Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mama Cleaver comes to Thanksgiving

After a 2 week trip in Jordan and Egypt, Matt and his mom made it to Tourou the day before Thanksgiving. Perhaps the best way to describe the trip would be through the order of mishaps.

1. There was a little party planned that afternoon with people that Matt works with in village to meet his mom. Matt had lost his bag coming from Egypt (Ethiopian Air also lost it going to Jordan) which also happened to have the keys to his house. I also locked my extra set of keys inside his house so the choices to what the do next were: move the party to my house and then cozy up there for the night or cut the lock off of Matt's door and keep the party at the mansion. Needless to say, choice #2 happened. (For the record, this was not my fault. Who puts their house keys in a checked bag? That's just silly.) The party was a hit; everyone was really excited to meet family from the U.S. and see that they actually exist and still love us.

2. On Thanksgiving day we headed down to Maroua for the feast. I was thinking this would be the most amazing trip I would have to Maroua, travelling in a private car and all. After picking up Thea, the volunteer in Mokolo, all we had was an hour on a paved road to Maroua...if things went as planned. We had the first flat 5 minutes from Thea's house. The second and the third somewhere between Mokolo and the turnoff to Maroua. Five hours later we made it to Thanksgiving, only missing a half of a pumpkin pie that had kept us alive on the road.

3. On their mini safari they had three more flats. Just to say to any other future visitors, travelling in Cameroon is not like this normally.

When I got back to post, everyone was wondering when my parents were showing pressure Parents.

Kat and Cara's Glorious Adventure

After being chastised for pretending that nothing happened between July and November, I hope this post can remedy things a bit. Work wise, it was a difficult time because people were working in the fields. The start of the rainy season means a good 4 monthes of labor with millet, corn, black-eyed peas, beans, and okra. After that the drying and storing process begins with the goal to be finished before the end of December celebrations.

So, to that "ode" to that anonymous visit: Katherine! She decided that Mali was close enough to Cameroon that she could pop over before school starts again, so I was graced with a visitor. She's much more qualified to be a Health Volunteer than myself having lived in Africa for over a year, speaking French since she was a wee babe in England, and going to her 2nd year in med school. It's also a nice stroke to my ego to hear, "Wow! Your friend speaks much better French than you," but so does most people, so I handled it well. Unfortunately, she was the one who took all of the pics and I can't figure out how to get them from facebook.

It started out with some intense traveling to get from Douala to my post: 4 hour bus to Yaounde, 14 hour train ride to Ngoundere, 8 hour bus ride to my provincial capital, 1 hour bus to Mokolo, 1 hour moto ride to my house.

After a rainy market day, we headed to Rhumsiki, the nearby tourist trap that is amazingly beautiful. Hit up the wiki page: for more info. That afternoon we took a tour through the village and saw the crab sorceror who told us the future. He scoops up the crab in his hands and whispers the question to it before placing it into a special bowl with sticks and other things in it. After a minute he takes off the bowl's cover and according to what the crab has knocked down, the future is read. Apparentely, I'm going to be happy and successful with work and I will/already have many suitors and I'll have my pick. Afterwards we had an amazingly romantic dinner by the light of the moon. The next day we hiked into the valley. Well I hiked, Kat, after leaving her kicks to dry in Maroua, had to hike in flip-flops and almost tumbled down the mountain. It was kind of scary, but our guide decided to walk next to her afterwards so that he could catch her the next time it happened. Don't worry, we made it back.

Anyway, it was an awesome visit! If you have facebook check out Kat's album.

Friday, November 6, 2009

FARNG Updates

The volunteer house in Maroua now has internet!!! Now crazy things like youtube, gchat, and uploading pictures at unimaginable rates (just did 5 in 10 minutes!) are possible. Therefore, I also no longer have an excuse to slack on my blog. (has it really been 4 monthes? oops)

First with an update on that FARNG program I talked about in a previous entry. The goal for this program is to create support groups for pregnant women where they listen to a health message, share their experiences, rest, and eat a meal together. They would also receive prenatal consultations at a central location brought by the Tourou Health Center. My counterpart, the head nurse of the health center(Tanembe), another female nurse(Dalika), and myself trained 30 people to organize and do health presentations at the end of September. The group was made up of members of the health committee from the 6 villages, midwives, and mothers (who would actually be doing the presentations to the pregnant women). This was the first time many of them had been formally educated on health topics so there were a lot of questions. It was great because everyone

This is me with Ayuba, the translator doing a nutrition animation on the first day of the training. We had some trouble finding a good language to speak in; we ended up translating into two which made the day a bit longer than planned.

