Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Some pictures

Greetings Friends and Family,
So the last couple of months have been pretty quiet and laid back. Though I have guarded all of the pictures so now when you look at them they will be very exciting!

First you'll see a cultural festival that I went to where an Anglophone tribe celebrated at their local meeting. The guys in the blue smirf costumes are traditional dancers and they were getting pretty crazy, here you'll see one of them is hanging from a rafter! Which is saying something because the building did not inspire strength. You will also see me in my Women's day Pagne which is pretty much so girly I look like a coupie doll. I am also showing off the lovely latrine, don't ask me why, the answer would involved how many beers i drank.

You can also see the arrival of Rainy season, which is pretty awesome the clouds were magnificient. Adn finally in the you see me Siobhan and my counterpart Bertha. These people make Bertoua awesome! Love you all.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Little Story to get your day started

Greetings from Bertoua
I am back in town after going to Yaounde for the week because I had a meeting for Peer Support Network. It was a really good time. But now I'm back home for my birthday which I think I prefer. So far I have spent most of the day watching movies (Funny People) and rereading my book (Chig gave me it, its about a girl whose half vampire/half werewolf). I'm also currently listening to the new Nora Jones, its makes my feet tap. The ladies are cooking up some food for dinner and the crust to my cake is making the house smell good and kinda radiate with heat, but we'll forgive the oven this one time. I thought now might be a good time to shirk my work responsibilities and to type up an entry I wrote yesterday while waiting for the Bilingualism Day celebration to start. I not only impressed everyone with how much I could write but also how good my pen was (thanks mom). So here we go:

A couple of weeks ago I went with my counterpart, Bertha, to Giwi Yogamo to present our formation on teaching English with songs. It is a small village on the paved road North of Bertoua. We left very early at 5am and arrived at 7:30am. Many of our colleagues had chosen to stay the night at an Auberge- really about 9 rooms that look like closets. Since we arrived early we were ushered into the room of a colleague where we awkwardly sat on the bed ans starred at the wall while listening to the other inspector sing in while taking his bucket bath, which he was having in the shared bathhouse just next to us. Nothings too awkward for Africa

After this we were brought to the principal's house where we were served our choice of a beer or a coke. One of the inspectors took a large beer- note that he was presenting before us so everyone had to wait while he took 30 minutes to drink his beer and chat with me. He has very wiley eyes and essentially flirted with me all morning. Did I mention that he is about 5'6" and 50stomething with at least 1 wife and 7 kids? Nice. Then we are told to wait for an hour while he finishes his presentation and we can start. At this time the chief of the group sends in the only Anglophone in town. I'm not sure if she was meant to entertain us like a court jester, but she was a young teacher and seemed a little nervous. This was the time when, powered by all of that caffeine no doubt, my counterpart decides to give the poor girl an hour lecture about the problems between Anglophones nad Francophones. She continues to explain that Anglophones suffer in the East because n one has respect for them and resents them. Then she talks about the crap school system, the whole time the poor girl looks like she thinks she's being accused of something.

As this is going on, I am looking out the door which gives ma perfect rectangle's view of the women outside preparing for the coffee break and lunch for the conference. They are frying plantains and cleaning fish and its nice to watch their domesticity in full swing. However, as I'm watching one of their sons comes by holding a chicken and searching for a knife. I know what will happen next. I lived in village for a year. The goby grabs a dull knife and literally standing perfectly framed by the door, I watch as he saws at its neck. So the knives here are never sharp enough and the kid has to stop on the bird's wings and saw away. I get to watch the death of the chicken and then watch it run about as it's head is not all off and the boy accidentally freed its wings. As this is going on I decide to find the latrine where I can get away from the slaughter.

A nice woman points the way for me and I go into the small enclosure and get into position and then a parade of children begin to walk in on me. I am squatiing down in all my pagune and my aura of authority and one girl just comes into the latrine adn talkes to me while I'm peeing. I guess talking to the white women is anovelty anywhere- even the latrine. Finally, we go into the classroom and are greeted by about 70 teachers and proceed to give our workshops. Our presentations lasts until about 4. It goes very well, at this point Bertha and I work crazy well together.

