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On the road to Bakang/Balatsit. A beautiful and evil water-sucking eucalyptus.

Let's start with Monday.

Monday morning I thought I had a water committee meeting to go to at 10. I was puttering around my house, drinking coffee, getting things together, and 10 o'clock is approaching. This is a little strange, because Marcel is usually 20 minutes early (he is the TIMELIEST Cameroonian). I go to open my door and I find a note on the floor from Marcel.

What I understand from the note is that the meeting was earlier and Marcel is there, but I should still come at 10. So I start busting down to Bakang. As I'm walking, I start to wonder if I have interpreted the note correctly. I didn't bring it with me, so I can't check it. It would make more sense that the meeting is tomorrow, dju-dju, the day before market day. And the wording didn't seem quite right to me.

I tell myself that I'm worrying needlessly, to trust myself, and I keep going. I see a really cool bird in the tree, so I stop and try to take a picture for Lizzie. Of course, it flies off as soon as I turn my camera on. But then another one shows up, and they land in a further off tree. I snap a picture of the tree, even though I can't see them. And I got it! I think it is an African Pied Hornbill. Coooool.

Not the best picture, but it was so cool! I'm going to try and snap him again.

I get to the Bakang Chefferie and there is no one there. NO ONE. Roops! But it is a beautiful day, so I walk around and check out all the water points. Meet some folks in the road, learn a little more patois. There are a few minor problems at the water points, but they are fixed by Tuesday.

Upon my return to the house, I reread the note Marcel left me and find the source of my error. I have completely skipped over the word "demain". Tomorrow. Same time, TOMORROW. Oh well.

I see Marcel in the evening and I tell him about my mistake. He confirms our plans for the next day, and we decide to leave at 9.


Again, I am puttering around the house, waiting for Marcel to show up. I hear a knock on the door (actually I hear a voice going "Tok Tok Tok", because that is the Cameroonian way), and leave my house only to find Maturin!

He is here to take me to meet the farmer he told me we were meeting last Wednesday. 6 days late? This may be a new record. I tell him that I am going to a meeting right now, but I can do it in the afternoon. I will call him when I get back to the house.

He leaves. Marcel shows up. We go to Bakang. Water Committee meeting. They have finished the 8 slow sand filters the Engineers have subsidized, and we give them money to subsidize 8 more. Marcel lectures them on how they need to get their ISH together. Mostly in patois, so I don't understand, but also in French. Anyway. That tone of voice and uncomfortable squirm are kind of universal. People hate admitting they are wrong, so I'm not sure how much good is done by this.

Marcel asks if I have time to go meet a Gabonaise woman. I tell him yes, because I really have to stop saying NO to opportunities, and it's not like Maturin never makes me wait. (I am waiting for him as I type this. Only 30 minutes late, which is on time for him). We walk for another 30-40 minutes.

And it is SO beautiful. I wish I had taken more pictures. I'll walk out again and snap some. Marcel and I have some good conversations. I tell him I'm interested in working with him and he tells me about some of the various projects he is working on. We talk about finding funding, the Peace Corps, the gap between rich and poor, the obligation to help others. All in all it is very pleasant.

We get to the lady's house and Marcel starts talking to her about getting funding from young Cameroonians in Libreville in order to build les toilettes at the hospital in Bamendjou. I get distracted by the baby and a young girl who is there. She seems to be a little slow (developmentally disabled? differently abled?), but real sweet.
"Voila le bebe."
"C'est vrai."
"Le bebe dors."
"No, il ne dors pas."
"Voila ma maman."
"Voila les bananes."
"Ma maman a les bananes."

I get a call from Maturin wondering where I'm at. Marcel and I leave. I ask him if there is a handicap group/center in Bamendjou, and describe CFRASH to him. He says, no, once a year the government gives some rice to the handicapped and that is it. Bummer.

