Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chinese Special Medicine

Do you know what is scarier than visiting an African Hospital? Riding a bike and having to pass 20 bulls on the road! Or even having to stop your soccer game so that the same herd of bulls can walk across the field.

I weary to tell this story because I do not want to jinx myself. I have been in country over a month now, up until this point I have not experienced being sick. I got a sinus infection while visiting post. I got back to Bafia and I slept for almost 12 hours. I woke up the next morning and I felt awful. My host Dad found out, went into his room and comes out with this odd concoction. He gave me something like Tiger Balm and told me to rub it on my chest, neck, back of neck and forehead. If that was not odd enough he then proceeded to pour this red liquid from a really small glass bottle onto a sugar cube and told me to swallow it. The red sugar cube was like fire going down your esophagus.

I am not sure what I exactly what was poured on that red sugar cube. I was too tired, too sick and somehow I could not get any French out, so I complied. I did manage to ask to see the bottle. Maybe looking at the label might answer the question as to why my chest was now burning. False. The label was all in Chinese! All my Father would say was, “Ca bon?” with a great big smile and two thumbs up. That translates to: Its good, isn’t it?

Well, that didn’t seem to work as well as I would have hoped. So I got the joy of experiencing an African Hospital. On a cultural note, doctors are only at hospitals so its not a huge deal. The doctor has to rule out tropical diseases, so I had blood drawn. The experience wasn’t as bad as I would have thought, but I am praying that I don’t need to go back ever again. I was given antibiotics and I am starting to feel better!

I have been reflecting and observing more and more since I have been in Cameroon. You can tell a lot about a person just by looking into their eyes. I have found through my travels that kids are same around the world. But there is a major difference about the kids here. It is as if you are looking into the eyes of someone much older who has experienced life. It is difficult to put into words exactly what I mean, unless you have witnessed it. For example, Simon is a boy in Bafia who runs the family’s boutique. The boutique sells everything from coffee, rice, sandwiches, beer, to laundry detergent. Simon is always there working, taking orders and cleaning tables. He cannot be much older than 13, but there is something about him that he is much older than he actually is.

The other day, Simon wanted to catch one of his roosters. He started chasing it, and my friends started to help. About 10 volunteers helped 5 Cameroonian kids catch this rooster. The chase lasted almost 30 minutes and took us all through the corn field, around the house, on the roof, and at one point almost to the street. We all cheered when a boy, who had been helping out with the chase for no more than 5 minutes, caught the rooster. This adventure was beyond comical, but what stuck out for me was Simon. The smile on his face during this chase was priceless. We were all reminded that Simon is actually a child.

The time here is pretty slow day to day, but I cannot believe that I have been in Cameroon for 7 weeks now! When I visited my post, Meiganga, I was able to see what I may be doing. I will start off working with Credit du Sahel, which is a small bank. That will be my primary work, but Volunteers can also have secondary projects. I was able to speak with the major about a project of getting Coffee Honey to be produced. (Coffee Honey is made my putting hives near coffee plants. It tastes like you are eating creme brule.)I also visited a Village, Savings and Loans Group in the neighboring town. I presume that I will be facilitating these groups because it is an easier way to make a bigger impact.

On August 17th I get sworn in as a Volunteer. The next day I move to Meiganga. I will have a new address and I will post it as soon as I figure out what it is. But I wanted to leave you with this thought/saying. It is posted everywhere in our training building; yes it is important for volunteers to remember, but it is a life lesson that I think that so often we forget:

"An outsider who comes with a ready made solution and advise is worse than useless. He/she must first understand from us what our questions are, help us to articulate the questions better and then help us find solutions."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gadhar...or something that is spelled kinda like that

Gadhar is the Fulfalde word for destiny. When sitting around eating Cameroonian style meatballs at a friends house, she explained gadhar. Her explanation was simply, it is your destiny to be here [Meiganga], on this couch, eating this meal, meeting who you are meeting. This is the path Allah has it planned for you. This is the way that it is supposed to be. She is absolutely correct; this is my Gadhar.

I am on my way back to Bafia from my Site Visit to Meiganga. I cannot adequately express how I am feeling right now but I will do my best. Every night this past week I have been falling asleep with a big smile, my first night with a smile was on a 16 hour train ride. That ride I stood on the bunk ladder with my head out the window watching Cameroon pass by. I was there for a couple hours just watching. This is my home for the next 2 years and I cannot imagine anything better. That night I fell asleep with a smile that I hope will never leave.

While visiting my post, I was able to meet some remarkable people. I know that I keep using the word excited, but that I truly how I feel. I am excited to start working and meeting new people. I first met with the Mayor and he informed me that I need to get some color so I won’t stand out too much! I am not offended, it is true. I think I actually may glow in the dark!

I was able to go to a Women’s Group 20 minutes outside of my village. This was a savings group of Refugees from the CAR. They spoke only Fulfade, which I will be learning once I can speak French. Although we do not speak the same language just yet, I already know that they are going to be a joy to work with!

Travel in Cameroon is quite an adventure. First, I took a 2 hour bus ride from Bafia to Yaounde. There were 35 people in a 22 person van. In my row that sat 4 people, there were 7! I sat on across my friends’ laps for 20 minutes then decided that it was not too comfortable. So I switched to 1 butt cheek on one person and the other cheek on another person! Then I took at 16 hour, overnight train from Yaounde to Ngaoundere. From there I took a 3 hour bus ride to Meigana.

Currently I am writing from Ngaoundere. It is rainy season here, which makes travel extremely difficult! I saw a huge truck that got stuck in the mud and flipped on its side. Our bus got stuck so we all had to get out and get on the side of the road and watch as the villagers pushed the van. It is quite an interesting experience to say the least.

It has been over a month now that I have been in Cameroon. I am loving it! I get sworn in August 17th in Bafia, then I will move to Meiganga. I will have internet, so I will be able to talk to people. I miss and love you all. Once I get back to Bafia, on those nights that I have trouble sleeping I will write more about my time here. But for now this little bit must do!