Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The catch up

This morning I thought I would sit down with a delicious cup of coffee (the real kind, sent from the states) and finally catch you all up on my life since.. well since a while. Except i'm out of gas for my stove, as are many homes in the East due to a region wide shortage. So today I proved that even the city girl can split wood, splash some kerosene around and create a fire in her back yard. An hour later and I've got myself a cup of coffee and the start of more adventures with fire wood.

I've also tried out my plumbing and electrical skills recently which let me tell you... are pretty weak. I can only speak for cameroon, but it seems like this area of the world gets the short end of the stick on quality products. Or more stated more clearly, factory defects from the western world get sold here as brand new. So there has been some frustration with my "new" house. But i guess that's what happens when you decided to be grown up and switch from playing house to paying for the house.

On to other updates. My health project (community health insurance) is going pretty well. We've been progressing at a slower rate than I would like but thats okay. The best news is two large international donor agencies are coming this month to talk with us further about funding support! We started the group with our own money, taken time away from families and work and have not gained a cent so it will be really nice to get that extra financial support. It will also help the project advance and be more available to several communities and villages.

This is the logo design I thought of, Thryn created and our group decided on. We're legit.

Books for Cameroon has been successfully funded and we're in the preparation stage right now to receive all 22,000 of them. Hopefully the carton will be making its way across the Atlantic very soon. For a quick second I thought maybe it would be nice if it arrived with a pizza, you know for the kids.

Its hard to believe its the holidays again, especially with the start of the 90 degree weather and dust. My postmate Elyse and I have decorated the house and have been playing Christmas music to convince ourselves otherwise. Thanksgiving is something we do big in the East and this year has topped them all. There were 25 people all at one table it was awesome. We had two big turkeys- thanks to an expat who raised them. No I didn't kill them or clean them but I did brine them overnight in a bath of stock and seasonings = delicious. It was the first time I've ever cooked a turkey and I was damn proud! There was also apple sausage stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole with the crunchy onions and mushrooms, pumpkin bread, mashed potatoes, caramelized carrots, SWEET corn, creamed green peas and christmasy napkins. Thats not even including appetizers! We also had an assortment of bottled wine and liquor. Now this may seem like typical thanksgiving and thats the part that made it so amazing. Its so hard to recreate american food here so the fact that everyone agreed it tasted just like home, made me pretty happy.

Not really a surprise here, I kinda planned food for three times as many people. I could barely lift the potatoes.

Boxed wine + christmas music & decorating + elyse = greatness. She's still going to kill me for posting this one..

This time of year is by far the hardest to be away, again, from family and friends back home who are all celebrating together. So Elyse, Lisa, Tess and I are headed up to the Extreme North to spend it with a huge gathering of Peace Corps volunteers. We're also really excited about traveling up there because we've never been (a 3 day trip just to get there!) and because it is a completely different country in comparison to the southern part of Cameroon. I will take LOTS of pictures.

I did put up a random mix of pictures recently that you can see here Its been a while... here are some photos

And last night I went to a party so I thought I would upload those as well. Bandjoun Fete

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, with love, Siobhan


Friday, October 16, 2009

A little video

This basically sums up what I was thinking when I visited the states - for a good part of the time at least. Not that hilarious in real life but pretty funny on Conan...

Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy - Louis C K

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Books for Cameroon

Who wants to learn!?!?! These kids do

In partnership with Books For Africa, a dynamic peace corps volunteer who is also a good friend of mine Wendy Lee created a library project that will extended to over 30 schools/communities and thousands and thousands of students in Cameroon. The project plan is to bring english books to schools that not only need them but who have students that are wanting to learn. Why books you say?? In Cameroon, National literacy rates are at 67% and much much worse in rural areas. Its rare for students to have school books, and with few to no libraries or bookstores, education gets the short end of the stick. Its time to change.

I am blogging about this project a little late in the game, which makes it even more important. To this day, the team of four peace corps volunteers with the incredible support from people back home have raised $8,050 to get the 40 foot container of english books shipped over. Libraries across the country have been set up and library management training classes have been created to ensure sustainablity of the resources when they arrive.

The boat hasn't left just yet though. We still need $2034 to complete the project. Wendy likes to say "Donate you're next latte" at our website here...

and I'm also going to ask, spread the christmas cheer a bit early this year (I saw decorations up already while I was in the states!!) and help us out with getting books to kids in cameroon. Fowarding the project link on threw emails, personal contacts, people you work with or to anyone you think might be intereseted would also be very helpful. Feel free to contact either I or Wendy as well.

You can also learn more about the project and check it out on facebook...
Books for Cameroon on Facebook

Classroom in Fombot

School in Diang

Classroom in Batouri

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Home Sweet Second Home

AMERICA!!!!!!!! I blend in right?

I’m back! (in Cameroon) I had the most amazing 3 weeks in the states. Seriously I couldn't have thought of a better trip. I even braved the cold weather like a real vermonter. Just being able to grab dinner with my aunts, babysit my cousin and run errands with my mom was AWESOME. My family's christmas celebration was fantastic as you can see by the decked out living room.

on the 21st of september

I went to DC for a short trip- wayyyyy too short for the amount of fun things to do and people I wanted to see- but even so... amazing. Yeah I had a lot of toasted bagels, pizza, delicious micro brews, loaded sandwiches, okay I can go on and on but seriously being around my family and friends was the absolute best. Family is family. And mine is awesome. Sounds cheesy I know… I also ate a lot of that.

In DC with Amy and Maggie

I just wanted to write a quick blog to let everyone know that I arrived in cameroon safely, no missed flights or problems traveling. Breakdowns and delays started when i got in country but thats all normal. Thank you to my family and friends who spoiled me rotten the entire time, i loved every minute of it. Thank you to those who listened endlessly to my stories, even if you were pretending to be interested, it meant a lot. I'm sorry to those who I didn't see, or didn't get to spend a whole lot of time with. 3 weeks went by SO fast and I hope next time will be a bit longer.

I got a few “Are you ever coming back??” questions while I was home. Yes, I’ll be back. I’d like to be closer to the people I love and that can be somewhere in the states or a job in the continent of Africa that can send me home a couple times a year. As for the blog, I’ve got a new enthusiasm to take more pictures now that my camera is fixed. Oh yeah and I'll write too. Next one is coming up bientot! with love, siobhan

Friday, September 4, 2009

Jungle Fever

No no I'm not sick. I'm perfectly healthy and have been very busy with a couple projects that are not yet completed but headed in the right direction. I've wanted to make a post earlier about the work that I've been doing, but unfortunately while I want to talk about the successes, its impossible not to mention the challenges. And ohhhh there have been challenges, many of which I'm not able to blog about. I think as an american I undervalued free speech. The next time I'm in the land of say-anything-i-want I'll be able to say how shitty and malfunctioning the government is. Or I could talk about how money hungry, selfish and lazy the goverment employees are. But i'm not in the states. Or I should say not yet.

