Well, I done did it again. I have not put an entry in almost a month. I’m at the case in Yaounde and its surprisingly quite. Usually there is atleast a dozen people here passing through, doing committee work, or visiting the PCMO. There is actually SED steering going on, but they’re in their meeting right now until 3. Why am I here? Because I’m going to be back on American soil in A WEEK. It still has not hit me yet. I’m going back home for my sister’s graduation, and of course to relax with my dearly missed loved ones.
Getting here wasn’t bad at all. From Batouri and Bertoua I took the first buses out and neither broke down. There were plenty of stops along the way to pick people up. I had 2 chicken at my feet from Batouri. One of which pooped on my bag. C’est la vie. I got my signs all the way here without any damage and LaHomma and Kim loved them. LaHomma is our Country Director and Kim is the Director of all 5 programs. Both of these amazing humans will be leaving us in June which is a real bummer. I hope whoever replaces them can fill their shoes. I’ve only known them for 8 months and had a few conversations, but these are the humans that make things happen and do it well. I have pictures of these signs on my fb. I actually almost forgot the signs on the bus in Bertoua because right when I arrived I got a text from my post mate saying she couldn’t find where I left my keys. I hid them in my yard so she could check on my house periodically when I’m gone. This consumed my mind and by the time I got to the Bert case I realized what I left behind. I rushed back to the agance and they were still there, thank God. The dude who works for Alliance said someone tried to steal them, but he knew it belonged to the one white guy on the bus. I did my banking in Bertoua just to get it over with before I came to Yao. I take out as much money as I can from my bank. I don’t trust it in there because of corrupt reputation this country has. Banking is interesting here.
I don’t think I’ve shared my experiences with my bank yet so I will now. I bank with BISEC. PC gave all of us a list of “acceptable” banks to use for our 2 years here. My bank doesn’t post it hours? But I found out from speaking with the guards out front that they are from from 8:30-12 and then 2-5. I was there at 7:45 after eating breakfast so I just decided to read so I would be at the front of the line to get in. Front of the line because once the bank opens everyone rushes to the 2 only tellers to take care of their business. During that time people slowly started showing up, and by 8:20 there were about 30 people waiting outside the doors. The bank opened late, like 9:10. This hasn’t happened to me before, but schedules don’t really exist in Cameroon. When the other guard inside comes to the door to start unlocking everything everyone swarms to the door. Luckily I was still in front. People will try to weasel their way to the front, and more often then not Cameroonians don’t care. But I do. “Que faites-vous?! Respecter la ligne!” The more French I learn and the more I’m in country the sassier I have become, but it really is necessary here. People speak loud and emotionally. Its just how it goes. I could go to the ATM, but it only gives the largest bills 5.000 and 10.000. Those are hard for me to break in Batouri and also perpetuates that I’m a rich white man in Cameroon. This is why I go inside and specify what bills I want. Once I’m processed all I get is 10’s and 5’s. I ask where the smaller bills are and he says they don’t have the money. Don’t have the money?! Your a bank. But this is Cameroon. Thats how it goes, c’est la vie. The bank is the closest thing to nice here besides the embassy. I always go to the bank in frip (used) clothes and look disheveled. I’ve heard of other volunteers getting robbed right when they leave the bank. Besides that tatic I always walk to the bank and then drop all the money off at the case right after. There’s also a TV in the bank and people in line make noises like “aye, oy”, and click their mouth after a disappointing story about some other African country with problems. Right now it seems like theres a lot going down in Africa. One time at the bank there was this mama right up on me from behind while we were waiting in line. Like both breast on the shoulder blades, so I broke wind. Didn’t even phase her. I have checks here that I haven’t picked up yet because I know it would be about a 2 hour activity to get something simple like that. Customer service also really doesn’t exist at the bank. When I banked in America it seemed like all the tellers were on Zoloft. Everyone happy to take or give you your money. Not here. Straight faces. Theres also a lot more protection in the banks here. Guards inside. Gendarmes outside with guns. There is a guy who stands by the door to slide up and down the gate when you enter or leave. Banking can take a long time, so if you ever find yourself complaining about your bank in America just be happy your not banking in Africa. I’m sure if your a person with tons of money you get the proper treatment, but for the most part its comme ca.
