Saturday, July 19, 2008

Happy Go Lucky

Greetings Toute le monde!
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

Head to Toe in Dust

I'm back from site visit!!!!!
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

We dont beat them to kill them

Greetings once more from bangangte, I am writing earlier this week because I travel to my new home on wednesday. I will be living in the East almost exactly on the border of the Central Republic of the Congo and Cameroon. IT is a rainforest and from what i gather I will be seeing manu gorillas. I am very excited because it will be the real peace corpse experience but i guess i will really be roughing it. Today I met my counterpart who is the local community memeber that traveled here for the workshop before helping me travel to my site. HE told me that I have a house ready for me and that it has two rooms, a salon or living room, a kitchen, and that we get water from a well and the electricity only comes on for about 4 hours a day, when it does come on. I am assured I will have service, i f not in my house in the village. I will be living about 15 miles from another peace corp member who lives outside of the forest, but i guess we are seperated by a large river that you have to take a canoe across because there are no bridges- welcome to the third world!

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

Celebrating America in lAfrique

so this weeks post was a bit of a downer and i wanted to make sure everyone knows that things are going great here! i learn where my placement site is tomorrow and this will be my home for the next two years. i also have a language assessment and im a little nervous. sorry this post is shorter the power keeps going out when i have time to go to the internet and it is very frustrating. I went into town yesterday and contracted a tailor to make me two outfits out of the local pagne or fabric- cant wait to post some pictures i need to get some time when i can upload things. I did want to report that the first stagaire out of 38 officially has malaria and typhoid, we otld her she is playing oregon trail and losing. she will be fine though because the malaria we get is less severe because of the drugs we take daily. im feeling pretty good and my family seems cool with me being a vegetarian at their house. yesterday I ordered a new sandwich concoction where i got two dinner type rolls put canned to,mato sauce on it and this creepy sausage that tasted like bologna who knows if il die from it but it wasnt half bad. happy fourth of july everyone! the PCTs are trying to get a fete together but god knows if it will work, they want to grind their own meat for burgers- heres hoping.

love you all and miss you-et

i am a grown ass man

1st of July, 2008
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.