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Let's start with a pictures! I stole this one from Richard, thanks buddy. I owe you a game of scrabble. This is the majority of the agro and health volunteers in the JFK airport, waiting for our flight.

Backmost row: Nick, Austin, Julie, Carl, Cody, KK, Harley. Second row: Anais, Andrea, Kim, Tim, Jessica, Liz, Kate. Third Row: Murielle, Kim, Jackie, Amanda, Moi, Stef, Lauren, Aislynn, Paige. Frontmost row: Richard, Paul, Kelsey, Christina, Hana, Henry, Stephen.

This was the view from our hotel room in Yaounde. Bangangte is smaller, with fewer buildings and more greenery, but pretty much the same concept.

I haven't really taken many pictures because as often happens in large group settings, when one person brings out a camera, seven people bring out cameras. So I haven't. But I do plan to steal more pictures from people, and take more pictures. So. Look forward to that.

Also, a shout out to Alec, SED volunteer from June, thank you for letting me (and all of us) use your internet.

A small survey.

What is my nickname here? La blanche. This is the name I am called by everyone in the street. Yes, it means "the white". No, I am not offended, and it is not meant as an insult.

What did I have for dinner last night? Taro. It is a tuber, cooked and then pounded into a paste. It has the texture of soft playdoh with none of the flavor. It was served with a cold yellow sauce and eaten with my fingers. Hmm.

What is my new favorite food? Plantains! What a miracle! I could eat these every meal of every day. Fried, boiled, roasted... YUM! The greens here are also really good, and the beans, and the spaghetti (sometimes served with potatoes mixed in). Eat your heart out, Dr. Atkins, Cameroon is carb-a-licious.

What do I talk about with my family? Not much. Still having some communication difficulty. It turns out that their first language is not French, but a local dialect, hence the strong accents. It also turns out that it is not even local to here. Anyway, here is a synopsis of our daily conversations: it is time for me to wash. It is time for me to eat. They are leaving now. I am leaving now. I have returned. I am eating. I am full. It was good. Okay. Yes. I don't know. I don't understand. I am going to sleep now.

A man came over two nights ago and started talking to me. I didn't understand. My mother is laughing. "He is speaking patois!" She says in French. The man continues speaking to me and laughing. "I don't understand you," I say in French. He continues speaking and laughing and then leaves. "He is so funny!" my mother says in French.

What do I laugh at? The men wearing furry earmuffs in 80 degree weather. The moto drivers wearing puffy jackets in 80 degree weather. Baby goats. The custom mudflaps on motos, with handpainted Adidas or Nike symbols, that say "King of the Jews" or "Very Boy. Very Very Boy". The authenticity of brand names here is not of importance - hence the boy walking through the market, a metal bowl of bananas balanced on his head, the bowl dubbed "NIKE" in blue marker.

Nice: Rain thundering down on a tin roof. The smell of a kerosene lantern. Warm lantern glow in a dark house. A small cat.
Less nice: Rain thundering down on me in the latrine. The smell of a wet latrine. Cold LED glow on the roaches in the latrine. A small poop.

Today is Sunday, which means laundry. Laundry is hard work here. Scrubbing clothes with soap. Wringing them out. Scrubbing them with soap again and pounding them into the cement. Wringing them out. Rinsing them. Wringing them out. Rinsing them. Hanging them up. Waiting 4 days after they dry to wear them to prevent mango flies from growing under my skin. (Alternately, ironing. Actually, both, because I would love to go for 2 years without digging living organisms out of my skin.)

I also washed: my shoes, my floor, my moto helmet. This took the better part of 5 hours.

I am starting to communicate more with my family, just the last day or two. We still don't get real complicated, but it is improving.

LJ, if you are reading this, and I hope you are, I want you to know that they were playing "Call on Me" on the TV one night and it made me real happy.

Do we have electricity? Yes. It goes out often. Pretty much every night, several times. My family has a TV which is almost always on. I don't plug my stuff in very often, because I don't have a voltage regulator (yet) to prevent surges from blowing up my stuff.

Do we have running water? Hmmm. We have a spigot outside. And a well. Call it what you will. Water tends to come out of it, and we have a lot of buckets to put it in.

Do I drink clean water? Yes. I boil it and filter it, or put bleach in it. Sometimes all three, when I'm feeling ambitious. I have been in good health.

Am I learning a lot about Agroforestry? Funny you should ask. Yes! We went on a field trip to APADER on Friday. It is a local farm that does research on improving agroforestry techniques, has demonstration plots, and a nursery. What are the main goals of agroforestry volunteers? Using multi-purpose trees (MPTs), which are just what they sound like. Improving soil quality & preventing soil erosion. Teaching poor farmers how to generate income from agriculture. Teaching kids about saving the environment. So, all in all, pretty awesome.

What is a MPT? A multi-purpose tree may have several of these purposes: Preventing soil erosion, increasing nitrogen content in soil, increasing phosphorus content in soil, creating biomass for compost, food for animals, food for humans, wood for burning, medicinal value, flowers for bees. Cool, huh?

The main goal is to help poor farmers (at our eventual post) increase their yield so that they can feed their family and make enough money to feed their family, and to prevent the soil from being completely exhausted. About 60-70% of the population in Cameroon is involved in some form of subsistence agriculture. There was a big economic crisis here in the mid-80s, early-90s related to the drop in world food commodity prices and the devaluation of currency here. Thus, people grow food to eat. What this also means is that more land gets used by more people. There used to be a fallow period of about 20 years to let the soil regenerate. Now it is more like 5 years, or nothing. Fertilizer is prohibitively expensive. So, we are going to learn how to compost, and teach others to compost. The land here is very hilly, and most farmers plant parallel to the slope, meaning that the soil and soil nutrients wash down into the valleys. So, we are going to learn about contour bunds, which are planted perpendicular to the slope and prevent erosion. There's lots more cool stuff. I'm pretty excited about it.

Anyway, all for now I guess. Maybe I will have more pictures by next week? Love to you all.