So I left for the bus at 5 am Thursday to make sure I got a ticket and didn’t have to wait in line. Waiting in line at a bus agance is even worse. People cut every time and people rarely say anything. The last time I waited to buy a ticket from Bertoua to Batouri I was in line for an hour and a half and got the second to last ticket for that bus. The bus I took this time to YAO was the VIP bus. Air conditioning, didn’t work, a bathroom, unusable, but the seats were comfy. They also have a TV playing music videos the whole 6 hour drive. I finally got to see the videos to the music I hear blaring outside my house in Batouri. I slept most the way except with Stephanie woke me up for an ID check. The gendarme stops buses to make sure everyone has an ID. They breeze through the Cameroonians with IDs and scrutinize the white people who have IDs. Thats how its been for my post mates and I. They also make stops so people can drain the main vain, women too. I forgot to mention Stephanie, my post mate, came with me to YAO to see the PCMO.
We arrived around 2 at the PC HQ. I took care of most of my business to get ready to leave for the states. Get my WHO card so they know I don’t have diseases, my no fee passport, my drivers license so I can drive a car back home. Which I haven
t done in 8 months. Dropped off reimbursement forms, checked for mail, and gave the signs to Kim and LaHomma. They liked the gesture. Cleaned up, ate dinz, and then copied some movies from other people hard drives. Its amazing how many movies/videos/music are available and get swapped between PCVs. One girl has the Billboard top 100 music from 1950-2004.
Now it is friday morning and feels tres comfortable. Its just 4 other humans and me in the case. I’m going to miss the East regional meeting on the 5th, which is in Bertoua. Plans for today? I’m gonna write letters, finish this post, complete my VRF, and probably go on a stroll through Yaounde. VRF is volunteer report form. Every volunteer has to fill out a very lengthy electronic report about what they have done the last 3 months and what they plan to do the next. Its very in depth. We learned all about it at IST. I would prefer that over the paper version that was phased out last year.
I’ll be reporting mostly on the last month which was real busy for me. Preparing everything before I leave for a month. Thomas Marie (my CP) is a solid hard working human being. I’ve said it before, but that dude does not fit the mold of your typical Cameroonian. I hope to return to most of the TODO list check off we came up with at our last meeting. All of this reporting goes to PC Cam HQ then PC Washington, and finally the government to evaluate the process and productivity of the PC program.
Whats new/changed for me at post. MEEP MEEP (my cat) is growing and becoming more of an outside cat. She sometimes gets in fights with another cat who lives at a boutique down the road. One day they were fighting on the metal bars that cover the windows. My neighbors grabbed my cat and I told them through the window it was mine, so what do they do? Chunk it over the fence into my yard. She uses one side of my sink as a litter box which I’m cool with. I wouldn’t even mind cleaning it up off the floor since its all concrete, but I’m happy she uses the sink. I also got a monkey. I don’t know the species or genus but I have a hommie PCV who is great at identifying animals. I got him from Esperance, one of the institutions I work with. I’ve been to Esperance multiple times and never knew they had a monkey, but the last time I was there pere Gaston pointed him out and asked if I wanted him. This monkey was in poopy living conditions. He was tied to a small twisted rope in a cage that most people would keep a small rabbit in. Pere Gaston said they have had him for over 2 years. After seeing all this I said I would love to take him. His name is Africa. He’s pretty docile. He wasn’t so docile on the trip to my house, but I feel he's much happier in my front yard. When I’m in the US I’m going to get him a harness and one of those running zip lines for dogs for him so he can move around more and get into the trees. You know those zip lines for dogs who need exercise, but can be trusted to stay in the yard? Comme ca. MEEP MEEP hasn’t warmed up to Africa yet. Africa doesn't really care about MEEP. He acknowledges the creature but doesn’t really care. He actually presented his butt towards MEEP the first time they met. There are pictures on FB of that first encounter. He also pooped all over the crib when MEEP was around, so those two won’t be in the house together again. MEEP gets close to him when he’s outside to investigate. I feel after 2 years they will warm up. J'espère que. My house still has a leak in the roof in my back room. Rainy season has started and we’ve had some awesome storms. With the tin roofs it gets so loud I can barley hear anything. But its just starting, I hear its going to become stronger more frequently. That also means power will be out more often. I will see the flash of lightning and then the powers out. I like it when the powers out because its quite except for the few electronic shops that have generators going. There are also the huge stadium lighting that comes from STBK, the logging company because they have huge CAT generators. It takes away from being able to see the stars clearly. Speaking of power being out, I went out to eat dinner one night when the power was out and there was an important soccer game going on. I don’t follow it much but I guess it was the finals. There were literally 30 people outside about 5 different electronic shops that had generators watching the game. Thats love for the sport, and the excitement that exploded after a great move. People running in the street cheering. That was a groovy first experience. I don’t know the teams that were playing.
