Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion

11 November 2015

As far as teaching goes, this has been one of the most difficult two weeks of my life.  I have never had so many problems with a school, and so little motivation to work on them.  Often here, it feels as though every thing that I am trying to do gets stopped by the very person who requested my presence at the school.

Last week, as the first week of the month, we had our teacher "amicale" or social meeting.  In American terms, this would be the monthly faculty and staff meeting, often held before school with donuts and coffee available to everyone.  There would be announcements and updates on the goings on of the school, and an address of whatever problems the school might be having.  Generally lasting (at least from my experience) no longer than an hour, maybe an hour and a half, and ending before classes start.  In Cameroon, this means that on Wednesday at noon, the teachers stop teaching and hang around the office till about 1, when the head of the Parent-Teacher's Association and other "notables" of the school arrive with food and beer.  We all crowd into the tiny office room and the principal starts the meeting.  We spend 1-2 hours arguing over the wording of the agenda, before actually starting on the agenda.  Then, we move on to money matters. At these meetings, it is required that each member of the faculty put in 1.000 CFA for food,  at least 1.000 into the "school bank"(if there is a funeral, birth, or some other sort of occasion, this money goes to that person... which means that there is always a lot of arguing about what warrants "special occasions" and how close the death or birth has to be to the person), 10.000 CFA into the monthly pot (every month, a different person gets to take home this collected sum), and 1.000 CFA into something that I have yet to understand. Somehow it takes over an hour to collect this money from the 12 people present.   It is the same every month, but yet we still must discuss each fee for 45 minutes before settling on the same exact fee that was decided upon at the beginning of the year.
After money matters are sorted, we must each give a "brief" account of the events of our life.  For me, this is usually a "I am so happy to be part of Bamena life" kind of sentence or two, but for others, they feel the need to enlighten the assembly about the goings on of their goats, or the food that their wife (wives) have cooked over the last month, the cold that they had last week, or... All things I'd be happy to hear, but at this point it is always around 5 p.m., and after 4 hours of sitting in a cramped space and listening to endless bickering of what seem to me to be inconsequential things, I have very little patience for this and am well past ready for the now warm beer that we are allotted.  When everyone finishes with their news, we are FINALLY able to eat the now cold food, and drink the very warm beers.  And not allowed to leave until everyone has finished their part.
Every month I am hopeful that things will run smoother, and finish earlier.  Or that maybe there will be a chance to talk about some of the actual issues going on at the school, and every month I am again disappointed that the focus seems to be on each person's individual queries and complaints.  By the time I am allowed to go home, I am usually sprinting out the door and away from my colleagues, no matter how much I normally enjoy their company.
This month's meeting was particularly difficult, as we started even later than usual, and I had a fever through the whole thing.  Being sick does not allow you to miss the meeting.

The amicale, on top of a nasty cold, made last week an exhausting and infuriating week, but it was nothing compared to this week.

As we "near" the end of sequence 2 (the second grading period... technically ends on the 27th, but my principal has decided that it will make our school look better if we finish on the 18th, I found out yesterday), I was trying to give my students a quiz to see how they're doing with the material we've covered over the last few weeks, in theory before I give them their final exams.  So this Monday and Tuesday, I gave all of my classes a quiz, that in theory should have taken them half an hour at most, but took most of them an hour to an hour and a half.  Good sign.  Because of their skill levels, I have been teaching the same lessons to the grades 5e, 4e, and 3e (7th, 8th, and 9th grades), and therefore they were all set to take the same quiz.  With my 8th grade class, things went fairly smoothly.  It took them a longer than necessary to arrange themselves boy-girl-boy-girl and put away their books and notes, but that's not all that surprising.  They took the test and finished it 20 minutes before the class was over.  We quickly went over the answers and I was able to let them go 10 minutes early, which of course they were thrilled about.  I went to sit in the sun for a moment, as it gets very chilly in the dark classrooms, when the Principal called me over and asked to speak with me in his office.  This didn't seem all that unusual as I hadn't had a talk with him in a while.  I went into his office and we started off fine, him asking me about my classes and how things were progressing.  I explained to him the difficulty I'd found with my upper two classes and their lack of understanding and how far behind they were, and the principal jumped onto this, focusing on the 9th grade class.  At the end of 9th grade, students here are forced to take the national exam, BEPC to see if they are fit to continue to lycee (high school equivalent starting in 10th grade). A student cannot progress unless they have passed this exam.  The principal had noticed, however, that I was very far behind with my 9th grade classes.  I explained to him that I was behind because the students did not know enough to be able to continue to the more difficult vocabulary and grammar, but he laughed.  He called in two other teachers to help him explain to me that, here in Cameroon, teachers are not meant to make the students understand, but to simply present them with the information and stick to the syllabus presented to them (difficult for me since I was never give the syllabus that is expected of my 9th grade students), and that if I was waiting for all of, or even the majority of, my students to understand, then I would never be able to teach the material on they needed for the BEPC.  I tried again to explain that I couldn't teach my students new ideas without them understanding the basics, and he responded again that I just didn't understand how things were done in Cameroon, never mind the fact that the reason I was brought to this school was to help change this very form of teaching.  The other two teachers then piped in to tell me that it's useless to try and make sure students understand the material and I just need to stick to my syllabus.  Eventually I told the principal that I could not and would not teach this way, and that if this is what he needed, then he'd have to find another teacher for 9th grade.  But he laughed again and gave me a syllabus for the class, instructing me to just start there next week.

 I am still lost with how to approach this issue.  The entirety of my Peace Corps training focused on "student-centered teaching" as opposed to "teacher centered teaching", meaning we are meant to focus on the students' needs and level of understanding as opposed to where the government program claims they should be.  The grade-levels before 9th grade promote all of the students, regardless of whether or not they should advance to the next class, so by the time they all get to 9th grade, there are many students who still can't read or write, and have no idea how to do simple addition, much less conjugate english verbs in the conditional, or construct a thesis and essay about deforestation (which is a recommended topic by my new syllabus).  I had started at the basics because when I asked my students to introduce themselves in english (something they should have been taught before sixth grade) they were unable to do so, either in writing OR verbally.  We ended up spending a month just on learning how to introduce ourselves and our friends, yet I am expected to teach them advanced grammar that I myself struggle with.  So, I will spend the next few weeks trying to devise activities and lessons that will enable me to both teach them the basics and introduce the very advanced lessons expected of me. Really though, it's hard to stay mad at the other teachers for too long.  We are all working within an education system that is, in my opinion, broken.  There is very little chance for success, and even if the students do manage to pass this 9th grade exam, they will be thrown into more of the same in high school.  The number of students who make it through to the end of high school is minuscule, and then the number from there to make it to university is even smaller.  The education system relies on reputations of schools, so the schools kick out students that might need more work, rather than helping them to improve.   That and many students in these small villages see very little use for a higher education.  Half of my 9th grade students are repeating the grade for the second or third year in a row, and most of them simply want to pass this year so that they can stop going to school and start working.  As much as I try to stress the importance of education, it's hard to explain to a girl with two children and no means to feed them, that continuing with her education is more important that finding an unskilled job, especially since so many of my students see adults who did get their university degree and are still stuck in the same kinds of jobs.  With all of this stacked against the students, it's hard to keep myself motivated and not lose hope some days.  But every Thursday, walking home surrounded by all of my students picking flowers for me and pestering me with questions about my life in the States, I am reminded why I'm here and what I'm working towards.

