Friday, December 14, 2012

Babies and Things

It’s funny how one day here everything goes along swimmingly, but then the next day it can be terrible. But luckily even on the terrible days there will always be something that turns the day around. School was great the other day. I talked with one of my classes about homosexuality, since one student mentioned that he wouldn’t want to go to America because that is where homosexuality came from. In Cameroon homosexuality is illegal and severely frowned upon, however I could not let that comment slide, especially since that student also said that AIDS came from America. Which leads me to believe that he thinks that everything bad comes from America and as an American teacher I can’t leave the classroom with them believing that. Therefore we talked and discussed homosexuality, I got at least some of the my students to believe that homosexuality is not a choice that people make. I think that that was a win! (Although it was only 5 students, change happens little by little here). But like I say one day you have a great day teaching and the next day it’s just awful. But fortunately even though something bad can happen, there will always be something that can turn my day around.

With my little time left in Cameroon, only 6 months or ¼ of my time, I am thinking about what I about to do in Cameroon before I leave, which is why  I am helping out at the local hospital with their vaccination campaigns. I started today filling out paperwork for all the little babies, writing down what shots they got and when they have to come next. The exciting thing is that I get to go en brousse to help in villages there. It was really interesting to see how the whole situation worked. The nurse said that next time I will actually be able to give vaccinations. (I know I am not qualified at all, so hopefully I can just stick with the paperwork!) But either way I am excited to be able to go en brousse with the nurses, it seems like the stereotypical aide work that one does, which I think will be interesting.

The other day I was working at the hospital for the prenatal visits and subscribing women and taking their weight and blood pressure. One of the women when I asked her for her name to write down her name. African names are very different than American names and I asked her if she could spell it for me, unfortunately she was illiterate. It was shocking to see an 18 year old girl who is pregnant who couldn’t even spell her own name. It really saddened me. I know illiteracy exists here, even some of the younger students in 6th grade that can barely read or write, but at least they can write their own name. It just goes to show how much work really needs to be done here in Cameroon. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Time Keeps Marching On

November came and went already. It is amazing how fast time has been going. I know this is partly due to the fact that I have been so busy with projects, which is my choice but it is better than the alternative of being a lazy bum. I am most happy about my computer classes. I know it seems laughable that I am teaching computers, but it is only the basic skills such as clicking a mouse or typing. We have recently begun EXCEL which is going swimmingly. Luckily it’s just in time because my school has switched to computerized report cards!!! This means that I know longer have to hand fill out the grades for 300 plus students.

In the beginning of November I went to Dschang or “the Paris of Cameroon”, in the West Region of Cameroon, known for its university, lake (with paddle boats!), being cold, and having no mosquitoes. Unfortunately the few mosquitoes that are there found me but paddling in a boat on a lake definitely made up for it. It is always interesting for me to see just how different parts of Cameroon are, especially living in the East, one of the least developed regions. It is always a stark contrast when I go to the Northwest or the West, the two most developed regions of Cameroon. I’m wondering what makes it that way? The dominate tribe in the West is the Bamileke. Theyare known to be hard workers and very successful, they generally own businesses and every single piece of land either has a house or is being farmed. Unlike the East where there are farms, but definitely not as prominent as in the West. I wonder if the NW and W are so developed because it is so much cooler, which makes it less hard to work. I can only speculate but it’s funny that a country of only 20 million people is so vastly different. Tangent aside, my time in Dschang was great, its always nice to get a feel for something different.

After Dschang I had to head back to Yaounde for my VAC (Volunteer Advisory Committee) Meeting, where representatives from each region meet with Administration to exchange information and problems in their regions. After my meeting I took another trip to Bamenda, in the NW region, to make my own down to Ossing, Sean’s village. It was a relaxing time involving, homemade cheese (that I made) raviolis and a lot of studying for the GREs. Not a bad time in my opinion, other than the studying. I took the GREs the 17th of November in Yaounde, and before I took that I went to visit a crater lake in the West region in a town called Fombot. It was definitely an adventure because the motos took us to a lake that was definitely a resort, with a golf course! Not exactly the lake that we originally wanted, but it was interesting to see nonetheless. After some more negotiating we made it the intended lake, which was stunning and well worth the effort.

