Saturday, October 25, 2008

I finally got a package!

Last Saturday, we went to see a football game in Garura, the capital of the province. It was the best Cameroonian team against the best team from Zimbabwe in the playoffs for the Africa cup and we kicked butt of course! I would say that the stadium was 97% men and most of them were enjoying the saches of whiskey and billy-billy (grain alcohol) that were cheaply available throughout the whole game. There is no cutting people off after the 7th inning here. (p.s. updates on the World Series please!)

Action shot right before the third goal went in. The final score was 4-0 Cameroon.

Like the U.S. people like to wear paint and dance around like crazy people.

A few of us got our hair braided this weekend by our host families. Actually two of my friends came over Sunday with braided hair and my family didn’t want to be outdone, so Voila! My sister told me that if she went to school with her hair unbraided she would get it shaved off in front of everyone. Whew, that’s a bit intense for my taste.

Next week we finally find out where we will all be posted for the next two years! We will be traveling to our posts for a site visit the week after next.

I also finally got my conditioner yesterday. I sent it on September 12, so it took 42 days to get to me. If you wanted to send things to me (hint hint) I would send it in one of those padded envelopes and not a box because it will get here faster. Also, please wait until I get my post address so that the mail will be more direct. I haven’t put together package ideas (for people who are bored, have dispensable income, and/or want to make me extremely happy) but I assure you that the list will be coming soon.

Love to all!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Food, Mud, and Football (Oct 17)

I think I’ve come up with a short-term solution for my bad luck with internet. I will continue to pre-write blogs and if the internet chooses to be MIA that day, then I will save it to put up the next time. This means I might put up multiple blogs in one day. So if you are a person unconstrained by the concept of time, feel free to read the blogs in the order that you like. If you like things to go in an orderly fashion, please check the blog before you start reading—as a hint for this week, stop reading immediately because this is the second one I’m posting. Also, pictures are going to be second priority, so I’ll leave room for them with captions, but they might not go up with the blog.

Alright, so chores done now updates. Last Sunday, I went on a bike trip with 3 other girls. We had no real destination, only we really wanted to see some of the hills around us up close. Good thing Peace Corps gave us mountain bikes because we took them for a beating; we went through fields of cotton, mais, and swamps.

This is Brianna next to the table top mountain. Our next goal is to climb it and have a picnic on top.

Thea trekking it on the “bike path”.

After the road gave way Aubrey and her bike bit it. Don’t worry I did the same thing right behind her. My homestay family was horrified when I got back looking like a mud monster.

Later that day, I went to the market with my mom and two of my little brothers. My goal was to buy a pagne, and my mom wouldn’t hear of me bargaining by myself. The ‘Nasara’ price can be a bit steep and when you’re trying to bargain in cave-man French to native Fufulde speakers, things can get a bit messy. Let’s just say that Mama Bouba took the pagne market by storm and successfully got me a beautiful pagne that I will be sending to the tailors this weekend.

I promised I would talk about food, but I first must apologize for misspelling, it is mostly phonetic. Breakfast is cafĂ© au lait with tons of sugar, beniets (fried soy dough), and a peanut dish called Ham-Ham. (It’s not made of ham because Muslims cannot eat pork, but there’s other ingredients in it that I haven’t been able to identify yet. Sometimes we eat Bouyi, which has the consistency of watery cream of wheat. It’s made from peanuts, mais, and soy and it’s delicious! The other meals are made up of mostly cous-cous and different types of sauces made from peanuts, fish, beef, and different leafy vegetables.

As a weird, supposedly picky foreigner, most of the time I get served something different than what the family is eating. No matter how often I say I want to eat the cous-cous and sauce, I mostly get spaghetti and sardines. I think the girl before me was really picky. Gosh! Way to ruin it for me! Yeah, if I never saw another sardine in my life, I would be perfectly happy. Oh well.

Peanuts are found in abundance here and last week I found peanut butter in the market, sold in little plastic bags. When I saw them, peanut butter banana sandwiches started dancing in front of my eyes—also the great thing about living in constant heat is that you probably don’t have to heat the bread to melt the peanut butter into the bananas. Another awesome product here is Tartina, which is a more chocolaty Nutella. Yum!

My brother took this one of his mom cooking by the fire in the kitchen.

This is my youngest brother, Aminou, with the lunch of cous-cous and gumbo. Gumbo is made from okra—the consistency is kind of like snot, but it’s really good.

So as I look back on the amount time I just spent on food, it reminds me of what one of the Cameroonian trainers said to us a few weeks ago. He said that Americans always talk about food while Cameroonians talk about family. This is very true—I think I know more about people’s food cravings than about their families. Hmmmm….

I would love to get updates on people, but can't make any promises on getting back to you in the near future.

I Motion to reintroduce bucket baths to the U.S. (Oct 10)

Wow, sorry about that last post with the pictures everywhere. They just took so long to load that I ran out of internet time before I could fix it. I put captions on the pictures from last weeks post to help alleviate confusion. I also added some pictures that didn’t make it to the blog last week. So please reread. I didn’t really know what to expect with the internet so I come better prepared this week.

So I realized that I haven’t talked much about how training is going. It’s a little bit like having freshman orientation for 11 weeks; so parts are fun, some are extremely boring. Right now we are learning about sustainable development and how to do community assessments, which basically means we’re scratching the surface about these subjects. I guess it’s difficult to tailor a training too specifically because we will all be on our own in 2 months, at very different posts. The best parts of training so far have been talking with the guest PC Volunteers that come every week to give us a taste of what they’ve been doing for the two years. It’s also good to do this with 28 other trainees; we’re all in the same boat and trying to stay sane. We will be getting where we will be living for the next two years at the end of the month—yay, a Halloween present. (p.s. is it bad that I have to sing the H-A-double L-O-W-double E-N song every time I write that word?)

