Thats What She Said

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

Back To Life July 15, 2008

Filed under: *Daily — thats what she said @ 12:36 am

I’m finally headed back to post today after way too long in Yaounde, armed with lots of new work ideas and a free knitting pattern I printed off the internet for a small stuffed hippo. If that’s not a recipe for success, I don’t know what is. Leaving Yaounde means saying good-bye to hot showers and readily available cheese, but also to soul sucking traffic and my need to spend money on any thing that will hold still long enough for me to negotiate a price. So, all and all, it’s good to be headed back to village.

I’m realizing that summer is a weird time in village–just because so many people are gone. Ngoulemakong is a medium-sized town (about 4000 people in the village proper) but it’s located on a paved road between to big cities, so it is a curious mix of urban and rural. This means that in the summer people apparently leave both to go au village and to look for work in the bigger cities, pretty much leaving me, my neighbors cat, and the 7 drunk men who call me ‘ma cherie’  as the total remaining population. And that means…lots of time for planning! Or it probably should. I’m hoping to begin being incredibly successful (both as a volunteer and as a human) sometime in the next 4 1/2 months, so I should probably start planning for that now.

I also have a birthday coming up–which I was excited about, because Cameroonians can drink beer like nobody’s business–but did you know that here, it’s the Birthday Girl’s job to buy beers for everyone else? Quoi? What the coconut kind of rule is that? So August 5th will probably find me holed up in my house, hugging beer bottles to my chest and mumbling incoherently–only not in a depressing sort of way.

Ok–apparently 16 college students from Ohio are coming to the office in 30 min to hear our wise words on the Peace Corps, and how it can change your life, or at least your bathing habits. And then, its au revoir, big city, and bon soir Kim’s porch. (It’s been nearly ten months, and I’m still both unsure of how to say ‘porch’ in French, and too lazy to look it up–operation Successful Human, look out!)

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Summer Time And The Living Is Easy July 12, 2008

Filed under: *Daily — thats what she said @ 2:00 am

I thought I should do a follow up to that last post, since it was written in May, posted in June, and now it’s July. Really, the fact that it took me a day to conceive of that post, and then a month and a half to get the internet to work remains a fairly good metaphor for my life here, but for some reason I find that less stressful now than I did a couple weeks ago.

So, I’ll start with work: first, I’ve given up on girls. I’m sure they’ll figure everything out on their own, and really, I haven’t been a ‘girl’ since 1993, so what the hell do I know about it at this point anyway? What am I going to tell them—that if their body suits perfectly match their scrunchies they might have a chance with Joey McIntyre?  Hardly the type of advice they need. So, I’ll leave the young girls of Ngoulemakong to their own devices—at least until September, when I’ll probably try again, because I’m just that naive. Or maybe just that stupid. Or, maybe just that bored. It’s hard to know at this point.

Second, I’ve replaced the hole left in my heart by adolescent females with soy. (That’s a really strange sentence. And yet, I totally mean it.) I’ve been working with another volunteer who lives about 45 kilometers from me, near our provincial capital of Ebolowa. Have I talked about her before? Maybe only in letters…anyway, I call her Legs, because it’s similar to her last name and because I like the idea of calling someone ‘Legs’. It makes me feel like I’m one of the cast members of Mash, although admittedly it doesn’t have quite the same ring as Hot Lips Houlihan.

Legs and I have been giving formations (you Anglophones out there would call them ‘presentations’ but that is so much less pretentious than ‘formation’) on the magic of soy to various groups, and then planting it wherever the people are willing. Mostly they are willing, because the truth is that soy is pretty magical. Anyone who comes to visit me will get to hear why. Ohh!! Talk about incentives! After we harvest (towards the end of this month) we will give another formation on how to incorporate soy into some typical Cameroonian meals. Then, because we live in a tropical paradise chock full of not one but two growing seasons, we’ll repeat the whole process in September. Hopefully we will have gained all sorts of soy ‘fans’ after they witness what is sure to be our glowing success with the first crop.

I will also be attending a workshop in Yaounde with one of the nurses at my hospital next month. (This will be just one in a string a multi-day meetings I will have the pleasure of taking part in, because even if the Peace Corps is run by hippies, they are the kind of hippies who work for the United States government, and therefore live and die by committee.) Elisabet (the nurse) and I will be going to a workshop to discuss ways to improve Maternal and Child Healthcare. Most women in my village don’t come to the hospital to give birth, for a variety of reasons. (The hospital is under staffed, the moto-ride can be expensive—can we just collectively take a second to ponder the idea of taking a moto to the hospital to give birth to another human?—patients are required to provide all their own meals and linens during their stay, and the birth itself is expensive for most women.) I haven’t been to the workshop yet, but as far as I know, it’s based on a program that already exists in Guinea, and the idea is to give training to the traditional midwives who live and work in village, as well as a place at the hospital where they can practice. This way the mothers are assured that there will be someone at the hospital, and that it will be someone they can trust. The program also includes price incentives for the mothers—each pre-natal consultation they come to gives them a certain amount of money off of the price of the birth. I’m pretty interested in the whole thing and I think it could be very beneficial in my village. I go the pre-natal consultations every Tuesday (where I do more formations on nutrition and AIDS testing, etc) and even though there are usually at least 15 women there every week (which means something like 60 women coming in every month) less then 10 women actually give birth at the hospital every month. Hopefully we can improve those numbers.

Two Weeks Later…

Ok, so it turns out the Maternal and Child Health thing was nothing like I described, mostly because I’m dumb. I described some other program, that, while marvelous, I will not be attempting. But, I will be attempting something, don’t you worry. Alas, I think I’m allergic to Yaounde (the moment I got here I caught a cold, which I am not allowed to complain about in a country where thousands of children are dying of malaria—although, can I just ask, who gets a cold in the tropics?) so I’m not going to describe the other program to you. A great loss to the blogoshpere, I know. 

Someday I will go back to my village and reading on my porch, but for now it’s all Sex and City marathons and meals composed entirely of cheese here in the The Roon. Sniff Sniff.