Roads Go Ever On

7 November 2015

It has been a long time since my last post, so for that I am sorry.  I've been struggling a lot lately with the idea of what I should talk about this time through.  I feel as though the frustrations and rhythm  of my day to day life have been expressed in my last couple of posts, and what I have left unsaid I can't yet find the words to describe.

The month of October has flown by and we have arrived in the exciting month of November, which is usually one of my favorite times of year.  I always look forward to the changing colors of the trees, the complete dispersal of the Alabama heat, and the beginning of snowfall in Minnesota. Here, however, I have none of the things that indicate the coming of the holidays or even the shifting of the seasons.  I'm told that we are quickly approaching the dry season, but there seems little evidence to support this.  Without time changes, the sun continues to set, as it has since my arrival in May, around 6:30-7 pm every night, and rises every morning around 5:30-6 am.  The temperature is getting slightly warmer with rain every two out of three days instead of every day, but the cool breeze persists (and is often stronger) even on the sun-only days, and no matter what I'm still obliged (thankfully!) to bring a sweater with me wherever I go.  I'm not meaning to complain about the weather! I am very very lucky to be stationed in a region of Cameroon that allows me to wear sweaters and jeans comfortably for the majority of the year, but I am finding it hard to wrap my head around the idea that we are heading into November, when the sunshine and breeze remind me of an April at the beach.

Weather and a lack of deciduous trees aside, life in Cameroon is starting to fall into ... not a rhythm really as everything is too unstable or unorganized for that, but a habit perhaps?
On Mondays and Tuesdays, I wake up around 6 - 6:30 to exercise before work, then I go into school and teach two two-hour classes, before heading home, stopping by to say hello to my neighbors and sit and chat with them for a little while.  Once home, I usually eat a very late lunch (generally around 3-4 pm) and futz around with one thing or another until around 5:30-6 when I make dinner and watch a movie.  After the movie I tend to read for a while and then go to bed.
 On Wednesdays, I spend the morning catching up on work and around 2-3 I go into Bangante to go to the market.  After market-ing, I have a beer with Cristina and some colleagues who live in Bangante, and then head home to make myself dinner and go to bed.
 On Thursdays I have school early, so I wake up and head straight there to teach, before getting home around noon and exercising or doing work until 2 or 3, at which point I either head into the Centre Bamena to see people, or I find a project in my house to work on.
On Fridays, I tend to head to either Bafoussam or Bafang (the two bigger cities near me) to go to the bank and have a meal or a drink with the other volunteers in the area.  I often meet with volunteers to discuss a project that we're working on together or get advice about a project I'd like to do in my village. Sometimes I stay the night, but mostly I come home to sleep in my own bed.
The weekends vary depending on what is happening in village and in my own life.  Sometimes I take Saturday to rest and breathe, or to catch up on my socializing in village. Sundays I usually have my neighborhood children come help me wash my clothes and clean my house, and we all watch a movie and do arts and crafts together afterwards.

My refrigerator is still broken, and my package is still stuck in Douala, but I finally feel like my house is really my home, and my neighbors notice when I am gone for more than a day.  I have a family who has adopted me into their lives, and expect me to stop by after school everyday, and to attend their family meetings.  They feed me whenever they can, and if I'm ever in need of produce, they are more than happy to give me whatever I need from their farm (their main source of income).  The family consists of the Papa, le chef du cartiere Monsieur Bellesse (maybe?), his wife Mama Clementine (or Ma Clem), their sister in law, Mama Anne, and all the children: Sylvia, Nelson, Tchikinya, and Adora (those are the children living at the house anyway).

 Sylvia braiding Mama Anne's hair

 Mama Clementine in her Market day best!

Adora hoping for some bread.

Tchikinya thrilled to be the center of attention

and Mama Anne now "camera ready", and everyone else. 

This is the family that often gets me through the week and makes a lot of my frustrations worth it.  They laugh with me, they laugh at me, and they support me. They are my village support system. 

Yet despite their support, they could not seem to understand the idea of Halloween.  How do you explain the day that the dead are permitted to walk the earth, that is then celebrated in the United States by children dressing up as pirates and princesses and storm troupers collecting candy from their neighbors? I tried, but mostly I got many dark looks at the idea that we make light of such an ungodly and terrifying eve.  Most of the people I know in village are both very religious and very superstitious, and for most of them, the ancestors are part of everything.  They are in the insects that crawl through the house, the sacred trees found in most family complexes, and the very air we breathe. Not to say that they worship any of this things, but the ancestors are a modem of communication to God.  For Cameroonians, at least in my village, the ancestors are always around, listening if you please them, and ignoring you if you offend them. So when I presented the idea that there is one night a year that spirits supposedly descend upon us and terrorize us (and that we dress up in costumes and carve pumpkins and eat candy till we are sick to commemorate this), I was met with polite smiles and confused nods... the most evident sign that you are so incorrect that they don't even know how to argue with you on this point.  It's the same look I give to them when they try to tell me that drinking piss will get rid of my pimples.  Euff. Horrifying.  :P 

So to celebrate Halloween, I headed to my friend KC's house in Bafang.  He and his postmate Rebecca (who is also wonderfully and amazingly from Alabama!) were throwing a party for all of the volunteers around us.  The party was themed Bollyween, since KC has a very strong connection to the Bollywood culture.  Most of the volunteers found sari's or other Indian-style clothes, as they are sold everywhere here, and much of the more modern style here can be very similar in appearance, and we all got together and danced the night away to Bollywood music.  It was so much fun, and such a strange experience.  With upwards of thirty American volunteers in one small house, the outside world of Cameroon quickly disappeared, and we were all given a sense that this was a typical Halloween party back in the US.  