After seeing the lake I made my way back to Yaounde so that I could take the GRE. Let me just say that I don’t think I will be taking the GRE in a developing country again. We started 1.5 hours late, nothing unusual here, but I did fall asleep waiting to take the test. But we did eventually start the test. Well I might not have had as much time as I would have wanted to to study for the test, but at least I didn’t have to raise my hand when we first opened the test book to tell the proctor that I didn’t understand, like someone did in my classroom.

When I no longer had to worry about the GRE, the Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary in Cameroon was the 21st of November. There was a lot of preparation that needed to be done, but I think that it was highly successful. I worked with another volunteer to create a movie of clips and pictures of all of the volunteers in the East for our regional table. It turned out to be a really great event, even the first lady of Cameroon attended! I really think that this is an exciting time to be a Peace Corps volunteer. Last year we celebrated 50 years of the agency and this year was 50 years in Cameroon.

As of right now, my school year 1/3 done. It is amazing to me that I have been in Cameroon since June 2011. Even more so, I only have 6 months left. This has been a stunning and eye opening experience, it’s just interesting how fast time is flying.

Eric, Kim, and I at the 50th Anniversay celebration

Chantal Biya! The First Woman of Cameroon

Crate Lake in Fombot

Rachel, Eric, and I at the Crate Lake

Saturday, September 29, 2012

School Has Started Back Up

Well I have officially lived at my house in Dimako for 13 months, my longest time at one house since I graduated from high school. School has already started, we are already in the 3rd week, and it is going infinitely better than last year. It also helps that I only have 3 classes, and 2 of them are smaller than 30. One of my classes is amazing! Really smart and motivated which also makes me motivated so that’s awesome.
With my new schedule it allows me to do more outside of school since my hours are more condensed.  

Hopefully soon I will start giving classes to some girls at the primary school, so equivalent to the 5th grade. I am looking forward to that and so is the director of the school. And in October I should be teaching basic computer skills to my colleagues in the hopes that we will computerize the students grades making life easier for everyone. Also one of my fellow PCVs has asked me to help give a cross-cultural class encompassing everything from colonization to the EU to some students at the after school center she works at, as well as Adult English classes. So my year is filling up fast, which makes me excited.
In addition to all of that, I have started working at the boutique in my house’s concession and I LOVE it. I get to talk with all the clients and everyone who walks by. It’s kind of fun just sitting in there, reading a book until someone comes who wants to buy soap or some bread. It also means that if I need something I don’t have to go all the way to the market because it’s right there! Very convenient.

In other news, I celebrated my birthday with some fellow volunteers. In fact there were twice as many people this year as last year. I made pizza and a carrot cake, while another volunteer made chocolate chip cookies and a salad. It turned out really well and fun =)

I have also been trying to studying for the GRE since I am taking it in November and in the past 2 weeks my score has already improved some, so that is good news. I have narrowed my schools down to George Washington, Georgetown, American, and Yale. All with a focus in International Affairs and US Foreign Policy.

Finally it looks like I will have a roommate for 6 months, when a volunteer from another sector, Youth Development, will come and live with me until my time is up. A bit unorthodox but since there aren’t a lot of houses in Dimako it is hard to find a place for a PCV to live. Luckily I have just bought another bed so they wont have to buy anything when they come, which should be nice for them! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Quick Update

