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!