It was both amazing and difficult.  Amazing to feel so comfortable again and have so many people understand everything I said, but difficult as the whole thing was so discordant with my life at the moment.  It was a wonderful break from the infuriating moments of Cameroon, but a jarring break from my day to day life here.  Returning to my village the next day left me with one of the hardest moments of my life in Cameroon. After a night of heartfelt conversations and understanding, I was exhausted, and both mentally and physically ill from the disjointed-ness of the 48 hour span.  I couldn't quite put together the world of the Halloween party with the world of Bamena.  They don't seem to fit, and, surprisingly, this disjointedness caused a day of mental unrest and exhaustion.  I missed horribly being surrounded by Americans who understood me and where I am coming from, who understand and share the frustrations of life here without belittling them, and who were able to validate my opinions and beliefs without trying to convert me to a religion or change how I think about life and the people in it.  It was very hard to go back to school after that weekend, but it helped me understand a bit why the Peace Corps tries to prevent volunteers from spending all their weekends away from post.  It's hard to want to stay solitary in village, when KC and Becca, and their houses with sinks and running water, a boulangerie that always sells snickers and twixt, a boutique that makes hamburgers, and free internet, are only a 45 minute car ride away.  And I must admit, that, since my bank is in Bafang, I tend to head over there every few weeks.  But every time I'm away from my village for more than a night, it always feels good to get back "home".  My bed all to myself, my couch wonderfully cushioned, my kitchen always stocked with fruits and vegetables and honey, and most importantly my neighbors, always welcome me home with such enthusiasm and security that it is hard to stay away too long, even with the temptation of snickers.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

When will my life begin?

October 6th, 2015

The more movies I watch by myself, the more I've come to find that the emotions and anxieties I never thought I'd be able to explain to anyone else have been perfectly explained through children's films! I first noticed this distinction in Tangled, and then again in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It's scary how much parts of those movies explain my life here, so:

The Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer as Explained by the first 20 minutes of Tangled.

1. When will my life begin?

"7 AM, the usual morning lineup:
Start on the chores and sweep til the floor's all clean,
polish and wax, do laundry, mop and shine up
sweep again,
and by then
it's like 7:15"

Every chore needed to make your house Cameroonian level acceptable clean, but you also have to add doing the dishes and, for me, making coffee and catching up on journal writing. 
It's not nearly as fun as she makes it seem... 

"And so i'll read a book or maybe two or three
I'll add a few new paintings to my gallery
i'll play guitar and knit, and cook and basically
Then after lunch it's puzzles and darts, and baking
paper mache, a bit of ballet and chess
pottery and ventriloquy, candle making
then I'll stretch,
maybe sketch,
take a climb, sew a dress
and I'll reread the books if I have time to spare
i'll paint the walls some more, i'm sure there's room to spare..."

This is a scarily accurate list of the hobbies that PCVs throw themselves into to pass the time, either when there's not power or when there's not a project to be working on.  Just add visit my neighbors and catch up on letter writing and you've pretty much got it covered (even including sewing a dress, stretching, and candle-making!). 

"And I'll keep wonderin' and wonderin' and wonderin' and wonderin'
When will my life begin?"

The entirety of PC training. 

2.Mother Knows Best

Emanuel knows best.
(Emanuel is the head of security and would largely prefer that PCVs never left their house as that's the best way to secure safety. He even mentioned men with pointed teeth!).

3. Escape from the Tower

This entire sequence pretty much sums up all of the emotions of first getting to post... or just the entirety of PC service in general: The wild excitement and joy and all the amazing things in the world, but also the difficulty of being so far away from home and friends and family, and the annoyance of the strange men bothering you constantly.

4. I've got a Dream

Every seemingly impossible project that you want to accomplish here. 

I Came, I Saw, and Overcame

October 2, 2015

So we are now about 5 weeks into the school year and I have no idea how time has flown by so quickly.  The days can be long, but the weeks seem to vanish as though they never really happened.  Except of course they did... I finally have a bit of a rhythm down and am getting situated as to the real english and reading levels of my students (although my oldest class, 3e, is still causing some problems).  Everything is coming together and I finally feel like my classes are moving in a direction, not always the direction I'd intended, but hey, that's teaching in every country.

So my first week of class started on Monday, September 7th.

The Sign to my school: CES Bamena.
The dirt road on the left is the road to my school. 

I showed up to school at 7:30, as I was told to, nervous about being a little late since I had to walk the 2-3 miles there for the first time (harder than it sounds as in the rainy season the road there is basically a mudslide), but of course other than the two neighbor boys who walked with me, there was absolutely no one at the school when I arrived.  I shouldn't have been surprised really.  Cameroonians are not at all famous for their timeliness.  So I took off my chacos and wiped down my feet to get the red mud off before slipping on my "teaching shoes" (my sperrys) and waited.  Students began to slowly trickle in at around 7:45, openly staring and pointing at the strange white person hanging out at their school, and the principal arrived at 7:58 or so.  Eventually the other teachers arrived around 8:10-15 and we all kind of stood around chatting and discussing the plan for the day.  The school schedule had not been made yet, so each teacher wandered into a classroom and taught for however long they felt like teaching, and then left to either wander into another classroom or to hang out outside of the school office with the other teachers.  Without explaining this system, the principal led me to the 6e (about the equivalent of 6th grade) class and left me to do my thing.  I introduced myself, we discussed class rules, and then, not knowing what else I was expected to do with them on the first day and assuming someone would come to relieve me, I blew through my first week of lessons.  I spent 2 1/2 hours with this class before I decided that no one was coming to relieve me and I should probably leave... I did and found the other new teacher at the school, Made, sitting outside the office waiting for the principal to direct him to another class.  I grabbed a chair and sat down next to him, awaiting the same thing, and we chatted for a good 2 hours before we were sent to another class.  This time I did my introductions and class rules as I'd planned for the first day and then left and, again instead of waiting for the principal to tell me what class to go to, I just wandered into a class that didn't have a teacher and did the same thing.

Schools are organized a little differently here.  Each grade has it's own classroom and the students stay where they are while teachers wander from class to class depending on which level they are teaching.  At CES there are four levels: 3e, 4e, 5e, 6e (roughly 9th grade, 8th grade, 7th grade, and 6th grade in that order, although ages for any of the grades can be between 10-19 years old).  We are a small school with just over 100 students (EXTREMELY SMALL by Cameroonian standards), 8 teachers and staff (with myself as the only female that works at the school), four classrooms (more like cinderblock constructs for the most part), and 1 small hut for the "office".  No electricity, no water nearby, I'm told there are latrines in the back but I've never seen them nor ever seen any of the students use them.  There's a wooden stand for a woman to sell food during the breaks, but I've only seen her there once, so most of the students and all the faculty and staff go without eating during teaching hours unless they bring food from home.

My 5e class.  There are a few more of them now (about 20), 
but only about half the students of the school showed up on the first day. 

We ended the first day of classes at 2 pm (as opposed to the theoretical 3:30 pm... although I've never seen a teacher other than myself teach after 2:30-245.)  so that we could all sit down together and plan the school schedule.  For some reason the principal wasn't with us, but the rest of us sat down to try to figure it out.  