Well the Summer is coming to an end. School starts September 3 and after that I have just 36 weeks of teaching and then my Peace Corps service will essentially be over. I can’t believe that the summer went by so fast, but I think it is because I had such an awesome time. Here are some highlights:
-          Meeting the new volunteers and helping out at their training
-          Visiting the tallest waterfall in Cameroon
-          Making homemade pizza, dough and all
-          Seeing some of my good friends COS (Close of Service) and getting to see a little bit of my future, since it’ll be me in a year!
-          Visiting Ethiopia for 31 days
o   Seeing crocodiles, hippos, and zebras up close
o   Visiting some of the famous tribes of Ethiopia in the Lower Omo Valley
o   Hiking for 7 days in the Simien Mountains in the rain and hail (this was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen or done)
o   Seeing the rock hewn churches in Lalibela
o   Going to the 4th holist Muslim city, Harar
o   Feeding hyenas
o   Going to a spa resort
o   Seeing the Dark Knight Rises
I loved my time in Ethiopia and really didn’t want it to end, I know for sure that I want to go back there and do things that I wasn’t able to see this time due to time and money constraints. Everyone was so welcoming and helpful. I was grateful for the opportunity to see another country in Africa and I would love to see more. I know its surprising but Ethiopia was more “western” than Cameroon so I was able to get a little taste of America while I was there, I even got to play ski-ball.
Tomorrow I am going back to post to get settled in before school starts. This fall will be busy with teaching my English classes, teaching other teachers how to use computers, teaching English at the preschool and hopefully working with girls at the primary school. Also I will be applying to graduate schools for International Relations with a focus in US Foreign Policy. So it looks like I have a lot to look forward too!

When I have more time I will write about my time in Ethiopia, but I just wanted to give a little update now. And here are some pictures to tide your over. 

Sean and I at the largest waterfall in Cameroon, over 80 M tall

Hippos at the "Crocodile market" in Arba Minch, Ethiopia

Zebras in Neichesar National Park, Ethiopia

Sean with kids in Gondar, Ethiopia

Gelada Baboon in the Simien National Park

Our camp the 2nd night of our hike with our guide and mule-men

Our scout, Yassin, with a "view"

Simien Mountain National Park

At the top of a mountain, which is actually taller than Mountain Cameroon!

Sean and Sammi, our guide, walking along the road

Walia Ibex in the Simien Mountains

Our camp for the 4th and 5th night (the the tallest peak, I climbed that!)

Rock-hewn church in Lalibela

St. George Church in Lalibela

Kids going to Mass in Lalibela

Camel Market near Harar

Kids hanging out in the walled city of Harar

Feeding hyenas, I'm not scared haha

At the best restaurant in Ethiopia in Lalibela

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Still Going Strong

One Year Anniversary!

Well I can’t believe that it’s finally here, my one year anniversary of being in country! It is a little surreal, sometimes it feels as if I’ve been here for 10 years, other times I feel like I’ve only been here for a month. I have read over 60 books and have watched way too much TV/Movies from  my external hard drive.  I’ve gotten used to things that I never thought was possible, such as spiders. I’ve learned a lot about Cameroon, but even more so about myself since I’ve been here, such as how to be more assertive and stand up for myself. I have also discovered that I will NEVER want to be a celebrity, I could not cope with the constant lack of privacy for so long.

For our one year anniversary, myself and a couple of friends went to a World Cup Qualifying game, Cameroon vs the DRC. It was a great time and was a great end to an awesome year in Cameroon. Our first day in Cameroon, we weren’t allowed to go to a game, so it was great to actually have the chance to go this time. Even better was that Cameroon won! One to nothing!

As one year of my two year contract is over, I have started thinking about the future. I’ve already looked into grad schools and found 3 really great programs. So this summer in between helping out at training, travelling to Ethiopia and around Cameroon, I hope to start working on my applications for grad school.
Two Week Vacation!

After spending over two weeks in Yaoundé I decided to take a little break and visit some friends. I started by going to Buea, in the Southwest, to stay with my friend Nate. It worked out perfectly since Sam was flying out of Douala and wanted to stay in Buea before her flight. Buea was really great! Especially since Buea is only 30 minutes away from the beach!! Sam and I went to the beach one day and we were literally the only people there. It was fantastic! It was great to be away from all of the noise of the city and just be able to relax for a bit.