The program is based around improving the nutrition of pregnant women and their children so of course lunch had to be a good example of this. This is Matt and Tanembe enjoying some couscous and sauce made from huckleberry leaves, peanut butter, and dried fish. I promise it's good.

Everyone rocking their new t-shirts.

A month later the 6 villages had their first meeting with pregnant women from each village. Because the Tourou Health Center has only 3 regular staff members, only two of which are trained nurses, it was planned to have all the meetings in a central location. This first day 70 women showed up which was exciting and extremely overwhelming. Tanembe and I did prenatal consultations from 10am to 7pm. This month we have to find a better way to organize the 6 villages to break-up the work.

The pregnant women receiving a presentation on nutrition.

The mothers that were trained are using their manuals to give the presentation.

Tanembe and myself doing the prenatal consultations.

Thanks so much for your support in this! This program still has some kinks, but my plan is to use this pilot program as a jumping off point for similar programs in other villages around Tourou.


Monday, July 6, 2009

New Four Footed Friends

That's right. I am officially the proud owner of 2 goats, male and female. They are very cute and (I think) they like me. As a first-time goat owner, my neighbors have been rightly questioning my ability to keep these animals and keep them happy. This started with me trying to drag my goats from the market to my house after I bought them; apparently if I continued my method of transport for much longer I would have had two goat bodies on my hands due to suffication. For future goat owners: Throwing the goat over your shoulders is a better and more comfortable way to get from market to doorstep. I have been getting tons of advice from neighbors and bundles of herbs and grasses find their way to my doorstep as presents for my goats.

Pictures of the 2 will be included in the future. Their names are Bean (girl) and Beneigt (boy, means doughnut in French). Their future plans include making babies so that I can have more, cuter friends (girl) and getting castrated, fatten, killed, and eaten (boy). I've had them for a month and so far, only one event has marred our friendship (besides the attempted murder of transport). Bean got into the house a week after I got screens for my doors. She freaked out and tried to escape for freedom through the closed screen of the front door. There are now 2 horn holes in the screen for misquitoes to find their way through.

In other news, rainy season has officially begun which means my life has become a little bit lonelier as everyone has taken to the fields. It's me and the children under five left in village all day long. The other day the temperature dropped to a little bit less than 60 degrees and I couldn't feel my fingers. Hmmmmmm.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

FARNG Fundraising Project

This entry will be a bit different than the others; not as fun filled but will give you some more insight in what my work is like and to share a little bit of my Peace Corps experience with friends and family back home. Below is a quick summary of a project that I am currently doing and below that is the more in depth fundraising letter that has more information and the budget. Thanks and Enjoy!

Introduction to the FARNG Fundraising Project
I am posted in a village about an hour north of the city of Mokolo in the Extreme North Province, right on the border of Nigeria. It consists of 22 smaller neighborhoods, or quartiers, one of which will be hosting the pilot program for this the FARNG project, . This pilot program is centered on maternal and child health care. The overall objectives of the FARNG program are to increase connectivity and communication between pregnant women and the health center, increase knowledge of nutrition among pregnant women, and to prioritize the needs of pregnant women. Thus, the program will decrease the astronomically high infant and maternal mortality rates in the community by supporting the women through their pregnancy, childbirth and throughout the months following the birth of their baby. Because of the isolation of this village, development has been slow to come and certain basic needs are not available.

The following link is for the fundraising letter:

The following link is the Budget Spreadsheet

Monday, May 11, 2009

Patois Smatois

yes yes yes i know, i've been such a slacker with posting. I apologize perfusely and will not be suprised to find out that my readership has dwindle to just my mother. (P.S. Happy Mother's Day. Love!) Please check out the pics added to the post before this one too.