Made in the corner, our school secretary, 
then Duclo, Ulrich, and Doda at the board writing out last year's schedule

We worked on it for about 2 1/2 hours and did not get much done other than writing the  schedule from the previous year on the board. As we were finishing the previous year's schedule, the principal came in and stated that we were all incompetent (except me, of course, as I couldn't be expected to understand what was going on... thanks man) and that he would have to do it himself. 

 My principal seemed like such a nice down to earth kind of guy when we first met, and whenever I interact with him outside of school he's very friendly and encouraging.  But as soon as he steps foot into his Principal mindset, he turns into a... well there's not really another word for it... he turns into a bully.  He mocks the other teachers for their incompetence, going on long insulting rants about the inadequacies of the teachers and students in question.  And he does so with a degrading smile.  What I think is more frustrating than his degrading smile though, is that, from my limited experience, this seems to be the form of management that is sought in the heads of schools.  It's certainly a tactic that I've seen in other administrations, and daily in the classroom with other teachers.  Instead of encouragement, both teachers and administration use insult and mockery in order to try and motivate both the students and teachers.  This is not a question of efficiency and barking harsh orders or corrections, as we end up spending more time listening to the principal or the teacher berate the inadequate subject, than any amount of time we might have lost with the mistake.  I'm at a loss as to how to even begin approaching this teaching style, how to start changing it.  For the time, I'm just trying to understand the reasoning behind it.  So far, I see it as the course of action taken in lieu of "corporal punishment". 

 Corporal punishment has finally been outlawed in Cameroon, but enforcing this law has proven difficult, as most teachers and administration see it as not only their right to beat incompetent students, but also as the only way that the students will possibly learn.  I've grown very tired of hearing that Cameroonian students (particularly les noirs cameroonians) are not like the "whites" of Europe and the United States.  I've been told over and over again how les noirs here need more severe motivation in order to learn.  

Although my school claims that there is no "corporal punishment" there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding as to what "corporal punishment" means.  Most of the teachers in my area (at my school and the three schools close by) do not use what they define as corporal punishment, i.e. hitting children.  However, asking children to kneel on the uneven concrete or gravel stones, or whipping them with a rubber chord is acceptable.  This is something that I absolutely do not allow in my classroom, of course, but I can't protect my students when they're with the other teachers, other teachers who, for the most part, I really like and respect as people.  It has been difficult coming to terms with the colleagues that I enjoy spending time with and talking to, and who really do get along well with the students, and pairing that with the teachers that tell a student to kneel on the ground and then pick him up by his cheeks, because he called another student a mean name.  One of my many goals for this year is inherently to try and start changing the attitude and understanding of what "corporal punishment" is, and why it should never be used in the schools. I don't expect I'll be able to change everyone's mind, but hopefully I'll at least be able to spread a more complete understanding... 

So once the principal came in, we stopped working on the schedule for the year, and quickly cobbled together a schedule for the rest of the week.  Turns out, as a teacher living in town, this meant I would have to work 7 hours every day that week (as opposed to the 12 hours I was supposed to work total that week).  Needless to say, I was not overly thrilled by this schedule, but who am I really to complain when as a teacher here I only work 12 hours a week at the school? That's a pretty amazing schedule by American standards, although it appears to be fairly standard by French and Cameroonian standards.  Most of the teachers I worked with in these two countries worked an average of 12-16 hours a week, with the idea that they needed the other hours for lesson planning, grading, etc.

Since that first day of school, I have received my full time schedule (Monday from 9:40-2, Tuesday 11:40-3:30, Thursday 8-11:40) and am starting to fall into a more regular system, although much of that time has been spent trying to get to know my students and figuring out where they are in their english learning.  I still have not received two of the books I will be teaching from, and I only received the scheme of work for the year (the thing that tells me where each grade is supposed to be and where they need to be by the end of the year) last Thursday.  On top of that, we were required to have our first tests last Thursday.  Mine inherently consisted mostly of "Hello my name is... I am from... etc" introductions, the alphabet, and maybe a lesson here and there of grammar.  It has been an interesting ride, and I still feel as though school hasn't quite gotten underway, but perhaps that's because each time I go in to teach a new lesson, I discover that the students either never learned or do not at all understand the previous lesson on the subject, and therefore end up spending the class time working (or re-working) on their lack of previous knowledge.  It's going to be a challenging year, with lots of improvised lessons and activities, but now that I've gotten more of a handle on the personalities of each class, and the overall school itself, I think it will also be a fun year! And next year will be so much easier.  

Friday, October 2, 2015

Packages: An Act of Desperation

I hate that I am doing this, but I can't stop myself!

My Care Package List! There are many things that I brought with me that I don't need or use as much as I imagined, and there are many things that I've never needed or wanted in the states that I suddenly find myself craving! So if you miss me and want to send me something, you have some free time and motivation, or you've just always wanted to send boxes of things to Cameroon, nows your chance!!!! Here are some ideas of things that I've been missing. Although to be fair the list changes from day to day and there are a million little things that I would of COURSE adore and greatly appreciate that I can't even imagine now.
Before the list though, you should know that letters are just as wonderful!!

The things I've been missing or needing that I can't find here are:


non-caffeinated tea
Spices and spice packets (eg taco mix, pumpkin spice, )
Annies mac and cheese
Instant oatmeal packets (especially apple cinnamon and brown sugar flavors)
granola bars
honey bunches of oats and other delicious cereals
        -but especially twixts and snickers and oreos
IPAs and local craft beers!!!!!! difficult to send, but i've heard it's been done!!!

if you can figure out a way to send craft beer (IPAs especially) to me THAT IS THE THING I MISS MOST IN THE WORLD and have no hope of finding. :P

movies and music on USB sticks
Coloring books and crayons
Scented Candles
-(anything good smelling!!!)
a garlic press

Pilot G-2 pens (especially .5 mm)
nail polish
dove deodorant
Shampoo (Dove or Aveda)
Conditioner (Sheer Blonde by John Frieda or Dove)
Anything to get rid of mildew and mold in closets and shoes
hand sanitizer

Send them to:
KC Sorensen and Sprice
Saint paul's Bilingual College
B.P. 119
Bafang, West, Cameroon

We're Goin' to the Movies!

So as my book list has slowed down a bit with the start of school, I've decided to also keep a log of the movies and TV shows I'm watching, especially since so many of my emotional moments are stemmed from something in a movie or tv show unleashing the floods of feelings that I've been ignoring.

There's a lot of down time, but somehow since school has started I constantly feel busy and exhausted, so I end up watching at least one movie every night before going to bed.

 This list is pretty eclectic and doesn't necessarily have to do at all with my general taste in movie (although you'll find a lot of disney and children's movies on the list).  But I think that, like the books, I'll have specific memories associated with the movies and when I watch them.  The Life of Pi is already a movie that marked a particularly difficult night for me, and it was that night that I decided I'd document my movies as well as books (if more for myself than for anyone else).