I AM GOING HOME!!!!!!!!!! For 3 weeks I am going see my family for the first time in 16 months. We're going to celebrate christmas. I'm going to drive a car. Speak english. Eat cheese until it makes me sick - which won't be that hard. Hang out with friends at a real bar that serves more than just warm beer. See a movie in theaters... I can go on and on. This wasn't exactly a scheduled trip and it also doesn't sound like exotic vacation but I'm so glad to be home for a while, its going to be freaking amazing. It feels like I'm 5x more excited about coming home than I was to move my life to africa.

I'm going to procede to freak out for the next four days until I leave (the neverous excitement started several weeks ago) I'll arrive in the beautiful state of vermont sept 9th. I'm stoked that I'll be in DC sept 22 and 23. Another week at in vermont then it's back to cameroon sept 28th. I would love to see everyone so to get ahold of me, call my house, email, or facebook. Or I'll be the girl overwhelmed in the grocery store or the person ridiculously excited about things like pavement and parking garages.

Ahhhh it's good to be home already. see you soon, love siobhan

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

winner winner chicken dinner

I'm writing to you to tell you about my latest accomplishment, an unfortunate death of a recent pet, and the adoption of a couple new ones.

First, the pet. The past couple months I've been thinking about getting another animal to have around the house. I did have a kitten but she ran away/I left it outside while I was gone and she probably died. Oh well, so I thought I'd get a bunny instead. They're adorable and not that much maintenance. They are also excellent in a stew. My PCV friend said he could get one for me but the day he showed up with the animal it wasn't a bunny but a week old baby duiker. Duikers are a smaller species of antelope found in central africa and there are several subspecies. This little red flanked duiker was found after its mother was killed and the hunter was giving out the babies. He was adorable, and was just learning to walk around and jump. The fact that I was going to have a small deer running around in my cement courtyard didn't really matter.

Its name was Donkey. We fed it powdered milk with a baby bottle and let it play with the dog outside. Being that it was so young, she didn't have a whole lot of chances of surviving. A few days later, a sunday night during a thunderstorm, it died. I dug a hole with a spoon in my garden, said some nice words and buried Donkey next to the previous volunteer's monkey.

Next animal.

I killed and cleaned a chicken!!! And I did it by myself. A bunch of us went over to our neighbor’s house to help her prepare my favorite Njama Njama with Kati Kati. I wanted to learn everything including prepping the chicken so that I could make it for other people sometime

Kati Kati's last moments

Not a pretty picture. First you dig a little hole in the ground and put the chicken's head over it so the blood doesn't go all over. Then you have to put one foot on the legs of the chicken, the other on the wings. This way the chicken can convulse under your feet and not all over the cooking area. Pluck some feathers from its neck for a clean spot to cut. Then while holding the head slice at the neck. I accidently cut a little too close to the body and lost some of that precious neck meat that cameroonians love so much but oh well. It wasn't like the knife was that sharp either.

Then you put it in boiling water for a couple minutes and pluck the feathers all off. Then grill it to get the little feathers off. Viola its that easy. Actually it wasn't and thats probably why most of us don't ever eat chicken. We dined on it 4 hours later though and it was delicious. I was very proud, and so were the guys including some of them who chickened out killing the second one.

Other than that, I officially sasha, the little dog at the transit house in bertoua when i moved in and became the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader. She's getting pretty big and not any smarter, but we're working on that. I'm also already planning thanksgiving so I'm sponsoring a couple turkeys that living in the village in the next town over. Another PCV is taking care of them, so let’s hope they turn out better than the previous animals I've had.

A prochain, Siobhan

Sunday, June 21, 2009

AH! Its been a month!

It's been a month since I've written a blog! annnnnnd most importantly it's been a whole year! Yup, thats right, I've been here for a year. Crazy huh? So this blog will catch you up with what I've been doing lately.

New trainees!
Cameroon recieved 30 new trainees on June 5th and I was at the airport to welcome them in. Linsdey and I were chosen to be the Host Volunteers. I liked to think of us as their cameroonian mommies, because we were there to help them with every step during their first week in country. Days before their arrival Linsday and I ran around Yaounde and to every Peace Corps office to see what they needed from the new arrivals. Buying one cell phone here is difficult enough not to mention 29 more, so in short.. it was exhausting.

I think was almost as excited to meet them as they were at the airport as they were to finally get to Cameroon. They were also on the same flight as the Cameroonian Lions Football team arriving in country to play a big qualify match against Morrocco. It made security at the airport a little more tight but not so much that a bunch of us could pass by customs & security to the bagage claim to start organizing the mounds of luggage.

As we were traveling back to the hotel, it was funny hearing their comments about their new strange surroundings. Like the crazy driving here, people walking with things on their heads, starved mangy dogs wandering around, the little boutiques and thrown together bars... and many more aspects of cameroon that all seem really normal to me now. The new trainees asked hundreds of questions a day and it made me re-reflect on things and reminded me what cameroon was like at first. I remember being nervous about getting malaria and I never missed my prophoylaxis. The first medical session on mango flies that wiggle underneath your skin, dysentary that will keep you in your bathroom for a week, or the several worms that can make their home in your body... that stuff scared the shit out of me. Now a year later, it's really not that bad.

The new group of volunteers are really fun and they are also qualified for the job. Read the article here on two of the new trainees


The best part of being a host volunteer was hanging out with them and catching up on all of the american stuff i missed. I learned about Susan Boyle the British Idol phenomenon. John and Kate are going to need to split up their eight. Yeahhhh and that's just about all i missed. Like I said, the new group is really cool and I loved hanging out with them but they also reminded me of the fast passed, internet dependent, twitter ridiculous life that many westerns live. My previous life included.

Conclusion: one year later and I still really like living here and I hope the same for the soon to be volunteers.

Yaounde is my new home!
Joking, but seriously I've been spending some quality time in the capital these past 2 months. Mostly I've been doing work in preparation for the new volunteers but I also had my Mid Service Medical Exams. The mid service is done in groups of a dozen or so and our laundry list of things to get checked up range from the dentist (kind of nervous about that one here in Cameroon but it was legit) to handing over a few stool samples. Not as exciting as the dentist I assure you. In light of this, my friend Thryn decided to make a game out of it.

