0 com
well, it's been awhile since i last updated. things have been simmering, and i think it's still going to be some time before the soup's done. that is to say... S L O W - G O I N G.

IST, In Service Training, is less than 3 weeks away!! This is very exciting. Everyone in our stage will be together again for a week of informative sessions. IST will be held a few hours away from me, still in the West Region. There is supposed to be a kickin' palace there that is worth the cultural experience. I've also heard rumors about a pool, but I'm not holding my breath. (Get it?) I'm really excited to see all the people who are in the far corners of the country!

So, Zara, been doing lots of work? No. So, Zara, heard from your Counterpart lately? Nope. Not in about two months. Granted, I wasn't trying to get in touch with him for a month and a half of that. Two-way road. But now I am trying to get in touch with him because I'd really like some help getting in touch with different groups and farmers. Nothing yet. I may try to track him down, but he lives about an hour walk away from me... I'm guessing he won't be going to IST with me (Counterparts come for half the week).

So, Zara, been getting really culturally integrated? Well.. I've been spending a lot of time in my house, and when I go out, often it's to see other Americans. Kinda lame, huh? But the good thing is that when I DO go out, I am starting to feel more like it is home. Kind of. The language barrier is still pretty painful. However, I will miss being able to make a room break out into applause with two words. Especially when they are, "Hello. How are you?" (It's two words in patois).

So, Zara, I hear you went to a pig roast? Sure did, kid! I traveled on up to the Northwest (Anglophone!) with some other Westies for a weekend of pork and imbibery. The trip up was a bit long, about 11 hours all told, though that included a mid-day break from traveling for a cold one. Luckily, since the trip was so long, we missed the actual slaughter of the pig. I hear it was pretty awful though. One guy knocked it out and another guy hacked its' head off. I don't feel real bad eating meat here because I know that it has had a decent shot at life and it was killed in as humane a way as possible. And I miss protein. But I really don't like killing and I think that when I get back to the states I'll be back on the vegetarian wagon.

I played flip-cup for the first time, as did a number of Cameroonians. More people came up the next day and the house was pretty raucous. The pig was delicious. A Cameroonian guy named Danger started quizzing me on agroforestry techniques when I was sheets to the wind. I think I was able to explain them as well as could be expected, but he already knew everything I had to say. I'm not sure what his game was, but I wasn't laughing. At another point in the evening (we were at a restaurant) a Cameroonian guy came and whispered in my ear, "If you go to the bathroom by yourself... BE CAREFUL." I was baffled and creeped out. If it was an outside danger, why wouldn't he tell everyone? And if it was a.. threat/come-on it was creepy. I didn't go to the bathroom alone.

The ride home from the NW was incredibly worse, thanks to a wicked hangover and a crazy driver. I was not confident in my ability to keep from up-chucking, but I made it!! One bus we caught had a No Vomiting sign painted on the inside. Unfortunately the rules were not followed. Some lady in the front puked for pretty much the 2 whole hours. In the car in Bafoussam an old drunk guy wanted me to give him money and go to a hotel with him for a few hours. After 8-ish hours of traveling, I was not amused. The driver, however, thought it was hilarious.

Anyway. After pig-roast weekend, I stopped by to help Wendy with her book project. She is my closest PCV neighbor (10 km?), and a SED (Small Enterprise Development) volunteer who will be COSing (leaving) in June. She has been working to get a shipping container of 23,000 books to Cameroon and it arrived in Bafoussam finally last weekend to be sorted and distributed to... 35? different libraries/schools all around Cameroon. Wow!!! You can read more about it here.

This week Chez Moi, I've been working on clearing my garden. I'm late. Everyone else has cleared and planted, but I am still learning, n'est-ce pas? Anyway. Clearing a garden is a lot of work!! I got all the big stuff chopped down on day 1, and days 3 and 5 (Guess I'm not big on consecutive work days) I got a few rows cleared and tilled. Unfortunately today I ran into a big anthill that i think takes up a third to half my garden. Now the Peace Corps trainers advised us to use motor oil to get rid of ants(this is a bit of a running joke, of course I won't be pouring motor oil into my garden). Suggestions I've received on getting rid of the ants include: destroying the queen (but I might get bad juju unless I go see my Chef?), garlic&pepper, distracting them with sugar and then burning the sugar pile, a giant magnifying glass (2 votes!), lazers (me), dinosaurs (surprisingly not me!) and to give up because ants are collectively smarter than me.