Theme: Language (aka why i now realize why the rest of the world thinks that Americans stink at learning languages, or even trying's true or at least i do)

Every Tuesday I do a presentation at the Health Center for pregnant women while they get their prenatal consultations. One of the nurses, Dalika, translates for me as most of the women in village do not speak French. She also adds real life stories from her own extensive experience in womens' health; basically she's much more quaified than me, but likes for me to come and bring pretty pictures. The presentation goes a little something like this: I say something in French, Dalika translates in Hide (the language that most of the village speaks). She realizes that one woman only understands Mafa, so she then translates to Mafa. Then another only understands Fufulde (the language that most of North Cameroon speaks), so another round of translation happens.

Yep. So quick summary.
Me: French
Dalika: Hide
Dalika: Mafa
Dalika: Fufulde
and on and on.

Presto! My 15 minute presentation has turned into a one hour or more extravaganza. It's really amazing to watch. Another example is going to meetings and having people flip between three languages in one sentance. As a person whose struggling with basic French, it's a little intimidating to watch people turn on and off languages without any struggle.

The patios of my post is Hide and just over 40,000 people speak it in the whole world and they are all in this little area of Cameroon/Nigeria. I guess I won't be breaking it out when I go home much. The days of the week are the names of the Hide villages' market days (Thursday is "Luma Berek" which is the market day in Tourou Centre or Berek).

It also took just the first Hide lesson to realize that unless i was planning to spend my two years aggressively studying the language, i was not going to be able to delve in that far. It's been almost 6 months at post and I can do only basic salutations and say where i'm going. There are 14 sounds unique to French or English, most of which require throat and tongue gymnastics which i'm not capable of. Also the structure of the sentance is kind of flip-flopped (I go to the market is "Go market I") To be honest I could be spending more time on the language bit, but i feel that improving my plateaued French would be a better way to go.

Also kind of interesting, I'm no longer Cara (Care-ah), i'm Cahrrah (as in Spanish for 'face' way). The long 'a' and soft 'r' aren't part of the normal sounds here. The kids in my neighborhood call me Cahrrahss, which is Carrot in Housa, another local language. There's also a moto driver who calls me carrotte (french for carrot). Basically I respond to anything that remotely sounds like my name.

Until next time.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Celebrating 3 Months at Post

The first three months at post have flown by which means that the grace period for integration into the community is now over, according to Peace Corps, and it`s now time to figure out what i`m supposed to be doing for the next 21 months. I do feel like it`s going to take much more than these two years to really feel comfortable at post especially because of the language barrier, but I feel like I have some idea of some future projects.

For the past couple of weeks Matt, my postmate, and I have been visiting various quartiers around our post to look at future well sites and to hold community meetings to get to know the needs of the communties better. The main problems that were found was the lack of water, water quality, distance from the health center, soil fertility, and maternal health. This post is pretty unique because it encompasses a great mountainous region of almost 50,000 people. The vastness of the region poses some problems with getting in contact with people, no cell service as well, and getting people to come to you or vice versa. In an attempt to give a better depiction of the post I`ll describe how we got to different some of these places.

Digging at a well in Hitoa

Matt's Counterpart, Abdou, decided it would be fun to bring sodas on the hike for a treat at the end. This meant that he hiked with four glass bottles there and back. Not logical, but so worth it.

Hitoa-this was a two hour hike to get to this place that is butting up against Nigeria.
Gossi-in order to get here you have to skirt Nigeria, the road is in pretty bad shape and I was holding onto the moto for dear life the whole. Recommened if you want to work the triceps.
Hitoa-a 20 minute moto ride from the center of town and then a 1.5 hour hike up and down two mountains. After this one I realized that I need to be in much better shape to travel around here.

The most eye opening part of this is that at each place we hike to the well site and then we go to the current place where they get water or it`s described to us. This year has been especially hard because I guess it didn`t rain as much as normal the past rainy season. Women, who are in charge of getting water for the family, have to hike over 10km over mountains, coming back with 20-40 liters of water. Here`s a little math problem: the density of water = 1kg/liter, 1kg=2.2lb, how many pounds of water would one carry back?

