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What's been up lately? Gosh, you have no idea, huh? It's been awhile since the last blog.

Hmm. I spent some days working out in the wee morning, getting fit with Jillian Michaels. I went to our regional Agro meeting and learned a lot and had an amazing dance party. Had a mushroom cultivation workshop and ate some delish mushroom soup. Engineers Without Borders have been here 2 weeks and left today. I've been sick a lot lately, mostly in the fatigued way (sleeping 10 hours a night, and 3 hours in the day). I got over the 2-months-diarrhea!

Today I went to Bafoussam to get my internet back (disappeared for a week), get the key to my new post-box (write me!), and to pick up a few things. I scored 2 pairs of perfect fitting pants from the frip for a reasonable price, yesss...

Anyway. Here is my new address:
Zara Sykes
BP 979
Bafoussam, CAMEROON.

Tres simple, n'est-ce pas? If you're inclined to send more than a postcard I'd love to get some more coriander, emergen-c, seeds (esp. chard, basil, cilantro...), pictures of you to put up in my house!, america candy, whatevs.

So. I feel like the slice of life is more interesting than the broad and forgetful summations, so here's a journal I wrote yesterday. I'll put some pictures up at the end.

23 June 2010

Rain this morning. Rain in the night. I haven’t been sleeping well. I toss and turn until my bed is unrecognizably scrambled. I wake up at 2 am, wondering why it isn’t morning, and when morning comes I’m ready to sleep all day.

Rain this morning. I hoped it would be fierce so I wouldn’t have to go plant seeds with Marie-Noelle. (Un)Fortunately, the rain let up and after some oatmeal and an episode of Dexter, I gathered my seeds and camera and water and headed off to Marie-Noelle’s.

I sat in the kitchen for awhile. Two new faces there. The young boy Marie says is the son of one of the ladies in the Women’s Group. I think the older girl is her daughter home for the holidays. But she wasn’t introduced to me. Those unmistakable cheekbones, though, definitely family. Nina was there, too, and Brell. I greeted the Pere. Some other dude stopped by and I greeted him, too. In the kitchen, they were peeling tiny potatoes with giant knives. It seems so entirely natural now that a kitchen is a dark and dingy mud brick building with raffia rafters, full of smoke from the fire between the 3 stones. We sit on short benches on the dirt floor.

After a while, Marie-Noelle tells me to Venez, Allons. We go to the farm and plan our planting scheme. The boy comes with us. Marie chides me for coming to work on a farm without my houe or machete. I didn’t know, I say. I fall in the mud. Marie spends some time explaining to me how to walk without falling. I am sure that I come off as infantile to anyone in the country, I have no mastery of the language, culture or daily activities. But sometimes I wish that I could explain eloquently that I am not a fool and I know how to walk. Clumsy doesn’t really translate in French. Marie starts talking about how I should give her a computer and finance their maïs project, and I’m feeling like it’s going to be a long day.

But she starts clearing and the boy works on chopping down an offending tree and I put the branches on the farm (l’engrais vert). A few ladies show up. At first I think they are just walking by, though I recognize their faces from the meeting Sunday. But they come up and watch us as we start to plant 2 rows of Calliandra. The lower row at the drop-off above the road the boy plants with a machete and a leaf full of seeds. The upper row Marie measures and makes holes with the houe, I follow and plant. Martine carries the seeds and refills my hand when I run out. Odjile carries her baby on her back and does some weeding. Katrine and other Marie watch. Marie-Noelle answers their questions about agroforestry, in Patois.

The conversation drifts from agroforestry to I’m not sure what, all in Patois. I follow along, sowing seeds and not falling down anymore. The blood keeps rushing out of my head and my vision goes dark. I miss being healthy all the time. I suppose it wasn’t Patois all the time, because I remember occasionally laughing along with the women, or interjecting a comment, or at least a “Oui”. It felt nice to be working alongside such nice ladies.

After sowing two double-rows of Calliandra, we go to look at the amazing pineapple and take some photos. Then we go down to the Acacia seedbank and take some photos. We descend to the route. Then Marie-Noelle is appalled that we forgot to take pictures with me in them, so we climb back up to the Acacia and take a few more. On the way down (carefully, so as not to fall), the boy turns to me and smiles. I ask his name. In a whisper and with downcast eyes, he says, Talla. Talla? Oui, Talla Ulrich. Enchanté. Je connais chez toi, he says. Tu connais chez moi ? I say, You know where I live? Across from the church? Yes, he says. Oh, good, I say.

We sit in the courtyard at Marie-Noelle’s and Martine writes up a rapport for their group. We plan 4 (!!!) more farm visits/agroforestry seed plantings for next week. Nina and other sister (?) bring out the pineapples sliced up and they are just delicious. Then they bring out Pomme Pilé for lunch (beans and potatoes mashed together with palm oil and spices). I eat a Cameroon-baby-sized portion, which is a whole plate, and everyone else has mountains. The ladies go off on Patois, so I watch Brell trying to feed Odjile’s baby. Prends! (Take it!) Encore! (More!) Boire! (Drink!) Brell is a pretty adorable kid. He wasn’t speaking at all when I first got here and now he’s a little gentleman of the house.

After an hour or more passes in Patois, I’m getting ready to make my excuses, but luckily the meeting ends and everyone leaves. We walk slowly to the road where we part ways. Thanks, nice ladies. It felt good to be a part of something. I return home wiped out but feeling accomplished.

It’s nice to come home to Cat. He likes to purr and follow me everywhere. I buy him an avocado. It’s his favorite. I mange some pickle-raisin-mayo sandwich because it feels like home, and zone out to some more Dexter. I gather enough energy or self-loathing to wash the dishes that have been sitting out all week. I listen to Devil Makes Three and it feels good to sing along and inside my heart-brain it’s Yosemite feelings.

I think I’ve gathered enough self-loathing to bathe, too. Or maybe it’s just mud.

Marie, Katrine, Martine, Ulrich, Odjile & baby, Marie-Noelle, pineapples. These pineapples grow large because of the leguminous plants. Thanks, Sesbania!

Katrine, Odjile & baby, Marie, Marie-Noelle, Ulrich, Martine, pineapples, Acacia trees in the background. How agro-fores-terrific!

Marie-Noelle and me. Yes, I know how I'm holding the pineapples. What, did you expect my maturity level to increase? Ha. Never.

Willy, Melissa, Nina and Brell. Les enfants de Marie-Noelle. Love them all.

Me and Cat. He likes sleeping as close to my face as possible.

Hammer pants. Can't touch this!

Love love LOVE to you all. XO. Zara.