Diarrhea is the freebie, everyone gets it. The BINGO card was sent out to PC staff and even our medical officers thought it was pretty funny. It was a weird disappointment that I didn't win this game but kind of a good thing that no one has... not yet.

Between preping technical presentations for the new trainees and medical stuff, we had some time to kill. Yaounde isn't the friendliest city and it's definitely not cheap so volunteers often find themselves staying in peace corps headquarters the entire time. Instead of being bored and spending tons of money eating out, we decided to cook because that usually took at least half the day to do. On average we were feeding 15 to 20 hungry volunteers and at most, like on homemade raviolli night there were 25 of us. Other nights we made egg rolls, an indian masala with paneer and nan, amazing pad thai, breakfast burritos, eggplant parmesan and alot more. Vegetarian chili, which i had my doubts about turned out to be good enough to make twice. The second week we cooked, we made it official with a menu and a restaurant logo.

"we make dreams come true" aka delivering american food to volunteers cheap and easy. for them at least. We have 2 locations and are opening a 3rd whenever Thryn and Gabe move to their new post. Here are some pictures and my first plea to Food Network to send some proper utensils along with a mixer and imersion blender please and thank you.

My hand in a metal cup makes a good bean masher

The transit house only has 3 spoons so we eat with measuring cups accompained with beer in a jelly jar.
Nik and his heaping plate of Pad Thai, imitating my pose for pictures

Whats next...
I'm going to have to say goodbye to my postmate Ann-Marie on friday which is going to be pretty tough. We've gotten to be really close and this next year in Peace Corps is going to be completely different with her not around. It might be a good thing though, I'm really looking forward to concetrating on projects and things I want to accomplish before I leave.

This weekend I'm headed to Bagangte the training village. I'll be doing technical sessions on corruption, management consulting, and working with community groups. I'm excited to see the new trainees again! Then, finally, after several weeks spent in the captial, I'll be going back to Bertoua. There's just no place like the East. Lots of love, Siobhan

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I've been lucky enough to have high speed internet to load lots of pictures I've been promising. Pictures from France to come in a couple weeks..


Friday, May 1, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Paris was amazing. I took the TGV train from Nice. It was only a 6 hour trip and it was nice to see some of the countryside. Unfortunately I have developed some sort of reverse motion sickness. I now do better in those busses I normally take with shitty seats, bad roads and no shocks. Something about the spaciousness and smooth riding makes me horribly sick now.

Alison and I outside the Catacombs

It was great to see my two friends from GW Alison and Esther. I lived with both of them my last year at GW and with Alison years before that. Shout out to the Devenny Fam! It was nice seeing familiar faces and hanging out with people from what seems like my former life. We spent a good time laughing about old stories, most of mine included the library or some horrible sleeping or studying habit. Randomly another friend Eleanor from our first year at GW was in Paris for the weekend and we got to catch up and go out with her which was really great.

Esther and I on a boat tour of the Seine

Highlights of Paris include:
- When I first arrived, I walked around for 2 hours hungry because I couldn't decide on a place to eat. Everything looked that good.

-People watching was an activity by itself.

- We ate at this one crepe place 5 times! It was amazing. They used the same amount of cheese and meat we would use in Cameroon for six people but this time it was all for me. Chorizo, Chevre lettuce tomato onion or feta tarama olives lettuce and tomato were my two favorite.

- Shiny, clean and efficient. Ann-Marie likes to say that the developed world is shiny, and it was. Partly because it’s incredibly clean. Really clean. And nothing is better than efficiency. It was almost too efficient for me to handle. Forming lines, menus to order off from, functioning transportation systems, never waiting more than 5 minutes for anything!

-I went into the Sephora flagship store on Champs Elyse - the 5th Avenue of Paris. It was a total blur, I was overwhelmed. I walked out and didn't even know what happened. We went back a couple days later to put on lip gloss, Chanel perfume and my favorite Nars blush and repeated that same exact step every time we passed a Sephora.

- Wine, Wine, Wine. It was delicious and ridiculously cheap, especially if it came from the store around the corner instead of a restaurant/bar. A decent champagne was also only a few dollars. Got a little too excited about that and accidentally shot off one cork towards the apartments across the street from our hotel. No windows broken.

- I bought two tennis rackets for $25 dollars and brought them back with me so my Cameroonian friend Charles and I can try and play tennis. That wil be funny

-I spent hours just looking around in a grocery store. And I took pictures.

-There were times that my French came in handy, especially in Nice were fewer people spoke English. I feel like it’s more respectful to at least start off speaking the language. Sometimes I would speak in french and people would speak back to me in english. Apparently my french isn't that good and its definitely not parisenne French. I'm hitting to books when I get back home to improve. Little french children were ADORABLE and I'm determined to raise my kids speaking French as well.

-We saw the most famous works in several gorgeous museums. We did the church scene like Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame. We did just about everything you could do in Paris, boat ride on the Seine, Catacombs, Eiffel tower, Bastille, Victor Hugo's hangout spots, Versailles, the list goes on. But probably some of the best times I had were chilling in one of the parks with a bottle of wine and delicious french snacks. Or just walking around into all of the little boutiques, books shops, and gourmet food stores.

- No one gave a shit what "the white girl" was doing. I was completely anonymous and it was amazing.

-Did I already mention the dogs? Everyone has a little dog and they are allowed to go everywhere. Even homeless people had a dog. Even the homeless people were clean too. I had a hard time not laughing when they asked me for money (all of 3 of them I saw). If they're asking for money while drinking a bottle of french wine, I'm pretty sure they should be giving me money.

-I brought back a big bag of cheese to share with everyone. Food always tastes better when you share it with someone else, Cameroonians get to experience something completely foreign and all of us volunteers would do just about anything to have cheese.

The only thing that would have made the trip better:
  1. If I could have met up with my family.

  2. If it was a bit warmer. (Never thought I would say that) Paris was between 55 and 65 degrees and I was freezing.

  3. If Matt Damon was there. The "city of lights'" is also the city of love, tres romantique!

I'm trying to put up pictures but since my camera broke (no surprise there) before I left for France, I'm now relying on other people to send them to me. I'm uploading tons of photos right now, it just takes forever here. Until then, if you want check out this link http://alumni.gwu.edu/news/2009_05/aprofile.html Since the three of us are all successful GW grads living in different parts of the world, the Alumni Association at GW profiled us for the newsletter.

I did miss Cameroon a bit. It was weird that no one wanted to have a random conversation with me. I felt like I should have asked the guy at the hotel reception desk where he was from or how his family is doing. I missed the amazing network of support and friends that I have made in Peace Corps. Especially other volunteers, they make living here great. Surprisingly it wasn't that hard to come back to Cameroon. Yeah all of that extra stuff is great, the cheese, the perfume, being able to drive a car, the clothes but really I guess I don't miss it that much. I've lived long enough without extravagance to realize it’s not necessary and in some ways I'm better off without it.