I bought some rat poison last week hoping to get rid of the mice in my house. In french, the packet says Raticide. If it had been mouse-specific poison, it would have said Souricide. Because the word for Mouse is sourit (pronounced the same as the word smile). Which is funny, because Souricide sounds like suicide, and you all know how I like word play. It's funnier in my head, I promise. Well, I put the poison out in 4 places I know mice to frequent and after 3 days there were no visible results. Then on day 4 I almost stepped on a dead mouse. Gosh, I feel bad, they are so cute. As I was throwing him outside, I saw a live mouse run by. The mice are smarter than me, too. Along with the ants and probably crickets, too. I'm thinking more about getting a cat.

Oh yeah, when I was in Bafoussam for the great book-sorting, I also stopped by my tailor to pick up some stuff I commissioned a month ago or so. (Unfortunately, my other tailor's place burned down!!! Ashia. I'll have to get new chicken pagne if I want my chicken dress). Well, what I got from the tailor was not exactly what I was picturing... The dress didn't have the lining, collar or buttons I asked for, but it did have sleeves I didn't ask for! The top was more of a mini-dress, but I still look like I'm pregnant in the 60s and I can wear it with my leggings and I actually kind of like it better. It was way overpriced, and I definitely could have bargained with these mistakes, but I didn't have the energy for it. Oh well. I bet you can't get a dress tailored to fit you for $12 in America. (The plus side, even tho it's not exactly what I was expecting, it all fits GREAT!).

Made ricotta cheese this week to put on homemade pizza, it was pretty easy (though time-consuming and messy) and also delicious. Oh, I made dumplings this week, too, though there was so much salt I think my blood became a salt-slurry. Oh well. We learn from mistakes, right? I also made some tasty fried dough that would have been better with cheese in the middle and Henry made some amazing cinnamon rolls. YUM!!

Tomorrow I am going to a water committee meeting in Bakang, which is the first thing I've done resembling work in a long time. Hopefully there will be some progress on the slow-sand filters. I'll also go and check on the system the engineers set up to make sure it is working.

Oh, walking home a while ago (from Wendy's, in new shoes, which cut my feet UP), I met a nice guy. He is a soccer coach in Yaounde, but is in Bamendjou for a while. He was on his way to ref/coach a soccer game at the Catholic Mission. He's also Muslim. See, why can't we all just get along? Nigeria, take note. He also asked me if I could come out and look at his farm, but I am lacking confidence in my skills and in Cameroonian guys, so I was hoping to get my CP to go with me... I think I need to find a new counterpart. And some confidence.

I'm sure there are a ton more things that have happened in the last month and a half (Women's Day - March 8, I got the pagne in a pre-made caba, said Bonne Fete to some ladies, refrained from partying, had diarrhea instead), but I haven't been writing it down (sorry to you and me), and I'm sure this post is long enough as it is.

Oh, last week marked 6 months in Cameroon!! WOW!!! 21 to go. I've got to get on my game.



PS: I got packages from Gramma (yum, cookies are amazing!) and Georgia and Monte (those work gloves are so helpful!)... Thank you so much! I know it is expensive, and it means a lot to me to know that you guys are thinking of me and took the time and money to share!

PPS: Oh yeah, and one night it rained so much our whole compound flooded, including half my house. My bedroom is an inch lower than the rest of the house (don't get me started on construction here!), and it got the worst. All my important papers got wet, and my DVD drive is busted. I'm glad the damage wasn't worse. It was a pain to clean up. We re-dug our ditches, so it shouldn't ever happen again.

Here is beautiful Lake My House. The flood also took out a pile of magazines, 3 good books and my new flip-chart paper.

This is what I eat sometimes when I go to Bafoussam. Except normally I have mackerel instead of carp, but I'd never seen carp before so I got it! I think it was the cause of the next week of intestinal distress. See also, the condiment (delicious spicy spices), fried plantains, and the best ginger ale.

Liz and I in our matching Women's Day pagne. I always look like a giant 5 year-old. The pagne says hilarious things like, "Dignity, discretion, efficiency, loyalty" and "Being the cornerstone of all synergies". I wore this out a few days ago and a guy complimented me on it and then told me that because I was wearing a Women's Day pagne I had to buy him a beer. I may have gone off on a feminist rant in French.

The Northwest is mountains!!!

This pig looks like a human back. Creepy, huh?

Here is fufu-corn (what we in Francophone Cameroon call couscous de maiz), njama-njama (what we in Francophone Cameroon call njama-njama) and pig (what we in Francophone Cameroon call porc).

Here is Wendy sorting books with her eyes closed because she is that amazing. I'm just kidding. I'm really a terrible photographer.

Garden, before.

Garden, after Day 1 (i've done 3 more rows since).
Zara, after Gardening Day 1. I think this is what I would look like if I were a Zombie and I just crawled out of the ground. Except if I were a Zombie, I would prefer cheese to brains.