll go up one level and be able to move to my site with everyone else. Then later on Saturday we made chicken and onion rings! Oh yeah. I’ve taken to being one of the top chefs here in Bangangte because I like to feel useful. Also I’ve really stopped drinking a lot here and since most people are drinking beer and chit chatting during our Saturday soirees I feel like I am more useful in the kitchen. So I took over the onion ring duties and by the end of the night I was saturated with the onion smell, all of my clothes reeked of onions, but let me say- they were delicious. Another interesting change that I have encountered is that I think I’m going vegetarian. I’ve said this before but I thought back on it and I haven’t had a piece of meat (with the exception of 1 piece of chicken 4 weeks ago and maybe a piece or two of ham on a pizza I split with someone) for about 2 months. Yesterday we paid two local kids to kill 5 chickens for us and piece them and help us get them to unrecognizable pieces that we could eat. Let me just say- if you were there you wouldn’t eat it either. I have a picture and I’ll try to upload it and you can decide if you can identify the different body parts of our former farm friends.
So this week was a bit hard because we all received our instructions to go to site because we only have three weeks left of stage. Here’s what that means. In three weeks I say goodbye to the best friends I’ve made here who are going to Adamowa (the northern center province) and the North West ( on the coast of Africa- couldn’t be farther than me) and the the Extreme North (By Chad and in the hot section of Cameroon). Evidentally I thought it was a good idea to make friends with people who I will never see again. I feel like the last 6 months of my life have been spent saying good bye to people, and I get to do it again. Also, I’ve come to really love stage, and bangangte, and I have found a routine here that I love. I really enjoy teaching at the Model school and my host family, though sometimes loud and insane, are truly supportive and the most chill of all the host families. I am going to be very sad to say good bye to this part of my PC life. Also, I have much trepidation about my site, but I finally got the number to my post mate so I hope to ask her a ton of questions so my transition will be easier. It is going to be a little shocking to move to such a small town where Rachel and I are the only white people who speak English. We just had a meeting on diversity where we talked about how you don’t think you are diverse when you are a white female in America, but here I make up about .01% of the population. But I am trying not to dwell on the things I can’t control so I have created a list of things I’m excited about at my post:
1. Cooking for myself finally
2. Planting a garden
3. Having my own house with no roommates!
4. Really being immersed in French
5. I stole a ton of movies from my friends who burned them on their computer so I have those to watch.
6. I have internet on my computer now so I know I can be in touch with the people I love anytime
7. Reading! I plan on reading tons of books
8. Writing a play or two
9. Teaching at my new school and starting a theater club
10. Going to Batouri for Thanksgiving
Well that’s a far as I got, but it’s all good stuff to look forward to. If you want to get on Aim and chat for a while because you don’t have money for a phone card email me and let me know what day and time are good- remember it’s an 8 hour difference, but I really want to chat with you kids. I love you all I will write again soon!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
When you go to post and can't speak to everyone you come back with a new passion for learning french, for me its a bit of an obsession. I write new words on my hand and try to use them during the day and last night I had a crazy dream about a waterpark where one ride would kill you and the only way to live is to eat haricots- which is beans in french, so I dreamed one french word. Do you think I'm on the way to being fluent?
Before I go any farther I want to wish my mom a happy birthday or bonne anniversaire! I love you and if there were things worth buying in my small african town I would buy you some!
I digress... people keep telling me that my blogs scare the crap out of them - interesting tidbit the word for toad in french is crapeau or crapo it still makes me laugh- so I have decided to make an whole entry where I make you smile and envy africa.
Africa is not only tons colder than Arizona it also has amazing clouds and weather. Ive actually been wearing a hoodie the past few days.
After my time traveling I have no problem climbing out of a bus window running into the bushes and peeing- who among you can say that and still have dry feet?
I am now excited by the similest of things like the fact that our curfew is extended til 9 pm tonight instead of 7pm- its like christmas, the word for distrubing the class is deranging in french and for some reason it cracks me up and people say it all the time, yesterday i came home to my whole host family dancing in the living room to cameroonian music including the father mother aunts uncles cousins qnd kids- over 20 people. They then switched it to cElion Dion- this country is insane.
I dont watch tv almost at all here and i read a huge amount, im actually attempting to read a Cameroonian play in French Right now the title translates to: the sorrowful wedding party.
I just received my pooh bear stuffed animal in the mail from my mom and my happy level went up twelve points! I started a Firefly club and we watch episodes and last night we made mac and cheese- a sad first effort but we will use more seasoning next time.
I know have to go lesson plan for next week because I will be teaching 6eme or the equivalent of 6th grade here I hqve about 60 students and Im teaching them for two hours a day starting monday! Im exciting to give it a go but discipline here is a real problem so I working on my scary face. I'm off the clean my clothes in a bucket and to hang them up before the sun hides again. love you all, love the emails! Send me more news on the electrions and any news you want to share. How was the batman movie?
