Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Holidays

Dear Everyone,
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
-Night swimming
-Wrestling in Dresses wiht my friend Fleurange and then hugging it out when we called a tie
-Hot showers
-Good food
-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
-new clothes
-smelling good

Love you all and miss you!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cultural moments

An Overcast day Africa
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


Greetings everyone,
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