You've Got Mail
The Mindy Project
Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt
 The Best Great Marigold Hotel
Kimmie Schmidt
 Captain America: The Winter Solider
Paris, Je T'aime
Gilmore Girls
Shrek 1
Shrek 2
Hunger Games Catching Fire
Kimmie Schmidt
The Maltese Falcon
Pitch Perfect 2

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fog on the Barrow-downs

September 7, 2015

I'm trying to make blogging a regular thing, so although I may not be able to write a couple times a week, I'm hoping that I'll be able to post a couple things every time I post! (hence the dates on the posts to give an idea of when the events took place).

This past weekend was a long and very interesting weekend of people and cultural experiences after a tough week of missing home.  Friday was an odd day of death and marriage proposals, and then Saturday consisted of two funerals, lots of beers, and lots of new friends.

 I spend the morning at my school CES Bamena for a faculty meeting before the start of school.  It was supposed to start at 9, but like everything in Cameroon, was a few hours behind.  We did start at 10:30, so it could actually have been a lot worse.  The hard part of the meeting was that it lasted until 3:00 pm! No stop for lunch, no break of any kind.  Regular meals are a luxury here, so most people really only eat one or two meals a day and then, if they are able, they eat small things during the day.  There are no regular meal times and there are no foods that are specific to certain times of day (hence why beer time is all the time!).  So after a very long and somewhat unproductive meeting, I finally got home around 4.  In the middle of my meeting the Chief of the village had called me to let me know that the refrigerator repairman that he had found for me was at my house... which was unfortunate as I wouldn't be home for a while... so I called him back once I got home and the Chief said he would send the boy back (this repairman is 15 years old).  This poor boy had already come over to my house twice in the previous week to try and fix my refrigerator, and, just like in the US, each time the poor boy had the wrong part or the wrong tools (it's been 4 weeks now and we've had 5 visits and still no working fridge).  So he was coming for the third time, and the chief was sending him back.  I waited for an hour and half, and when he didn't arrive I decided I had misunderstood the Chief on the phone (which happens ALL the time), and headed into le Centre de Bamena (essentially the town center which consists of a couple bars, small shack stores/ houses, a giant church, a local hospital, and the statue of a goat) to buy tomatoes and a couple other things I'd been missing around the house... and that I would hopefully be able to store in my newly repaired fridge (what optimism! :)).

On my way into town, I stopped by to see my neighbors across the street.  Mama Clementine had lost her husband (I think... I'm not entirely clear on who all is related to who and how as everyone calls anyone they've had a long chat with a brother, sister, mother, or father), and the body had arrived from Yaoundé that day, along with all the relatives in the world.  I swear there were upwards of 80 people at this tiny hut house. I said hello to the people I knew, and Ma Clementine took me by the hand into their parlor room and showed me the beautifully embalmed body of her husband.  And then cheerily and with lots of laughter at my attempts at the local language, she introduced me to all the other relatives, who had been horribly confused by the random "mekat" (white in the language bamena).  It is a very strange thing to walk across the street to say hello to your friends and then suddenly be shown a dead body.  I had no idea how to respond, especially since everyone seemed so cheery and content, preparing food for everyone, cleaning, catching up on the gossip from Douala and Yaoundé... My first instinct would have been to hug everyone I knew in the room and tell them to be strong and that I would be thinking about them in the weeks to come, but that seemed VERY out of place here.  So I looked solemnly at the body,  muttered my condolences and a small prayer,  then smiled at everyone I met.  Eventually I was able to extricate myself from the hoard of relatives trying to shake my hand and tell me about their experiences with every other "mekat" they've met, and continue on my way to the center of town (about a mile or 2 walk from my house).

I made it the rest of the way without anything notable happening. I stopped by one of the boutiques to chat with the Mama that I'm building a rapport with and bought some tomatoes, peppers, bread, and lightbulbs.  I said hello to some of the other vendors I know in the area and stopped by another Mama's store just to say hello as it's her husband that takes care of my house, and ran into one of the other teachers at my school, Duclo (or Elias... I have a lot of trouble figuring out which first name I'm supposed to call people by... they tend to give me two first names and two last names and I never know which names to use :P).  I've decided that evenings from 16-17 are the best time to go for a walk through town.  If the weather is nice, the mountains are BEAUTIFUL, and the sun is so strong and clear here.  It really is gorgeous.

(I'll add a photo of the goat statue as soon as I get one!)

After chatting with Duclo for a moment, I turned to head back home.  As I was passing one of my favorite bars in town, the Noble Bar, I heard people calling me over by my preferred address that's not my name: Ngozo.  It's a term of respect and in some way has something to do both with the being a Queen/ Princess of the region and with termite hierarchy... there's some analogy there that I couldn't really understand.  Regardless! It's a term of respect for someone coming into the area and becoming someone important and respected in the community... I think... again it's all just things I've kinda gleaned from a bunch of very different and difficult to understand explanations. :) 

Anyway, three women at the bar were calling me over and I went over to say hello (out of character for me as usually when people call at me from bars I smile, wave, and continue on my way unless I know them).  They asked me the usual questions and we talked for a while about my language skills and my ability to teach english here.  There were three sisters and their brother, all of whom live in different parts of Cameroon.  They had me sit down and bought me a beer and we continued to chat.  Of course the brother eventually turned things towards my marital status (I wear a wedding ring in the attempt to "eviter" these conversations... it doesn't make them happen any less, but it does mean they leave me alone eventually, unlike my postmate Cristina who gets hounded relentlessly and without stop) and I explained that I was very happily married and that my husband would be coming to visit me around New Years. I've discovered sometimes stretching the truth is necessary in this area. 
The sisters quickly noticed that their brother was deranging (a french word meaning 
bothering/annoying/etc... a bit stronger than the english word) and told me to finish my beer so we could head out.  They were staying with their uncle, who is one of the Notables of the village and lives just up the street from me.  On the walk, they told me they were in town for another funeral: the funeral of their little sister.  This girl was 21 years old and died in child birth.  The body, as well as the relatives, had all just arrived in town and were preparing for the funeral the next day.  They invited me into their house and, again, showed me the body.  This one was a lot harder.  It's one thing to see an old man who had a full life and lived a lot longer than most Cameroonians, but it's quite another thing to see a girl younger than myself who died giving birth to a child who didn't make it either.  She wore a beautiful white dress and looked like she could have been 16.  Yet there were still smiles all around.  The relatives were proud of how beautiful she was and that they were able to to afford to give her the beautiful dress and rosary twined through her hands.  This time I didn't restrain myself from hugging the three sisters.  I wanted to cry so badly, but felt that it would be a very odd and somewhat inappropriate at the moment.  