After Buea, I went to visit Sean’s post, but in order to get there I had to take what everyone says is “the Worst Road in Cameroon.” Let me tell you it wasn’t THAT bad. It was really funny though because there were 8 people in this car which is smaller than a Camry. Four in the front and four in the back. You might think how is that possible, but like I said, physics don’t apply within the Cameroonian borders. But what was amusing was the fact that 5 Cameroonian adult men were all complaining, about the car, about the road, about EVERYTHING. While I was just sitting there accepting my fate. I never thought there would be a time where a Cameroonian would complain more than myself! (I think again that just is a good marker of time)

Sean’s post, Ossing, is also in the Southwest and it is very similar to mine. They are both in the jungle, although Sean’s post is a little bit more hilly. I really enjoy getting to go to people’s villages, to see what they do on a day to day basis, meet everyone they talk about. It’s a way to get a glimpse into their village life, which at times can be different than our city or Yaoundé life. I think the highlight of my trip in Ossing was going on a 7 hour trek in the rainforest with Sean and his friend Alphonse. The goal of our trek was to see the bones of two elephants who were killed two months ago for bush meat, which was unfortunate.(The hunters got about 120,000 CFA for each elephant, which is about 240$, for a forest elephant)  It was a little difficult trying to get to the Elephant graveyard, which is what we named the place, because we had to cross some 14 streams and 1 giant river. But it was a great time, especially since I had never had a chance to go on a trek through the jungle before.

After hanging out in Ossing, I went to Mamfe, only about 40 minutes away on a motorcycle from Ossing. There Sean, Renee, and I had dinner with the ex-mayor of Mamfe. His house was amazing, even by American standards. It overlooks the Cross River with the jungle all around it, very picturesque! He is actually building a pool now, maybe I’ll go back when it’s finished =)

In order to go back to to Yaoundé, I decided to go through Bamenda, the capital of the Northwest region, since I had never been there. It was interesting because everyone in the Peace Corps talks about how nice Bamenda is, but I didn’t really like it that much. I think I am more used to village life than living in a city, going back to America might be a little difficult =) It was a nice city, in the highlands of Cameroon and since it is rainy season there are waterfalls all around that you can see.

Finally in the beginning of June I went back to post because I had a couple of meetings that I couldn’t miss and it was nice to be back. Unfortunately I was only back for a week, but my Hibiscus wine was a success (I was letting it ferment while I was away). My meetings went well, I already know what classes I will be teaching next year and my class schedule. I am teaching one more class this year, but it will be the Seconde class that I had this year who were promoted into the Premiere class (Junior level equivalent). All my other classes are staying the same. But the best news is that I will have Thursdays and Fridays off, which means I will be able to travel more.  

So things are going pretty well now and I am really excited for this summer! Sean and I decided to extend our trip, so we will be in Ethiopia for 31 days now. Which is essentially all of our vacation time for our 2 years here, but I think it’ll be worth it!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Spring Break: Cameroon Edition

After much pestering from my dad, here is the long awaited for update.

A lot has been going on since I’ve last written. A friend came to visit me in my village, before I went up to the Extreme North region of Cameroon for my Spring Break, finished up for the school year, and helped design training for the new training for the volunteers who are coming in June.

Sean, a Science teacher, decided to come to my post before going to the Extreme North, since his post is so far away. It was nice having a visitor for a chance. He came to help teach at my school and my kids actually paid attention for once. I think they were curious just to find out if he was my mythical husband. Unfortunately Sean had to go back to Yaoundé early to get post-exposure rabies vaccination. We had an unfortunate run-in with a chimpanzee near my village. It wasn’t bad, but better to be safe than sorry.

Once Sean left, Justine and I took a bus from Bertoua to Meiganga, in the East Adamawa, to visit Danielle at her post. It was definitely different than my post because she has 4 other post mates, so she has completely different experience than I do in my little village. After a couple of days at her post, we took a bus to Ngaoundere. The normal way to get there is to take the train, but we decided to check out the countryside on the 10 hour bus ride.  The ride involved profuse sweating, arguing, and a baby shivering in his snow suit, against the 120 degree climate. In Ngaoundere, we visited the Lamido (the chief) and luckily we were there when all the important people had to go to pay homage to the chief.

For all of those of you who aren’t accustomed to washing their clothes in a bucket and line drying them in a tropical climate, you should know that you have to wait at least 4 days until you wear your clothes, for fear of the dreaded mango worms. In stage, we had heard of a male volunteer getting 40 mango worms in a very delicate area. Needless to say I always wait to wear my clothes. Unfortunately Justine didn’t, so we got to pull a worm out of her foot! It definitely motivates me to wait to wear my clothes.