The plane ride back was amazing of course. I watched a bunch of movies that I thought were brand new, but apparently came out last year. I sat between some Cameroonian women and explained to them what the plane food was and how to use their TV screens. The grandmother wasn't interested in the movies but we both enjoyed getting refills on the refreshments. Her gout of choice was Heineken, and the stewardess kept them coming. I knew I was on my way back. Half way through the flight the plane started smelling like B.O. and a latrine and Cameroonian businessmen were gathered around the steward drink stations like it was a free happy hour. Yup, I was almost in Cameroon alright.

I'm currently writing this at our transit house in Yaoundé and by the time I post it, I'll probably already be in Bertoua. Over the past 2 days since I arrived in country the mosquito bites have reappeared everywhere, including on my face! I've already fallen back into the habit of arguing about prices of taxis, beans, bananas etc. And the rat problem at the house right now is something I'm trying to not think about.... Home sweet home.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nice! France!

We're not in Cameroon anymore...

I started my two week vacation off with a smoked salmon, creme fraiche, melted cheese and dill panini. Accompanied with a mini carafe of alsatian wine and finished with an espresso. Sounds amazing right?? And it wasn't even at fancy place, just an average cafe. I was in HEAVEN. Even thought the unusual amount of dairy and rich food made me sick it didn't stop me from getting a Mcflurry afterward.

My french cuisine experience deserves it's own blog entirely, but I'll continue on with something else for now. Nice is a gorgeous city located on the French Riviera. It's a cool mix of French and Italian culture along side the beautiful blues of the Mediterranean. The buildings are warm yellow and rustic orange with terra cotta roofs, iron balconies full of flowers and sea green window shutters. It was absolutely lovely. It was even a nice change to be cold for a while, and I was definitely freezing at a chilly high of barely 70 degrees. This didn't seem to bother anyone else though. People were walking around in tee shirt, tanning on the beach and even some crazy people were swiming. The first night I slept in my fleece jacket under a thick blanket. I stayed in a hostel for two nights that could easily qualify as a three star hotel in Cameroon with hot water, shockingly nice customer service, free high speed internet, clean beds and right in the center of Nice.

Since I wasn't meeting my friends in Paris for a few days, I made friends with others in the hostel. Most of them were younger and almost all spoke english. It was really cool hearing about other people's travels around Europe but a little frustrating when some people had no idea where I had been living for a year. Worse was after I told them about a couple of my experiences, they tried to relate to it in some ridiculous way. It wasn't like that all the time, I did have some good conversations about working in micro finance, the things I missed the most about Cameroon/ and the states, etc, so that was really really great.

I think I handled the dramatic change pretty well. It was weird being in a predominately white country. I kept thinking that I saw people I knew. There were a lot of older people too (Cameroon's average life expectancy is a lot lower) and everyone had a little dog that they went everywhere with, even in stores and restaurants = bizarre. The amount of wealth was just astounding. Instead of running for the race I originally signed up for, I spent one morning recovering not from a bottle of wine, but from a cheese plate and then in the afternoon took a day trip with a few newly made friends to Monaco. The small country is the 16th most developed country in the world. Let me tell you, I almost threw up in my mouth after 3 Lamborghinis drove by us on the street. They made the BMWs there look like Saturns and the yachts were big enough to be confused for a small cruise lines. It was exhausting just looking at all of it.

That night a bunch of us went out to a bar that had a live band playing classic american rock, met some people from Lousiana and felt like a piece of me was back at home. Apart of me wishes that I just continued on to the states to see much missed family and friends. At the same time, I'm so happy to be seeing a new place and meeting up with old college friends. And surprisingly, I still miss Cameroon. Shout out to my parents that made this much needed vacation possible, where ever I ended up being, I'm loving every second of it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Deep East

I waited to post this blog because I wanted to post some pictures to go along with it, but you know, cameroon and technology doesn't mix that well so we'll just have to wait. They'll get posted one day, but until then grab a cup of coffee and get prepared for a long blog about my east province trip. But I promise it won’t be as long as the bus rides…

So we’ll start there. The first leg of the trip was a 12 hour ride on horrible roads in a prison bus. We were joking that prisoners in the states have nicer buses than we do. So do cattle. Thankfully I wasn’t traveling alone, I traveled with my postmates Ann-Marie and Kate and the other 25+ people packed in the bus. At one time, Kate counted and she was touching 7 people! (including 2 babies). Its so cramped that our knees were always hitting the metal bar of the seat infront of us or uncomfortably shoved up someones back side. Covered in dirt, knees bruised… I was not a happy camper.

God bless my ipod though, I would have never made it.

The bus only broke down once. Everyone in the bus was thankful for that, especially since the bus was missing a part called ______(insert French word I didn’t understand here) and if we broke down again we would have to sleep on the side of the road. We didn’t get the whole story but the bus was running regardless of this mystery missing part. As it got darker and darker, driving along we realized what that French word was… HEADLIGHTS. Yeah, kind of necessary. For an hour we drove in the dark. It was one of those times when you get really nervous and start freaking out so instead all you can do is laugh semi hysterically. So I laughed as people in the bus passed up their lighters with little flashlights on the end to try and help the situation.

We arrived in Yokaduma, a town known for it’s wild wild west kind of feel, where we met the other volunteers from the east waiting for us with cold beers. They were delicious. We headed out the next morning with the World Wildlife Foundation -WWF to Mambele, a small village of 500 people another 160 kilometers south. In the buses it takes about 8 hours. Lucky for us the WWF drove us down there in 5 hours in their vehicles since the roads were too bad for the bus.

The reason we were doing all of this traveling was to do a province wide collaboration project with Matt and Sarah Kuhn, two peace corps volunteers living in Mambele. I highly recommend reading their blog because their life is completely different and probably the most extreme of any volunteers living in Cameroon. And their stories are hilarious too. Their blog: http://6n12e.blogspot.com/

Matt and Sarah both work with the WWF in their largest conversation and anti-poaching program in the Central African Rainforest. They do anything from rehabilitating endangered African Grey Parrots on their front lawn to prosecuting hunters. More importantly they invited us over to their house for Tuna Surprise… and let me tell you, the surprise here in Cameroon is tuna because its too expensive for most of us to buy it.

The project went really well. Education Volunteers did a workshop with teachers from the district on effective teaching methods. Nik and I worked with a EcoTourism GIC on budgeting, management, and project planning. The health presentations were great and I still have some of the songs they used stuck in my head. The town was really happy to receive us and we already received really positive feedback about the sessions we conducted.