After a few minutes, we went back outside and sat on their front lawn, talking to the other relatives and watching the sun begin to set, acting for all the world as though this were a cheery family reunion, and that I'd known all of them for years.  Eventually I left with promises that I would come back the next day for the funeral.  I tried to explain that I had already promised the family across the street that I would be there for their funeral and burial, but I told them I would come as soon as I could.  

Eventually I finally made it back to my house, to discover that the poor refrigerator repairboy had been waiting and searching for me for about two hours.  Oops! I invited him in and he tinkered with the fridge only to, of course, discover that he was still missing something.  So we called the chief and arranged for the chief to come by and discuss with the boy when to come back.  An hour later, the Chief finally arrived and the boy went home.  The chief came in and I, as always, offered him some tea or coffee, which he refused.  We then sat on my couch chatting and catching up after a week or so of not seeing each other.  And that's when the chief decided to tell me he was falling in love with me.  I don't know why I was surprised. I think it may be a right of passage for each male that I come into contact with here to eventually slip in that they want to marry me.  This is not me being vain, this is the people here seeing me as a way up in the world.  Regardless of whether or not I stay in Cameroon, being married to a white would be a mark of respect and wealth.  The fact that the Chief already had four wives and fourteen children didn't mean anything, as four wives is a very small number for most chiefs.  His father, for example, had 26 wives and 57 kids.  In all fairness, the Chief does know me more than most men who propose, and, unlike most men, I think he does genuinely like me (and not only for my skin color). Of course, I laughed it off and brought up my "husband" and we continued talking like nothing had happened. Eventually he left and I made dinner and watched a movie before going to bed.  

That day was one of the most emotionally intense days since my arrival here.  Especially with the knowledge that I had two funerals and  a trip to the market planned for the next day. 

All's Well that Ends Better

September 1, 2015

Two days ago was one of the most exciting days of my service so far... until yesterday.

Two days ago, Cristina and I made a trip into the "Big City" Bafoussam.  We went to go to the bank, but also to buy some of the "luxury items" we can't find in village or in Bangangte.  This quest was for chocolate and real honey.  We made it to the bank and got our banking figured out, then managed to get to the Nextel phone store to purchase sim cards for our American phones (to give us the ability to contact people from home without paying huge sums of money!), and then finally, and most excitingly, to the bank.  Little did I know that I had TWO WHOLE PACKAGES waiting.  The excitement of this news was overwhelming, but the actual receiving of the packages was even better.  I've never really thought of myself as a high maintenance or material girl, but these two packages could not have come at a time when I needed them more. Or more importantly needed the sentiments behind them.   Both packages were from amazing women and filled with things that I had no idea I missed or wanted so badly:

Simple, unlooked for, and PERFECT for my time here.
Thank you so so much Rachel Bourn

More than words can describe.  Lots that I had asked for and SO MUCH MORE.
Sally Price has always been a master of care packages, but this package out-did itself.


Monday, August 31, 2015

The Trilogy

So I've already been reading a LOT over the last few weeks and I decided I need to make a log of all the books I read during my service as remember the book will help me remember certain emotions and events that I might otherwise lose.

  1. Midnight's Children by Salmon Rushdie
  2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. The Name of the Wind (Book 1) by Patrick Rothfuss
  4.  Neverwhere by Neil Gaimon
  5. Wise Man's Fear (Book 2) by Patrick Rothfuss
  6. Wild Magic (The Immortals book 1) by Tamora Pierce
  7. Wolf-Speaker (The Immortals book 2) by Tamora Pierce
  8. The Emperor Mage (The Immortals book 3) by Tamora Pierce
  9. The Realm of the Gods (The Immortals book 4) by Tamora Pierce
  10. Emma by Jane Austen
  11. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  12. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  13. The Seventh Son: The Alvin Maker Series by Orson Scott Card
  14. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  15. The Red Prophet: The Alvin Maker Series by Orson Scott Card
  16. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  17. As You Like It by William Shakespeare
  18. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Forbidden Pool

It's raining.  As it does almost every day.  I have never loved the rain so much.
During training in Ebolowa, the rain meant that we had a slight reprieve from the heat and humidity.  Training continued despite the thunderous noise and spray seeping into our training center, but here in village rain means that time stops.  In one of my other posts I mentioned that time seems to flow differently here, but at the time I had no idea how true that was.  When it rains, time practically stands still.  Everything pauses: stores close, street vendors hide, conversations stop, moto-taxis vanish, and if it weren't for the overflowing bars I would think that everyone had been abducted by rain aliens.  The bars, however, are the only signs that life continues as normal.  When it rains, it seems that everyone runs to the nearest bar and starts drinking, whether is 5 pm in the evening or 5 am in the morning.  There is no correct or incorrect time for drinking here: beer time is all the time.

Cameroonians are incredibly conscious of their appearance. I can't say they're a particularly vain culture, but the phrase cleanliness is next to godliness has never seemed more true. This summer, I had one student stop me in the middle of a lesson to inform me that I had dirt on my pants.  I quickly responded that the dirt on my pants would not help her pass her next test and that it wasn't as important as the lesson I was giving, but she very seriously informed me that cleaning off the dirt was VERY important.
The volunteer who lives closest to me, Cristina, slipped in the mud in the market near us last weekend and the vendors around her would not let her leave the vicinity until she had changed out of her muddy clothes.  They sold her new clothing items at the lowest prices I've seen yet, and gave her a space to change and towels to wipe of her bags and arms.  To them, the idea of being seen covered in mud, at the MARKET no less (where people often dress up in their best regardless of whether or not they're there to buy anything), was inconceivable and they would not allow her protestations of "It's fine, I'll change when I get home".

I think this strong aversion to mud and need for cleanliness is easily the root of the time-freezing nature of the rain.  To knowingly go out into the weather that will inevitably lead to more dirt and mud than can be controlled is madness.  So when I got caught in the rain this morning on my run, I quickly became an object of horror and fascination.  I was already 4 miles from my house, and fairly damp due to sweat and the morning fog, so to me it made no sense to be worried about the steady mist coming down, but every bar I passed, on my 6 am morning jog, was filled with villagers calling out to me to come inside and wait for the rain to stop.  I smiled and waived and called out my memorized phrases of the local language, but kept running, much to their amusement... and disgust.

In the House of Tom Bombadil

Photos of my house: I am very much living it up in Cameroon

My living room/ the entrance to my house, and where I spend the majority of my time.

The other corner of my main room, with my table / desk

The spooky hallway

My bedroom... still in the works

The guest bedroom... also still in the works

The kitchen!

The newly stocked pantry/cupboard

I'm finally starting to feel at home in my house.  I just need to get rid of some of those bare and blank walls, but it's coming along. 