Radom note. Stephanie just reported that the Yaounde “dermatologist” diagnosed her and said she is allergic to the sun. Seems weird, but she has to completely cover her body with clothes for the rest of service which will be quite uncomfortable with how hot and humid Batouri is. She is also get 5 blood test done.
I finished two books. It seems I always says the books I read were great and I highly recommend them, but it continues with these two. Deep Survival is a great book about what goes on neurologically to make a person survive. Very well written with collection of great survival stories. I just finished my other book on the way over here called Zeitoun. Just read the wiki summary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeitoun_(book). Reading this book really took me back to how terrible Hurricane Katrina was handled, but to read the personal experience of this man and his was eye opening. Out of all the books I have recommended to read. Read this one FIRST. I also just read that it will be a movie in 2014 which I hope is truthful. I started a book in training called Two Ears of Corn but didn’t finish, but my loving family sent it to me in a care package:) Most AGRO post already have the book at their post but I’m opening one and a health volunteer was there before me. It was written in the 80s, but its spot on for the topic of agriculture development in developing countries. Hopefully I’ll finish that on the trip home. I have a hommie from the South coming in today. There’s also some cinco de drinko party going down in the East. Glad to be missing that.
Oh, this past month my post mates and I also made soy and soy milk, both of which didn’t come out too well. The soy wasn’t solid, but it still tasted great. The milk was just bad. I think there was too much water in the mix. I added cinnamon to it thinking it might make it a little better, but it just tasted like crappy lemonade. I still drank it all because I dislike wasting. But like scientist do, experiment. I’ve got to get it down pat before Thomas and I start giving animations on how to plant it, processes it, and eventually use it as an IGA. It will hopefully also help with the malnutrition problem in Batouri.
Another random note. You know Eddie Murphy has a song, #7, on Billboard’s top 100 for 1986. L'année je suis né. I never knew that dude made jams. He should stick to movies and standup. Another interesting song New kids on the block - This one’s for the children. If you want my body and you think I’m sexy, come on let me know! Anyone know that song. I love but don’t know the artist or name of the song.
I should have put this at the beginning of the post, but when I left Batouri it was the Fait du travail. It’s like labor day here, but they still celebrate the same as other faits. Its done at the place de fait. The put down the white walking lines. Companies get T-shirts made and march with signs representing their business. Comme many all the other faits everyone gets drunk to celebrate. By the time I arrived in Bertoua I already missed their march but saw everyone with their tshirts. People still work, but the hours just change. Nothing changed for me when I took the first bus out. I also forgot to mention how terrible the roads are getting. I met the cheif at the depart of transportation, he liked my homemade wine. He told him it will help him get his member up. He was already a couple beers in. His job is to maintain the road between Bertoua and Batouri. I asked him if they ever level it out and he said they do it only once a year and in June. I hope thats true especially since the rainy season has started. The trip to Bertoua gets a little longer every time, but the plants next to the road are now green and flourishing again because of the rain. I also see at least one overturned logging truck or other vehicle because they drive crazy down a crappy road. I’ve said this before. People drive crazy here, but its kinda like the chaos theory. There is harmony in the chaos. Definitely not all the time. For example, in Yaounde with all the taxi drivers. They are quite skilled at getting very close to each other without hitting, but the evidence there from scratches on the cars.
One more random note before I wrap this up that I forgot to mention when I talked about women’s day. On the panya they had 2035 written as they day of success? I dunno. When Cameroon will become something so much better. I don’t know why they picked that year, but I have a hypothesis. I think Paul Byia just decided to pick a year that is so far ahead he doesn’t have to worry about actually meeting that goal. He’ll be dead or replaced before that time. Good political move. I hope Cameroon is a better place come 2035, but thats 23 years away. Imagine what Africa will be like 23 years from now, not to mention the world, but so much is going on this continent. For those Americans on the 24 hour news cycle I’m sure your seeing all the change. I rarely watch TV or see one in Batouri, so seeing the news is a trip.
I just got two packages from 2 SUPER solid humans! Thank you Ralf and Kyle. Made my Friday like you can’t comprehend: ) It’s 1 now and I’m gonna get some ef double oh dee and do the rest of my stuff today. Du courage mes amies. A la prochaine.