During the week we stayed at a camp and it was pretty nice. There were a couple semi sleepless nights listening to animals scratch outside my hut and/or me scratching mosquito bites inside my hut. But since I had a bed and a mattress it really wasn’t hardcore camping. In the middle of the night, I debated whether it would be cool to see a gorilla, but decided that when I’m outside peeing at 1am would not be the best time. There were always monkeys though, making huge jumps in the trees above. We collected our water in buckets from the river (bleached them of course- I don’t want shisto). We came prepared with all of our food supplies for the week since there was hardly anything in the village. We weren’t exactly prepared to be cooking everything over a fire but at the end of the week, I think we could have done crumb brulee. A year ago I was serving Norwegian water in polished crystal glasses and now I am using leaves as ovenmits, potlids have replaced fine china, and five times a day or more I find myself saying “is this clean??? (in my head I say no)… Meh, clean enough”

The amount of bugs were ridiculous. That week, we used a whole bottle of Ben’s 100% Deet and still got eaten alive by mosquitoes and something similar to deer flies. Not literally eaten alive though, the killer ants stayed away from us and only attacked some of the food. There were also hundreds of butterflies and birds all around the campground.

Once our work was finished we took a trip into one of the reserve parks. Just when you think you’re the furthest away from a starbucks than you will ever be… its time to go farther. The infrastructure for tourists is practically non existent. No places to really stay, no roads in the park and if I wasn’t a PCV I would have no idea how to get there. The WWF drove us on a “road” in the park and at various parts of the trip the driver would say to all of us cramped in the back of the land cruiser,“Okay. Sit well.”. And we’d try and hold on to a part of the car while ducking our head down away from the windows because we were about to get THROWN. We also had to close the windows because of snakes. We were dropped off and hiked the rest of the way to the clearing.

We had 2 Baka guides and a ecoguard (someone allowed to use a gun that was held together with a rubberband… hmmm) that came with us. It took a little less than 2 hours to the clearing where we camped out for a night. Petit Jean, our baka guide showed us things in the forest you can eat and cook with like sticks in the woods that smelled like garlic. He cut a vine down that we could drink water out of too. Along the way we saw some monkeys that looked like skunks, elephant prints, gazelles - african deer, and a couple meter long lizards. I was disappointed not to see any gorillas. Matt was saying that its good the animals are not acclimated to humans because it would only increase poaching. But one time, a few of us were walking to go prep dinner and we heard gorillas yelling and rawring and making whatever sounds they make. The furthest we could see was about 20ft because vegetation was so dense, sometimes we couldn’t see 5feet infront of us, or my own feet. But anyway, we heard them and I STOPPED immediately. I looked around, and then just booked it up to our little pygmy guide and frantically asked him in english “Gorillas don’t eat humans right?!?!? They just attack us????” Of course he couldn’t understand what I was saying, just looked at me like I was crazy. Sarah thought my freak out was pretty funny though.

So we hiked back, and did the whole travel thing again with a few minor road blocks like large trees and logging trucks. The WWF has amazing drivers that could navigate through deep mud, over ditches and were able to control the car when it was sliding over the bridge made out of 4x4s. We bought our driver a beer when we got to Yokaduma for getting us there safely and I was happy fall asleep in our 10 dollar a night hotel room – the classiest place in town.

Needless to say I did NOT want to travel for a while after that. Until now basically. I'm headed to PARIS!!!! In one hour I'm going to get on a bus, head to the airport and proceed to probably freak out. I'm excited. I'll write when I get back, love siobhan

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A blessing? In disguise? Prob not.

I made it out of the jungle! And I'm finally done traveling for a few weeks. I love how I was able to see both sides of the country and both were completely opposite from each other.. cold vs. humid, more developed vs. extreme poverty, english vs. sometimes very little french, etc. After being away from my post for so long, I decided that I am really happy in Bertoua, kind of in the middle.

I had the experience of a life time camping out in the central Africa rainforest, and I can't wait to tell you all about it. However there's a more important issue that I need to get off my mind first.

As a lot of you know, Pope Benedict came to visit Cameroon last week. I already mentioned in preparation for his visit the Cameroonian government decided to clean up the capital city- aka bulldoze hundreds businesses and homes in the middle of the night. After I witnessed it in Yaoundé, I was furious. Unfortunately Pope Benedict said NOTHING about this during his visit. Nothing.

From the Herald Tribune: "Pope Benedict XVI will not know when he visits Yaoundé that beyond the thousands of smiling faces welcoming him are millions of destitute Cameroonians who wish he did not come," said Michael Kimbi Tchenga, a resident of the capital Yaoundé.

THEN he denounced the use of condoms and further said that condom just aggravates the problem of HIV/AIDS. WRONG. I've been hearing a lot of international organizations saying that they hope some Cameroonians overlooked that part of the Pope's speech. But deep in the jungle, an 8 hour ride to the next town to get phone service... people we were working with knew about the condom comment a few days later...

The World Health Organisation responded: "These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million." (Times)

Too often words or pictures don't cut it. I'm not much of a writer anyway but they can't possibly show my feelings about this. I will post pictures later and the next blog will be a little more cheerful. Till then!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I'm back!

I'm back from the other side of the country actually. This past week I did another collaboration project in a town called Kumbo in the Northwest Province. Two out of ten provinces in Cameroon are anglophone- colonized by the British. I was there to get some info from a really successful group of mutual health associations and use it for my project that I'm working on right now - MHO's are community based insurance savings groups. The visits to the hospitals and offices really helped, so I'm excited and have more confidence that my HMO is going to be sucessful.

The trip reinforced a couple ideas that I had: there are tons of ngos and governments working in the Northwest compared to other provinces and does not correspond with poverty level. I'll admit it though, English is easier and so is working in areas with better infrastructure. And thats one of the reasons why the poorest populations are not being reached... thats another discussion. The other thing I noticed that there are more religious based hospitals and organizations. There are some benefits to this, but I still have yet to form a solid opinion.

As a related side note since I witnessed it myself: The pope is coming to visit in a week so to prepare for this visit the government "cleaned up the streets" aka bulldozing. I'm without blog-appropriate words to tell you what I think of this but here's a little article about it if you want to read more:


Back to the visit, overall it was great. People were so friendly and welcoming. As I was walking around, even in the provincial capital Bamenda, I kept waiting for someone to give me shit or start harassing... but nothing. Really it was shocking. It's also gorgeous there, huge rolling hills and deep valleys. I got to see Tess and David from my stage which was great. I stopped by my friend Catie's in Bamenda and it was nice to see a familiar face from home for a bit (we went to GW together). It made me realize how incredibly diverse Cameroon is and equally how different own individual experiences are.

