Sunday, June 29, 2008

Photos of Cameroon!

Journey Continues Part 2

(Editor's note: This entry written June 23)

Today was a rainy day as usual. It rains at least once a day and sometimes up to four times a day! The mud gets pretty disgusting too, especially because it’s just everywhere. You really can’t get away from it. Every day, it manages to get on my toes or my ankles or under my fingernails… ugh! When’s the rainy season over? Bring on the dry season.

Yesterday my host mom cut up some kind of orange melon that resembles a watermelon and boiled the pieces and served it with rice and fish in red gravy. The fish was great and so much like a “sauce piquant.” That made me happy. And the chocolate spread with bananas on bread in the morning is also a happy food for me! Magnoc, however is not a happy food. It resembles a big root of some kind and is mashed and hardened in this long leaf-like thing. It’s just not for me.

I never thought I’d say this but I think I’m going to miss American football. Cameroonians are obsessed with soccer and that’s the only sport they talk about. Everyone watches matches and the Cameroon Lions are actually a good soccer team. But I don’t know anything about soccer and I was really getting into football before I left. So you guys are going to have to keep me updated.

We’re starting to get more into depth about culture and the education system in Cameroon. So far, I’m pretty excited about teaching. We’ll see if that continues… this is my chance to assess whether or not I want a career in teaching. I am pretty sure, however, that even if I don’t teach when I go back home, I will still pursue a job related to development work. Either that or I’ll audition for American Idol!

My experience, so far, has just been so pleasant. I do miss everyone already, however but I can honestly say I’m doing great. My health is good, the food is not bad, and the people are so great to me. I can find chocolate and pretty good beer. So, other than my family and friends aren’t experiencing it too, I’ve got no complaints. I love you guys!

The Journey Continues...

(Editor's note: This entry was written June 22)

Describe your last trip…

So, lately I’ve been feeling the effects of the language barrier. Yesterday morning, my language trainer asked us to explain in detail a trip we took recently. Well, of course, I started describing the cruise I went on in January and for the rest of the class, I couldn’t concentrate because I was just thinking about that vacation and my friends and Elliott, of course… so I got a bit bummed. And the tough part is that I can’t go home and talk about it. I have a hard enough time explaining to my host family why I don’t eat the parts of a chicken that they eat. So, I’m trying to figure out the best way to deal with emotions if I’m going to have to depend on myself to resolve frustrations. That way when Elliott calls to talk to me, I don’t sound like a crazed ball of emotion just throwing all of my feelings at him. It sucks because even when I’ve discovered something really awesome about my experience, I still don’t know how to tell anyone. But as soon as I can get the language, I imagine it will be better.

On a good note, my French is actually improving… slowly but surely. I find myself meeting kids on the street and actually having lengthy conversations with them. Also, my host mom’s conversations have gone beyond, “Why don’t you eat more?” and “Do you need to wash now?” to “What was festival international like back at home?” (Because she saw my shirt) and “Tell me what you want to do when you go back home.” And for the most part, I can answer her and she understands me. All of my host family has a desire to know about my family in the U.S. They wanted to see all of my pictures and they said I look exactly like my mom. They were also so amazed that I have a sister who’s so young. They were also amazed and confused by all the pictures I had of my parakeets. I had some of flamingos too… and they asked if I eat them. I replied, “No, no those little birds are my friends,” and then I showed them a picture of the two playing on their tree and they were just amazed. They were also amazed by all the pictures I have of crawfish boils. I don’t think they’ve ever had crawfish but they knew what it was.

I’ve had Cameroonian beer and it’s actually pretty good. I’d probably drink an Abita before a “33” but it’s really not bad. Another thing I’ve discovered I love here is this chocolate spread they like to put on chocolate… I mix it with bananas and then put it on bread. Oh wow, oh yum. It’s not quite as great as peanut butter but still yummy. And oh how I would kill for some iced cold milk. There’s a sincere shortage of dairy here. I’ve managed to get a small bag of soy milk that my host mom buys from the “boulangerie,” but that’s as lucky as I’ve gotten. Yaounde, however, had ice cream! I’m going back to Yaounde in August so I think I’ll stop for some then.

There are 11 English Ed volunteers, myself included, in training right now and of the 11 posts, 6 are in the Adamoua province in the north, 4 are in the east province, and only one is in the west. I’m in the west right now and absolutely love it. I haven’t heard too many great things about the East because it’s a bit more primitive. When I say primitive, I mean pygmies and bush meat. The north I hear is pretty mellow and volunteers tend to like it a great deal up there. However, there’s an intense dry heat… Well, I’ll find out mid-july where I’m going but until then, I’m just focusing on getting my tech training and language down. Its easier learning French here than in French class, obviously. When it’s essential in communication, one tends to be highly motivated in learning.

Yesterday, my little host brother, who is absolutely adorable, turned one years old! So there was a huge party for him. A ton of kids were here and we danced a bunch. They said I dance really well but I had to raise my eyebrow at that one. There was also popcorn at the party. Not the version you’re thinking of… but still, it was popcorn! And there were cookies too! Yummy cookies.

My host mom has made me a super cool Cameroonian dress and so far, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on it! I picked out the fabric and my host mom said, “That’s too blue.” I was like, “There’s no such thing as too blue.” She wanted me to get some crazy orange and green fabric which she said would look great on me but uh, I wasn’t feeling it. I’m also having an “ensemble” made, which is just a long shirt and shirt. The fabric is brown and has pictures of white fish on it. Haha. I imagine I’ll look amazing in it.

I’m getting used to the dirt. I wash my feet like 3 times a day and I have to wash my shoes every day. This dirt seriously gets everywhere! I put some orange crystal light in my water bottle and one of the volunteers asked, “Wow, is that your filtered water?” and I replied, “Yeah, it’s just a bit of Bangangte dirt mixed in.”