We decide to take a taxi home instead of a bus because it'll be quicker seeing as how they drive faster and don't unload as much baggage. The y put me in the front seat because I am not used to being smooshed evidentially because I'm white. Now these cars are about as big as a Geo Metro, but my chauffeur fits 5 ppl in the backseat, then my counterpart sits next to me int eh front seat. Then he stopped again to pick up two more people. He puts one in the trunk where he sits on piles of manioc. The other gets into the driver's side and sits on the drivers seat, and the driver gets in and begins to drive. Now there are 4 ppl in the front, 5 ppl in the back, and one in the trunk. The driver then proceeds to drive at light speed on the windy road dodging animals and honking at children. The whole experience was sereal, but we did get to town in about 1 hr 45 minutes as opposed to 2h30 minutes, I was impressed.

Well anyway, that's all for me recapping stories I thought you'd enjoy. Please don't feel bad for me for being in Africa on my birthday, honestly I'm having a great time. In Yaounde I got to eat a hamburger, mac and cheese, ramen, a cheese sandwich and egg rolls, and chicken. I'm not complaining. Someone even bought champagne! I love you all and wish I could see you today! Big party in 5 months!


Friday, January 29, 2010

Call to ARMS!

Greetings Family and Friends!
So my project is finally on the Peace Corps website ready for donations!

Go to the Link below:

or go to: www.peacecorps.gov
Then click donations
then put in my project number to find my project: 694-157
And you can read all about my project. Please send this link to everyone you know, even if you give 20 dollars it would be great, and you can write it off because tax season is coming up.

I love you all and miss you!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Siobhans Blog

So its totally worth it if you have some time to check out Siobhan's blog. Not only does she post more pictures, but she also tells you a little something about the regions we visited!


The much awaited continuation!

