Sunday, June 26, 2011

When it Rains it Pours

This could be an understatement of a lifetime in Cameroon! I have lived in Tucson during monsoon season, and that is just child’s play in comparison. My house has a tin roof and it amplifies the sound of the rain. I know that I have not experienced dry season…but I already think that rainy season is my favorite. The roads turn into mud rivers and all I want to do is jump in the puddles and get as muddy as possible! I decided against that when I saw the neighborhood kids peeing on the side of the road. There will be no playing in ANY mud while I am in Cameroon!

I went shopping for Pangia last week. I got a dress and a skirt made. The next couple things on my list are more skirts, dresses and a bath robe! Be prepared for when I come home…my house is going to look like Africa threw up on the fabric and I cannot wait! If you are ever shopping for fabric here in Cameroon, my tip to you is to taste the fabric. If it tastes salty, then run away! It means that the colors will run and every time you wash your outfit you will need to add salt.

I just completed my first week of immersion for school. I am beyond exhausted! It is draining having to communicate in another language. But I will commend not only myself but the other trainees on their efforts! We are all improving daily. I take my language exam this week and I hope to improve to Intermediate Low. In order to get sworn in I have to reach Intermediate High. I started out at Novice Low…aka the lowest possible ranking!

I am not sure exactly if I have the words to describe how I feel about being in Cameroon. Maybe I did not realize how difficult it would be to move here. Previous volunteers really only mentioned the great parts, but they failed to mention how hard it actually is. The quote for the Peace Corps is: “It’s the hardest job that you will ever love.” And I am starting to see how that is the case.
Let me paint this picture for you. The power is out in your house and you want to go and use the bathroom in the morning. You wake up and search for your headlamp in the dark, put on clothes and flip flops (AC is a thing of the past…you you wear a sports bra and underwear to bed), then you realize that you don’t have water in your bucket to flush the toilet. So you grab your bucket, go outside to the well and spend 10 minutes trying to get water out of it. (it seems like it might be an easy task…but it is not) Now that your bucket is filled you carry it to the bathroom. Also, you must remember that there are 2 types of toilets here in Cameroon, well 2 that I have seen thus far, a latrine aka a hole in the ground, or an actual toilet. But you cannot sit on this porcelain God because there is most likely something growing in it, or a lizard might be in it. So you squat and once you have finished your business you have to take the bucket of water and pour it down the toilet.

Now that you have finally gone to the bathroom you realize that you need to start getting ready for school. So you take you bucket and fill it up at the well. Go to the latrine (also your toilet) and give yourself a bucket bath. You have a cup and you pour the water on yourself. Once you have finished showering you have you use a squeegee on a stick to get all the water to go down the latrine. This, my friends, is my new life! And I have one of the nicer houses! But please don’t forget that the power has been out the whole time!

Cameroon is treating me well. You get used to the bucket baths and you get used to being woken up by the rain on your tin roof. People here treat you like family. I call my host parents, Mon Pere et Ma Mere and the boys are Mes Freres. When walking anywhere near my house the kids will run up and give you a big hug! Everyone will always say hello, offer to a meal and a cold beer. I even get my name being said with a head shake from side to side; “Oh Danielle!” So aside from a few differences, I am feeling right at home. Maybe I have always been a Cameroonian at heart and just never knew it! Or maybe the reality is that no matter where you are in the world people are ultimately the same, just maybe a different way to go about their daily lives.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


For your cell phone, it is pay as you go. Today when putting money on my phone I was given a lovely gift of a caramel ball. It looked amazing and I didn’t want to refuse the caramel, so I took it and held on to it. During my classes with the Peace Corps, we read all of the possible medical problems that could go wrong with us. Now having all of this new information in the back of my head, the caramel is not sounding too appealing. Somehow having a bout of dysentery does not sound like an enjoyable way to start my time in Cameroon! So now I have a delicious caramel in my hand and I do not want to waste it. What do I do? Give it to some kids! Their stomachs are strong and plus they are great French Teachers! SUCCESS!

