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

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