1 com
Alright, just a quick one. January is almost over? That means I've been at site almost 2 months, and in cameroon almost 5 months. Crazy.

So today through some miracle of keystrokes I managed to start my computer, which has been broken for over a week. Yes! Unfortunately, I lost all my pictures from Cameroon thus far, which I hadn't backed up, or saved on my SD card. Stupid. But, c'est la vie. So, now I have a computer and internet... amazing!!!! I have so many more resources to work with now!

Yesterday I hopped on a moto to head to Baham to meet with Liz about Batir l'Avenir. The moto, however, went down an entirely different road than the road I know as the road to Baham. I thought about saying something, but it was a nice day, and the mototaximan seemed nice, so I figured I would just let it ride.

What a ride!!!! It was the most beautiful moto ride I have been on thus far in Cameroon. We passed a sacred forest, which is truly beautiful, a multilayered, crazy biodiverse place with trees covered in fluff and vines hanging down and it's dense dense greenery. I saw a real lawn. I saw a huge-normous Baobab tree (i think). There was a house on the hill with round turret towers that had pagoda roofs. I felt so incredibly happy and lucky to be in Cameroon.

And we even made it to Baham!

Though I discovered a new form of moto-discomfort. About 2 minutes into the ride a bug flew in my nose. I could feel it rattling around in there, but I didn't want to dig it out while on the moto. So I just kind of squished my nose from the outside and killed it, but it was still rattling around in there. After a while it disappeared. I don't know if it fell out, or if it made it to my throat and I swallowed it, or if it is in my brain controlling my thoughts.

Kittens are great. Fried plantains are delicious. I love avocado season. The end.

0 com
29 janvier 2010

How to become a person of action:
Pur yourself in the position to act as an agent of change, alone in a community in a foreign country. You have two options: Give up and go home, or become a person of action. Also, have a giant fear of failure and publicize your journey very publicly. Effectively, this leaves you with one option.

(Ok, all you logic folks, that paragraph contains at least one fallacy, can you find it? Lizzie?)

Picked up the first of the Batir l'Avenir applications today. Students were turning them in while I was there. One boy, maybe 13 or 14 came in and said in a barely audible voice that his father refused to let him apply. What bullshit, can't apply to a leadership program? Breaks my heart.

Read through the 16 I picked up today (over 80 students picked up applications, ruh-roh, I might be in trouble with my NGO, there were only supposed to be 20, and they already thought that would be a lot to read, but who's to say that only the first 20 people are the most deserving?). Anyway, interesting stuff.

Bad idea: forging all your letters of recommendation. Yes, the first letter L was different on each one, but the rest of the handwriting was exactly the same, and you misspelled disciplined in all of them. And you were the only student to have recommendations from teachers from another school, 2 other schools in fact.

Two of the questions were: in what domains do you feel comfortable? and in what domains do you not feel comfortable? Most people understood the intent of the questions and put their comfort in science, computers, music, etc. and their discomfort in science, computers, music, etc. A few students described how they feel comfortable when they are healthy and with their friends and family, etc, and uncomfortable when they are sick, lonely, etc. My favorite though is the person who feels uncomfortable in the domains of lying, mockery, bad things and delinquency. Touche.

Also, it must be noted that Cameroonian script is as foreign as Cameroonian French. I can barely read it.

Things I see Often in Cameroon that I never (or rarely) saw in the U.S.:
Doing laundry by hand in a stream
Carrying everything on your head
Deforestation (alright, I saw this often enough in Humby)
A moto carrying 6 people (okay, i only saw this once)
Kids with hoops and sticks
Lots of missing teeth
Very public nosepicking by everyone, even when they are talking to you
3 & 4 year olds walking several K home by themselves
Slash & burn land clearing, the smoke gets so thick
Muumuus and machetes, often together

Things I saw a lot of in the U.S. that I never see in Cameroon:
Fat Kids
Privately owned computers
cars containing only 1 person
Streets without piles of trash

Here is a list of the adjectives most used in describing the students applying to Batir l'Avenir:

Almost every application had at least 3 of these words, usually multiple times over. So you can imagine my surprise when one student describes herself as:

When asked who is their model in life that they would most like to resemble, the tally is as follows (minus some names i don't know):
Bill Gates (two votes)
Chantal Biya (two votes, the first lady)
Barack Obama
Paul Biya (president)
Samuel Eto'o (most famous footballer of Cameroon)
Professor of Ethics
Jesus Christ

One girl aspires to become the first lady of Cameroon. Another received the recommendation that the is good at housework and cooking and will make a good homemaker some day.

