Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I dropped the bucket

Yes, so I was like... oh my god! I just lost my family's bucket for the well! I was really embarassed and … well... I felt bad that I lost it. But everything will be (I hope), my sister said she can probably get it out and that it happens all the time. ANYways, I've got some great photos! I also have some really great videos of the dancing, but I can't upload them until I get to faster internet. 

Dancers from the North West. They were a bit freaky because of those masks!!

These pictures are from Diversity Day at Peace Corps! We had a lot of cultural dances performed from groups here in the Grand South, ate food from every region in Cameroon, and danced until we couldn't possibly sweat any more! Cameroonian dancing is vigorous, not very easy! But it was really fun; they also played a few American songs, like Blow by Kesha (STILL WANT TO KARAOKE THAT SONG EMILY).

Dancers from Bafia, Center Region

Training is starting to wind down! I have my final presentation in French next Tuesday! I am going to present “Better Business Practices” which is actually more like Basic Business Practices but... I'm presenting the advantages of keeping a records and accounts of a store/vender in the market. First, I'm going to do a skit where a woman doesn't keep track of her accounts, and at the end of the day, she doesn’t know how much money she has made. Its actually the reality here; no one keeps track of how much, for example, corn they sell or keep and eat. Practically, its because many people are subsistence farmers, so they just sell things as they need money, but there is very little bookkeeping, so its possible that some shops and venders never know that they actually aren't making any money.

One week from today I will be officially a Volunteer, no longer a trainee! Its a really big deal. We all have our Swearing-in paine made into dresses and outfits (mine is a onesy), but I hope it will fit because I have gained a little weight here : ( so much bread and starches and literally no vegetables. When we get vegetables, they are cooked to death and covered in oil. I can't wait to cook for myself! I feel like my diet is why I've been feeling so exhausted every day. I literally go to bed every night at 8:30pm. Granted, I get up every morning at 5:45 am but still! Its so crazy! I feel like, 12 again!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sorry its been a little while since I've updated anyone on whats been going on!

I'll start with site visit. The Extreme North is SO different than down here! First of all, the people are very different. The major ethnic group there, the Fulbe's, are so beautiful and look so different than the (equally beautiful) people down here in the Grand South. They are lighter skins, have longer faces, and the women often have their nose pierced. The people generally tend to leave you alone when you are sitting out at restaurants/bars and when walking down the street. I ate brownies : )

My post is VERY rural. I am about 10 km from Chad. For real. I am not going to be getting very good cell phone reception because the Chad reception takes over my phone and it thinks that I am no longer in Cameroon! I also have a nice house (or it will be when I'm through with it!) in a very small, traditional village outside of Kaele. The people in my village have the traditional mud huts, but no fear, my house is cinder blocks, one of the few buildings in village not made out of the traditional mud bricks.

My primary work when I arrive at post will be twofold – I will be working with a group who have the funding to build an Agroforestry Educational Center, so I will be helping them plan and build the center, as well as facilitate training sessions. The educational activities will begin as soon as we have a well and hopefully throughout my two years we will get the building built as well. The second part of my work will be working with a women's group in village. The women are apparently very good at raising funds, but haven't organized themselves to decide how to spend their money, so they end up giving it to another group to build schools. That is all good, but the women want to start their own projects, and want me to come basically organize themselves and help them figure out WHAT they want to do!

But SOON I'll be a new volunteer and then I really will know what my work will be!

This past weekend was AWESOME! We went out in village to Bokito, where the health volunteers are staying, for the afternoon. I did Zumba for the first time! There is a Youth Development volunteer who was a Zumba teacher in the States. It was SO much fun! Then, we met up with everyone at a bar and continued the dance party (Cameroonians love to dance): we heard no joke Spice Girls. It was pretty amazing. Then that night the party kept rolling because we went to the dance club for the first time here! My sisters took me and some other trainees. It was out of control, mostly because it was SO hot in there – there is no air conditioning in Cameroon. And then the power went out while we were all on the dance floor, so everyone got out there cellphones and it kept on going!

