Friday, July 25, 2008


The word of the week is desensitization. I’ve noticed that there are things that stop being a surprise or are no longer considered odd. For example, if I see ants on the food I’m about to eat, I’ll brush them off. Cockroaches in the bathroom.. normal. The fact that one of my favorite meals here sound like something a three year old would love, (spaghetti and red bean omelette sandwich, with ketchup if I’m really lucky), that’s okay with me. When the water in town gets shut off, when I’m standing there naked in the shower.. I’m not surprised. And I’m certainly not surprised to then find that the car in the driveway got washed with the water storred specifically for this reason. Not to say that it’s getting boring here or not much is interesting anymore, I’m just getting used to somethings. Before I left the house this morning, I asked what was in the bucket in the kitchen (the bucket I normally use for water and to wash my clothes). My cousin told me it was cow skin, for dinner, bien sur (of course). Doesn’t sound too appetizing huh? I’ve had it before, and it’s not.

I’m glad you all enjoyed my story about our little trip to the east. As we were all debriefing our trips in class, we remembered another funny story that I thought I would share. So work was being done on the road that we were taking from Yaoundé to Bertoua in the East, and it was only one way. (alot of the road is really only one way, but I guess they decided to make it legit this time). So there was a worker at the start of the construction with two large flags with like 5 feet poles. We were flagged down with the red flag to stop, and then the construction worker shoved the large green flag into the front of the van. Were we proceded to drive with it, in the car, until we got to the end of the construction were there was a long line of cars waiting to go towards Yaounde and we passed the flag on to the next car.

Other news we’ve been in Cameroon for 50 days! Not bad, however there have been 2 people from the education group who have decided to head back home. They'll be missed but we wish them the best.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I made it and lived to post a blog about it

Trevor and I just arrived in Yaounde from the East today, hopefully Nik is on his way too. We were out there for a week and had a really great time. So I guess I'll start from the begining, this might be a long post... be prepared. Thankfully it won't be as long as it took us to travel out there.

Day 1. Left Bagangte in the West Province in a packed peace corps bus with our counterparts and took a quick 3.5 hour drive to Yaounde where we stayed the night. The next day, early, we headed to the bus station in a taxi that no one could see out of the windshield because it had spiderwebbed cracked over the entire thing. Probably not a good sign. The bus station was chaotic. People talking in your face in french, grabbing your bags to get on their bus and not the competitors, amoungst alot of people and animals waiting to board the bus. We end up going with a VIP bus, that doesn't pack as many people in, and is smaller and overall nicer. Excellent choice. Except our driver seems intent on getting to Bertoua in good time regardless of the unpaved, potholes or I call them mineholes, in the really muddy roads. I'd like to tell you how fast we were going, but spedometers, gas tank indicators and the like, don't typically work in vehicles. We fished tailed alot due to the mario kart style of driving, literally the back of the bus slid from one side of the road to the other side, several times. Then one time, the bus spun around and crashed into an embankment. No one was hurt, and the bus was still fine to drive, faster than before actually. When the Cameroonians start saying "slower!!!" then you know you're going fast. We passed another bus off the road, and continued to go faster. Luckily we arrived, stayed with Ried, a volunteer in the East and didn't go anywhere for the rest of the day except to get a much needed beer.

Trevor and I left for his city, which is about 55 miles east of mine. In another bus, but this time it wasn't so comfortable. We managed to get the worst seats in this prison type looking vehicle. There's not a lot of move around room either in these things, you know when you're riding in a car, and you turn a sharp corner so that you end up being skwooshed to the person next to you? That's what it's like all the time. If it's made to sit 20 there will be 30 people in there, etc. The road to his city is a bit worse so we had to go slow. 55 miles... it took 4 hours. Which is about average. In the rainy season it can take up to 6 hours. In a private 4 wheel drive vehicle less than 10 years old, it takes a little over an hour. So all you badasses with landrovers and hummers should get out of suburbia and go where you can actually use your vehicle.