Was sick Wednesday. My insides sounded like an 18-wheeler downshifting on the blacktop. It felt like my stomach was in a vise. Better now.

While recovering, I did a word-puzzle that was a cryptogram of different cheeses. It was just cruel. All these cheeses I forgot existed and are thousands of miles away.

Two things i have REALLY been missing this week:
th ocean
warm showers

My french comprehension and speaking is getting noticeably better, although still daily there are complete conversations that elude me. I'm also feeling more at home in the community, I think mostly because I have been out in it so much more.

Been crazy busy this week what with the Engineers, who left yesterday after great success. You can check out their blog at ewb-ud.blogspot.com . I will miss them lots! Thanks guys (Linda) for the reese's and cheesy chex mix and everything else besides! Also busy with batir l'avenir, and preparing for 3, maybe 4 meetings next week.

Just about to head to Baham for more Batir l'Avenir planning. Yay!

Love love love to you all!
0 com
Saturday - regional meeting. In true Cameroonian fashion, though it was only Americans, we got started 2 hours late. Then the meeting was only 15 minutes long. Ha! It was good to see everyone together though, got to see some friends who I haven't seen since Stage! Yay! After the meeting, we got lunch and went separate ways. Wendy bought the best pair of bird feet slipper boots ever. I went to the grocery and got delicious expired cheese and makins for pizza.

Sunday - cold pizza for breakfast, yum, it was pineapple. Met up with the engineers and learned more about the project and discussed more plans for this week and after they leave. I spent 2 hours walking back and forth between my house and the site... good exercise! It was even a little cloudy and cool... high 70s maybe? I met Olivia, the mayor's daughter, who went to school at Johns Hopkins and was the one who learned about the Engineers Without Borders program, prompting her father to write a grant for this water project. She is real nice and speaks like an American, it felt like a little piece of home in my ear. She will go back to JH for her master's. I also met a bunch of the local kids who were watching the whole process. We had some good discussions, by which I mean, I told them everyone's names and they told me theirs and we all laughed a lot. In the evening, I went back with the Engineers to the Mayor's house to meet the Mayor before he went back to Yaounde. He was very genial. I stayed for dinner and watched the first half of the Cote d'Ivoire/Algeria game.

Monday/Today - Woke up this AM at around 6:30, wrapped my towel around me to go bathe, and there was something in it and then a mouse fell down my leg. After it had already run across the room I screamed a little. Silly. Anyway. Anti-mouse efforts will commence. Ate delicious oatmeal, watered my pepiniere, got on the way to town center 45 minutes later than I planned. Ran into M. Etienne in town center, which was great because we are in the habit of missing each other. We talked for 45 minutes, or rather, he talked for 45 minutes. He is an amazing man. He puts all his time and money into making Bamendjou and Cameroon a better place. He prints a free newspaper about events around Cameroon, it was originally a blackboard in Bamendjou, then a paper in Bamendjou, now a paper in a lot of Cameroon. He also started a bilingual primary school with a volunteer who was here in the early 90s. He believes that it is necessary to start teaching french AND english when kids are young, and he believes in having well-educated teachers, not just anyone who wants a paycheck. Unfo, the school lacks money to pay teachers well enough to attract well-educated ones. I guess they also used to provide free school fees for AIDS orphans in town. He said that also he gets some flack in town for working with PC and white people, and his school struggles from that, too. So, good talk, but gosh this place is frustrating for everyone, n'est-ce pas? Tonight when I return to Bamendjou I will meet up with Etienne to see his compound and meet his mothers and children, etc.

Got into a car with 10 other people. It was hot. The road to Bafoussam is bumpy and dusty, have I mentioned? I'v been traveling it a lot lately. I think I block out the discomfort every time so I can do it again and again. I am always surprised by how long and bumpy the route is.

Had meeting with RIDEV, it was good. Things are progressing with Batir l'Avenir. We will get some applications this friday and some next friday, we will read them over and do interviezs the week after that and also make final decisions to announce the students doing the program this year. We will also have more meetings to discuss teh interview format and plan the sessions for this year: where they'll be, what we'll add, subtract, change... C'est beaucoup!

Next friday I am going to teach a high schooler how to use the internet, he has been asking me since I got here for a class in English or Computers. I don't know what level of English he wants to learn, but he knows some very basic computer basics. So I will teach him the internet. What to teach? It is all ingrained in me, I need to figure out how it all looks to someone who has never seen it.

Also have a women's meeting in two weeks to go to, make acquaintances, plan formations, and a meeting du quartier next wednesday.

So. There's all that!

Computer is still kaput, so, bummer. Maybe I will get it fixed next weekend, maybe next month.

