Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ponderings

Greetings from Bangangte week three,
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?

Friday, June 20, 2008

yay a blog with spell check

Blog June 16th, 2008
It is now my 13th day of being a PCT (Peace Corps Trainee) and it feels like I have been here for years. The friendships I have made feel like they will last forever, if not for the reason that we are the only ones who will understand the process we are going through, then because the people here have fabulous values and great courage. I wrote a bit in my journal today and since it’s so hard to get on the internet here and get anything done I am writing my post up before I actually post it so hers what I’ve written so far:

Observations: They eat fish for breakfast here- It’s like living in an episode of Heathcliff. This morning I was given a whole fish and I had to eat it while it looked at me- My mama ate the head thank god! The water goes on and off sometimes for an hour and sometimes for a day and it makes same wonder how you can get used to everyday feeling special and humbling- I guess you forget what it’s like to depend on tabs that you always assume will work. The lights or power go off almost every night unexpectedly and I’m constantly recalling and evening when my whole family was home and I was about 14 or maybe younger and we were still living on Golden Lane in Peoria. The lights and power went off for about hours
because of a wicked thunderstorm and Dad was in a playful mood. WE ended up eating cold tacos, playing blind man’s bluff, and flashlight. I remember dad telling stories about his childhood and us laughing around the flickering glow of candles. It felt like a holiday and very much like a one-time thing as Ethan would call it. I can still remember the experience vividly with some details that have been softened with time. For some reason I am transported to that memory ever time the lights go out and we light our candles at my house in Cameroon. Maybe it’s the intense feeling of family that is present at my host family’s house or maybe the kids feel the same excitement and like the distraction from their everyday routine, but I get excited when the French voices on the TV are silenced and a game of dark Uno ensues. It’s a very odd thing to be adopted into a family when they really don’t know you. Of at least they don’t know the you that you were in the US for the past 23 years.
Other observations, as we sit in French class and the obstinate rooster or le coq crows insensately I cannot help but smile or giggle. I am reminded of the children’s toy where you wind the arrow and whatever animal it lands on the toy cried “The rooster says- cock-a-doodle-doo” Where the heck did we get that interpretation of the noise. Evidentially, no American who teaches animal sounds to children has ever been to Cameroon and met my annoying friend. Other daily observations include the fact that the mud her is dull rust red and when it is smeared on my terribly white legs it looks like cuts or blood like I’m being physically assaulted by the very earth of this country. Also it is almost impossible to keep your fee clean. Sorry lieutenant Dan. You might as well give up because cleanly feet will not last. Even washing my shoes seems silly when every morning it rains and fresh mud can be found ready to cake my feet in its mixture of bloody earth.
Now these are my daily observations. I think about as I continue developing my routine here. There are other things that are quite surprising for instance take a look at the following quotes I have comprised from the various sessions we have taken here:
“If the driver is drunk- get out of the car”
“How often is the driver drunk?” (Trainers look around laughing, “Often”)
“If the bus kills someone it will stop.”
“Watch out for goat pee and if you are sitting by the window keep your mouth closed.”
“Visits from men after dark equal a sexual relationship, except for two white people.”
“Smoking outside for women means you’re a prostitute”
That’s just a few tidbits, there are some very scary/hilarious ones from our medical classes but you don’t want the details.
Some other scary things about my Education Training in particular:
1. They aren’t encouraging differential instruction- they just lecture and note take- yuck
2. Most people haven’t taught before so they don’t think about learning- they think about information instead and not how to present it in an interesting way
3. There are no art classes here. There may be music or dance groups but no theater in Cameroon but Yaoundé has a theater being built for music programs and lectures- ouch.
4. No ART IN CURRICULUM but they do have manual labor=- no joke it’s on the schedule
5. Their “special ed” kids are in special schools and this includes kids with minor physical disabilities, emotional disabilities aren’t even classified.
6. Not all kids have books or pens or seats and the classroom desks are very uncomfortable and crowded
7. They also have a discipline master who hits the kids when they are bad with a rubber lasso type thing or a switch- nice.
That’s about all I have for right now but I think it’s enough to make you interested in what I’m doing here.

thank you to everyone who has emailed me it takes me a 20minute walk and then a 1 hour wait and then the computers are super slow so checking email is way worth it when you give me exciting info. note its really hard to read the comments on the blog because it takes a long time to load so email is the best right now also dont tell me about the good food you are eating or ill stop talking to you also look for me on google if you want to chat and call me

yesterday i played soccer and i have a war aound on my leg its awesome i am truely horrible at that insane game

ok love you all

Monday, June 9, 2008

In Cameroun!