Again, we were really happy to arrive there. We hung out with Matt who is a health volunteer there and Tiffany who is a week away from finishing her 2 years. We had a great time, the town is awesome, great street meat or soya it's called here, and amazing grilled fish. Matt and Tiffany also made us faux fetticine alfredo and cookies which was amazing. We hung out with Ben, who was a volunteer and now lives in country managing a company. He's hooked up with internet, has a pool, company cars, and apparently can cook really well. I've got a feeling I'm going to be spending some time there.

After 2 days there we traveled back to my city, this time with better seats on the bus and with an ipod which was a lifesaver. After singing outloud, people probably thought we were too crazy to try steal the ipod from us. Hoped they liked ashley simpson. We stayed with Anne Marie, who is my compound neighbor. The other compound neighbor is a cameroonian family, and there is also a pig farm in the back of the compound as well. We also have a night guard that watches the door with a bow and arrow. The city is big, but I really like it. I also think Anne Marie and I won't have any problems being neighbors. Did I mention she owns every season of sex and the city?

I also had my fair share of moto rides, motorcycles basically. That you pay 25 cents for them to take you across town. At first I was pretty nervous about these things, they also pack 3 people, plus babies/animals/luggage. I got used to them though, got the way to get on and off when wearing a skirt, and no longer feel like I'm going to fall off it.

After over 30 hours in traveling, not including the 10 hours we probably spent waiting, we're staying at the Case, in the Peace Corps compound in Yaounde. Its similar to a frat house with volunteers coming and going, lots of dvds to watch, a big kitchen, books to borrow, and most importantly there is a washer and a dryer! I also took a HOT SHOWER. I was so excited I almost burned myself. Anyway, if you're still reading, thanks for listening, promise it won't be this long next time. I'll post some more stuff about my city and the east province in general sometime later. Until then, hope everyone is enjoying summer, who knows maybe even a vacation like my past trip

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Posted Pictures!

Hey! I posted some more pictures while I have faster internet, the picture above is of Me, Nik and Trevor, soon to be the only Small Enterprise Development Volunteers in the East Province.. welcome to the jungle

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm in the East Province!!!!!

I'm going to the East Province! My official post is in a large city. Email me if you want the name of the city, for security reasons im not allowed to post my location. Most likely I'll have running water and electricity, one of the few places in the East Province were you can say that. It's a hard core province, it's the jungle. There's even a facebook group called "The forgoten volunteers of the east" LOL. Awesome. I'm in the city though so it's pretty nice, translation: there's a grocery store. But I'm not quite in the 'posh core'.There are 2 other education volunteers who have been there for a year and one has been there for 3 years. I'm the 3rd small business volunteer to be placed there.. the previous two didn't complete the 2 years though. 3rd time's the charm? I'm extremely excited. I'll be visiting my city and the Microfinance Bank that I'll be working with next week. It will be the first time traveling without the Peace Corps entourage, so that will be interesting. Last people knew, the road there still wasn't finished. I'm lucky enough to be living next to Trevor and Nik, both of them are a couple hours away from me in opposite directions. If there's anyone to have around you when you need a good laugh, i'd be those two.

I'm happy to say that there are still 38 of us. Including the trooper who got Malaria and Typhoid fever. Being sick here is not easy. No guarentee of running water, electricity and certainly not a clean bathroom. But relatively speaking, it's not the worst thing that can happen. Getting sick is phyiscally hard. It's the mental and emotional stuff that's the hardest. I'm happy to say that I haven't had to seriously deal with either of those things, not yet at least.

I made banana pancakes for my family last night. Maple syrup is like nothing they've ever had and watching them eating it and trying to describe it was pretty great. Unfortunately, halfway through the batter I decided to double the recipe, using the family's flour this time though because the flour I bought ran out. What I thought was flour was actually finely processed corn. So corn pancakes it was. Anything I do is either strange or funny, so when this happened, Patou and Maggie just laughed and laughed. I told them it was a good excuse to use more syrup.

I'll tell you next week about my adventures in the rainforest.. wish me bon voyage!