I'm jealous of everyone about to enjoy Thanksgiving. But I am grateful for my life right now, and that I have so many good friends here to be family for each other. I love you guys!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

L'Extreme Nord!!

FAR NORTH!!! I'm going to be in the desert!! Kaele

Here is the following description of my post: "Kaele is a poorly developed divisional capital with a relatively large, but spread out, population. Kaele has electricity most of the time, and running water is becoming more available (though water is mostly unavailable during the hot season and electricity is very spotty rainy season). Kaele is a majority Moundang community, but as a divisional capital, it also has many other ethnic groups. French and Moundang are the main languages. Officially, Kaele is 40% Muslim, 40% Christian, and 20% animist, but nearly everyone practices the Moundang traditional religion. Kaele is a major alcohol-consumption post, and most social activities happen in the 20 or so bars in town or the over 100 bilbil cabarets. Men and women equally imbibe in alcohol, but this may lead to issues of integration for women, as alcohol certainly increases harassment. 

Kaele sits towards the bottom of the Diamare plain and is surrounded by 4 mountains that limit rainfall during rainy season. It is very hot most of the year, and hot and humid during rainy season. Kaele also has problems with advanced deforestation and moderate desertification. "

I'm taking over a post that does a lot of agribusiness work so I'll definitely be learning a lot of new things! The volunteer I'm replacing says he works with a lot of Co-ops, women's groups, and associations where he mostly trains members of groups management, basic accounting, transparency, and accountability. Most villages are also looking for help with water projects and cash crops that can replace cotton (soy is a big one!). 

I'M SO EXCITED! I also will have 2 post mates, and one other volunteer 10 km away, 2 males and a female. One is a Small Enterprise Development volunteer who just got there in August, the other is a Youth Development volunteer who is coming with me!

Anyways, I just wanted to let everyone know! I'm also going to be really close to a badass park, Rhumsiki!

I love you guys!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wild Wild West!

This weekend was amazing!

We went on a field trip to the West Region, to the city of Bangangte'. It was about 5 degrees cooler than Bafia and so beautiful! Mountains!
Some of the girls! L-R: Shannon, Ashleigh, Me, and Lauren chillin in the West!

We left Bafia around 7:00 am and the drive was only about one hour. We went to an Agroforestry Extension Office – they do demonstrations and educational programs for farmers in their area to promote agroforestry and sustainability. They also have a pretty nice tree nursery where they make some of their money from. We got to see so many different agro techniques that we had talked about in class like intercropping, terracing, and agro-pastoral systems (which actually ended up being pretty terrible for the Center because their cow was stolen and the grass they planted turns out to be invasive without a cow munching on it every day). We also practiced some propagation techniques like cuttings and grafting – which is super cool in citrus trees! I didn't know this before but you can graft a citrus tree to have different branches that produce different types of citrus – like a grapefruit branch, orange branch, mandarin (the best type of citrus here!), and lemon. Mandarins are the best here because they taste more like Florida oranges than the real oranges : ) Oranges here are very sour and difficult to peel.

So anyways, it was also awesome because we got to stay in a hotel AND have a later curfew. Yes, we are treated like children. I got to have braised fish with baton de manioc, pimont (like sirache), and onion. DELICIOUS hot fresh off the grill of the fish mama not to mention cheap and tastey paired with an ice cold Castel.

The next day was pretty awesome as well. First, we went to a women's co-op who make Shea butter and got to learn about the Shea butter process and (more importantly) about women's co-ops in general, how this particular one got started, and how it functions today. These women are so smart – they make loads of money making that Shea butter and they are trying to expand their market outside of just Bangangte', Yaounde, and Bamfassam (the regional capital of the West). Then, we went to a small village where an agro volunteer lives to learn about tofu production and THEN got to eat some fried tofu with onion and pimont!! After which, the volunteer also works with a women's co-op bakery and talked about the positives and negatives of their organization and got to eat some beniets. Good morning!