Mango worm!
The next day we took the 9 hour bus to Maroua, the regional capital of the Extreme North. I think it is one of my favorite cities in Cameroon. All of the streets are tree lined, I think mainly to protect everyone from the heat. But although everyone complains about the heat, it really isn’t that hot. I had more of a problem with how dry it was up there. But like everything in this world you can get used to it.


Our first full day in the Extreme North we went to a lake 100 K from Maroua to visit a lake. We decided to take a boat on the lake. Comically enough the boat had a hole in it and it was constantly leaking, so there was a boy bailing us out for the whole trip. Luckily we were able to see hippopotamuses. We didn’t get that close, but close enough for me to see that they are not that cute.

A picture of the leaky boat

Chadian women walking to Chad

The lake was really close to the Chadian border. In fact every week women from Chad walk across a river to go to the market in Cameroon. A couple of us decided to do the same, just in reverse, we walked across the river to Chad, or at least attempted to, we didn’t make it all the way.
Drinking the beer made from millet in Mokolo
The aftermath of the stick incident

The grasshopper I ate

The next day we left to go to Mokolo and unfortunately in the market there I stepped on a piece of stick that got stuck in my foot. It wasn’t pretty nor did it feel good. Luckily someone was there to pull it out and help me clean it up. But it made walking a bit more difficult for a couple of days. In the market we bought some grasshoppers to eat, which were surprisingly good, kind of like the termites. Afterwards we continued on to Rhumski, which was gorgeous. There are all these giant rock formations that appear to have come from nowhere.

In Rhumski, we went to see “The Crab Sorcerer,” who is basically an old man who spits on crabs and puts them in a bowl and lets them knock over sticks and things in the bowls, then he reads the knocked over sticks and tells you your future. Apparantly I am going to come back to work in Africa, not Cameroon, but another African country, where I will work for a long time. (I don’t know if I should believe him because he told Justine’s mom that she would have 3 boys and she has had 1 girl and 1 boy). Although one member of my group was told that in 3 years she will have a child, so I guess we’ll know if he was right about something in 3 years.

After Rhumski, we left to go to Toro, where women wear hollowed out gourds on their heads as hats and they also double as bowls! How convient! That night we stayed in a case or an African hut and let me tell you it was HOT. There was not air circulation at all and also we broke the water faucet so water was continuously flowing. Thankfully it was turned off soon.

Even though we didn't see elephants we saw their footprints
Sean, our guide, and Renee consulting the guide book

Even though all this was fun, I think the highlight of the trip was Waza, which is the national park. Although we didn’t get to see a lion or an elephant, we saw a lot of giraffes, a lot of really cool birds (secretary bird, wooden hoopoe, Abyssinian roller, vultures eating a monkey (gross!) etc…), a jackal, warthogs, antelopes, topai, monkeys, and Zazoo from the Lion King. Even though this was my first Safari (it is Swahili for voyage), it was pretty cool because they actually let us walk around and get out of the car ( which was nice because it was hot and there was no AC).

Our car in Waza
After Waza, I went to visit my friend at his post. There we went to an old quarry that they have filled with water and somehow crocodiles. There were about 30 crocodiles there and the weirdest part was that there were Cameroonians who were actually swimming in the quarry! I can’t imagine that that is safe.

We left the Extreme North early, so we could hang out in Ngaoundere because I was told that there were waterfalls in the area and since I had never seen a waterfall I had to go. In Ngaoundere I got to see not one but TWO waterfalls, and I went swimming in both. It was a lot of fun and really pretty , so I’m glad I left the Extreme North early.

On our way back South we took the train, but unfortunately we weren’t able to get a sleeping wagon, so we had to travel 1st class, which is a seat that won’t recline for 16 hours overnight. At least our train didn’t break down or get derailed which is pretty common. So that was nice. I didn’t get much sleep though because they didn’t turn the lights off nor the music off. But it wasn’t that bad… I just don’t think I’ll travel first class again.

After hanging out in Yaoundé for a couple of days, I went back to post to continue teaching. But now I am done! I really can’t believe that my first school year is already over. I have been talking with my principal and I think that next year I will be teaching the other teachers computers to help them do their grades faster.
I basically was only teaching for 3 weeks, because I had to go to Yaoundé for the Training Design Workshop, where we create the training for the new volunteers who are coming in June. I didn’t realize how difficult it was, because I remember complaining a lot last year, but now I see that you can’t make everyone happy when it comes to training.