Speaking English proved to be a bit of a challenge. Even though my French still isn't that great, its still my default language. So now I suck in both languages. Awesome. No it wasn't that bad, it just made me realize how I melange the two and don't realize that I do it. Its interesting how the anglophone regions and french regions are distinctively separate from each other. I don't know if this is the case for francophone's but the English speaking part of Cameroon doesn't like being associated with the french Cameroonians, even though most anglophones speak french.. only if they absolutely have to. Some anglophones don't even speak english, they only speak pigdin which nicely put is a type of creole language. Some people like to say its just bad english.

While we were having a juice one afternoon with some friends in the center of Kumbo, I was lucky enough to see my first Juju. Jujus are kind of spirits, that posses power and are assigned to different objects such as death, jokers, weddings. They belong to chiefdom's so in Kumbo where there are 2 fons (chiefs) there are about 30 something different juju's in each clan. Don't quote me on some of this, but this is how I understood it. I found it really interesting that believing in jujus is completely separate from the worship of God and many people who do believe in jujus are also catholics, protestants, baptists, etc. Secondly its not just people of the village who follow jujus, many African leaders have been known to use them as well.

I saw one of the more common ones, the dealth juju. (i have pics but can't put them up now so you'll have to imagine with my description). He out in the town because one member of the fon's clan died. The juju was wearing a huge type of hat made out of straw dyed black. The straw hid his entire top half of his body and he held out sticks that looked like bamboo and he hit them together. A few other people dressed very traditionally ran after the dealth juju trying to constrain him as he ran down the street. So we had to duck down and hide behind the banister of the bar just in case the juju was to try and throw one of the sticks at us. While all this was happening, I had no idea what was going on, didn't know what a juju was or why we were hiding. But it was a great experience anyway.

This week I spent 33 hours crammed into a bus or a bush taxi - not including the wait time before those cars leave... and I am SO happy to get home. For one night only though, I'll be heading out to another corner of the country... THE DEEP EAST. I am pumped! You'll hear all about it too.... next week!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March Madness

Sorry its been a while since i've made a post. I'm still here!!!! And doing really well. March has been a crazy month already. I'm currently in an anglophone province on the opposite side of the country doing some research. Next week I'll trek back to the East and go deep deep into the bush where we will be working on a provincial collaboration project amoungt all of the volunteers in the East. We're hoping to have a really sucessful project and explore some parts of the forest reserves at the same time.

There are tons of pictures to come, and I'll soon fill you in on the travel adventures as well.

with love! siobhan

Friday, February 20, 2009

February Funk

I've realized that I no longer have the same enthusiasm I had before when it comes to writing blogs, emails and letters. This has happened for 2 reasons that pretty much exist across most volunteer's experience. First of all, things are just not that exciting or surprising anymore. So a sourcer was involved in someone’s death in town, that’s pretty normal. I had to shove some chicken gizzards down the other day because a friend kindly offered us the best parts of the chicken but that’s not really out of the ordinary. In short, most things in my life now are "normal". With that said, I've got a feeling I'm going to be a little strange when I get back...

Secondly, its not all beer and candy, sometimes living here just sucks. I complained for about 3 paragraphs but decided to make it a bit shorter, and less, well bitchy. I am tired of: bugs/mice, not being understood, Cameroonians giving me a lot of shit all day long, the overall lack of motivation, being away from family and friends, taking pepto pink crap and living in a less developed country in general. There I said it. And I feel a bit better.

I didn't want to be negative, so instead I just stopped writing. I think I'm slowly getting over the funk though. March is going to be a busy month and then April I'm taking off to France for a couple weeks (and I AM So EXCITED). I'm hoping to help with the newbie’s arriving in June which will be fun, and then already I'm at a year mark... not bad! I've never regretted my decision to be here, I've never thought about leaving and I don't think this is the last time I'll live in Africa. And all that is pretty darn good I think.

As always, thank you for your continuing support, the cards, the packages, the positive comments and lots of emails. It makes a world of difference. thank you and love, Siobhan

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fresh Air Fund

A representative from the Fresh Air Fund asked me to write a blog about the programs they offer and the need for hosts, staff members, camp counselors etc. which I am more than happy to. (even though I copied most of it off their website). I was first introduced to the program when a neighbor hosted a child through the Fresh Air Host Fund Family. There are several other programs that Fresh Air orgainizes, here's some information about that you might find of interest:

Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from disadvantaged communities. Each year, thousands of children visit volunteer host families in 13 states and Canada through the Friendly Town Program or attend one of five Fresh Air Fund camps.

Each summer, 3,000 children enjoy themselves at one of the five Fresh Air camps in upstate New York. They are now accepting applications for counselors for this coming summer of '09. They hire staff members with a wide range in some pretty amazing fields. Fresh Air Fund is looking for college-aged men and women who love to work with children.
For more information please visit this website http://freshairfundcounselors.smnr.us/

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February Funk

I've realized that I no longer have the same enthusiasm I had before when it comes to writing blogs, emails and letters. This has happened for 2 reasons that pretty much exist across most volunteer's experience. First of all, things are just not that exciting or surprising anymore. So a sourcer was involved in someone’s death in town, that’s pretty normal. I had to shove some chicken gizzards down the other day because a friend kindly offered us the best parts of the chicken but that’s not really out of the ordinary. In short, most things in my life now are "normal". With that said, I've got a feeling I'm going to be a little strange when I get back...

Secondly, its not all beer and candy, sometimes living here just sucks. I complained for about 3 paragraphs but decided to make it a bit shorter, and less, well bitchy. I am tired of: bugs/mice, not being understood, Cameroonians giving me a lot of shit all day long, the overall lack of motivation, being away from family and friends, taking pepto pink crap and living in a less developed country in general. There I said it. And I feel a bit better.

I didn't want to be negative, so instead I just stopped writing. I think I'm slowly getting over the funk though. March is going to be a busy month and then April I'm taking off to France for a couple weeks (and I AM So EXCITED). I'm hoping to help with the newbie’s arriving in June which will be fun, and then already I'm at a year mark... not bad! I've never regretted my decision to be here, I've never thought about leaving and I don't think this is the last time I'll live in Africa. And all that is pretty darn good I think.

As always, thank you for your continuing support, the cards, the packages, the positive comments and lots of emails. It makes a world of difference. thank you and love, Siobhan

Friday, January 30, 2009

You might be a Cameroonian Peace Corps Volunteer if…..