Tofu Making: after you grind the soybeans, you have to cook them for about 30 minutes to denature the toxins in the beans. Then you add vinegar to speed up the coagulation

Then you press the soy like cheese, then leave under a rock for a few hours and Voila! Tofu! Here, they add boullion cubes and pimont to add some spicy and salt. 

Finally, it started raining. And raining. And it was pretty cold. And I don't have a rain coat. So I got very cold. We were out in the jungle in a tiny village with only mud roads out. We plowed along, got stuck four times, but luckily we had tiny villages along the way to help push us out (along with us!) so needless to say we arrived in Bangangte' SO muddy. Wow so muddy. The mud is dark red too, similar to the red clay soils in the south : ) but my shoes were caked. When I got home Sunday, my family just laughed at me, because Cameroonians would never walk around with shoes as dirty as mine are. They are always impeccably dressed, I don't know how its possible!

So all in all, its been a very good week. We only have three days of class before ANOTHER field trip to the North West Region!! More mountains!! More cooler weather! And I'll be more ready for it this time, even though I still don't have a raincoat but whatevs. I make due. I should buy an umbrella but I'll miss the Thursday market this week.

OOH and I know this is only gossip, BUT we all had our second interviews with Tiki, the program director for Agroforestry, last week. Tiki told me he wants to send me to the Extreme North!!! We'll see next week (November 2nd!! Check back around that date if you want to know because I'm sure I'll be blasting it all over my blog/facebook because I'll be so excited!) for sure, but I'm pretty excited. I'll have to learn fulfulde (unless I really want to focus on French, which I do, but I already tested high enough on the language test so I can if I want). But anyways, I don't want to say TOO much because its not for sure yet.

Anyways, I love you all! Things are going fine with my host family, all is well. Send me letters! I really like them! Emails also work too! Let me know whats going on with you all!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breakfast!! Usually I have an omelet with bread, but this morning I got fried plantains : )  
I hope this pictured loads but in case it does - its a picture of Ashleigh at our demo-plot! 

The training house - fellow trainees are playing soccer outside. It was a bit too hot for me! We have all our sessions and classes inside. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The beat goes on....

Week Three of training!

Things are finally getting rolling. I feel more comfortable in my family : ) and am getting into a routine. Things are always changing in my house – we constantly have brothers and sisters visiting from Yaounde and Douala, staying for a few days, and heading back. Staging is really getting busy too, hence the little time I've had to blog.

We have so much work! I'll post pictures of my demo plot and tree nursery after they start looking like real things (maybe another week once the seeds start sprouting?), but that took all of last weekend. We also have two other technical assignments and a cross-cultural assignment. Beaucoup de travaille!!

We're all definitely just taking it one day at a time and I'm trying really hard not to feel overwhelmed. Though the past two days have been a little stressful because I couldn't get water! The well was always locked! The well is located inside a family compound so when no one is home, they naturally lock the gate. So the past two days, I went there after school to no avail! But this morning, I finally got in there to get water. An ordeal. It is SUCH an advantage to have water at one's house! Its definitely preparing me for post though, because it is likely I will have to walk to a water source for all my water also. It really makes you think about how much water you use. Especially bathing and using the toilet (we have a bucket flush toilet – its pretty much exactly like it sounds).

Saturday we are going to be issued our bikes! Finally! Even though I have no idea where I'm going to put mine (we keep ALL of our belongings in our room) but it will be nice to pedal around town sometimes.

All of your love and best wishes is greatly appreciated! Anyone who wants to call me is welcome: ) I'm going to post again soon with pictures and hopefully a movie of my super cute nephew!!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


End of the first week of PST and I have been with my homestay family for 5 days now. Training is definitely going to be a difficult time, but hopefully worth all the stress! I've come to realize that training is going to be a stream of awkward and sometimes uncomfortable situations, but I suppose that is the best way to grow and change as a person!

We were issued our technical books and gear - I got my machete sharpened today! We also got hoes. Yep, we're Agro volunteers for sure! 

