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.