Maturin calls back and tells me to hand the phone to Marcel so he can tell him where we are. (It takes about 3 tries for me to understand this is what I'm supposed to do. French on the phone is so hard!) Marcel explains. A few minutes later, Maturin shows up on his moto. Guess I don't get to go home for lunch/breakfast!

I hop on the moto and Maturin and I head off further down the road to Bangam. To meet a farmer. But. Imagine my surprise when we get there and end up in a classroom with 20 people, and they ask me to give a presentation. Thank goodness I had just given my intro presentation 2 days before and it was fresh in my head. I speak louder this time and more confidently, but I'm really still working out the nuts and bolts of my presentation.

It is SO much easier to have Maturin there. He translates my French into better French. He helps me with points I have forgotten. He clarifies points that I have not made entirely clear. I answer some specific questions that people ask. We talk about the problems in Bangam and what can be done. There are maybe 3 or 4 people who are really interested, and a lot of the other people are sleeping (totally acceptable meeting behavior). We spend about 2 hours presenting, and leave with some good contacts. I meet the director of the Primary school where we are using a classroom. Everyone is reeeally nice.

Afterwards, one man takes us to get us sodas. My French is pretty worn out, 5 hours deep into the day, so mostly I just sit and sip my small Coca and let the conversation flow around me. But it turns out that this guy is hard not to listen to. On top of having these weird blue eyes (just a narrow band of bright blue in between huge pupils and stained whites), he has just recently returned to village after turning 60. He was a pilot for 38 years. It's hard to understand everything, because I don't have much airplane vocabulary, but I pick up the words ailerons and cruising altitude. Wow.

Anyway, this guy is really excited about making improvements to his village. He is interested in starting a pepiniere, and he has a water catchment and water tower right by his house that he had constructed. Neat-o.

Post-soda, Maturin and I head out, a different direction than we came and I am completely confused as to how we will get back to Bamendjou by heading further away from it. But the road makes a slow loop around and I sit back and enjoy the scenery. There is that feeling in the air, that combination of smells, hot sun, breeze and bright greenery, a feeling I only get in summer, that everything is good and this is a time that I will miss and revisit in my future mind. Aaah.

But also the road is bumpy and I wish I had a sportsbra and wish I did not have diarrhea. Oh Motos. I love/hate you.

Finally at around 3:30 I get back home and fall ravenously into a plate of spaghetti omelet. It is heavenly.


Head to Bafoussam for banking and shopping and tailoring. My ride there is so roomy, I am in the backseat with 3 guys. Guys have such narrow hips! We are barely touching! It actually feels more awkward than being jammed in with some large mamis, because once you're jammed, you can just relax into the pile.

The trunk is full of guinea pigs. They make muffled, scared squeaks through-out the journey. I can't imagine eating guinea pigs. Who knows. Maybe I have.

Bafoussam, I walk towards the market and stop at a boutique to print some stuff (pictures for the tailor to use, a report Marcel wrote). I decide to hold off on the bank (no need to carry all sorts of money around all day) and search out some pagne.

Oh pagne! Often when I am pagne shopping I don't think very carefully about what I will use things for and I buy the first thing I see and then later I wonder what I was thinking. This day, I have a plan. I go into every pagne shop, and think carefully about the pagne I like. What will I use this for? Is this a design I want to wear? Are these colors I like? Gosh, sometimes I feel silly for having to put so much thought into everything.

In one shop I buy 2 pagne, one nice quality one with a pretty blue starfish design and a cheaper hot pink one. The lady who runs the boutique is from Bamendjou and we have a nice little chat. I keep on into boutiques, still looking for my beautiful chicken pagne, and more fun things. A lot of the stalls are both pagne vendors and tailors. In one I see this amazing(-ly ridiculous) rainbow-y skirt. I ask if they have the fabric. No. They don't.