I’ve been sleeping a bunch. After dinner, I go to my room and read but fall asleep before 9pm usually and I wake up at 6ish every morning. I’ve been sleeping more here than I ever have before. I think it’s because I’m genuinely pretty exhausted by the end of a day. I process more and use my brain more in one day than I probably did in a week back in the states. I’m just constantly trying to think in French and I’m always thinking about what’s going on around me because it’s all new. Also, I get around town by foot only so by the time I’m in bed, I’m ready to sleep.

And it looks like I won’t be able to skype because I only use my laptop for typing emails, blogs, music, games, and watching movies… I use the computer at the cyber and bring my usb to upload my emails and such. However, I have a cell phone and you can call me from Skype and I think it’s like 27 cents a minute. I love getting calls. You can get my phone number from Elliott. If you post a reply that you want it and provide your email address, maybe he’ll send you my number? I miss you guys so call me sometime! Just remember, I’m 6 hours ahead of you guys so if you call me after 3pm, I’m likely to not answer… but that’s okay! Keep trying. I’m available on the weekends to talk anytime!

Okay, if you guys are wondering what to send me, I would really love some cd’s with music on it because I don’t have a means of downloading songs here and will get tired of the stuff I have pretty quickly. The same applies to movies and books… you guys know what I like. I’m interested in new stuff too. If you want to send food, send peanut butter stuff! Anything sweet! And jerkey! And crystal light packets or sauce packets (like the instant dinner types). I miss Mexican food.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Brandi's Excellent African Adventure

Okay guys, sorry I’m just now getting to update my blog but finding internet cafes as well as using them has been quite tricky. I’ve remained pretty busy. So far, my experience has been pleasant. Yaounde was great but a bit too congested for me. I prefer my training site in Bangangte, a smaller town, where I live with a host family consisting of a mom, dad, two girls and two boys. My host dad’s a pharmacy tech and my mom’s an elementary school teacher. None of them speak any English so I’ve had to use only French, which was pretty overwhelming at first but has gotten better. They are super supportive and hospitable. Our house has running water and electricity, (sporadically) flushing toilets, and a small television. I was happy to find these things! I do, however, have to take bucket baths but I’ve already gotten used to them. They’re really not so bad! In my opinion, they’re better than cold showers, which some volunteers are doing.

Some of the food is really great here! The fruits are probably the best I’ve ever had. Fried plantains are good and so are the spaghetti omelets! Some of the food I’m having a hard time adjusting to though… mostly because they use a lot of oil here and my stomach just can’t handle it. My host mom keeps telling me to eat more but I try to convey in French that my appetite is small here. Last night I ate 5 small potatoes and she was like, “Today I counted you ate 5 potatoes but tomorrow you will 6 and on Wednesday, you will eat 7 and so on…” She’s so funny. I try to tell her that it’s not her cooking, only my stomach but I don’t think she understands very well. Tomorrow, she’s taking me to get clothes made. Yay! The Cameroonian clothes are actually pretty nice. Sunday, I hand washed all my clothes. It was an all-day affair! I was so pooped at the end of the day. It’s something that’s going to take time to get used to. We also have to iron all of our clothes or hang them to dry for at least 4 days because of a bacteria that dwells in damp clothing and can get into our skin! Oh gosh, I can’t even begin to tell you how many medical fears exist here! I look at my hands and think, “There’s something on them. I just know it.” We have to take so many precautions but luckily, we’ve got a pretty awesome medical kit and the medical officers have been doing a good job of educating us on it all.

I really like Bangangte. There are lots of flowers and trees as well as hills. There are some beautiful, beautiful birds here! Everyone knows how I love birds. Also, the climate is just amazing! It’s not hot at all. I sleep with my window open at night and it’s actually pretty cool. I sleep under a fleece… and a mosquito net, of course. The only complaint I have about Bangangte is everyone else’s complaint… the red dirt that turns into mud and gets everywhere! Ugh.

Training has been going well thus far. There’s been lots of language and a good bit of tech to prepare us for the classroom experience. My tech class today got me pretty excited about teaching so I’m really looking forward to going to my post, which will be where I’ll spend the next two years. Hopefully, I can pass the language and swear in as an official volunteer on Aug 22nd. Right now, I’m simply classified as a Peace Corps Trainee.

Knock on wood because my health has been great so far. Many volunteers have gotten sick already but I have managed to stay pretty healthy… maybe more than healthy because I’ve been drinking more water than usual and probably walking more than usual. If you guys have any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer them as soon as possible. Love you all!

Monday, June 9, 2008


Hey guys! I made it to Africa and I'm doing great. I don't have a lot of time to tell you about it but I wanted to put a picture up. Don't worry I'll have a lot more to say in the next few days. I'm just busy and trying to soak things up. I love you all!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Au revoir louisiane!

I left my good ol' home of Louisiana yesterday. I won't lie and say it wasn't hard because it's home and of course I knew I would miss it. My family brought me to the airport so we could say our goodbyes. I'm proud of them all! Thanks for the support, guys! I love you. I also have to thank my friends, who made my last days at home memorable. I suppose I'm pretty darn lucky because I have some super awesome friends and family and I know they'll be on my mind and in my heart all the time (as cheesy as that sounds). So thank you everyone for absolutely everything!
So, now I'm in Philadelphia at staging, getting ready for the flight to Cameroon tomorrow. I am sooo nervous about the vaccinations and meds we'll be getting tomorrow. When I get super nervous around needles, I faint. I know... big baby, right? But awesomely enough, meeting the group of 36 volunteers who are coming with me has made me feel so much better! They're really great and they are all feeling the same way I'm feeling. I was much comforted when I arrived and met this group.
Keep me in your thoughts! I love you all!