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.