The rainy season is in full swing here! I was awakened late last night by a huge thunderstorm with torrential rain (it was really loud because of the tin roof of my house). Its raining right now, but it gives me an excuse to be at the Training house before returning to my homestay for lunch.

I hope to put up pictures of my new family and house soon!

I love you guys! 


I've made it to homestay!!

I have a new Cameroonian Mom and Dad; my dad is a retired Civil Engineer, and my mother is a housewife. Today, I met my two new sisters (a few others – I didn't catch how many exactly - don't live close enough!) and I really like them. Plus, I could talk to them in my new French! I don't think I was totally understandable, but they are “sympathetic listeners”, according to the Peace Corps definition of Intermediate Low – my current language level.

There are four cousins that live here also, because my Cameroon mom and dad (maybe from here on out they will be Cmom and Cdad) said they didn't like having an empty house. The two sisters I met both normally live in Yaounde and are here for two weeks. One is a cosmetologist – I'm crossing my fingers that she'll do my hair before she leaves! I could use some braids. Or maybe a weave. Just kidding on the latter but for real on the former....

Training is going to begin soon! I can't wait to learn more things about Agro and about Cameroonian culture! My Cmom is supposedly an EXCELLENT cook – and my first meal there is definitely a testament to that rumor, so I am really hoping she will teach me a thing or two about cooking in Cameroon!

My sister has a son; he is ADORABLE. I've never liked children before, but this one is adorable. I can't really understand his french, but hopefully after another week (and before he leaves with his mother to go back to Yaounde) I'll be able to understand better.

This post has a lot of exclamation points but I hope that only proves that how excited I am about truly beginning my training.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

FIRST there are kids outside the internet cafe singing Rude Boy by Rhianna. Except I doubt they
speak English so they dont really know the words and are most just making the sounds. hahahaaaaaaaaaaa i love it!!

I decided to add mom and dad to this email so they can see whats going on and so I dont have to repeat myself; sorry if parts of it are confusing!!

The food is good; pretty oily, but weve found some good places to eat and I cook for myself a lot. The big thing here is grilled fish. There are literally women on every corner grilling fish over coals; you pick
out the piece you want, she brushes it with some oil and serves it with pimont (spicy pepper condiment) and baton du manioc if you want.The baton is really crazy, its manioc rolled inside a banana leaf and
steamed. I equate it to eating bread or rice with your dinner because it doesnt really taste like anything but its good to dip in the pimont or to eat if you need to cool your mouth down from the spice! There is a market near my house and you can buy fresh produce, we go there everyday to get veges for the day.  For instance, this morning I bought tomatoes, an avocado, and some mandarins before I bought a breakfast sandwiche. Which was delicious, even more so after I added sliced tomato and avocado. The big thing here is also bean sandwiches - straight up red beans cooked with spices and oil and slathered on the inside of baguette bread. I dont eat it every day, but this morning I went for a long run so I was faaaaaaaaaaaamished!!

Its so cool here in Ebolowa, I know it will be different when we leave for the other training center in Bafia; that is in the Savannah, whereas now we are in the jungle. This morning I had a running buddy, he actually ran the whole run with me. We ran up to the top of this mountain where there are really nice views of the city and also some of the surrounding mountains. Ive been running up it the past week - since I discovered how the route to the top. Except Ive been running without glasses and contacts so i cant see too well; but I carry my glasses with me but I think Im getting used to it.

Its pretty interesting because there arent many Amercians in Cameroon, so people are really excited to find out that we arent European. Apparently, the French are pretty rude to the Cameroonians, and they dont like each other too much. The beaches probably have a different dynamic, because that is where the majority of tourists visit here, but there is also a huge game reserve in the North where you can go on Safaris and see the Big Five African animals. Im not sure exactly what those animals are... my guess is Lions, giraffes, um.... hippos perhaps... ?