Hello everyone. I have made it to Cameroon, yay finally! I am currently in the Peace Corps office in Yaounde where they have toilet seats, American keyboards and fancy guards with guns. I'm safe!

Some observations since I've been here:
There are a lot of car accidents in teh big city and there are no traffic laws, lights, signs, or even dividers on the road adn the honking is constant any time of day.

There are huge lizards everywhere that are black and orange- My family might remember when we were in the pet store and that lizard scared the poo out of me and I jumped five feet, well I handled these better.

Some other things include how big the beers are here! They are double the size of home, and they cost about 1. 50 in american money.

Some things I"m not so excited about are the fact that the amount of diseases and specifically interesting parasites that we are learning about. Let's just say I think I'm coming back with a stronger stomach.

I miss you all and love you all adn think about you often. Last night I couldn't sleep (jet lag) so I listened to my Ipod adn certain songs remind me of certain people- it was like being home.

Technology didn't corrupt the world it brought us together- that's what I decided.

The national motto here is :Nous sommes ensemble: We are together. People say it when they are leaving each other sort of like when Heman says Good Jouney and not goodbye, except this is awesome because it's in French, anyway I love you all I will hopefully blog again soon I have a video to show of you a swarm of bats!

Love Elyse

Friday, June 6, 2008

Greetings from Philly- the filthy city with few smiles to give.


I am currently in my room in the beautiful Holiday Inn wasting some time before checking out. We leave today on a 6:45pm flight where we will fly for 7 hours and 40 minutes to Paris and then another 8 hours to Yaounde, Cameroon. WE also get to wait 5 hours before leaving in the airport in Philly because we have no where to go after the hotel kicks us out. Honestly I can't wait to get there. The last two days have been all about giving us some basic information we will need and answering some questions for us, but overall it just wet our appetite for wanting to get in country.

The interesting thing is my training class- we are 38 people! That's a lot of new friends. We are all doing Secondary Education- English or Science teachers or Small Enterprise Development. We have about 15 boys, which is better than can be expected I think. On a side note we were told the first day that a lot of people meet their future spouse in the peace corps- talk about some pressure adn anxiety suddenly felt around the room (but i guess they said that about college too)! The boys are an interesting bunch some are very focused on sports, some seem to enjoy video games, some have taken the hippie route and some look like Clark Kent because everyone has reverted to glasses here.

The girls are a wide bunch of personalities and I am really excited to get to know them, one or two remind me of my girls back home and a few more remind me of my Lexington friends. It's interesting what states are represented we have 3 from Seattle (yes i know that isn't a state), 3 from Austin, about 7-8 from Ohio, 10 Maine ppl, 5 NYers, 2 NJ's, Lots from Louisiana and 1 from Kentucky, some Michigan folks, 1 Arizonian (me), 2 from Oregon, and 1 Californian (I guess they like their pollution too much- take that Ethan), 1 from St. Louis that was telling me was voted one of the most dangerous cities in the US- her car got stolen and lit on fire-, 1 from Chicago, a couple Philly ppl, and others from D.C., Iowa, Tennessee etc. We're from all over, but the west coast isn't really represented.

There is one funny thing I wanted to share, we were doing a get to know you introduction game and one of the questions was "what is something weird that you packed?" Now, we got second place with our team because a girl brought Fraggle Rock DVDs (an old tv show on Nickelodeon) and I was up there with my Tick Key bought for me from my bros (it's a metal bottle opener looking thing that you can remove ticks easily with- thanks guys). However, the best was submitted from a gentleman whose grandma gave him a huge liter of holy water. Evidentially she poured it all over her bags and he is now carrying it around. He said it just looks like a jug with a cross on it. I guess everyone gets their peace of mind in different ways and I'm glad his grandma is passing around the blessings.

Well I guess that's it for me. I should arrive in country in the evening on Saturday night. I start my Malaria medication today and I got my Yellow Fever vaccine so I'm ready to hit it and quit it. Here is my official good bye to warm showers, smelling decent, soft fluffy pillows, quality meat, flip flop wearing, television, the wireless internet, ice, not living out of a suit case, and bagels. I will miss it all but I'm sure it won't measure up to the insanity of living in Africa with a bunch of like minded people for the next 10 weeks. You should hear from me in the next few days, we will be staying in the capital and I will have access to internet.

Love you all,
Elyse 2008 volunteer in the 'Roon video