Sunday, July 13, 2008
So it turns out that everyone gets really freaked out on site visit and doesnt know what to do! My site visit was horrendously memorable. Where to start... Well we left Bangangte on Wednesday and ended up staying in Yaounde on Wednesday night. The case (said like cause) is this frat-like house in Yaounde that has a kitchen and a punch of hostel type rooms with beds, adn the best part is that it has hot water for showers adn a washer and dryer! Who is jealous? So while we were there we ate pizza and I had a hamburger (no one is sure of the meat but it was delicious). We also ate lots of french frys. Then on Thursday we gotup crazy early and went to Bertoua (the provincial capital of the East) This trip was on a bus which should hold 18 people but held about 30 and it was horribly hot and with the delays adn the stoppign it took about 6 hours to go 250 KM (thankfully the road there is actually paved). Then we stayed in Bertoua with a local volunteer and had a coupel of drinks at the bar adn saw the bigger townt that will be about 5-10 hours away from us dependign on travel conditions. Then we got up super early again and took the car to Batouri the town which is pretty big where my friends Lisa and Trevor will be posted. We had lunch there (2 oefs for me and some fufu or cous cous for my counterpart- I was travleing with the Censeur or Vice Principal of my school).
After Batouri we finally left again at 3pm and a drive that is only 100KM that shoudl take no more than 2 hours took 7 hours because the roads were so bad and the car kept breaking down. You know its bad when people have to run behind a car to get it to start adn that when they lift the hood it billows smoke regularly. I'll never complain on car trips int eh States again!
Finally we got into Ndelele my new home for the next two years and let me just say I was a bit freaked out. There is one main road and 1 hotel, 1 radio station, adn about 50 houses. Its a town of 5000 adn looks liek a ghost town. I ended up meeting the Proviseur who many people tell me that he likes to abuse his position adn make the studetns sleep with him! Of course we are all disgusted but here that is pretty normal. So knowing that it was very odd to share a beer with the man. I think I already made some mistakes while at my post (even though I was there for only 14 hours) I told them I'm not a vegetarian and they got super excited which means I will be given creepy bush meat for the next couple of years.
Some good things about my post are that my house is very cute and slightly small but I'm in a very small compound with 3 neighbors who will evidentally take care of me. There is a local nurse who lives next to me and a primary school teacher. My kitchen is outside of my house which is sort of odd but I think because I have two bedrooms I might just make one into the kitchen seeing as how I have no running water so I'll just put a table in there and my gas powered two burner stove. Teh other good thing is that it comes with a kitchen table and chairs, a couch, a book shelf, and a bed! These are all great things because moving stuff in Cameroon as you can imagine will be insane.
So I'm happy about my house, I am totally freaked out about how small my town is thruogh. I asked what kind of foods are good there and evidentally Mangos during the season are everywhere adn you can always get fresh pineapple. Also you can get plaintains adn coco yams all the time but no pototatoes. It sounds like the soil is really furtile thought so I guess I'm trying my hand at a vegetable garden so I can get some good things in my diet. Anyway, I'm feeling better about my life and sorry to Dad who called me when I was staying in Ndelele when I was sort of freaked out. I'm better now and lookign to all the oppurtunities that the village has.
Lastly, After walking around Ndelele and seeing my house and my school- that is a whole nother description. I went to the gandarms (police barracade at the end of the village- a 3 minute walk) and waited to hitch a ride back to Batouri to spend the night at Matty's house- the heath volunteer who has been here for 8 months. I ended up getting a ride in a Semi Truck which was hauling huge trees that looked liek old red-woods. It was a very odd ride because we picked up a chicken on the way and I had to hold him between my feet! However, I foudn out that the ride in a semi took only 2 hours because it blasts through the horrible divits in the road with its huge engine, and it doesnt have to stop every other minute to let someone off or pick someoen up.
When I got to Batouri the volunteers talked me off my ledge and we made fetticini and drank wine and I stole all of Matty's music and put it on my ipod. After the power went out we sat around chattign for some time adn then we got up super early again and traveled for 12 hours today. I am not in Yaounde adn we leave tomorrow to go hoem to Bangangte~ Wow I didnt think I'd be so happy to go home, but I'm super tired adn want my own space for a while. The good thigns is that I"ll have clean clothes because I'm washing them now in the electric washer!!!
The last thing I want to recount is how we looked when we finally walked into the Case at 10pm tonight. First of all the roads from Batouri are nto paved adn we sat by the windows in the car so I had a layer of red dust all over me. It looked like we all had the worst tans every and had aged 4 years. It was so bad that when I touched my face my hand came away covered in dust. It took a good 15 minute shower to get it all off adn I am still discolored in places. Oh the East! This is going to be an adventure!