This is NOT my house, but a picture of the complex.  The HUGE house  is the house belonging to my landlady who lives mostly in Canada, but apparently pops in occasionally.  Her son is the proprietor and lives Yaoundé. I'm told his name is Steve. 

This is my porch and the entrance to my house.  and where the kids of my neighbor and the Guard of the complex spend most of their time, from 5 am till 9 pm...

And this is the view in the opposite direction, from my front door, overlooking the rest of the complex. 

The right half is my house. With my neighbor kids outside dancing in the soon to be rain. 

The Breaking of the Fellowship

Three weeks ago now, after 10 weeks of training, the other trainees and I FINALLY had our big swearing in ceremony at the Ambassadors office.  Weeks and weeks of language courses, host family integration, lesson planning, teaching in a model school, grading and report cards, cultural projects language presentations, ... The morning of, we all dressed up in the matching "Pagne" (Cameroonian fabric) that Ryan and I had been sent into Yaoundé to pick out, and hopped on a bus to the ambassador's house with all of our trainers.  When we arrived, the lawn was covered in chairs, and there was a veranda set up with flags and a podium.  The "swearing in ceremony" was much as you might expect a college graduation to go.  There were lots of important people that we didn't know giving important speeches about the good work Peace Corps does in Cameroon, and the importance of educating the youth etc.  Three volunteers were asked to give speeches in the three languages that some of us were directed to learn (I was only instructed to learn french, but there were many trainees that had to learn Pidgin and Fufulde as well, I have to admit I am a bit jealous of them...), and the speeches were all AMAZING. Even the ones I couldn't understand.  All of us had our moment of glory as our name was called and we were asked to stand and wave at everyone assembled.

After the ceremony, we were whisked back onto the bus and sent straight back to Ebolowa (after a quick stop at the Peace Corps office in Yaoundé).  That night, we, the new volunteers, rented rooms at a hotel in Ebolowa and spent our last night together swimming in the pool and laughing our nerves away.  

Early the next morning, we left from the training center one last time, with lots of tears and frantic goodbyes.  Those of us heading to the West and East loaded onto a van together, and we set off.  After two hours of driving, we dropped the Easterners off at a bus stop to fend for themselves and the rest of us continued West.  We made it into Bafoussam, and separated out further.  I and three others spent the night in Bafoussam.  The next morning we were supposed to meet our community hosts (the person in charge of introducing us around the community and helping us get settled in our new lives), my host, however, never showed up.  Luckily Cristina's (the girl who lives just 20 minutes away by moto-taxi) host let me tag along with them.  We bought the important things in Bafoussam (real Cameroonian coffee and ... nothing else), and then loaded all of our suitcases, trunks, and backpacks into her host's tiny car, and headed to village.  We stopped in Bangangte, the nearest bigger town to me, to check on Cristina's bed (which wasn't ready), and to buy the two of us enough to get us through the night (bread, avocados, eggs, fake cheese called laughing cow or vache qui rit, and wine... only the essentials clearly).  After, we headed to Cristina's house, which wasn't ready for her yet as it had no lights, no locks, and no source of water or latrine, and on the way had a surprise visit to the Chief of Cristina's village (after a full day of heavy lifting, sweating, and still in the clothes from the day before, we were not exactly Chief presentable, but we had no choice...).  He's a very round man that looks like he belogns in the movie The Godfather, with a raspy voice that belongs to a '20s jazz singer.  I think this man has been at some level of intoxication since he turned 17.  But for all that he's a very impressive man.  He stopped the tradition that men must sleep with their father's secondary wives after their death (scary tradition really... they don't have to sleep with the wife that was their birth mother, but still). and is apparently a strong voice for female equality, despite his 4 wives (I'm told he didn't really want more than one wife, but it's necessary for the Chief to have at least four in order to be considered a strong and capable chief).  He was incredibly friendly and informal with us, and incredibly welcoming.  

After our brief meeting with the chief, we dropped some things off at Cristina's house and took a look around, and then headed, FINALLY, to my house.  I got my keys from the Guard and he ran down the street to get us some candles since the electricity had been cut that morning (the landlord's son in yaounde had forgotten to pay the bill for some months...) and Cristina and I set ourselves up and made some dinner.  That first night, splitting a box of Cameroonian wine by candle light, there was a sense of newfound freedom and possibility that'd been missing since we first stepped foot in Philadelphia to start training, so many months ago.  That first night was wonderful.

Since that first night, the magic and mysticism has been slightly reduced, as real world problems seep in (like actually organizing electricity after two weeks of darkness, or figuring out how to mend a broken fridge after the electricity finally started working, or living with a toilet that doesn't flush at all).  Every time something seems to start working, there's something else that falls apart.  I never realized how many things you have in a house that can go wrong! All that being said, I'm definitely living the life of "posh corps".  I have the potential for running water and a shower (maybe even HEATED running water from a shower if I can ever figure out how to get the water heater going), I almost always have electricity (even if most of the lightbulbs are out and I don't yet have the tools to replace them), a paved road, and I have PLENTY of bed and floor space for hosting people.  

So much has changed in the last three weeks, but so much is still the same (kind of my repeated mantra... everything here is a paradox!). I miss desperately miss those I'd grown close to during training and, now with time to actually sit and think, I desperately miss my friends and family at home.  I'm constantly meeting people here, but in a sense I feel more lonely.  Yet some how I am very much at peace where I am.   My new favorite understanding of this country is 

"Cameroon, where nothing works, but everything works out." 

And so far so good.  There have been hard moments, and I imagine they're only going to get harder for a little while, but eventually everything will work itself out, and life in Cameroon will continue on as it always has. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

No hat, no stick, no pipe, not even a pocket handkerchief. How can one survive?

I have finally made it to my post in Bamena! and for the first time in about three months I have unpacked ALL of my things.  It's amazing how quickly you adapt to suitcase living: keeping the everyday and "wear regularly" items on the top while having the things you'd never really need in 90-100 degree jungle at the bottom or in the convenient trunk sitting under your suitcase. 
It has taken me forever to get to this point of unpacking, and now that I am up in the mountains, the weather is finally permitting me to put my sweaters and jeans to use! YAY!  So here is a list of all of the things that finally made it to post with me. I have no idea how I fit all this into two suitcases and a backpack, but it worked out and I was JUST underweight!