Keep writing me emails! Im sorry I can only get here once a week - things are so busy around here! We are leaving Ebolowa for Yaounde on friday and then heading to Bafia on next Monday - week from now. Things are happening differently for us than for other trainees because the program I am in is a pilot language program soooo we spent the past four weeks only learning language and then next Friday, the rest of our cohort is arriving from the US and then we will all go together to the training center in Bafia to begin ACTUAL pre-service training. Sometimes it feels a little overwhelming because its not even REALLY begun for us! So a week from tomorrow, i will meet my homestay family and all the trainees will start our technical

OH and we think the goats were killed or sold. There was a soul one hanging around our house the past week, but I think he got bit by a dog because hes really been limping around and no one has seen him the
past few days. Sad.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Our house! The African Assae is paid by Peace Corps to guard our house aka chill with us

My bed! The right one is mine. Like my giant stack of French books to the Left of my canteen?

Our Next door neighbor!! GO COCKS!!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy College Football Kick-off!!!

We've been working on french lessons from 8am to noon, taking a lunch break until 1;30 and then more class until 4;30! But its truely amazing how much french you learn with both many hours of instruction and total immersion! Ebolowa is a very pretty town, I think. There are some hills in the distance and because it is the rainy season, the weather has been beautiful!!

We met our neighbors, and played soccer with them today. I was definitely the worst player on my team but I am determined to get better! There are also some goats and chickens that are always wandering by. The billy goat makes really strange noises, at first I was pretty scared when I woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of something shouting/groaning, until we realized it was just the billy goat trying to get it on with a female goat...

Today, my fellow trainee, Ashleigh, and I picked up our dresses from the tailor!! Its so exciting!! I got a long very flowy dress made out of the traditional Cameroonian fabric - it is green, orange, and black in some ziggy wavy pattern. Ill post a picture soon - I forgot to bring my camera with me to the internet cafe!

The rain has been off and on since we arrived here in Ebolowa. It actually really reminds me of Seattle... its pretty much cloudy all the time but its nice because it keeps the temperature so nice. This is the petite rainy season; there are three seasons in this part of Cameroon - a petite rainy, petite dry, long rainy, and long dry.

I am also excited because we met our program trainer, Tiki, who made an EXCELLENT first impression by bringing us chocolate bars (I nabbed a dark chocolate one!) and also buying our beers last night. Oh, and the PCV in Ebolowa showed us to our new favorite bar - Play Boy. How chould it not be the best bar ever? I think that the owners just found a sign from a toy shop that sold Play Boy toys (because the font looks just like Play Dough or some other major toy company in the US).

As for the title of this post, I am so excited for college football even though I cant watch any of it and I probably wont read about it until long after the games are played. I contemplated making Sunday my internet cafe day BUT Cameroon (or this region of Cameroon) sellls their electricity to Eq. Guineq or Gabon on Sunday so the internet wont be on (far worse is the fact that we will not have running water all day) but.... GO GAMECOCKS!!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Getting Going!!!

So, we've spent the weekend not doing much, but its going to really begin tomorrow! Up early to get to the police station to get our residence IDs made, meeting the Peace Corps staff, and leaving Yaoundé for Ebolowa, our site for our language emmersion.

This weekend was eventful though, I wish I could take pictures to post here, but I definitely need a good feeling of personal security and self awareness before I should walk around with valuables much. We went to the market, were we were generally gawked at but not harassed except by a drunk man who was put in line by our PCV taking us around. Even better, after the market, we went to a bar with a rooftop porch for beers. Oh yeah, beers are standard .65 L or about two beers large. We got drafts, which were huge, much larger  than 2 beers. We waited out an afternoon storm before making a shortcut home down the train tracks and (literally) balanced across a rushing creek on a 2x4 board. Precarious, but the two Cameroonian sized beers helped our nerves : )

Typing on french keyboards is really throwing me off so either I need to practice for better blog posts or I just need to type it on my own computer....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Well, this is the beginning of my journey! I'm currently in Philadelphia after an afternoon of going over the Peace Corps mission statement, meeting fellow invitees, and several awkward pauses. But, I'm excited that the experience is finally beginning (after many tears were shed last night and this morning).