Hope all is well with all of you. Much much love!

Oh yeah, and I got mail! Thanks Barby and Dave, and Gail and Grady, and Bristol, and Sean, and Mom and Dad, I've got up to letter 11, which came from SLO. Oh, and I finally got the smaller package of socks. It got to Cameroon Dec 7th.

0 com
Busy week, n'est-ce pas? In Bafoussam now for a regional meeting, with all the other volunteers in the West, and a few sneakers from the W. Adamoua.

Wednesday I had a meeting with the students from last year's Batir l'Avenir, and a couple of folks from RIDEV to evaluate their programs (alright, the folks from RIDEV were doing most of the evaluating, i was just trying to keep up). It was very interesting. Two boys did a village clean_up program, that had some success, but hasn't been continued. One boy was going to do a formation on l'informatique (how to use a computer), but the lack of support prevented him from getting started. One girl was going to do pork raising and potato growing, but the people in her group kind of fell apart, so she ust ended up buying something for her church, uniforms for the choir, maybe? She got torn apart a little, because that is really not in the spirit of a communit leadership project. The last girl wanted to work for children's rights, but she wasn't entirely sure how to go about it. So, success rate, less than 100, but we learn from our mistakes, right? All this brings me to think that perhaps the leadership program could use some work before handing over a bunch of money to kids. So. There is that.

I also talked to the Censeur about meeting with the Club d'Environment for planning a pepiniere and eventually planting trees around campus to block the wind and provide shade. Also Liz and the Baham Env: Club want to come visit Bamendjou.

Oh, backtrack, Engineers Without Borders was supposed to get into Bamendjou Mon evening, but they were delayed. They got in Tues Eve, and Henry and I met up with them Wed AM for breakfast, doing a little protocol, checking out the water sites.

Thursday I spent with the Engineers, Dr. Steve and 5 students from U Delaware. Right now, there are 3 solar powered pumps each connected to 3 large cisterns about 1000 gallons each in the communities of Bakang and Balatsit, about a 30 min walk from my house. This trip, the Engineers are planning to create a water tower on a hill between all 3 points, pump water up the hill with more solar powered pumps, and then create a gravity fed distribution system to better serve the communities. They have been coming twice a year since 2007, and will be back in June this year to work more on the tower and distribution system. An awesome group of students, no doubt!

Friday, did badly needed laundry, made banana bread and walked out to Bakang to meet up with the Engineers. So far I have mostly been standing around, translating a little french, and wrangling herds of school kids. But I've also been learning a lot about the water systems. It is really interesting. Makes me wish I was an engineer.

Today, regional meeting. Monday, back to Baf for a meeting about Batir l'Avenir. I have supposed to have been looking for grants for funding, but alas, technological problems!

I got the internet after 4 days of hassle, but as soon as I did, I broke my computer. Hopefully I will get it fixed this week.

Wednesday, the Engineers have a water committee meeting, which I will surely be at. They need to make a community map (hello PACA) to determine where to pipe water to from the towers to assure it will be used. I think I will be helping figure that out, esp. if they do not have time before they leave the country, which is Friday.

Also, Friday, Liz and I will be collecting (hopefully!) the applications for this years Batir l'Avenir, and starting to go over them.

C'est tout pour maintenant, je pense. (THat's all for now, I think).

Love to you all!
0 com
What a week. Things are about to get very busy. Quick recap. Banana bread. Beekeeping. Bacillary dysentery (probably). Too brief?

Last Monday had a planification meeting with my supervising NGO. Started 90 minutes late, the first of five 15 minute presentations went 90 minutes. I couldn't understand much of what was being said. Arguing about semantics? I made my excuses and left to go to Bandrefam to learn how to harvest honey! All the ag volunteers in the West were there, it was good fun, even though we didn't get any honey due to hive problems. It is good to catch up with the other volunteers and compare notes. They have all been doing much more than me. ANd have been more patient with meetings. Richard made it through four 6 hour meetings in a week. Gosh.

Tuesday was market day and I met a couple of farmers who want to work with me but all I wanted was some green veggies and sleep. Green veggies were hard to come by, but sleep was easy.

Wednesday I had a meeting in Baham with Liz and RIDEV to talk to the students who did the Young Scholars Program (Batir l'Avenir - Building the Future). It was good to hear about the students community projects and I understood slightly more. THe meeting was under two hours! Headed home feeling ill... which turned into 3 hours on the toilet wtih a bucket in front of me, unable to hold down a sip of water. Never has the conjuction AND meant so much in the description vomiting and diarrhea. My neighbor Jane tells me this is Africa saying Welcome, and maybe I ate something with fertilizer on it.

ThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday - recovery and house cleaning.

Today had a meeting in Baf with Liz and RIDEV concerning the continuation of the Young SCholars Program. We're going to try to do one, starting in 3 weeks, and a better planned one starting in October. An overwhelming amount of planning is about to take place! Tomorrow I need to track down the censeurs of 2 lycees in Bamendjou and try to make a meeting with the Bamendjou students for Wednesday, so that we can evaluate last years projects and start this years application process.

Also, just checked my e-mail today and the Engineers without Borders program (a Professor and 5 students) are arriving in Bamendjou now, for 11 days and they would like to work ensemble, as well.

Regional meeting on Saturday.

House still not clean.

Digestive system still not entirely in order.


But I am excited about everything that is going on, so hopefully I will overcome the overthinking-Zara pitfall and achieve much.

Also, just found out yesterday about Haiti. Gosh. I had two friends from many years ago there doing aid work, thanks be to the universe that they both made it out alive. Unfo, Christa had her foot amputated. I hear she is on the news a lot in the AK. Hope you are all sending positive thoughts and anything else useful to Haiti. There are a lot of people in need there.

All for now. Possible improved internet access soon.

0 com
In no particular order:

Christmas tree!

Cat shit on a toothpaste!

Willie building a porcherie, and modeling.

Melissa and Brell!

Madame Marie Noelle & Willie working on the porcherie!

My little pepiniere! Like my little pony. Get it?

New Years Eve emotional photo!

My little Christmas tree!

A dik-dik, I think, at the ag fair. I saw one of these running through my village, no joke!

Kelly and I got our pretty faces on! Happy New Year! Yes she is wearing a dress. Maybe.

2 com
5 January 2010


I fail to understand death here equally as I fail to understand it at home. The way people mourn here is different. Mourning is public, communal. People gather to share in the grief, as if to say, you are not alone in this mourning. I am here to mourn with you, to witness your grief and your loss.

There is food and dancing at the funerals, is it a celebration of our life, or just a continuation of the community as witness? We are here to feed you in your sadness. Or perhaps, the mourner feeds the community in appreciation of their gathering. But celebration, community aside, the grief is real. Wailing in the middle of the street real.

Anyway. Death. Jane is home, and I thought I would sleep better, but it's not entirely so. We talked about the robberies and she is afraid as I am. She told me it's not like this where she is from (anglophone Cameroon), that in a village near her there were robberies and all 3 thiefs were caught and killed, 2 by burning, I think the other one was beaten to death. And no more robberies. Yesterday she told me one of the thiefs from here was killed, shot in a nearby village. A part of me felt relief.

Yesterday I read an article in the New Yorker about a man on Death Row who was executed, maybe innocent. It was physically upsetting to read about him going to his death, passed over, new evidence unexamined. (Should I mention I have always felt strongly anti-death penalty?)

I don't understand the criminal justice system at home or here.

And I certainly don't understand death.


Stay in your house, unless leaving to meet other Americans. Watch American movies & TV shows. Read American books & magazines. Listen to American music.


... Leave your house. Theoretically.

Turns out the anxiety, fear, laziness that kept me inside my room in Humboldt, Yosemite, Eugene, also keeps me inside my house here in Bamendjou. I think I'm only extroverted when I have a known and friendly audience.

Worked on my nursery some. Did some laundry and ironing. Worked on some agro-fo presentations. Don't know who I will present them to, or with what language skills.

It's harder than I expected, but for different reasons. Namely, me.

6 January 2010

SOrry if this date jumping is confusing. TOday I am in Bafoussam with Liz and Julie. We visited a couple NGOs and did some talking and today I am feeling incredibly motivated and excited about all the projects I want to do. ANd also like there is not enough time to sleep if I want to get everything done. But also like when I head back to Bamendjou I will still need to learn how to leave the house.

I've been working on my handstands. Against a wall. But it still just makes me feel good. Inversions for good moods, n'est-ce pas?

The dust on the roads is awful. Rode in a car to Baf today and was still enveloped in a cloud of dust on the interior, my hands orange when I got out. Last time I took a moto from Baf to Bam, the dust was so deep and slippery we had to get off and walk up a hill. I think I still prefer it to the mud, but I miss the rain. It was cool and humid this morning and it was nice change from hot and dry. It has been looking like it might rain, a little. I hope.

My supervisor came by last night. He is going to call me to go to some reunions. He also asked if I can maybe teach an English class because there is a school who can't afford a teacher. GOsh, what an overwhelming idea. I don't know where to start. We will see what happens.

C'est tout pour maintenant, mes cheries!

Love love love.