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!