Now I am done until September when school starts back again. I will go back to Bafia for a couple of weeks to help out with training and then in the end of July I will go to Ethiopia for 26 days, with my friend Sean. I am really looking forward to this summer!

Hopefully my next post won’t be too long.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Update - Teaching, Parties, and Time

Well I know it’s been a while since I have been able to update my blog on what I have been up to. Well for starters everyone in my stage went to Limbe, in the South West, for IST. We all stayed at a hotel, and unlike last year, we were not help up at a bar by machetes! So all in all it was a success! I got to swim in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time and that was a lot of fun, I only wish we got to spend more time at the beach, but as it was training we had things to learn. However, IST for me was more of a chance to get to see everyone, and it will be the last time everyone in our stage will be together before COS (Close of Service) Conference in April 2013, when we will decide our official COS dates.

Limbe was a lot of fun, great seafood (yes mom I actually like fish now! I eat the bones sometimes too = ) ) It was a little weird to be in an Anglophone region though (Cameroon is a bilingual country; there are only 2 regions (out of 10) that speak English). But luckily they understand French there too! After IST, I went to Yaoundé, after being stuck in Buea for a night, because my bus never came, even though it was continually only 20 minutes away!

In Yaoundé, I finally got an x-ray on my foot. They decided that it wasn’t broken, although I did see some weird white spots on my foot, that weren’t there when I got an x-ray in May, but what do I know? I am not a doctor! For Christmas, about half my stage met in the West region, in Bangangte for Christmas. It was definitely an experience. The West is a lot more developed than the East and it was interesting to see! It was great for everyone to be together for Christmas because it was the first time for a lot of people to be away from their families (unfortunately, it wasn’t for me!) We actually had a Mexican themed Christmas dinner and it was pretty good, considering =)

After the Christmas celebrations I went back to Yaoundé because I wanted to meet Justine’s parents who had come to visit during the vacation. They were really nice and it was interesting to see their impressions on Cameroon and on the East. Apparently it is a lot more difficult than we think, but we have just gotten used to it. We parents refused to take a shower in her latrine so they bathed outside in their bathing suits in front of everyone walking by. I guess they gave some of the villagers something to talk about!

In Yaoundé during the holiday season, in downtown there is what is called “Yao Fete” which is a way for Cameroonians to celebrate and have fun. They have drinking, food, and shops. Well some volunteers went to Yao Fete to check it out; unfortunately a giant group of white people catches peoples’ attention and not all of it positive. So they had to be escorted out, when they were finally out someone in the group offered to buy the guy a bottle of whiskey for his troubles. Unfortunately he didn’t want the small bottle, he wanted the bigger bottle. This offended the volunteer, because in reality he didn’t have to buy him anything at all. Even more unfortunately this drew a giant crowd and the security guard wouldn’t let any of them leave until he got what he felt was just compensation. It caused a giant kerfuffle. Until the security guard was physically restraining some volunteers and trying to hit them. He actually picked one of them up! Luckily all of the volunteers were keeping their cool and not reacting, even more fortunate other Cameroonians, who can’t avoid a conflict, intervened on our part and tried to get the security guard to understand. At the end of the night it was all resolved, but just another interesting night in Cameroon. (PS nobody was injured during this, so don’t worry!)

It was interesting spending so much time in Yaoundé. It can be overwhelming just because of all of the choices one has to make! It is almost, just almost like being back in American or in France. In Dimako, it is fairly easy; there aren’t any options so I don’t have to think about it. But grocery shopping in Yaoundé is now a taxing exercise because I can’t decide what I want anymore! Most of the time I don’t decide and don’t buy anything just because I can’t make up my mind. It is definitely a new habit of mine.
When I came back to Dimako, another volunteer came to visit and it was nice to show someone my house and around my village. I can’t wait for some people to come through, especially those who are coming to Cameroon! Well this volunteer, Danielle taught me how to bake in a giant pot, or a Dutch oven. So now I have been making a lot and cooking a lot more in general. I will try to make you jealous now! I have been making snicker doodles, chocolate coffee cake, apple sugar muffins, oatmeal crisps, and I think I will try making banana bread next! I have also been making a lot of banana pancakes, which was really good, if I do say so myself =)

