Sunday, November 15, 2009

still here...

Alright, I’ll attempt to catch you guys up. Summer came and went… really fast. I was mostly busy with Elliott’s visit (1 month) the new training (those guys have already been sworn in as volunteers for almost 3 months now) and GRE studying (eesh). Elliott did a great job detailing his visit. And that actually wasn’t the first time I’ve “broken” a water valve and had to deal with water gushing everywhere. I’m thrilled that I had the chance to share my experience with him. It was a bit odd… that feeling of two worlds colliding… but it was great, nonetheless. We spent a night at the Hilton in Yaounde. It was the closest I’ve been to America in year… I took a hot bath! I drank Heineken and slept on a spring mattress. We had pina coladas and real cheeseburgers. It was absolutely amazing. I felt sorry for the taxi driver who drove me from the airport after I left Elliott there for his return flight. Saying “goodbye” this time was even harder than the first time. Why? I guess because when we were parting ways on that what-now-seems-like-forever-ago day, there was the excitement of my life as a Peace Corps volunteer ahead. All was going to be new and unknown. But this time, I had to take a bus back to my house that now feels well broken into and still had reminders that Elliott had been here. There was his sock on my bedroom trunk and the bottle of wine we didn’t open and even remnants of the mud he tracked all over the floor (heh).
My computer broke in August. Cameroon is not kind to electronics. But now I have a refurbished Inspiron mini. I think these things are perfect for volunteers. They’re affordable and very lightweight yet durable. If you buy one refurbished ($250 and if it breaks, it won’t be such a tragedy like when a relatively new $800 inspiron breaks). I’ve got a portable disc drive (almost bigger than the computer) for when I want to watch DVDs.
School began in September and I was given a schedule similar to last year. I get to teach one of the same classes I taught last year (6em2 which is now 5em2). I wanted to be able to have at least one of the classes for a second year. However, that might have not been such a good idea. Last year, they had time to “figure me out” and they know what they can get away with. I was feeling my way around and they were sort of my guinea pigs. This year, with my other classes, I knew how to begin the year. So far I’ve been in school for two months and I’ve had to discipline NO ONE in the other classes… but the disciplining in 5em2 is on a daily basis. *sigh* But these are the kids (a group of 62) I’ve come to know by name and who’ve come to know me. They hold a special place in my frazzled heart.
My host mom’s sister gave me a new kitten. That’s him you see in the picture. His name’s Gumbo and he chases his own tail. He also eats my electricity bills and farts a lot. But sometimes he can be really cute.
December will be a crazy month since I’ll lose my 2 post-mates. :( Their time in Cameroon is up and now they’re onto bigger and better things (like learning Arabic). They were only a 5 minute walk away and honestly, having Americans nearby, really helped to keep me sane. There were always movie and dinner nights where I could vent in American English and they understood exactly how I was feeling. I love my Cameroonian colleagues but some things just don’t cross that great cultural divide. The good news is that one of my post mates will be replaced with a new: she’s a Tulane student and a registered nurse! I had the chance to meet her and I know we’ll get along great (even if it’s only for 6 months). That’s right, by the time my new post-mate settles in at post in a few weeks, I’ll be three quarters of the way through my service… and I’ll also be leaving for a one month vacation. I get to spend Christmas and New Years at home! (thanks to Elliott )
So, hopefully, I’ll be seeing some of you soon!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Month in Cameroon: A Guest Entry

Where to start? How about a humorous story? Okay, here goes. On the first weekend of my African adventure, on the beaches of Kribi, we checked into Hotel Le Paradis. Upon arriving at our room, we found that there was no hot water in the shower (not a shock, most hotels we’ve stayed at didn’t have hot water). We could see where the theoretical hot water knob was detached from the wall, and the valve that the theoretical hot water would be dispensed from. Brandi decided that she would attempt to fix this problem. She began to pull the fixture the half inch or so it would take to maneuver the knob back onto the valve, as I said “Don’t force it.” Actually, I had gotten as far as “Do…” when I was hit with a blast of water in the stomach, as Brandi had pulled the entire fixture off the wall, releasing a torrent of water into the bathroom, immediately beginning to flood it. She ran down to the office while I looked around for a knob or something to shut off the water (nothing in there, it was controlled from the outside), and someone came to turn off the water, and show us to another room. This one had hot water (But no working TV).

Here’s another one. We were on the bus from Yaoundé (capital city of Cameroon, where my plane landed) to Bangangte (where we would catch a cab to the town of Bazou, where Brandi’s house is located). The bus pulls over to stop at a small market where someone was getting off, also so anyone could use the bathroom if they wished. A bunch of children run up to the bus selling various food items (Brandi bought some Meat on a Stick, coated with some kind of pepper. Not bad.), and one in particular stuck out. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but afterwards, Brandi filled me in. Here is their loosely translated (based on what I was told) exchange:

Boy (to Brandi): Hey, buy these limes for that big boy there!

Brandi: He is big, isn’t he? Are you jealous?

Boy: No, I am skinny because I run. He probably does not run.

He’s got me there. Little punk.

So what else is there to talk about? Since I’ve been here, I’ve tried various foods for the first time, such as crocodile (was okay, not great. Brandi says the first time she had it, it was much better, but she couldn’t remember the name of the place, so we ended up eating it at another hotel down the road). While in Kribi, we also went to a fish market on the water where they’d have boys catching fish, bringing it up, and you could choose your fish to be grilled for you. We had red snapper (Kuni was right…very tasty). We’ve actually eaten a lot of fish, often with a sauce of some sort (Brandi says her favorite is the peanut sauce, and it is excellent). And the spaghetti omelets, a staple of Cameroonian breakfasts, were very good as well.