  • nike running shorts to sleep in/ for lounging/ for running and exercise inside my hosue (5-6 pairs).  I regret not bringing one or two pairs of longer shorts to wear exercising outside.
  • 3-4 couple nice work blouses (hard to find ones that are nice looking and aren't special needs washing!) 
  • 3 knee length dresses (i've only used one of these as the other two are much more formal. I will probably get to wear them eventually, but for now they were kind of a waste of space)
  • 3 knee length skirts (tech and active style, I wear these ALL the time, probably my best purchases)
  • 5-6  nice shirts and tech shirts for day to day use, work, and for going out
  • 3 pairs of pants (not dress, but nicer than jeans) (they are too tight to wear to work, but great for wearing around day to day)
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 4 lightweight scarves (one for my host mother for a gift)
  • 5 tank tops (some tech and some just regular cotton)
  • 1 short sleeved sweater, 1 quarter length sweater, and 1 full sleeve sweater ( have been using all of these a lot)
  • 1 fleece jacket
  • 1 raincoat
  • 1 boyfriend's sweater (sentimental packing, but i've been using it a bunch at post)
  • lots of t-shirts
  • lots of bras, socks, and underwear (they have all already started deteriorating...)
  • 2 pairs of chacos
  • 2 running shoes
  • 1 pair of toms
  • 1 pair of black flats (water proof!!)
  • and I had one pair of crocs flats sent to me my first two weeks.
  • big bottle of dove shampoo (i regret not bringing a huge bottle of the shampoo I always used at home.  shampoo is pretty poor quality and REALLY expensive here and despite the weight, I would really enjoy having my normal shampoo)
  • big bottle of conditioner (VERY difficult to find here)
  • body wash and two bars of my favorite dove soap
  • face wash
  • 4 sticks of my deodorant
  • a couple toothbrushes 
  • two tubes of toothpaste
  • face sunscreen
  • moisturizer
  • lotion
  • two large tech towels and three small hand tech towels (wish I'd brought more! they were so small and easy to pack and they are WONDERFUL)
  • razor and 8 razorheads
  • 1 bottle of my perfume (unnecessary, but it's nice to smell good from time to time)
  • lots of hair ties and clips
  • 1 comb and 1 brush
  • 2 sets of tweesers
  • a bit of makeup for special occasions and going out
  •  nail clippers, file, 2 bottles of polish
  • Travel Sac sleeping bag
  • Travel pillow
  • small day to day purse
  • small one shoulder day backpack
  • large overnight backpack
  • two reusable grocery bags (they fold small and are really useful)
  • kindle
  • camera
  • iphone
  • macbook air
  • boombottle mini speakers (great life decision)
  • two external harddrives (one for computer backup, the other with movies and tv shows)
  • 1 external battery pack strong enough to recharge my computer (voltaic)
  • a solar usb charger/rechargeable battery (Poweradd)
  • 1 solar powered lantern that deflates to a perfect travel size (luminaid)
  • 2 USB iphone chords
  • 2 mac chargers
  • 2 aux chords
  • 2 kindle chords
  • 2 micro usb chords
  • 1 battery powered alarm clock
  • 2 headlamps
  • batteries
  • travel alarm clock
  • 4 USB sticks
  • 4 journals of varying size for teaching, writing, language notes, and day to day notes
  • 1 french grammar book
  • 1 english grammar book
  • book of Shakespeare's sonnets
  • The Silmarilion
  • Midnight's Children by Salmon Rushdie
  • An anthology of stories and poems for teaching
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • The Bat Poet
  • LOTS of g2 pens
  • lots of plastic baggies 
  • two knives (one large chopping knife, one smaller knife)
  • swiss army knife
  • travel sewing kit
  • 3 water bottles of varying size and style
  • duck tape
  • 2 pairs of scissors
  • crayons, glitter, glue, and construction paper
  • map of cameroon
  • map of USA
  • map of Alabama
  • LOTS of pictures
  • string, paper clips, hole puncher
  • bunting that my boyfriend's mom made for me
  • 1 frisbee
  • 2 decks of cards

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Walking Song

Upon the Hearth the fire is red
beneath the roof there is a bed;
but not yet weary are our feet
still round the corner we may meet
a sudden tree or standing stone
that none have seen but we alone.
tree and flower and leaf and grass,
let them pass. let them pass.
hill and water under sky,
pass them by. pass them by.

Still around the corner there may wait
a new road or secret gate,
and though we pass them by today,
tomorrow we may come this way
and take the hidden paths that run
towards the moon or to the sun.
apple, thorn and nut and sloe, 
let them go. let them go.
sand and stone and pool and dell,
fare you well. fare you well.

home is behind, the world ahead,
and there are many paths to tread
through shadows to the edge of night,
until the stars are all alight.
then world behind and home ahead,
we'll wander back to home an dbed.
mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
away shall fade. away shall fade.
fire and lamp, and meat and bread,
and then to bed. and then to bed.

JRR Tolkien

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Long Expected Party

For the end of training, the trainers and trainees had a big celebration called "Diversity Day" where we all put together performances for each other.  These included songs, dances, and lots and lots of skits.  The morning before, my fellow trainees Paul Huxel, Abby Gwinn, and I pulled together a short sketch about Paul's language troubles here in Cameroon.

Here's a link to my Paul's youtube page so you can see it all in action.  Subtitles included. :)

Le Monde According to Paul

Le Monde According to Paul

One day Paul arrived in Cameroon and discovered a language he thought he could learn.
Little did Paul know, the language he was speaking was NOT the French of Cameroon.

The first day, Paul greeted his host family.  He tried to say:
            Bonsoir mes parents, je suis très content de vous voir.

What Paul actually said was:
            Paul: Good breast my herrings. I am very aroused to drink you!
Bon sein mes herrings. Je suis très excite de vous boire!

The next day when Paul left for school, his Mama called after him:
            Le froid! Le froid! Ou est ton pull?
What Paul heard was:
            Abby: The liver! The liver! Or have your chicken?
            Paul: Thank you, but I go eat at school.

When Paul went to the boutique that day to buy lunch, he thought he said:
            Je voudrais un pain avec deux ouefs, de la mayonaise, et un peu du piment dedans.
What he actually asked for was:
            Paul: I would like a bridge with inside god birds, mayonaise, and smelly piment.
Je voudrais un pont avec dedans les dieux oiseau, mayonnaise, et pue piment.

After a long afternoon of training, Paul went back home hungry and tired.
His Mama said to him:
            Paul! Bonsoir! C’est comment?
What Paul heard was:
            Abby: Shoulder! Good drink! It’s how?                                                          

Paul tried to respond:
            Okay… bonne Mama, J’ai beaucoup faim!!
What he actually said to her was:
            Paul: okay, yes mama I have wives! Many!
Bon, oui mama, j’ai femmes. Beaucoup!

Later that evening there was a cool breeze blowing through the trees, under the most beautiful sunset Paul had ever seen. With one final attempt to connect with his family, he excitedly tried to say:
            Ah J’aime bien le vent frais! Et regarde le beau ciel!!

Sadly, what he really said was:
            Paul: I have good the strawberry wine! And you keep the beautiful poop.
J’ai bien le vin fraise! Et gardes le beau scelles.