The only problem with this method of baking is that it uses up a lot of gas. And unfortunately when I was making my own Mexican night, guacamole, tortillas, Spanish rice and beans (jealous?), my gas finished before I finished cooking! Luckily I was almost done, but it meant that I had to go to Bertoua to get a new gas bottle. The process is easy; you pay 6.600 CFA and change your old gas bottle for a new full bottle. But they are really heavy and it makes for riding on a motorcycle a bit uncomfortable, but I guess I will only have to do it every 5 or so months! 

When I first arrived in country it seemed like time dragged on. Not necessarily because it was boring or bad, but because everything was so new and different I was just taking it all in. When I first moved to post I couldn’t believe that I had a whole 2 years to stay here. Well bizarrely enough I have been at post for now 7 months (I’ve already been in country for 10 months) and now time is just flying! I can’t believe I have less than a year and a half here. Some days it feels like an eternity and other days it can feel like it’ll go by in the blink of an eye, all depending on my mood and circumstances.

It’s really interesting because it seems like days are forever here but then the weeks fly by. Right now I am already 2/3rds done with the teaching of this school year. I just have to fill out the report cards for this sequence and the 2nd trimester. Luckily I have excel that can automatically calculate the averages for me. Too bad there is no machine here to fill out the report cards for us!

Speaking of teaching, ever since I got back from IST, teaching has become a lot easier. I think this is for multiple reasons, ranging from more student absences to more random Cameroonian holidays. At the end of January we celebrated Bilingualism Week. Each school is supposed to hold contests and things to promote and celebrate bilingualism. At my school I held a translation contest, and I was really surprised with how well the majority of the students did! On the 31st of January, the 2 high schools in Dimako joined up to have a big celebration with singing and skits and a fashion show!

The week after it was Youth Week or La Semaine de la Jeunesse, this is definitely a contradiction. Apparently this is when most of the children fall into traps and get pregnant, thus ending their youth, what we are trying to celebrate. Even more ironic is that there is no school at all during this week, because they all have to learn how to march, for the big celebration in front of all the grands. (I guess all of our practice paid off because my high school won!!) Also during Youth Week are Soiree Culturelles, which are essentially talent shows for the kids, they dance, they sing, they do skits. It’s all a lot of fun actually! In my village as well there was a beauty pageant, it was definitely the most interesting beauty pageant I have ever seen, complete with an athletic outfit competition and many other competitions which I can’t really explain or even put into words… 
It was interesting that is all I will say! Youth Day is officially the 11th of February and at night I guess the students just go to bars and get drunk. I have tried finding out the drinking age and everyone just laughs. I guess the legal age may be 18 years, but no one and I mean NO one enforces it. People even let babies drink. It is common to see people drinking beers at 7 or 8 in the morning, or drinking sachets of liquor, which only cost 20 cents. I am not sure of the quality of this liquor but I have my serious doubts! It is just a little interesting I should say that a holiday devoted to youth, often is the end of their youth.

The next holiday is International Women’s Day (it’s interesting to me that all of these holidays are international, but I have never heard of them anywhere but here!). It is on the 8th of March. There is actually a pagne for Women’s Day that every woman is supposed to wear. Unfortunately that is what this holiday has become, it is no longer for celebrating women, but it is about women going out and getting drunk and wearing this pagne. There are actually lines to buy this pagne (it is currently sold out at La King, the national pagne store) and I have heard that it can be grounds for divorce if the husband doesn’t buy his wife this pagne. One colleague told me of a woman who super glued her womanly parts and died because her husband didn’t buy her this special pagne. I think the whole thing is all a little crazy, but I bought my pagne and will just see what happens on Women’s Day.