Also, we got together with Brandi’s host family (the family who she lived with for the first few months, and who helped integrate her into the culture), and took a car to Foumban, where we got to see the old palace, which had since been turned into a museum. It was pretty nice, got to see some artifacts and such going back around 700 years. We also did some shopping, where Brandi’s host mom took over with some shrewd negotiating. Well, it would be “negotiating” for most people, she tells the merchant what she’ll pay, and will not budge from it at all. And more often than not, she gets it. Got me a pretty good price on some stuff, too. Oh, and on the way out, we saw the chief, just chilling on his porch, reading a book.

Besides that, it’s been a lot of hanging around at Brandi’s house in the town of Bazou, preparing meals (lots of rice and pasta, and some sandwiches, mostly), doing laundry (by hand, hanging out to dry), and generally living the African life (Cold shower or bucket bath? Take your pick.). Honestly, the accommodations aren’t bad. We have electricity (most of the time), and running water (cold only), so it isn’t as primitive as one might think.

That’s about all I have for now. Today’s my last (full) day in Bazou, tomorrow we head back to Yaoundé, and on Monday, I’ll begin another 24-hour journey to get home. So, I guess I’ll see (some of) you in a week or so, and maybe I’ll have more detailed stories too. Until then, this is guest blogger Elliott Kuhn, signing off.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Don't you have anything to say? sheesh

I'm a bit ashamed that I've let my blog become a ghost blog these last few months. The end of the school year brought on lots of monotonous work and frankly, the interesting things I used to be so anxious to write about seem to be life as usual now.

First of all, I'd like to take a bit of time to thank my friends, Ms Anne and Ms Linda and her girls at Kate Middleton. They've sent my students prizes and supplies and even some yummies for myself. In my village, my postmates are holding a 2 week summer camp starting June 15th. Since I have plenty of stuff, I plan on using much of the supplies for the camp. And you have no idea how thrilled kids are about simple things like ink pens and stickers. I'd started putting sparkly stickers on the good grades and students were so proud of them. I couldn't believe that something like a sticker could be a motivation tool. So thanks again and hopefully I can get some pictures of the camp up in a few weeks.

A couple of months ago, I attended a cultural festival in a neighboring village. That's the picture you see above. (thanks to Peter) One of the volunteers was named a "prince" by his village chief. And there was a mass wedding of 27 couples! Apparently my village will be having a cultural festival next month. Of course, you can never be sure... but I hope it works out.

After school ended, I headed to the capital, Yaounde to help organize the new volunteer training. Another group of education and business volunteers have arrived and they begin their training this week. I can't believe a whole year ago, I was in their shoes. I can't believe how crazy time can feel here. In Yaounde, I got to see some of the other volunteers from my training group and we had a great time. We made some interesting food and even had our very own prom. By prom I mean we got dressed up in crazy outfits, chose a theme, decorated, and danced. The theme was Post Apocalyptic Winter Wasteland. I posted one of Thryn's post-apocolypt'ed photos above. It was a good time.

At our provincial meeting, the volunteers of the West decided to climb Mount Batchengou and we lucked out because we had perfect weather and an awesome climb. I'm hoping Gabe sends me some photos of that so I can share.

After summer camp, I head to Yaounde for my mid-service medical exam... so they can tell me what kind of scary things are nesting inside me. Wouldn't it be nice if after a year in Cameroon, I find out there's not a thing wrong with me? Keep your fingers crossed.

And right after mid-service, Elliott will be here! We've planned a nice vacation. I'll take plenty of pictures and maybe I can talk him into posting a visitor story on my blog.

Thanks for the pressure to update this blog. It's good to know people still want to read this thing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

more photos

Saturday, February 28, 2009

wow february!

So, this month has been pretty busy and very productive. To begin, my majorette squad performed their dance to "thriller" on Youth Day and won first prize in their division and first prize over-all. They were super excited and I think they've formed a rivalry with the technical school dance squad. It felt really good watching them perform... and even better seeing how proud they were of their prize. It made me feel like my many hours practicing with them was beyond worth it. I filmed their dance and put it up on youtube (not the best quality). But here's the link: I've also got some videos of my cat if you ever get bored enough to watch those.

So, Youth Day went really well and was a lot of fun. The schools and the community take it really seriously and it's good to see the kids having a good time. The little pre-schoolers are the cutest though. They dance and sing and look super precious. There's also a talent show where I got to see some of my students perform their acting/singing/dancing/rapping skills. It was neat.

Also, I wrote a letter requesting a donation of some computers in my school. I was hoping for a few at least but we ended up getting six! And a laser printer! It actually doubled the computers in the lab and now we can better serve our 1,500 students. It's a small step but a step forward, nonetheless.

I've started meeting with the art club and I have some students who have been giving classes on drawing. They're pretty interesting and I like to sit with the students and draw with them. It's refreshing being the student for a change.

It's starting to feel like my efforts here are amounting to something (even if only in a small way). I'm also in good health and have my discipline problems at school under control. It just took some getting used to. At least I'll know what to do next year.

Keep in touch.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A few holiday photos...