Blog continuation
Okay, so we got to Christmas. Alright, well after Christmas we went to Waza. Now getting up at 5 in the morning after celebrating the savior’s birth is never fun! Even if you are going to see animals. But we persevered. On our way to Waza, our car broke down which is a normal occurrence but we were all sad because we were in the middle of the desert and our driver didn’t seem to have any idea what to do, hence the picture of him fixing the car with rope and a prayer and the picture of us looking dejected on the side of the road. However, our car was finally fixed and we were underway. As we entered the park we saw a little family of warthogs which were super cute. Then we paid our guides and started into the park. It is not the season to see animals in Waza because the lions and the elephants have migrated to the Congo but we were still optimistic. After about 10 minutes in we had to stop again to fix our axel so we stood next to a watering hole and looked at Elephant tracks (the picture of the mud below), which is probably as close as I’ll ever get to dinosaur tracks. We also saw some cool birds’ nests and some deer things at the water hole. As we ventured on we were able to see some monkeys, vultures, and yes giraffes! The giraffes kinda made the day, there were tons of them and they were just chilling. We got to see some babies and got to watch them run around which was really surreal, they look so odd when they run like they are in slow motion.
After driving around for some time later, and yours truly taking a totally lame nap on the bus because I was so tired, we decided to head back to Maroua. (Don’t safari when you are tired- that is what I learned)
The next day we decided to go to Mokolo where our friend Fleurange lives and to head on to Rumsiki one of the biggest tourist attractions in Cameroon. Rumsiki has beautiful rock formations and to get there you can take a moto that goes through the hills and is about a 1 ½ ride. Honestly this was my favorite part of the trip. The moto drive was beautiful and really fun, we drove through little villages and drove alongside the donkeys and horses that pepper the landscape. Siobhan even got to touch one when a herd of cows passed and we were stopped.
When we arrived at Rumsiki we decided to splurge and stay at the nice hotel where we were told that we got a 2000Cfa discount and that we didn’t need an air conditioner because we were peace corps. However, because it was tourist time, they were all booked up so we lied and said there were only 2 of us when there were three and we had a very small room with one very tiny double bed. We fixed the sleeping arrangements Peace Corps style by taking the mattress off the bed and making the box spring into a bed. We also took down the curtains to use as extra sheets, as it was a bit chilly up in the mountains. Siobhan said that she would take one for the team and slept on the box spring and every time she moved we got to hear it, but honestly it was pretty comfy for everyone.
My favorite moment of the whole trip was when we decided to spend the next day and a half at the pool. The pool is crazy deep and really cold but it overlooks the valley and it’s quite beautiful. We all put on our bathing suits and bought an overpriced beer and lay out in the sun. I was very amused by their “chaise lounges”, because they must have seen a picture of them or something and tried to build them out of local supplies. As I recall they were small medal bars painted white and welded together and there were not enough bars so you were sorta really uncomfortable. We also did a bunch of pictures where we ran and jumped really high and took the picture in mid air. They’re pretty great, but not particularly flattering, maybe if you buy me a couple of beers I’ll show you.
We also were able to eat at a restaurant that all PCVs love called the “Vegetarian Carnivore” A local guy owns it and he speaks really good English and grows all of his own veggies. He loves PCVs and treated us really nicely. When we arrived he kept telling us, “You are welcome, you live here, and this is your home.” We asked if we could have some drinks and he actually took us into his hut that was used as a kitchen and had us open the fridge and pick what we wanted! It was pretty silly. He then brought out some bread and this roasted garlic sauce that was so amazing that when the bread was finished we started spooning it our mouths alone! He also brought us chocolate croissants. I decided to have to veggie pizza and it was really good. So good I kept saying I was going to stop eating it and I finished every last bite!
Our trip was really relaxing and after we did some hiking on the second day and I finished my girlie beach novel, we headed back on a very enjoyable moto ride to Fleurange’s house. She welcomed us with some homemade peanut curry veggy sauce and rice! It was delicious. Unfortunately you cannot hide long from Africa and I was working some major stomach funkiness that started that day and plagued me for the rest of the trip! It’ll be interesting to figure out what I have.
New Years
It is now necessary to discuss the most memorable part of the trip for me which was New Years. Number one, it is important to explain that this was a very serious event for many people. There was some intense party planning going on. Peace Corps volunteers have taken a page out of Cameroon’s book and we have learned how to celebrate! First off, we had some committees going. We had a beverage committee who produced three different flavors of awesomeness for everyone’s consumption. Next was the lighting committee. You don’t want to find yourself having a dance party with fluorescent office type lighting. The solution (after 2 previous attempts) was to rap the fluorescent bulbs with electrical tape! Booya, instant red lightly dance partiness! The 3rd committee was in charge of music. We made sure to have the best mix of rock and roll, sexy dance, and oldies. We spent the evening dancing up a storm, playing party games, and sitting under the stars. At midnight, which we used someone’s watch to count down on, we spent about 15 minutes just going around and hugging all our new and old friends! It was definitely a moment to remember, as I don’t recall having been hugged that many times in a long while. There was a spirit of brotherly love and hope for the coming year.
After New Years we headed back down to the East. The train proved to be easy compared with our first trip and we arrived in Bertoua just in time for me to wake up 4 hours later and go to class. Honestly, it was one of the best times I’ve had in Cameroon and I really dug the trip.
I think it’s also important to point out that Peace Corps volunteers are some of the best people to travel with I know. If they get hurt, sick, lost, confused…whatever, it’s all part of the experience. Everyone just let’s it roll off their back. There are no cry babies and everyone man’s up! Another thing I love is that we became very adept at traveling together. Siobhan, Lisa, and I became a well oiled machine. What we need to travel tomorrow? Okay- Elyse is in charge of tickets, Siobhan save’s seats on the bus, Lisa takes care of baggage! We remembered to get snacks, to hide money, to charge iPods. We all took care of each other in a totally organized fashion. I love it when a plan comes together! Maybe we got so good at this because we have to deal with so much inefficiency here in Cameroon that we like to control things as much as possible, either way, we should write a book.
I wanted to say that I hope everyone a happy new year and that you get everything you want this year. This year has to be good right?
My brother is getting married. I get a new sister. Tyler finally gets to drink legally! I get to have a quarter life crisis. Dad is looking more and more like Steve Martin (that’s a compliment!). I make my triumphant return to the states and then start a new adventure, only God knows where. Mom decides to join the hippie movement and sits down for a totally of 2 hours in a row! (who are we kidding, this won’t happen). Sounds like everyone will be doing well this year!
I love you all and miss you!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Holidays in Cameroon

Greetings all,
I know that you are all awaiting my sweet analysis of the vacation that I took and the way that I fell off the planet for the last three weeks. Well I am here on this Sunday to satify your curiosity, and maybe to make you a little jealous that you aren't in the Peace Corps and that you did not have the holidays I had...because you will be jealous!

