Saturday, July 31, 2010

Map Project

I'm currently in the middle of doing one of the most Peace Corps-ee projects a Peace Corps Volunteer can do...painting a world map at the high school. To help with costs I teamed up with another volunteer, Joanna, who lives in Mozogo, another village near Mokolo.

The first set of pictures are from Mozogo. She usually had electricity so we chose to project the map onto the wall and trace it from them. Unfortunately, there was no electricity that day (or for the past 5 days, for that matter) so MacGyvers that were are, we found a generator.

The next set are from my village. We used a grid to transpose and enlarge the map from sheets of paper to the wall. (These pics will come soon.)

Seeing as I have about 5 drops of artist blood from my mom, this project should be extremely impressive. All we need to do is write in names of countries and bodies of water. That must wait for paint markers traveling from stateside.

Au Revior, Beinget and Other Anecdotes

Beinget is now running around in the sweet grass fields of goat heaven. Yes...he's been eaten. I make no apologies; I did warn you that this event was in his future from the first time he showed up. Matt had the honor of killing him while his friends visited from the states. I admit that I couldn't watch it, but he was delicious both in a teriyaki sauce and a chipotle rub.

Here's to you Beinget. We had a good run.

Work-wise, I've had a pretty busy few months. For 3 days spaced out over May and June I trained pastors, imams, and community leaders in HIV/AIDS prevention, transmission, testing, and the effects of stigma in the community. Many of the participants were suprised to find out that our community has an HIV prevelance of over 3% (which is increasing yearly); with more and more men leaving the village to find work, the community is no longer isolated from HIV as it was in the past. Doing the training was challenging because many of the participants came in with little knowledge of the subject, but many false beliefs about HIV. (An example: There is HIV already in condoms, so using one is dangerous.)

The most difficult part was talking about condoms to a group of religious leaders. The first day I brought them up and did my condom demonstration it caused an uproar. "Condoms are immoral!" "Condoms promote infidelity." After my demonstration, I was asked to remove the model penis and condoms from the table because it was too distracting. With the advice from a church elder that I met with before the final training day, I was able to promote condoms in a more positive light: it is one's own responsibility to use condoms in certain situations. In the end I had 25 participants sign up to receive their own demonstration models. This training only scratched the surface of combatting HIV/AIDS in the community and I'm hoping that the volunteer that comes after me can do more work in this field.

Penis model

In other news, I was walking to my latrine a few months ago and found this relaxing in the sun on the rock pile next to the latrine door:

Obviously, I freaked out. Some children came to help me remove it, but it started raining and it slithered away. A few nights later I found it's tail creeping into the path of the latrine doorway. In a fright I scampered out of my compound and interrupted two grandfathers chatting on some rocks. They jumped up, grabbed sticks and crept up to where the snake was lying. Then they laughed. Apparently this snake isn't dangerous to big animals (like myself); it eats mice. I was "lucky" to have one. One of them had 3 in his compound! After they left I still had to go to the bathroom, but the snake was still lurking. I relieved myself a safe distance away. No other sightings since then, but I'm caustiously (paranoidly) look all over the path and in the rafters before peeing.

I'll end on a lighter note.

Sledding in the semi-desert of Cameroon.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I realize that most of my posts have been about people coming to visit, but I must pay homage to visitors.

Caitlin and Kevin fought off the rebels of Chad to visit their favorite older sister. They landed on Kevin's 22nd birthday and we celebrated in style at Porte Mayo, the best restaurant in Maroua. The two are now the same age (Irish twins) so we spent the trip pretending they were twins. It was just easier that way.

After that it was off to Tourou for 3 days. When I opened my back door I was surprised to find Bean and Beinet annnddd a BABY GOAT. Matt suspected Bean was pregnant; I had thought that she was just getting fat. I guess he was right. So little Bon Bon was born that morning and was walking around and eating by the time we got to my village in the afternoon. Now all that's left to do with the goats is to eat them.

Caitlin experienced my Cameroonian cooking for the first time with the authentic dish, Zucchini Parmesan. Apparently my oil and salt intakes have increased to dreadfully unhealthy levels. We had dinner with my counterpart, Tanembe, and Matt's counterpart.

Lucky for my sibs, February 11th is International Youth Day so that got to experience the skits, chants, and parades of the 10 schools in Tourou from a special stage with all of the important people in town. It's funny how much I've gotten used to festivities like this. My sister kept noticing how we were the only females up on stage and the only ones invited to the reception; this observation seemed very normal for me.

Afterwards we went down to Garoua to visit my the family that I lived with for the first 3 months in Cameroon. They were so honored and excited to meet them. My mom cooked a 3 course meal and sent them away with drinking glasses, a love frame, and plastic flowers.

At the Gorges de Kola near Garoua.

It was wonderful to have my family see where I was living, to meet people in my village, and to hang out with the other volunteers. It was really interesting to do the traveling with them. Helping them on their motos for their first ride to the bus station and seeing how they dealt with sharing a back seat with 4 other people when only 3 fit comfortably reminded me of when I first got here.

Our view from the back of the bus.

They took a million pics, so check them out on facebook!

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.