Monday, November 28, 2011

Major Typo

I made a major error in my last post...this is the corrected section. I am very sorry.

We will discuss topics like human trafficking in the United States, The Middle East and now extremist cultural is getting confused with Islam when in reality the Qur’an does not support the actions.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Our Game Plan

I am telling you about this plan in the planning stages rather than later. This plan gives me chills because of the impact it could have. Emma, my post mate, and I are starting to plan a women’s club for a month before and after Women’s Day, March 8, 2012.

This is the grand idea: women of all ages will meet once a week for 1-2 hours. Each week we will discuss something that is going on in the world that is happening to women. There are not many maps in Cameroon, so this will allow the women to look on a map and hear other people’s stories. We will start off discussing what is going on in our neighboring country, Congo. People do not know about the method of warfare; rape. Then we would talk about how rape is a violation of your rights, how rape is never ok, and how as a woman you should not feel bad for saying no.

We will discuss topics like human trafficking in the United States, The Middle East and now extremist cultural is getting confused with Islam when in reality the Qur’an does not support the actions. We will inform the group of the rights that are guaranteed to women in Cameroon. We will discuss articles in Cameroon’s national law that violates these rights. We will talk about powerful women in the world and what they are doing to change the system or what they are doing to overcome. But most importantly we will ask the women how they feel. How they feel when their husband take another wife, or when they are the second wife. How do they feel when they are expecting to take care of the house all day, take care of the kids and then have a meal at the end of the day waiting for their husband. How do they feel when they aren’t allowed to go to school, told that they are not intelligent, and beaten. We want them to raise their voices, to discuss, to debate, to learn, to feel empowered, and at the very least to change in some capacity.

Emma introduced me to Eve Ensler’s book I am an Emotional Creature. I am now reading her book A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer. We want to tie in Ensler’s “V-Day” campaign to our group. (If you haven’t read her books, I would really recommend them or seeing the play Vagina Monologues at the local college campus) Both Emma and I are extremely excited about the potential about this group. We joked that people are already going to think this is a radical idea so we should not sugar coat the topics that we bring to the group. If you have articles, stories, or thoughts please send them our way. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

$10 USD

Today I visited my friend's son in the hospital. She looked into her wallet and told me that the money has run out. Her son needs to be at the hospital til Monday if not longer, but if she cannot find the necessary funds by tomorrow morning he will have to leave. He is the sickest child I have ever seen. I am almost certain that without treatment he will die. What do you do? All she needs is 5,000 CFA which is about $10 USD. $10 dollars is stopping this child from potentially dying.

Another one of my friends had a splinter that got extremely infected. She was about a day away from going septic. Do you know what was stopping her from going to the hospital? 10,000 CFA about $20 USD. My other Volunteer friend gave her the money. She spend 4 days in the hospital and without the $20 I am absolutely certain she would have died.

What we take for granted back home is amazing. Until being in Cameroon, I would have never thought twice about $10. It is pennys for us. But here, $10 is literally life or death. I am not quite sure about the purpose of this post is other than to inform. I am going back to the hospital in the morning to see how my friend's son is. This has been weighing on my heart all day. I cannot get the child out of my mind. Hopefully tomorrow will be a new day for this little boy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fête du Mouton

This past weekend I prepared and celebrated the Fête du Mouton or the Feast of the Ram. This holiday symbolizes Isaac’s sacrifice of the lamb to solidify his covenant with God, which is a story in the Bible as well as in the Qu’ran. I felt like I missed out on the Ramadan festivities, so I more than made up with this fête. The theme of this weekend was “Do as the Cameroonians would do.” And I think I did just that.

Friday: Emma and I went over to our friend Hadjia’s house to get sepia done. A lot of cultures have their form of henna. Hadija then took us over to her friend’s house who then drew on us, for lack of a better term. (Cultural Side note: Hadijia is rarely allowed out of the house. Her husband is who I consider to be a moderate Muslim man who allows her to leave her concession to go to the market and see friends. I have known since I have moved to Meiganga and this is the first time that I have seen her leave her concession.) While Emma and I were getting our sepia done, we were playing with everyone’s kids. One  4 year old yelled at his mom right around bed time, “Mom! I cannot go to bed, I am too excited! There are Nascaras (white people) here!"

Just as the seipa was drying. Walking through the market afterwards, people thought that I got married.

Saturday: It was the calm before the storm of festivities. I waited 45 minutes for a meeting to start before I gave up and went back home. But during that time I was sitting while these little kids were touching my hands and feet because I had sepia.

Sunday: I was told when I first arrived in Cameroon 5 months ago that there are 3 categories of people here: 1. Cameroonian Men, 2. Cameroonian Women, and 3. Foreign Men and Women. I never understood what the person was talking about until Sunday when I attended the Fête du Mouton prayer. I invited my neighbor, Nene, to join me to watch the grand prayer. It would be both of our first times. Thousands of men were in the front praying and in another field the women prayed. This is a part of Muslim culture that the men and women are separated for prayer. I wanted to see the prayer, so I came in a traditional outfit, armed with my camera. I was nervous to take pictures or to even be there for that matter since I am a woman, but someone I knew made me go the front of the prayer to snap a ton of shots. After the prayer, my friend came again and told me that I needed to have a front row view of the sacrificing of the ram. I explained to him that I didn’t feel comfortable because I was the only female and not Muslim. He explained to me that because I am a woman who is a foreigner the rules don’t apply to me. He then took my camera and took a ton of pictures for me.
The Grand Prayer

Nene and me at the Grand Prayer

Emma and my beautiful feet.

Emma and Me on my front steps with Makala about to leave for the festivities.

The Meiganga Crew!! Charla (Youth Development), Me (Small Business Development), Carlos (Health), Emma (Health), Andrew (English Teacher) and Fanta (Charla and my Community Host as well as good friend)

Later on that day, all of the volunteers in the Meiganga area went to Hadijia’s house to feast. I baked an apple pie for the festivities. After Hadijia’s, I went to someone else’s house where I met a baby named Barak Obama. I ended the ended the day with having a girl’s night at my house and had hot chocolate.

Monday: Emma, Charlotte and I were walking around Meiganga. We walked past the Grand Mosque, when someone told us that we should come inside. We got a VIP tour of the under construction Mosque and a soda! Then, we all went to Meidigou to my friend Sal’s first wife’s house. Hadijia is his second wife. There we ate a ridiculous amount of goat again. We had a dance party with all of the concession children.

Tuesday: I went back to Meidigou for a women’s group meeting that I attend every week. I didn’t realize that the Fête was still going on. During the meeting people stopped by to greet us and the President of the group gave them money. It is almost like people go Trick-o-treating, but instead of candy people get money. I was given 600 CFA, which is like $1.10. I was shocked and beyond grateful. These women don’t have much, they save around 200 CFA a week, so the amount I was given is a huge amount! All I could say was “Useko jur” or “Thanks a lot” with tears in my eyes.

This weekend was jammed packed with festivities. From a cultural standpoint, it was an eye opening experience. Back home, I do not think I know any Muslim families. I felt like I experienced all aspects of the holiday. Especially at the grand prayer, I had to take a step back and say a “Thank you” to have been given this opportunity: to being in Meiganga, to be in Cameroon, to work for the Peace Corps, to making new friends.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Everyone wants to say hello.

Everyone wants to greet the white girl. This week while walking past the primary school by my house, the kids are all outside and start yelling Bonjour Dany!!! And they all wave. I walk past the latrine and this little girl as she is squatting going to the bathroom with the door open, starts waving and yelling, "Bonjour Dany!" I couldn't stop laughing. It made my day, so I hope that this story puts a smile on your face.