I know some of you might be familiar with Jeff Foxworthy’s You Might Be A Redneck… If you’re from Vermont, not only do you know what I’m talking about, but you can probably also relate. Myself included. I had the daily quotation calendar thank you very much. A few weekends ago some volunteers and I watched the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and being in that mindset, we decided to do “You might be a PC Cameroon volunteer….”

Three quick things, this blog is co-authored by my very funny postmate ann-marie. Also the other day I was googling, and stumbled upon a You Might Be A PCV South Africa if… paying 15 dollars for Indian delivery food is too much. That’s when I stopped reading and decided that they were probably living in Jersey. Finally, I know there’s a few volunteers out there that read this blog, please feel free to add…

You might be a Cameroonian Peace Corps Volunteer if…..

· you don’t do a double take when the 10 year old selling rat poising is actually carrying around a dead rat as proof.

· you call a 12oz beer a baby beer and a 22oz is normal.

· spending 2500cfa (about $5) on a meal is considered splurging, and probably the most expensive food you can find in town.

· you’ve ever actually paid to pee in a hole in the ground

· you put on a sweatshirt at 70 degrees

· the “white man’s” grocery store is your tourist attraction.

· you opt out of using a fork because the food tastes better using your hands.

· you actually get annoyed and offended when someone tells you you’re beautiful.

· you have to ask the hostess/mommie cooking what kind of bush meat she is serving because you don’t want to eat monkey

· you’ve every found yourself arguing over 20 cents

· the word “deranger” is considered a word in the English language

· you are no longer embarrassed by having diarrhea, talking about diarrhea or discussing another person’s diarrhea.

· you dream about eating cheese.

· the idea of personal space no longer exists

· your alarm clock is roosters and the snooze button is pigs

· you think of boiled eggs as bar food

· you regularly eat beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner

· you’ve ever seen a woman breastfeeding in the market while the baby is propped up next to a dead monkey, and the mother is vehemently arguing the price of fish

· you see other white people and can’t help but stare

· you no longer know what clean white feet look life

·the best insult you can throw at someone is to call them “villageois” (villager)

· your favorite season of the year is mango season

· Having cleavage includes knee caps

· You have mosquito bites in places the don’t see the light of day

· Its not a meal if piment(a really spicy pepper), Maggie (MSG in cube form) or palm oil is not present

· you don’t do anything or go anywhere when it rains, just like everyone else

· you have used your medical kit for things not medically related i.e. bandage tape to hang pictures

· you’ve seen every movie you own at least a dozen times, and the deleted scenes making of the movie, and with commentary

· you wash the chalk like pepto bismuth down with beer or whiskey.

· your perfume is either Coopertone or Off Deep Woods and your wine glasses are made by Rubbermaid

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chez Barack Obama and other updates

Today's the big day in the states. I kind of wish I was in DC for the inauguration but I guess you can't live in both worlds. We have a new bar in the center of town though...

Ann Marie is having some of our cameroonian friends over to watch it on tv at a convenient 6pm scheduled broadcast time. We're also having Kati Kati which is very exciting! This type of green vegetable (jamma jamma) and corn fufu my favorite cameroonian food pluuuuus chicken! We wanted to make only American food for the occasion but then we realized that people wouldn't come or they would go hungry, because they are terrified of our food. So instead we'll make an American dessert.

Oh and the last blog, I mentioned something about babies that my mother said was a bit confusing. Lets clear that one up. People ask me how I like it here, and the Cameroonain response is always "wonderful!! you should find a nice cameroonian to settle down with and have babies!" While I love this country, thats not going to happen.

Work at the Micro Finance Bank is going really well. We have been organizing, cleaning and filling which is wonderful. I'm also doing mini one on one lessons with the employees on the internet and excel. Much harder to teach in french but the value of knowing both of those tools for a bank is really huge.

So sad news, and old news. My little cat benny ran away.... around thanksgiving. I just didn't have the heart to tell everyone since I know she had a big fan club back in the states. Last time I saw her she was at the neighborhood bar. I picture she was pounding back shots of milk, got disorientated and didn't know how to get home. Kate's cat just had baby kittens...

but they're not going to trick me into taking one of them home with their cuteness. I'm going to get another animal instead..

I finally booked tickets for vacation!!!! IM GOING TO FRANCE!!!!!! and I'm beyond excited. April in Paris? Why wouldn't I be excited? I am going to eat SO MUCH amazing food. I'm flying into Nice on the 18th, running a half marathon on the 19th and then spending 10 days in Paris with a college friend. Oh yeah and about the semi marathon ( thats what its called in french, almost like its not legit, i think its funny). I believe that one can only find out how far one can go by going too far. And this time I mean literally as in kilometers. Right now, I can't even run 5 miles, but whatever. If I don't make it to 13, the only thing I've lost the lazy time that I used to sleep in every morning. Plus i'll be running literally along the coast of the mediterrainean in the south of France, how bad can it be? Instead of gatorade I picture having the choice of a chilled Alsatian wine or Cote du Rhone. Haahah no? I did read a review on the race and at the hydrating stations they give fresh fruit and cheese. Forget the finish line i'll just be concentrating on running to the next cheese stand. After months of not eating dairy products.. I am going to eat so much cheese its not even funny, and it probably won't be funny afterwards when I realize my stomach can't handle lactose anymore.
Anyway, its kind of nice planning a vacation this way. I can't wait to go but at the same time I can, because I need to be running a lot more miles before then. Finding a place to run here is a bit difficult, so is eating protein. Did I mention its the driest and hottest season here? ha. I've got 2 Cameroonian trainers, aka my friends. One makes sure I don't miss a run and the other is starting me on some type of bootcamp thing next week so we'll see how that goes... du courage!
This is a random picture, thought I would share. Ann Marie's mom sent her a new bra in the wrong size and I lucked out because it fits me. But its a color I have not seen in forever... WHITE! It won't stay that way for long so naturally I took a picture.

This kind of reminds me of one of those ridiculous myspace pictures people take of themselves.

I also put a couple more pictures from the holidays online, this is one of my favorites

Happy Inauguration Day! And until next time, take care tout le monde

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thanksgiving Part Two: Why Cameroonians Have it Good

I'm doing to preface this blog with the same disclaimer I gave for the Why Americans Have it Good blog, now just the other way around. Disclaimer: I miss the United States SO much!! I love this country but really there is no place like America. Just because I'm never visiting during my peace corps service doesn't mean I'm never coming back, or getting married here and it certainly does not include me having any babies. I am going to be talking non stop about Cameroon when I first get back, so I figured I would get start a little bit now. The other thing is this blog will not do justice to how I have it good here. Being a pcv and essentially an important person in town... and well I have it really good.

