Monday, July 16, 2012

At the request of Edwin to update my blog, I have decided I have been neglecting my friends and family way too long. I really appreciate all of your wonderful support of my adventure here, even if its just a note on facebook or email every now and then : ). Sometimes I get the overwhelming feeling that I am so alone out here that everyone has already forgotten about me, so why would they be interested in my everyday life here? Anyways. I love you guys. So here's whats been going on:

 Sometimes life definitely gets overwhelming, but really, good times are always to be found. I'm starting a nutrition campaign in my village (and hopefully some of the surrounding villages!) and the first session went AMAZING. I am introducing Moringa olifera to my village, a super food that grows amazingly well in the poor dry soils of the sahel. What out, my fellow Americans, I wouldn't be surprised if this became an (expensive) trend in the states. But really, it is super nutritious, very high in iron and Vitamin A, has all the amino acids (very rare), high in trace metals, and for all intents and purposes can be used as a daily multivitamin. Not that the women will actually eat enough of it to work as such, but any augmentation to their and their children's diets will help immensely.


I sold all seven plants I carried with me, and everyone said the sauce we made with it was great! To me, it just tastes like any leaf sauce I have ever tasted here, but that is also another good thing, because it is not so different from everything else they make.

It was also awesome because we had an amazing storm that afternoon, total flash flood. After the rain stopped, I headed out to the meeting, at one point up to my knees in water, toes squishing through mud. I liked it. Its such a different state than the normal aridness that is the sahel. And, after three hours, all the water was gone! It was dark, so I was a little confused at first, but then I realized what had before been a swollen creek was now just sand again. Aah the desert.

So my current plan for this project is to continue with formations in my village, Piwa, and to also talk to the health center in the neighboring village to enlist their help. I'm hoping they will let me plant some of the moringa there at the health center, as well as train the nurses there on its uses and harvest techniques (really is half the battle – just dry the leaves in the shade. But no one does that), which they can then help women who come to the center with under nourished infants.

I have two more formations this week in Piwa, and last I talked to the head of the health center he was ill, so hopefully that will get going in the next weeks.

The rain has started, hooray! Its actually raining right now too! We've been getting rain maybe... four times a week already, and apparently in August is the heavy rainy season. Things are SO GREEN. Its out of control! The millet and corn is starting to get tall, making my village feel more like a corn maze than an actual place, haven't yet traversed it at night... I'm pretty frightened of snakes. The biggest downer is the mosquitoes and snakes. Though I have only ever seen one, people are doing a really good job of freaking me out about them creeping into my house as I sleep.

Moment of rant – yesterday must have been “let's bother Cynthia until she goes crazy” day. First of all, the morning was great, I had no work and it was the bil-bil market day in my neighborhood – in case you're not up to date on the drinking scene in my village, bil-bil is a locally brewed beer made out of a wheat-like grain, millet. Its okay... but also tends to give dysentery if not made properly... but its pretty much the ONLY thing to do in my village so I'll go and drink a little and talk to my friends etc. So anyways, my best friend in village makes bil-bil every Thursday so I decided what the heck, I’ll go hang out with her during the morning and help out later once people start coming to drink. So that morning, we just hung out, visited some other friends houses who also were selling bil-bil and I decided to head back home to wash my clothes and take a bath before the afternoon go going. Got home, washed my clothes, hung them out to dry, and got a bucket of water to bathe in. I was in my bath room you know... bathing... and I heard someone at my door. So naturally, I said “I'm bathing! Come back later!” Still more noise. I peaked my head around the corner – it was a mentally handicapped woman who does not speak a word of French. Okay. What to do. I decide to go back to bathing, figuring she'll get the clue that I'm naked (with my towel forgotten in my other room). Nope, that does not stop her from coming into my house, looking around, coming into the bathing room, speaking some Moundong that I don't understand, and eventually leaving. Yep. My crazy neighbor saw me completely naked trying to take a bucket bath.