So for the second week in December I found myself in Kribi for the second time in my Peace Corps service. I was invited back to teach the new stage of education volunteers all that I know and to introduce them to the work that I've been doing in Bertoua. However, what the week was really about (running sessions aside) was the beach! I spent about 5 days on the beach, waking up in the morning and taking a run through the intense humidity, then going to work, and then going back to the beach. As remembered, The Hotel Paradise (as it is translated), still has amazing food and nice accomodations, but I somehow am more impressed with the food the longer I am in Cameroon, the more aware I am of quality cuisine. During this week I even engaged in some pretty intense beach football matches. American football. I found myself bounding around and playing for keeps. Sure it was touch football, but the tide didn't seem to care we were playing so you had to dodge your opponents as well as the surf!

Another notable happening that I shoudl share about Kribi is the position I found myself in during the sessions. You see, all of the presenters have to do this big written report about IST after the5 day seminar. This report has always been a very big undertaking and has not been any of the trainers favorite thing to do. Well after reviewing this problem and seeing that a lot of the counterparts that were attending did not speak English well enough to actually benefit from a lot of the conference, I decided to use the projector and laptop to type what everyone was saying for all to see. Thus, the report was being done in tadum with the conference and people were able to read English which they are better at than listening. However, a small off shoot from this idea came when I found myself translating French into English in time with the person's comments. I was actually sitting infront of about 60 people translating French as they listened. There are a couple of comments I need to make here. 1. I totally was not good enough to be completely correct or to translate everything word for word. But I am good enough to listen and synthesize the points that the people were making. This did two things, it helped people understand and it showed the long winded talkers that what they said could have been summed up 10 minutes before. 2. Who in their right mind would have thought that a year and a half ago, I woudl be translating french! Crazy

After Kribi I headed back to Yaounde, and found that my packages had not arrived! Sad! But that's not really what christmas is about and I know when I do finally get them it'll be awesome. Maybe it will just be a super crazy birthday this year!

The next leg of my trip was to take the train up North where I would meet Lisa and Siobhan and we would explore those upper reaches of the continent that resemble what you think of as Africa. Desert, heat, people speaking Fufulde, etc.

Every person that lives in the north has to take the train to get there, and they are all in agreement of one thing: The train sucks! First off, the train derails all the time and its always late. We were supposed to leave at 6pm and then we were told we would leave at 11pm and then finally we were told we would leave at 2 pm. Wow, not fun. So finally we are allowed to board the train and we are lucky enough to get a sleeper car. Imagine when James Bond is finished saving the world and gets into his train car and there are those pull down beds and then he has to throw jaws out the window. The sleeper cars are a little like that, except half the size and there are 2 bunk beds in the room. Its actually pretty comfortable. The ride is about 14-16 hours or so which sucks, but we actually got to see the countryside pass in the light of day which was quite nice. We arrived in the Adamoua at 6:30pm the next day and found ourselves starving and very tired. We fixed the starving part by going across the street from the case and eating some of the tastiest brochettes ever! Essentially this is like a kabab. Tasty meet on a stick that is painted with a spicy garlic sauce. They were crazy delicious, and so began our two week tour of eating any and all meat in the North. The food up there isnt very good because its desert and you can't grow a lot, so it was a lot like being back in Arizona. They grow cotton, millet (like corn), and they raise a bunch of cattle! It was really odd to see bruised black bananas for exuberant prices and to pay out the nose for any type of fruit. But the yogurt and cheese up there is great!

After the Adamowa we headed up to the extreme north (EN) in a coaster car for about 7 hours on paved roads. I am still amazed by paved roads and think they are the bees knees. We spent Christmas in Maroua where we foudn a slew of very happy and joyous volunteers. We were crazy impressed with the EN because of all the ex-pats that live there. There were white people everywhere! The roads were lined with trees and there were even medians in the roads! Everyone was insanely nice, and I didnt get bothered as much for being a white person which is refreshing!

For Christmas we made cookies and decorated them, the girls from the east made pancakes for everyone, and a big group of us made calzones for dinner which were delicious. A couple of the boys even went out and picked up a large piece of a tree and set it up in the living room hanging from the ceiling and we decorated it and danced around it. We listened to Christmas carols all day and drank a lot of beer. It was a very nice time and I very much enjoyed all of the Christmas movie watching and happy company.

Okay this blog is starting to get crazy long. I will be back later with the conclusion of what I was up to at the end of 2009