When you first meet a Cameroonian, they will shake your hand - always and it’s a habit I’ve really picked up. They will ask you how you are, how work is, how the family is doing, how you slept last night... very friendly. People will say "Oh ma soeur or ma mere, ma tante, ma fille, etc" Translated directly I am the cousin, the sister, and the mother of many Cameroonians but really it’s just a nice way of addressing me.

Cameroonians love new years and I love it also. They will be saying prayers for each others new years and saying "Bonne Année!!!" till may.

People here like to give random gifts too. At the bank someone will give me fruit for no reason, or neighbors will bring over a plate of food randomly. And in Cameroon if you invite someone out for lunch or a beer, this means that the person who offered the invitation also pays the bill.

Oh and beers are twice as big as in the states. Not only is it common to drink during lunch and dinner but the bars are also open around 8AM just incase you're having a really rough morning. p.s. I don't do that. Forget red bull, chew on a kola nut instead (aka cola like the soda) that’s packed full of caffeine and a symbol of friendship when you break it apart and share it at the same time.

At anytime I am welcome to go to friends or a neighbor’s house and visit. In the states people don't really "visit" or you would at least call first if you were going to drop by somewhere. Here, an unexpected visitor is met with open arms, a couple beers and a full meal. Always. And you think it would be weird just to show up around dinner time at someone’s house, but its not at all, they enjoy having company. Cameroonians are amazing hosts.

Speaking of meals. Right now, I eat papaya larger than my head for 20 cents. Avocados are a big more expensive but they're also huge and have great flavor for around 40 cents. Bananas are a deal at 2 pennies a piece. Pineapple, tomatoes, oranges, passion fruit, hibiscus juice, carrots and melons are all pesticide free, in abundance and for how much??? Pocket change

Don't confuse that all I'm eating is fruits and veggies though, definitely not. Cooking is ALOT of work, a lot of work that I don't do regularly and I like the food that I can easily buy from someone selling out of their cooking pot on the side of the road. The meat here is all free range and freshly killed. I'm sure I could even watch it being killed if I wanted to (definitely can't do that in the states). Best of all, Cameroonians eat with 6 senses, the last being their hands. Some food really does taste better when you eat it with your fingers.

There is music everywhere. My neighbors have it on constantly. At the bank sometimes we'll have 2 radios going and we can hear the music playing outside from the other shop owners. Every little store here has a set of speakers and plays music. It’s not different from generation to generation either. The same music that plays in the bar, little kids shake to walking down the street, and it plays in the post office.

Forget black and white and shades of gray, this country is anything but. And white doesn't even stay clean. Cameroon is colourful in ever sense of the word. Where in the states can you dress in a complete bright magenta outfit with sparklies on it and you blend in??

It’s not necessary to have a vehicle here. In the large city I live in, I only know 2 people who have vehicles. However moto's fill the roads here. There are also a few traditional taxis that are usually packed full of people making a stop every 2 minutes to drop off and pick people up in town. So for the most part, I can find a moto, sometimes outside of my courtyard and go anywhere I want in a matter of minutes. This works if I wanted to travel father too. I can just hire a moto to drive me to the next village 30 minutes outside of town. It’s really easy and convenient.

This can be argued in both directions but I feel like the resources here are really used and not wasted. Every part of the animal has a place in a Cameroonian dish. Cameroonians can make anything with wheels drive for hours. At least a dozen times a day I say to myself "that vehicle/moving pile of aluminum should not be in working condition right now, but it is and I'll get on it for 100cfa"

This is an on going blog and I'm sure that I'll be adding to it later on or you'll hear it straight from me one day.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bonne Année

Happy New Year!! Bonne Année!!!

Can you believe its 2009 already? That’s insane. I heard this year we get an extra second right? I'm impressed that I get that kind of news all the way out here. lol. This year I celebrated new years eve as usual, champagne, party hats and dancing... just joking. But New Years Eve/ the Fete of Saint Sylvester is a big holiday here and even without the usual stuff I had a really good time.

That morning I walked out of my door and everyone was prepping for the party. My neighbors killed and sold their pigs right on the side of the road. Personally it was a little early to be seeing that but whatever, hopefully this makes my neighborhood quiet down a bit, those pigs are so loud. Every time I see a cute little piglet though I contemplate about getting one as a pet/future dinner. Piglets are so cute. Anyway, I headed to work and area on the road where people sell chickens is full of them! and they are also in the road. I think it would be really bad story if the reason I got hit by a car was because I was moving out of the way for a chicken. But I didn't.
Go home in the evening, make some banana bread for the people at the bank and some neighbors, and have a couple glasses of wine. Then the power goes out for the 4th time that day. You'd think I'd learn my lesson and put one of my flashlights or canteen in a place that I could always find it easy in the pitch darkness, but no. Ask me in a year if I've gotten any better about it, and the answer will probably be no. Stumbling around in my house searching for the light, I hear this loud gawking outside in the courtyard. I'm thinking that some dog chasing a duck or a deranged chicken is not the kind of thing I want to deal with right now. I walk outside, the noise stops and then my night guard turns on his flashlight and I see his bloody knife in his hand. He explained to me that he was just cutting off the head of my neighbors chicken. You think I'd be shocked, but this kind of thing doesn't even surprise me anymore.

I didn't go out New Years Eve just because I live in city, and there were a lot of people out. I have friends here that I could have gone out with, so I wouldn't have been by myself, but still. The number of people out partying and drinking made me a little nervous. New years is more like a week long celebration too. A lot of businesses are closed the following 2 or 3 days after new years, then it was the weekend so the celebration continued. I visited some friend’s houses and brought my banana cake. Had some really good and not so good Cameroonian food that I washed down with a beer or two. It was fun. At my counterpart's house, the person who I work closely with at the bank, his little boy around 3 years old shoved 2 pieces of cake in his mouth before anyone else finished eating. He was so cute. The littlest baby, only 4 months, was the first baby I held that didn't start screaming right away. Even the family was surprised that he wasn't afraid of me. I guess that’s a good sign.

We're in the dry season right now, it hasn't raining in a month or so. It’s very dusty, always sunny and in the afternoons it gets hot. It’s the perfect kind of weather if you wanted to sit at the beach and read a book all day. Not the kind of weather you want to walk to town in, weave through the crowds of people at the marche and then lug all your goods back. The nights can get pretty cold (I say that and I think the cold temperature is between 70 and 65 degrees). I put on a sweater then. I'm sure most of you at home reading this would love some warm weather, but the grass is always greener on the other side I guess (literally) because I would love some snow and cold weather!

All the best for the New Year!