Thats What She Said

I'm supposed to be doing something else right now.

6 Months Down, 21 To Go March 25, 2008

Filed under: *Daily — thats what she said @ 9:33 am

I’m heading back to post tomorrow after a spending a week with 20 other Americans. These people are all near and dear to me, but I think I’ve grown used to a different pace of life. Somewhat surprisingly, I find myself looking forward to sitting on my porch. 

Our in-service training was simultaneously overwhelming and reassuring. Everyone claims to have ‘done nothing’ for the last three months, and everyone secretly thinks that they have done the most nothing. For instance, I know for a fact that I actually have done the most nothing, but after various discussions with other people posted in the south and in the east, and the ‘time-line of development’ in other areas of the country, I feel a little better about that. I got to post in December ready to search out community groups to work with. What it took me three months to realize is that it will be my role just to introduce the idea of community groups in my area.

I don’t mean to imply that there are no Cameroonians in the South doing good work on their own—obviously there are many. It’s just on a totally different scale than in provinces like the Northwest and West. Peace Corps has been in the northwestern corner of this country for 40 years, so the current volunteers there are having  a very different experience than those of us in other areas. Where they have people approaching them and asking them to collaborate, I’m having a really tough time just explaining what in the hell I’m doing here.  If you’re not a doctor, then who ARE you? (This is not to say that volunteers in the northwest are in some sort of cakewalk—they are just at a different place on the ‘timeline of development’. (I refuse to say ‘timeline of development’ without quotes. It’s just too pretentious. Unfortunately, I don’t know how else to say it.))

So anyway, I’m going to head back and start the process of creating some clubs. What’s that you say? Didn’t I already dothat? Yes, my astute little readers, I did. But turns out I sort of did it wrong. Or at least in a way that wasn’t really working for me. Standing in front of 102 bored high schooler’s who have no idea why we’re all in a room together was sort of…not enjoyable. So new clubs, check.  

I’m also (hopefully) going to be working on a soy project with the agroforestery volunteer that lives to the south of me. She’ll talk about growing it, and I’ll present poorly drawn representations of eggs and cows to show how much higher the protein content is in a kilo of soy than various other, more expensive options. Good times will be had by all.

I really am feeling excited to get back though. If nothing else because I finally found a good tailor and I just printed off a bunch of cute pictures of dresses from the Anthropologie website that she will make me for $6.


Beachy Keen Jelly Bean March 24, 2008

Filed under: *Daily — thats what she said @ 4:30 am

Last Week, In Summary:

  • Swam in Atlantic Ocean for the 1st time. (Actually, SAW Atlantic Ocean for the 1st time. I give it an 8.5)
  • Ate sting ray
  • Hiked up a beach to waterfalls (which fall INTO THE OCEAN)
  • Skinny Dipped (Twice)
  • Got stung by…something…jellyfish?…while naked. Twice.
  • Slept in air conditioned room for 7 nights
  • Got nominated for the ‘Peer Support Network’. (This means other volunteers can call me with various problems—like if they think they have gonorrhea or if they are suddenly feeling sympathetic to the Republican Party—and I will support them.) (Side Note: After being nominated, Dave and I made an announcement that we would only counsel people who texted us their problems in haiku format. We are expecting to make a difference in many peoples lives.)
  • Danced at a ‘boite de nuit’ (literally ‘box of night’, which sounds much cooler than ‘night club’) called L’Excellence. It was, in fact, excellent.
  • Discovered that Cameroonians generally don’t like to swim in the ocean—not even the Camerooninas that LIVE ON A TROPICAL BEACH.
  • Ate something resembling carbonara. (Don’t know if I can adequately explain how excited I was to see carbonara on the menu—and my enthusiasm was only dampened slightly upon discovering they made it with spam.)
  • Celebrated 6 months in country! 
  • Realized I have ringworm.



A Little (Civil Un)Rest and Relaxation March 6, 2008

Filed under: *Daily — thats what she said @ 12:02 am

So last week all of the chauffers (all they guys who drive the buses that make up the main form of transport between citys, as well as taxi drivers within the cities) went on strike. I asked Yannick why, and he said to protest rising petrol prices. Which totally made sense. And then he said because they were “mad about bjoihaghlgha changes to the ajfladjd constitution asogahldhfadhfal”. Or at least that’s what I heard. Probably thats not exactly what he said. “What?” I said—“The chauffers are on strike because of the consitution? That makes no sense to me.” Yannick said, “Tu vois un peu?” (“You see a little?”) That is his response every time he says something totally freaking crazy to me and I look at him like I have no idea what he’s talking about. Because I have no idea what he’s talking about.

Let me interrupt my ravings to give a little background about the whole ‘constitutution’ thing. Paul Biya, the current president of Cameroon, has been president for 25 YEARS. 25! And now he wants to make a change to the constitution that will allow him to stay in office just a little bit longer. And people are a little upset about that—you know how these underclasses can be so demanding. So while it makes sense to me that someone might protest his plans, the fact that it was the bus drivers seemed a little weird to me. In fact, my closing comment to Yannick was “Ce paye est tres bizarre. Tu vois un peu?”

So, for a while there the country was in uproar. Only, not the part of the country immediately surrounding me. No, in the South Province it was pretty much life as usual—I read a lot and ate copious amounts of popcorn, and occasionally went to meetings to talk about malaria and stuff. I tried to ask why people weren’t striking in the South, and got a couple of answers. Mostly people said it was because “Paul Biya is from the South. Tu vois un peu?” Umm, no. I perfer to think that, like the Irish and college freshman, the people of the South would rather drink beer then do just about anything else. I can’t really blame them. But things seems to have calmed down now. I’m not sure why, or if they will become un-calm again any time in the near future—but I’ll be on my porch reading if you need me.

* * *

In other news pretty much everything I’ve been doing for the last three months that might roughly be defined as ‘work’ seems to be falling apart. Meetings are postponed, or attened by like, four surly 15 year olds. My trips to the hospital on vaccinations days for ‘observation’ have pretty much turned into me making mental bets about which babies will pee as soon as their dipers come off. It’s an exciting life I lead. But! Somehow I feel refreshed and motivated and ready to start anew—this time with my new found wisdom! I am a Peace Corps Volunteer! I’ve got optimism coming out of my…! Right. Possibly some other things come out of there too. Anyway.

I’m going to reform (Re-form? Form again? I don’t mean change, I mean demolish and start from the beginning—just so we’re clear) two clubs—one for girls and one to train peer educators. I’m going to make people apply because I think its good to ensure motivation and because I like to feel powerful. And I will be starting that water project out in the village soon (though I’m using the Cameroonian definition of ‘soon’, which means any time between now and 2010) so, in spite of my incompetence, things are moving along. I think. Tu vois un peu?