Monday, July 7, 2008
Some other things I learned today that were unsettling were the following:
1 many counterparts thought that we were going to invest our own money into the village and that we were bringing a lot of financial backing with us, I dispelled this rumor by explaining my debt after I laughed a long time, then I was chastized for not speaking French and talking too fast
2 When told we couldnt use corpral punishment a counterpart leaned over to my friend joe and said "sometimes you will want to punch the kids, and you are able to do that, but we dont hit to kill." Oh good, im glad they have priorities
3 We are only supposed to teach 12-18 hours a week because it will take us double that time to prep and to grade hundreds of papers, but the counterparts got very mad because I guess we are the only english teachers at a lot of schools for instance my town only has 1500 people in it and our school only has 500 kids so i think im the only teacher, but they didnt understand that xe have other goals as pc members like creating girls groups, teaching about AIDS, and creating theatre groups - well maybe just me with that one. So we have a lot of responsibibilites and teaching cant be the sole one.
4. They think we might be spies from the US to which I reply in teh Following with my espionage goals for Cameroon:
1 Take all the information from the Pygmies and train Star Wars like foot soldiers to swing from trees and attack enemies
2 Catch all infected mosquitos in Cameroon and release them in our enemies locker rooms or gentlemans clubs
3 Buy all the 3rd world country piece of crap pens and switch them with our enemies quality bics so that we dry up their ideas
4 Learn Pidgin English -essentially ebonics- and teqch to yound children in Americq iso the man can continue keeping the less fortunate down
5 Steal all of the monkeys and send them into space to travel or do our bidding
Thats why the peace corps would send spies to Cameroon because of all their useful information!
Something really good that I learned today:
My counterpart studied in Scotland and speaks fluent English
HE loves theatre and wants to create a group with performances- this is why i think I was sent here
HE has written 2 books and he wants me to read them
He has 4 kids and took in 2 more becaus they didnt have the means for education
He doesnt seem overly religious and he is supportive
So these are all good things!
Love you all- Send me some news!
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
love you all and miss you-et
I’m in my room right now working on my Scheme of Work- or weekly lesson plans for the upcoming model school . I’m working with my friend Matt on the 5eme (Cinqieme- or the equivalent of a junior high class ). Let me set the scene for you so you can picture me here in Cameroon. I am listening to my ipod on which is plugged into my speakers and its playing softly as I work. It has to be soft so my little sisters and brothers don’t run in here and start dancing- even if it would be to the likes of Damien Rice- not the shake your groove things I think they want. I’m munching on my 12th cookie of the day- no joke! I eat so many bisquits here I think I’m going to turn into the Cookie Monster and then my Sesame Street friends will have to have an intervention and I’ll become the Legume Monstre! For dinner I had some rice and this sauce de tomate- which is really just tomatoes some spices and half a fish- hot. However, this is one of my favorite thigns because I can just eat rice with a little of this sauce and if the power goes out my family won’t notice that I’m not eating the fish that they have prepared for me. I’m still working on not gagging when I find little bones or ‘spears’ as I call them, but I think they are little fish tusks that get caught in the body while you are eating. On my desk is a bottle of Tangui- also known as the bottled water here that keeps us from getting sick on the local water- even though I’m filtering mine now and that seems to be going well. I also have my glass of Cameroonian red wine I’m working because today has been a long day. Next to me sits my cell phone that might be the most unused things I own. I only have to plug it in on Sundays because I never use the battery – except for the occasional text from my friends here who want to know if my power is off or my water is off or what I had for dinner. Also on my desk are- millions of books about French and English teaching, hand sanitizer-almost out, flaws, my measuring cups that I use to keep my bobbie pins in and my American pen which makes me the envy of all the students.
Today was a rough day and I’m glad I’m getting to journal about it because I think I need to decompress. We had no language class today, though I did do some tutoring with my fearsome Cameroonian counterpart Sonya! Today was 8 hours of knowledge about HIV and AIDS or VIH and SIDA (the French equivalent). I ended the day with a testimonial from two Cameroonians who are living with the disease. Talk about intense~ The testimonials really took it out of everyone- but I don’t think they were what I was expecting. The first gentleman was about 30 or so and had 7 children and was the principal of a high school. His story started when he started getting petit maladies (little sicknesses) and he kept being away from the school. Well he was in the hospital once and his boss came and had them run an AIDS test behind his back and found out that it was positive. Then the newspaper got ahold of the news and everyone in his town and area knew about his illness- except he did not know. He got fired from his job and people started treating him different and they wouldn’t touch him or shake his hand. Finally someone came over and asked if he was the man in the paper and he finally read the article that told him he had AIDS- he didn’t even know after the whole village had. His mother and whole family abandoned him and his wife died soon after and his 18 year old son blamed him for her death. The village gave up on his children because they assumed they were ‘as good as dead’ though they were tested and they weren’t infected. Though he did have triplet girls who were 9 months old when their mother died. He can’t get work and now travels from place to place doing testimonials because there is no risk for him because everyone already knows about his disease because it is so publicized. He lost all of his friends and his family still won’t speak to him. However, he has an amazing amount of strength and smiled the whole time he was very religious and kept talking about how this was his cross to bear, though he didn’t know how he contracted it. He thought it might be because his grandma used the same knife to cut out the chiggers from the local kids feet, or the dirty knife that was used during scarification (a tribal practice much like tattooing where they make scars to symbolizing things).