I find a boutique with the chicken pagne, but it is uber-high-quality and 4 times what I want to pay. (Ah, 2 times, I really want that chicken pagne!) In another boutique I find the ridiculo-rainbow print, as well as a couple other prints I really like. That boutique has lots of little designs, instead of the traditional foot wide repeating designs that I just can't get into. I drop some Gs for 3 pagne. I find another version of the chicken pagne, but it's got these weird misplaced green spots. I pass.

I head to the frip (fripperie/thrift clothes) section of the market, but get lost along the way and find myself in an entirely new area. Oh Bafoussam market. You are so twisty! I find my way out and pick up another towel, I start to look through frip. A sparkly fou (crazy man) grabs my arm and I say "Laisse-moi," and keep walking. Unfortunately, this is a persistent fou. He starts to follow me, stopping where I stop, walking next to me like we are together, telling me how we will be married, how he is secretly a high up politician with lots of sway, how we must form a budget for having kids. The entire market is laughing at us.

It is uncomfortable. I tell him that he is deranging me and he should leave me alone. He does not leave. One or two guys tell him to leave me alone, but he does not listen (usually the fous will stop when someone else yells at them). I try to find my friend Martine in the veggie market to make him go away, but she is busy, so I just say hi to her and continue on. Sparkly fou continues, too. (He is wearing a gold-lame shirt, a skirt over pants, and has a giant plastic diamond in one ear. Sparkly.)

He follows me all the way to the tailor, but does not follow me inside once I go. Thank goodness. It's been like 20 minutes. Oh Cameroon.

At the tailor, I order 3 dresses, 2 shirts and a pair of hammer pants. Come March 31st, I will have the rainbowiest hammer pants! I am so excited.

I'm exhausted, so I head down to Akwa to grab a ginger ale and wait for Liz and Kiki to show up. They are longer than I hope they will be (though I am known to be a wishful thinker) and one of the guys at the bar also thinks that by being irritating he will win his way into my heart and pants. I am really sick of the majority of Cameroonian guys. I need to find a way to deal with this frustration.

He asks where I'm from, if I have a boyfriend, if I'm married, tries to buy me another soda, a shot of tequila, a beer, asks me why I'm so quiet (because I don't want to talk to you!), blah blah blah blah blah.

Finally Kiki and Liz show up and we head to Les Arcades for some food. Again I am eating my first meal of the day in the afternoon. It is a steak with mushroom sauce and fried plantains. Oh yum! My steak is super tough though, and I haven't finished even half of it by the time Liz and Kiki are done. I go bag-lady style and put my unfinished food in a ziploc bag I have in my purse.

Next stop, bank. The line is 12 deep. Ugh. Here is my problem with the bank. If I use the ATM, I only get big notes which are hard to change in village. If I go inside, I have to wait in line for like an hour to get smaller bills. As of late, I've been getting big bills. Interestingly enough, this results in me spending less money. Excellent. Then I can do things like buy 5 pagne and eat a steak.

Supermarket. My splurge this week is some white chocolate.

Home. Buy some mangos at the market. Sit and talk with Jane for a while. Plant an open bed nursery with seeds I've been germinating. Eat.


It is a public holiday today, the Ascencion. Separation of church and state? Nope. Maturin said he would come get me for a meeting at 9 today. It is 10. The frustrating thing about this is that I am anxious when I am waiting and even though I have time to do things, I can't relax and do them. I will have to be ready to drop them at any time. I need to learn to be more laidback, n'est-ce pas?

(Now it is 4 hours after Maturin was supposed to come. I gave up and left to meet Marcel. Home again and still no Maturin).

Tomorrow I am going to visit another volunteer for a few days. It has been a busy week and I am ready for a little relaxation.

7 of the 8 biofilters in Bakang (the 8th is behind a house). These cost about $30 to manufacture, and Engineers without Borders is subsidizing $20 of the first 16. Unfortunately, for many families, $10 is still a pretty steep price, even for a clean water source. We're working on a solution.