Tuesday, February 16, 2010

happy mardi gras!

Fat Tuesday… try explaining “Mardi Gras” to native French speakers. Once I explained it’s a gluttonous holiday before Lent, they understood the concept (sort of). My cat, Gumbo, likes celebrating ANY holiday. He's such a party animal.

To celebrate, we made red beans and rice big easy style. Delicious! Le bien est bien.

My post mate, Kim, and I made a king cake! Well she did it mostly since it was her second time baking one. Of course, that was back in the states. Here, we were met with several challenges. Not only was it a vegan recipe but there’s no food coloring and we didn’t know what to do about filling. We settled with 2 fillings: soy cream cheese (?) or something like it and chocolate. For color, we used grated lemon and lime peel and to make purple, we mashed dried blue berries and cranberries. It worked! I hope everyone is enjoying Mardi Gras. I hear since the Saints won the super bowl, the party just doesn’t stop!

I guess I'm getting better about blogging. Who knew?

Friday, February 12, 2010

youth day

Youth Day was yesterday. It’s something kids look forward to all year (especially if they’re a part of some kind of entertainment). It’s a series of performances and then a parade, which all the local schools participate in. Afterwards, they reward prizes to the best performance and best march in these 3 categories: preschool, primary school, and high school. Last year, I started a majorette squad which was our high school’s “performance.” We did “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, remember? Last year, we won both performance and best march. Well, this year we did it again.

This year, I was a little less optimistic about Youth Day than I was last year. I suppose I became less oblivious to some of the unsettling aspects of the day. Many of these children (even the school’s performers) are given no sort of refreshments and are asked to wait nearly all day standing in the hot sun. Afterwards, some of them have to walk 10 kilometers or more back home. Even the competition winners looked anything but enthusiastic. They were frustrated, hungry, and tired. Also, the parade marchers miss a week of school in order to practice for the parade. I’m left wondering, “To what extent does this benefit our youth?”

Don’t get me wrong… there are some rewarding aspects of the day. The talent show is entertaining and you can tell this is something the kids really enjoy. This happens the evening before the parade. A lot of these kids practice all year to showcase their talents and it’s really enjoyable to watch.

This year, the majorettes did a routine to “Boom Boom Pow.” Their choice—not mine. Last year, I met with this squad several times a week, teaching them to twirl and incorporate dancing to create a routine. Last year, it was a lot of work… but the girls really loved it. And there’s no majorette squad around quite like them (they twirl wooden batons and dance American style to the Black Eyed Peas). This year, however, it wasn’t quite so challenging. The captain and co-captain by now have learned how to keep their squad in order. They hold practices without me. They’ve created routines without me. It’s no longer my squad. It’s their squad. Next year, they’ll do it all on their own. So, is baton twirling the legacy I’ll leave behind? Believe me, it wasn’t the intention I came to Cameroon with. It just sort of happened. I’ve been asked by a fellow volunteer, “What are you teaching this group of girls?” By that, she means it’s no peer educator group or health group or even an English club. It’s not the typical volunteer secondary project. But I’ve seen these girls form bonds with each other. They’ve become confident and learned collaboration and even leadership skills. They lean on each other. They love that they’re a part of a respected squad. And that’s good enough for me.