In completely other news, Dimako now has a gas station. It opened in Januaray and they threw a giant THREE day party for this gas station. There were people from all over who came to this party. I heard that even the mayor of Yaounde was here to celebrate the opening of a gas station! As Justine told me, they will take any reason here to have a party. But it is exciting because now they carry my favorite drink! This soy drink that comes in 4 flavors, so I am excited about his gas station and the fact that the asphalt road is almost to Bertoua now. There is only 20 more kilometers to go!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Transportation in Cameroon is definitely different than anything I have experienced. Also more dangerous. As of now, after being country for only 9 months, I have been in a total of 4 accidents. Nothing completely serious, but that just illustrates the dangers of travelling in this country.
For short trips, most people can just grab a motorcycle. In Bertoua, the regional capital, most trips cost 100 CFA a person (about 20 cents). These moto drivers can take you about anywhere you wish. There are almost always moto drivers. Unfortunately of course when you really want one, they are never there and they hassle you when you don’t need one.
In Bertoua and most other big towns there are also yellow taxi cars. They are small 4 door cars, smaller than a Camry, and their carrying capacity is 6 people plus the driver. In Yaoundé, there are only taxis, moto taxis are prohibited. In order to grab a taxi you stand on the side of road and wait for a taxi to drive by, you then yell where you want to go, how much you are going to pay, and how many places you need. If they accept all of the above they will honk their horn and then you get in. If they don’t like it then they will just drive off. Sometimes it can take 1 taxi or 20 taxis to finally get where you want to go. On the other hand you can just “depot” or taxi or pay for all the seats and then you can go directly to your destination without having to get other passengers if your taxi isn’t full. It is definitely an interesting system, but I doubt it will ever pick up in America. On the Brightside it makes the taxi rides relatively cheap about 200 – 300 CFA (10-15 cents) depending on how far you want to go.
For longer trips, most people take agency bus. There are many different agencies all going to the same place. When a taxi drops you off, often the porters will rip your bags from you and take you to their agency, so they are ensured that you go with them. There is no big difference between any of the agencies, but people have their preferences. I personally like to take Melo Agence for my trips to and from Bertoua. The 5 hour trip costs 4000 CFA (or 8 dollars) one way.
You make think that since it is an agency and not a bush taxi, there would be a time table. Unfortunately, not so. Basically the buses leave whenever they are full to maximize profits, which mean you can wait hours for the bus to leave. I like Melo because they normally only leave 60 – 90 minutes late. I once waited 5 hours for a bus that never came even though every hour I was told that the bus was only 20 minutes away, it just goes to show you how time is all relative. Another way the agencies maximize profits is that they pick up passengers on the side of the road. So people are in the basically standing up in the aisles or sitting in the stairways. The length of the trip can depend entirely on how many stops the bus driver makes to pick up more passengers, the gendarme stops, and of course the infamous breakdowns (So far I’ve had 2 breakdowns = ) )
There are many different types of agency buses too. Ranging from a typical van you would see in America, that will magically fit 20 people, to prison bus, named so for the grate between the driver and the passengers, to a coaster which fits 35 people, and then a coach bus like those in America, except it is 3 seats, an aisle, and 2 seats (they magically fit an extra seat in each row).
Even more fun on this bus rides are the people who hop on and sell things. Often talking for the whole entire bus rides hawking their wares, anything from toothbrushes to magical lotions and potions that will cure you of anything. What I find most amazing about this is that people are willing to buy this junk.
Although transportation in Cameroon can be difficult, it also has its benefits. Such as after an accident on the way to Yaoundé our bus was broken, I was able to get on another bus with relatively little problems. It was funny that a bus from the same agency hit my bus. Even more ironic was that our bus was slowing down because there was another accident. On the side of the road with my friends Rachel and Sam, I tried flagging down every car and bus trying to get us on a bus to Yaoundé. One taxi wanted 30.000 CFA (60 dollars) to take us, even though the taxi looked like it was in worse shape than our bus. I refused on principle to pay that much because it should have only cost 2.000 CFA. Luckily another bus came by and I haggled with the driver to only pay 1500 CFA a person because we wouldn’t even have seats. Unfortunately someone on the bus did not like that only white people came on the bus and started complaining. Well I wasn’t in the mood for her attitude so I told her that the others did not want to stand and if she was unhappy that no Cameroonians came on the bus, she could give up her seat for one of them. Apparently she wasn’t too upset because she didn’t give up her seat.