Monday, July 7, 2008

week five

My host dad and I
The SED volunteers! Starting with me, Kate, wendy, our trainer olivier, courtney, another trainer djennabo, austin is behind me, then michelle, kate fleurange, laura, ehab and david are hugging each other, then left to right in the back is nik, another trainer, ben, joe, and trevor

All of us were invited to the mayor's house on saturday night for some amazing food and drinks. The party came at a good time. The entire town had been without electricity and water the whole day, and for some it's been over a week without running water. A generator-powered modern house was a warm welcome. Little highlights of the night: a toliet paper holder with toliet paper in the bathroom, there was soap in there too. I had a drink out of glassware with ice, and I had some cold water for the first time in a month that tasted so good. Ice cubes, good wine, the fact that I ate lettuce and shrimp, may not seem like an exciting saturday night to you, but you have NO IDEA. You may think you understand, maybe could picture life without somethings, but really you'll never know until you live it.

My sisters took me to the saturday market where they bought basically all the food for the week there. The weekly market here is chaos and takes lots of patience. All prices are negotiable, which involves discussing the quality of the product, refusing to pay the asking price, walking away, walking back, agruing the price some more and then deciding which vendor to go with. 15 minutes later, we've got a handful of carrots. Next We went to the meat section as well. Translation: we walked through an area of maybe 100 chickens with leashes on their legs, the same goes for the goats, rabbits and other small living creatures waiting to be dinner. I almost tripped on a cow's head on the ground. Just the head. Most beef is sold hanging up on hooks from the ceiling of a large shed type building, or you're able to buy it from piles on the vendors table, we're we got ours from.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy 4th!!!

Maggie and Patou
The "paved" streets of baffousam, the large provincial capital with cratersize potholes
Et moi!

Recognize me still?? I'm assimulating into the Cameroonian culture and I'm pretty happy that it includes getting my hair done and buying clothes. I love it. The hair took 5 to 6 hours and it was a bit painful at times. I like it though because its kind of crazy looking and it's less time I spend in the freezing shower. Maybe next time we might put some bright blonde or use some red weave. I bought some Peace Corps pagne (pagne is the vivid, colorful and paterned material), and I'm really excited to get another formal dress. Like a true father, my host dad said to me.. "You're getting you hair all done up and you've got a new african outfit... Who's the boy??"

School has been going great, it's been really busy. We went to a neighboring city to visit a couple Microfinance Banks there. The highlight of the trip being that we went to a supermarket (aka a small size grocery store in the states). There are definitely things that I'm able to purchase here in Bagangte, but there are no "stores" that one actually "goes into". Its more street vendors and 3 walled street shops where I do my shopping. And of course there is the market on wednesdays and saturdays, like a farmer's market only I can get tooth paste, flip flops, plastic flowers and other random things.

We've been given plenty of "homework". I'm working with a Restaurant/bar/catering company here on how to improve their services. Yup. I'm advising a business in French. Insane. At school, we've also started a Village and Savings Loan Association, something that I'll might start up at my post so people who don't have enough money for a bank account can be apart of an association that one can buy shares of, accures interest and are able to take out loans. And then the last assignment we have to work on is a needs analsyt of the town. There is a final cultural assigment that's pretty big, but not until the end of training. Probably an easy guess, but I'm doing my assignment on Cameroonian Cuisine. Oh and did I mention that we are no longer able to speak english at school.. whatsoever, even to each other when class hasn't started. I've already been caught breaking that rule. Manytimes

One more week and we find out where we're going to be posted. Cameroon is as diverse as the United States even though it's about the size of Califonia. There are 10 very different provinces so I'm very excited to be able to tell you exactly where I'm going to be soon. Everyone is still with us, unfortunately though, one girl is really sick with Malaria AND Typhoid. Yes those are both diseases that one in the United States hasn't had to worry about for 100 years, but even with the vaccines and preventive medication.. it's still very possible here. Shes a tough girl though so we're all hoping she gets better soon.

I taught my younger sister and brother (Patou and Maggie) how to play egyptian rat screw.. hilarious. Only in Africa these kids know how to cheat in card games BEFORE they actually learn the game. Oh and we're painting our nails on saturday.. get excited.

Oh and I know that my Aunt posted a comment about sending mail, which is great because I forgot to do that. If you do want to send mail... write religious symbols all over it, crosses, pictures of jesus, and feel free to address it to Sister Siobhan Perkins. Because mail like that has got something like a 50% greater chance of actually reaching me. Send nothing of value though. No guarentee that every customs official loves jesus.

Happy 4th of July!!