This is me, Brian, and Nadine, my language teacher. Go Novice-Mid class (yep I moved up a level)!

Yesterday, we visited the hospital in Pitoa; this hospital is at a level right below the hospitals in the provincial capital. The head doctor is the only doctor there and he has to budget his time between patients and administrative duties. As the laboratory technician told us, they don’t have a lot of equipment, but they do the best with what they have. It’s expensive for people to go to the hospital in general and traditional medications are used a lot — I’m definitely going to look into the traditional medicines while I’m here. A side note: we also met with the nurse who runs the family planning for the hospital and she told us that a month pack of birth control costs 100 CFA. This means that for a YEAR it would cost less than $4 to be supplied with birth control. It’s really interesting when you think about how many insurance companies cover Viagra (a drug that is given to fix a medical condition about 10% of the time) but not birth control. Hmmmm.

This is our health program with the head doctor following protocol.

If you ever find yourself needing surgery in Pitoa, here’s where it’s at.

To completely change the subject, I’m going to make a public service announcement: the amazingness that is a bucket bath should be tried by all. Definition: a person with a bucket of water and a bowl stands in a (preferably) roofless latrine and pours water over their head. The only way I can describe it is when you go to get your hair cut and the hairdresser washes your hair—yeah it’s kinda like that. It’s also one of the only times that I feel a bit chilled during the day and there’s something about being refreshed under the stars. Therefore, I recommend it to anyone dealing with stress.

These are some pictures of my homestay house. First the goats and chickens hopping around the yard. The rooster is always very confused, the sun is definitely not up at 2am when he randomly cockadoodledoos.

This is outside of the kitchen area. My bro, Mial, is doing some homework.

I think the Cameroonian cuisine will be the topic of the next post, but please comment or email me if you’re curious about anything else.

Tip of the day: If you want to become quick friends with a Cameroonian, just say to them J’aime Eto’o. (I love Eto’o). He’s the most famous football player in the country.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The rediscovery of Internet

So I apologize from the get-go...I wrote out this blog on my computer hoping that it would transfer when I got to the internet cafe but it came out as gobbly-gook. This will probably not go as indepht.

I know everyone has been at the edge of their seats wondering what's going on in Cara's life, I'm here to relieve any pain it may have caused to wait 2 weeks. I will be breaking this down into chapters to help those with short attention spans. Ps: there are pics!

Chapter 1: Une fete!

Here are some of the pics that I promised from the party at the PC Director's house when we were still in Younde. For anyone travelling in this part of the world, please me aware that Malta, though made by Guiness, is not an alcoholic beverage but a very sweet tasting ginger soda. I was quite disappointed at the first mouthful.

Me and my Younde roommate Ali, before the dinner.

Fellow trainees looking stoic.

Chapter 2: By Train, by Bushtaxi

We then took a train to the North province where we will be spending 2 monthes training before we get sent off to our posts. It was a night train that took 17 hours. When it got too dark to see out of the window the scenery was tropical forests and when the sun came up again we were seeing a sparsely treed landscape. During our 4 hour bushtaxi drive to the provincial capital, Garoua, we got to see the majestic rolling hills and flat grasses of the North. This is the end of the rainy season so the green hills will only be this way until around February. One of the current PCV ominously told us that her thermometer turned black when it hit 140 F in the last April. This is a far cry from a Hamilton winter.]

I'm bothering Kauleen on the train.

This is a scene from our bushtaxi ride. Apparently this will be the most comfortable one we will go more space in real life I guess.

A group photo with the U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon with all the trainees and trainers.

Chapter 3: Home sweet home

When we arrived to our small towns outside of Garoua, we were immediately whisked away to our homestays. I was picked up by 2 of my brothers and was welcomed by their mom and 6 other siblings. My Cameroonian dad works for the cotton company and isn't home during the week. My siblings are the 3 oldest brothers Amadu (22), Assiss (18), and Kareem (17), my two sisters Salamatou (15), and Aminatou (13) and my 3 youngest brothers Siebou (12), Ismael (10), and Aminou (8). My family is so friendly and patient with me and my caveman French. Eventually I have to also learn Fufulde, which is their first language and the main language other than French in Northern Cameroon.

Last week was the end of Ramadan and my family, being Muslim, was fasting until then. This means no food or drink (including water) from 3am until 6pm. In this heat, this is no small feat. I'm currently trying to put up pictures that I took of my homestay family in their party finery but it isn't working. Grrrrrr slow, confusing internet! Ah well, ca va.

Here's me and some of my family finally!

I gave my little brothers balloons and bubbles for Ramadan presents. I have never seen kids so afraid of blowing up balloons in my life! Even my teenage brothers ran out of the room when I was do it.

Chapter 4: Freedom via bikes and motos

This is my moto helmet that I MUST wear. It was very exciting because yesterday we had bike training so I got a sweet bike and a helmet too. My host bros and sisters laughed when they saw me wearing it. I think it was only then that they realized that I am a dork. It was bound to happen sometime. On the taxi to internet a goat tried to eat my hair...extremely traumatic I know.

Chapter 4: Misc

I've forgotten most of what I wrote now, which is too bad. I hope everyone is doing well...I was listening to BBC news last night on my hand crank radio and it seems that the world thinks that America may be losing her super power status. I wonder what the American media spin has to say about the buy outs.

Next time, I will write out what I wanted to say using pen and paper.

A scene during a dash to shelter before a storm. I got soaked anyway.