I go back to my friends house (after clothing myself) where I am promptly getting harassed by some of my other neighbors who have apparently been going through my trash and want to know why I threw away avocados the other day. They had gone bad. I didn't think it would be socially acceptable to give away squashed and moldy avocados, but apparently that was a faux pas to throw away food of any sort. Then they went on to explain to me, as I handed them a calabash of bil-bil, that I should bow to them when I bring them their beer. As in kneel forward, touching a knee to the ground and handing the bowl (or bucket – literally. Bil-bil is sold by the bucket and is amazing cheap – about 40 cents) with my right hand. As they are men and therefore above me. Okay. So I did it. Begrudgingly. By that point I had completely shut down from the situation and was just agreeing with everything they were saying. On top of this, the same man decided he was going to teach me moundong (because obviously I was in a receptive state) by just talking AT me and not explaining anything, no hand gestures, nothing.

I was pretty pissed off.

Mais c'est la vie, n'est pas?

And now the guy teaching me moundong, which is 99% of the time super frustrating, method is kind of working. My language skills have definitely improved just in the past week so... I try to push through the frustrations!

Here's some photos from the 4th of July Party we hosted in Kaele: 

My girls Left to Right: Sarah Seng (who does not live in our region), Sarah Mae Jennings (one of my besties, she lives about 1.5 hours away near Maroua), Me, Laura Miller (lives just north of Maroua), and Rachel (aka my post mate and other closest friend, she's the one laying across us). We has just read the declaration of Independence and set off some streamer poppy things, no fireworks to be found : (

The gang - just cause I know I talk about them the most as I am the closest with them - Rachel and Sarah. 

Well, thats pretty much what I've been up to, avoiding snakes and trying not to yell at Cameroonians : ) I love y'all and promise to update my blog way more often. Also, go cocks even though we didn't win the College World Series again... Maybe I'll be back in the states for the SEC championship game (if we make it that far!)!

Shout out to Dan and Emily for braving Africa. I love you. It was awesome having you visit!!! I hope after getting back to the states, mostly just the good memories remain : )

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sorry for the long lapse between posts but its far and between when I get access to internet and because I don't have electricty at post, I don't spend too much on time on my computer! Other than getting ripped with P90X, I have to judiciously use my computer so I can make it to Friday when I go into Kaele for the market!

But, I am in Maroua this week for a conference on Behavior Change, which has so far been really interesting! Plus, we are staying at the nicest hotel in Maroua : ) and eating like queens. We have a pool. I took a shower. Our rooms have air conditioning. Its pretty amazing. And, we are learning a lot about how to actually make a plan to (hopefully) catalyze change.

Life in village has been pretty quiet! I am just easing into work, we aren't actually supposed to do any projects during our first three months of service, so I have been working on networking and integrating into Piwa. I have a friend! We go out and drink bil-bil together sometimes, and she knows so many people in Piwa, I have met a lot more people through her.

I'm also getting my house set up – pots and pans and things like that. I'm painting an accent wall in my living room (and soon I'll have chairs in there as well!), but I'm still waiting for my landlord to finish one room in my house – the floor is sand – but there's no use in getting bent out of shape about it. Things here happen when they happen, definitely patience is a skill that I will leave Cameroon with!

As far as work goes, I went the other week to Tokembere to help my friend run an environmental education day camp, which was a great learning experience for me because I definitely want to have a camp like that in the high school in my village! We are planning on doing the next camp for Earth Day, possibly in Lara ( a village near Piwa) or maybe even in Piwa. But I'll be leading the Flora and Fauna segments. I've never really taught anything so we'll see how that goes....

My spirits are still pretty high; I have hit the wall a few times, but luckily I have a wonderful man (I love you, Edwin!) and family that spend the money to call me and send me letters. I really appreciate that! Sometimes I just feel so overwhelmed by all the pressure exerted on me by being constantly watched by my village that I just want to escape and become inconspicuous again. But, those are normal feelings for all volunteers but I do feel very grateful to have a family that supports me. It amazes me that some of my collegues have loved ones that are consistantly telling them to come home when things get difficult and I am grateful that I have a strong group backing me up and keeping me going! I love you guys!