With the hot season basically upon us, this problem will only get worse. Speaking of hot, it hit 102F in the shade yesterday in Maroua and I was only slightly uncomfortable in jeans and a tank top. If it were this hot at home, I would either be in a pool/ocean or in front of the airconditioner. Will my body get use to a New England winter after living here for 2 years...?

Just a few images from women's day. Women's Day in Cameroon means that if you have the money you buy the special pange (shown in the pic below), and you march in a parade. Event leading up to the day of the parade include parties where the male elites of the community are served by the women and women pay to have the pleasure and honor of washing the windows of the police station and the mayors house for the big day.

This banner which states, "Women should be submissive to their husbands as they are to God." Col 3:18. Perfect for the day that is supposed to be celebrating women's empowerment.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Party like it's...

So it's the second month at post and settling in is underway full force. I almost have all the furniture i need for my house; Peace Corps admin came by to check on the house and apparently you need to have chairs in a PC house. I wasn't planning on spending money on getting some, but maybe i'll have to put more thought into it.

On the 31st of January the new mayor to our district from Mokolo, the city one hour away, came to visit which means the whole community shows up to the soccer stadium (an far from even sandy, rocky field) to greet him. Matt and I came to the ceremony thinking we were going to be part of the crowds that on the hot stadium listening to the mayor sweating bullets but when we got them we were ushered to front row seats. When the greeting line was made for introductions to the mayor we were the 6th and 7th people from the front; aka we were in the top ten of important people in village. It was a bit uncomfortable standing all the way up there when you village leader is behind you in the line.

It was a lot of pomp and circumstance, but the most rivating sight was seeing the lamido, the traditional leader of the mokolo district, show up with his posee. His guards dressed in turbans, long flowing clocks, and gauzy scarves leapt from the SUV and brandishing swords they started yelling the lamido's name. As the entourage marched around the stadium the guards whipped there swords around still yelling. There was also one person whose sole purpose was to give shade to the lamido by way of an intricate pink, frilly umbrella which he kept twirling at all times.

There was also the traditional dance troupe which danced at the Cameroonian Culture Festival in December. The women dress in beads, wooden calabashes on their heads, bras and beautiful skirts with an assortment of beads, buttons, and other objects. The men dress in loin cloths and knee socks. Tourists come to my post every market day to see the animist women in calabashes and metal or wood sticks through their noses because it is unique to here. The mayor and his wife got pics with the troupe of course.

Oh crazy life

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Just a quick update on my internet/communication status. I'll probably be getting internet about once a month therefore I apologize for the long wait between blog posts and pictures. The connection wasn't good on New Year's so I couldn't put up the pictures that I wanted to; I just realized that none of the pictures that I saved on my flashdrive are there anymore. Sorry, I guess you guys will have to wait another month for fun Xmass and pictures of my house. Also, my computer died over Christmas, but as of today has come back to life for the 5th time, but I only have basic tools like notebook. As long as I can find a movie player I will be satisfied. Seriously this computer, 5 years old and on its 4th hardrive has had a hard life and I'm surprised it has weathered Cameroon so far.

Enough of the boring computer talk. I've now been at post for over a month and a half and am still in the transition stage between training and being a real volunteer. This means I spend a lot of time trying to figure out my role in the community, community needs, and where I can buy vegetables because my village only has onions on market day. I realized last week that I would be living on starches, tomato sauce, and onions unitl I went to the capital, and probably would have if some other volunteers didn't come to visit bearing carrots, tomatoes, eggs, and bread. (They also ate all of my chocolate/starbursts/lifesavers so (hinthint) I might need some refills. (Thanks so much for all the letters and packages. Responses are either in the mail now or will be when they arrive). It might sound a bit dramatic, but basically I have to do a bit of preplanning when it comes to veggie/egg shopping in Mokolo, the city an hour away from my post. I'm trying to imagine going to a supermarket in the U.S. for the first time and the outcome of this trip can only be imagined in two ways: I immediately remove myself from the store being incredibly overwhelmed my the vast array of color and products or I faint dead away. Don't worry, I invite everyone to that spectacle in two years.

