Monday, January 30, 2012

Cameroonians say the darndest things...

So I have been told some pretty funny things by Cameroonians. I want to write them down and share them before I start to forget.
  • After getting off the phone with Emma, my post mate, the person sitting next to me said: "Was that English? It did not sound like it. You don't know English. You really need to learn it."
  • My neighbor Amanda while holding my cat and talking to him:  "You would make such a good dinner! We need to fatten you up!"
  • At the bar with Amanda and this crazy man asks me: "Are there people like you in America? Big, huge, fat people like you?"
  • Creepy guy comes over to my house as I was preparing to leave for the weekend...I no longer talk to this person or allow him to come inside my concession: "You travel too much. I need to put a collar around your neck and lock you to your couch so you can't leave."
  • On the back of a motorcycle and the driver tells me in Fufulde: "I want you. I want to have your white babies."
  • After leaving a restaurant while wearing my traditional outfit a man approaches Emma: "How much can I buy your friend for?"
  • My friend grabs my stomach after not seeing me because I was on vacation: "Danielle, you got fat." 
  • At someone's house: "Greet my friend on the phone...(once I hand the phone back over she tells her friend) I am with a white right now. Ya! She is sitting on my couch."
People like to tell you that you have gotten fatter when you have been away, even if it isn't true whatsoever! You just have to laugh. These are just a few things that I have been told that I can actually remember.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Resilience Training

Peace Corps had a session highlighting tactics for resilience during my first 3 months of training. The main theme that we were told was “just deal with it.” Most people found it amusing; others were upset because they were not given concrete answers. Since being in Meiganga I have had a lot of time to self reflect. The best training I could ever receive for my current job was from my parents and sister. If I let in a goal that I knew that I should have blocked, instead of giving me a pat on the back and saying, “It’s ok Danielle. You tried your best.” I was told, “Get over it and move on.” Still my favorite is, “Figure it out.” Though it seemed harsh at the time, I realized this past week how thankful I am for that harshness. It was the difference in making an awful situation manageable.

I work with a Fufulde only women’s group in the neighboring town. The woman who I replaced, Claire, had formed the group and found a translator, Moustapha. The group has been meeting for over a year saving money. Each member saves about 200 CFA a week which is about 40 cents. Moustapha and Claire helped the group save up enough money to buy a refrigerator so that they could sell yogurt.

Last Thursday Moustapha passed away. I visited him 3 days before he died in the hospital. He could barely walk and speak. He was literally skin and bones and the doctors couldn’t figure out the culprit for the sickness. He was 23 years old. After seeing him so sick I started to have nightmares for a week. I went to his funeral on Saturday. His family fed me and I sat with friends and talked about the life of a person who I had just met only a few months ago.

This past Tuesday I went to the Women’s Group without a translator, not armed with my Fufulde dictionary and not knowing what to expect. I went to the meeting and once I realized that doing this alone would be too much to handle, I left to find someone who could help me. I came back to the meeting with a 9 year old boy who spoke Fufulde and French. He was amazing and beyond helpful.

The short time after Moustapha’s death, I kept thinking ‘what am I going to do?’ I had completely forgotten about the women in the group. At the meeting on Tuesday, the women asked me if I will still help out. With tears in my eyes I promised the women that for as long as I am in Meiganga I will be there every Tuesday. Because they are not allowed to leave their houses without the permission of their husbands, I also promised that I will find them a trustworthy translator. The women were ecstatic and thankful. One woman told me, “Thank you, Dany. We know that you are trying with your Fufulde. If you stay with us we will be able to help you.”

That was the first time since being here that someone has told me thank you for my help. But getting back to my main point, this past week was heartbreaking, stressful, tiring, and scary but after Tuesday everything changed. Yes, this is still an awful situation, but it is manageable. The village loved Moustapha and people are willing to help out. I realized that after Tuesday if I can find a translator literally on the street and run a meeting in a language that I barely know, I am going to be ok. That is the best training, as hard as it might be, but I know hearing “figure it out” from a young age prepared me more than I could have ever imagined this past Tuesday.

The Women's Group and Moustapha is in the front.