The woman who testified told us that her husband was from yaounde (the political capital) and she should have known he was a cheater. He slept with many women and infected her but she forgave him soon after he died and she found out. She had 3 children and they all crowded around her and her son who was 6 went to school and ended up getting into a fight with another kid because he was defending his mother when other children were calling her names. The woman was a hair dresser but all of her clients left here and her whole family disowned her when she was diagnosed, they called her a prostitute and told her it was her fault.
The stigma here is insane and people get called prostitutes or they are thought to have offended God and that is how they got the disease. Others believe the white man brought the disease to Africa to sell condoms! There are so many problems that seem so odd and foreign to me. For instance, it is very common for a very old man to pay a very young her for sex and he becomes her ‘sugardaddy’ and many girls do this because they need someone to pay their school fees. Oftentimes the man has many STIs and ends up infecting the girl who was probably a virgin.
I know that this will definetly be one of my focuses while I’m here and I hope to make a womans group where we can talk about these issues.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
So here is the news I have been made the leader of the education group which really means they tell me things first and then i circulate the news and that i have more responsibility. Unfortunately there are no perks like the first to get the good cut of meat or anything like that, but what can you do. Also last Saturday we had a potluck and I made Bruchetta which was delicious with all fresh ingredients, and I helped make this amazing salsa that we at with tortilla chips that we made, they sorta tasted like indian frybread but what can you do? Connie my friend from Austin made banana pancakes and they were devine and Doug from TX made breakfast burritos oh man, along with a few whiskey sachets- whiskey sold in a plastic bag- life was good. Another development is that my youngest siblings are on vacation visiting family for the next week which really sucks because they are who I relate to and they seem to understand me best. Also, my father who is a school principal is having all of the big wigs over tomorrow night for a big dinner and its going to be really awkward because my language is so bad and i offered to help cook, little did i know there were 38 of them- anyone want to help? I openned garlic for about an hour last night!
A note on my mental health: So i guess we are now in stage two of culture shock, stage one is where you are totally jazzed about everything and so excited to do and see anything different, now stage 2 is where you notice all the differences and get frustrated. Here are the things i am frustrated about:
not understanding the language or being understood
the food oh my the food
the mud- its everywhere and constant
living with a family with very little alone time
showering with my new friends- the many bugs that inhabit the bathroom
not being able to pick up the phone and talk to people
No news- no paper that isnt run by the government and very little american news- i should have bought a short wave radio
no internet- well very little of it
no candy- i freaking love candy
okay i think those are my biggest grips and dont get me wrong i totally love what im doing and love the people, but i guess the novelty is beginning to wear off a bit. However it is good to note that im starting to type faster on this french computer, that im beginning to not flinch when a fish head is put before me, that the mud is a companion and not an enemy, that sometimes the internet is running crazy fast like today, and sometimes you get to eat tortilla chips that took 3 hours to make.
Also yesterday I watched Jurassic Park with some friends- Cameroonian and American and it was awesome, then i ate dinner that consisted of cous cous -or foo foo- and a sauce that looked and had the consistency of snot- ahh Cameroon.
One more observation- the bathroom at the Lycee Technique -the high school we have our classes at- has quite the myrid of critters living in it, and when you have sometime in it, which i do often because all the food/drink here does not play well with my stomache, you get to play a game of name the bugs. Here is the low down- under the sink is a huge spider that has caught a big fly and he still hasn't eaten it after 2 weeks, i find myself wondering why. Next, there is a huge wasps nest, yet no wasps, where are those darn things, also there is a gecko or cameleon- who knows that really seems content at watching me wach it, or is it waiting to eat the spiders meal or has it already eaten the wasps, either way this is what i found myself thinking as i was sitting there in Africa in a bathroom that most of you wouldnt throw a rock at let alone spend some quality time in.
I love you and miss you and i miss the food we could be eating together- call me and continue with the emails- By the Way- Where is chad?