I have eaten more fish in 12 days than I have eaten in 12 years combined. I am not complaining though. I would rather have fish than bush meat. Poisson I understand; bush meat I do not. The only thing I have to worry about when eating fish is eating the head or tail (which in Cameroon the head is given to the guest of honor). I think in my broken French I have made it clear that my Mama should always have the head! I have been taught that if you don’t want to eat something put a twist on it and give it to the head of the house. Apparently this will get me out of eating a lot of crazy things! Except, I did eat a fish eye; some people in my group said that they would buy me a coke if I ate it. I wanted a story to write home and a coke sounded refreshing, so I ate it!

So far I have had 6 shots and I need to get 1 more to finish out my rabies shot series. Other than that, I have been loving being in Cameroon! We have started business training. Never before have I been gitty with excitement in class to learn. Friday we learned how to organize a Village Saving and Loan Group. The coconscious amongst our group is that this upcoming week is going to be the hardest. French emersion starts tomorrow. Never before have I been so unprepared for something I am so passionate about. Thank God the Peace Corps provides language training and my friends who are fluent are helpful.

I miss you will come soon once I get a reliable internet source. I am thinking spending $50 a month might be worth it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

La Blanche

Yeap…that’s me! The white girl! It is not exclusive to me though, everyone in my Staging group of 43 is called the white boy or girl. There are 2 exceptions, there are 2 black people in my group. When we met our home stay families, the families LOVED those 2 volunteers. They wanted to know where in Africa they were from!

There is no such thing as “politically correct” here in Cameroon. They will say it how they see it. So you are either black or white. They will let you know if you are fat or skinny. They will even state the obvious like: “You are here!” when you enter the room! Children will sit across from you and not say a word and just stare at you. If you are walking down the street children will start to follow. A group of us went to the local bar after class to grab a beer and at least 20 children will want to play with you!

When you are a guest in someone’s house it is common for you to eat alone or even eat at a separate table facing the wall. For dinner my Mama will eat with me, then Louise (my sister who is 25 years old). After we have eaten, my brothers: Charles (16) and Paulin (9) will eat. I am not sure when my Dad eats though because I haven’t seen him eat yet! For breakfast, my mom and sister will stare and me and comment on how I do not eat enough.

On Sunday I am making my family Mexican food! We all know that this is my favorite and they are very excited! I brought out the spices and they cannot wait. My homestay family has seen pictures of home, friends and family. I took out my map to explain where I have lived. I think that they were extremely confused. From what I have gathered so far, people stay in 1 place! My mom and sister loved seeing pictures of the different fashions! They want me to wear all of my dresses that they have seen!

My French has improved tremendously! I am able now to explain what I am eating…I even said that I do not want to eat the fish head. (Je ne mange pas la tete de possion) They laughed at me…and explained that the eyes’ of the fish are the best part, but I am not willing to try just yet. I will soon enough though.

On a side note, what shocked me the most was the level of poverty that I have seen in a week. I almost started crying when I saw a man walking down the streets of Yauonde wearing barely a loin cloth. In America if you are homeless, you at least have an opportunity to find a shelter or clothes. In a country where no one has anything, someone who is homeless really has nothing.
I will have pictures soon of Bafia. So far I love it here. Just incase you were wondering…getting water out of the well multiple times a day is hard work! I never thought that I would ever say that! I have almost mastered the bucket shower and using a latrine. It is not as hot here as it is humid, so now I carry around a handkerchief.

And I will end this post with the directions on how I get to school. The other PCTs (Peace Corps Trainee) near my house understand these directions because there are no street signs! Turn left at my house, turn right at the house with the funny, white painting on the outside. Turn right at the fork in the path, then cross a small bridge (which is just a 2x4 piece of wood). Then at the other fork turn left then cross another bridge. Follow that path until you reach the main road and a yellow shack should be on your right. Turn right on the road and follow it until you reach the HUGE PC building! Just be prepared that on this main road, you will be yelled at “La Blanche!” or someone just might try to sell you a monkey for 20,00 CFA!