Aside from the small food issue, my post is amazing! I moved into my new house two weeks ago and am currently adjusting to living alone. It's very odd after growing up Delaney style and then never having less than 2 other roommates, but I'm learning to enjoy it. Since the pictures won't be going up any time soon, I'll just try to describe the house to the best of my abilities. It has 3 rooms: a living room with two trunks and a bookshelf (desk, chair, mat, and table will be there sometime in the first 6 months), a kitchen with some herbs that I just planted in calabashes so hopefully I'll get some mint and cilantro soon, and then my bedroom with my bed, mosquito netting, and hanging rods to hang clothes on. The make-shift closet was completely designed by little original me, shows off the Legasto creativity. My concession is kind of a disaster with a crumbling pile of mud bricks in one corner, a pile of old tires in another, and a small mountain of dirt in the middle, but I see potential.

As far as work goes, I held a meeting with village leaders with my postmate to go over general problems in the community and then I did the same thing with the community health 'board' specifically for health. The two most consistant problems were problems with getting drinkable water because there are not enough wells and during the dry season these wells dry up and women have to walk for kilometers to get water and then the distance to the health center from the villages up in the mountains. The first 3 months will be spent doing analysis much like this. I also did a presentation during pre-natal consultations at the health center on Family Planning. It was hilarious to see grown women get giggly and embarrassed when I pulled out a wooden phallus from my bag and did a condom demo.

I also went to a Health Club meeting at the highschool and it reminded me of a scene from the Little Rascals. The instructor was a nurse from the health center and had no control over the class. Every time he would turn around to write something on the board, 5 students would sneak out the back door and crouch below the windows as they sprinted past to escape.

I promise to post pics!!!! Miss you all. Muah!

And her they are finally!

Welcome to my latrine. The SED volunteer from Mokolo came up to visit Tourou, she helps out with the financial aspect of some of the community groups i work with at post, and nature called. I pointed her to my latrine and off she went. After a few minutes she was back in the house wondering 'where exactly was this latrine?' Yep so look closely and you will see the pot top that is my latrine cover, apparently this type of cover was entirely new for her and thus she was extremely confused.

This is my beautiful kitchen. I'm attempting to growth some herbs (mint, cilantro, basil, rosemary) but my green thumb has proved to be pretty black. So far only on cilantro sprout and 2 basil sprouts have survived my infrequent watering.

This is the back of my house. On the left side is my well and the clay pot next to my back door is where my water is held. It stays pretty cool in there, almost like fridge!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree! Oh Christmas Tree!

I’ll start off with a picture of the Christmas tree that some agro volunteers made by ripping down branches from trees at the peace corps transit house in Maroua.

Beautiful right? Alright so it’s a little mangy but it did make it feel little like Christmas opening Secret Santa presents under the tree the next morning. I got 3 carved wooden masks for decoration for my new house. I still haven’t moved into my house yet, but hopefully this weekend is the big move in day since my bed just got finished a few days ago. This means that I have a bookshelf and a bed! After I get a bit more settled I’ll take pics of my house, no worries.

Picture of another volunteer’s puppy in a helmet. He’s been fed baby food out of a coke bottle with a nipple on it, cute right?

I’ve been at my post for about 3 weeks now and there’s nothing really to report. I’ve spent these weeks helping my postmate clean his house, playing with neighborhood kids, learning how to cook/trying out bean and tomato sauce recipes, hanging out with the nurses and doctor at the health clinic, and making plans for when the real work starts in January.

Here’s the car we put all of our stuff on. We sat with the driver in the car and then about 30 huge bags of rice and 3 guys got on the back with our luggage. One thing that I have learned is that I should learning Hide (Hiday) quickly in order to be able to communicate with any children or women and most men. So far gesturing and broken French has worked, but I would really like to learn enough to be able to have a basic conversation by the end of the first year. We’ll see you that works, Hide is really difficult; it’s been in one ear out the other when people teach me phrases.