So its Friday the 13th. Its interesting how sorcery and mystical belief are such a large part of the culture here, but there is not “day of superstition” in existence, yet. I should explain Friday the 13th to my neighbors when I get back to post. Right now I’m just in the Yao case and its surprisingly quite. Only Agro steering committee and a hommie for medical reasons are here. Most everyone left for lunch after our second day of committee work. Back up.
IST finished great. It flew by fast because our days were scheduled just like training and the evenings were spent exploring Bamenda or socializing with les comrades we haven't seen in three months. Or seen together as a group. Our AGRO group has gone from 19 to 13. The previous group of volunteers was 29 and is now 28, so our group is tres petit. I won’t go into the details of why people have left, but our PM gave us some grandpa speech about how our program is holding the “black flag” since so many people have left our program. Poor move on his part considering he was talking down to the 13 dedicated volunteers who are still in country and missing their friends who chose to leave or had to leave. Their was an apology later, but it was like being talked to as children. As for the IST work, it was beneficial, more so for the PCVs. I think its necessary that the counter parts are there, but some of the topics were just flew over some heads. Like Thomas, my dude. He’s not highly educated. Some sessions were more like college lectures that sometimes droned on. It was all beneficial info, just some long days. Nothing really to complain about. We had great accommodations, beautiful views, our fellow Americans, and got to meet our new American PCMO. Super solid human being from Hawaii. She is the new permanent American PCMO that PC Cameroon has been searching for the past year. We also found out our Country Director will be leaving in July. Our Director of training will be leaving in June. Our PC HQ will be changing locations as well as the Yaounde case by the end of the year. The Agroforestry program no longer exists. It is now the “Environment” program. We were told to choose between the Environment or Agriculture program as the name. Each had their own goals and objectives, but I feel the obviously blend together. You can’t separate the two no matter how good your wording is. I’ll go more into this when I get to steering meeting. Our last day we had a session on what committees you could join. There is a Environmental Education/Food Security, Gender and Youth Development, Youth Task Force, ICT (Tech stuff), and steering committees for every program. The steering committees give the feedback that hopefully help shapes each program and progressively improve its qualities. I’m on steering because they want someone from every region on our committee. Our last sessions were “Best Practices.” Thats where current volunteers come and share their personal stories in the field about what has worked, what didn’t, specific projects, collaboration projects, kinda like what you might read in their blog post.
Other programs peaced out back to post on Sunday, but Agro’s stayed because we had a field trip planned Monday. Id say more than half went to either of the beaches. Especially the people from the grand North. I don’t blame them. They made the long trip down, why not take advantage of already being somewhat in the area to take some mental days before the 2 day trip back to post. Shane and I got our hair plated. Plated is how you say braided in pidgin. Nothing was open Sunday but we had some barber as his homegirl to open up her weave shop to we could get it done. I had some awesome shwarma wrap once mine was done. Oh yea, there was also a club at the hotel we stayed at. Called Club Rocket. It was called that because they tried to make the front of the building look like a rocket. It does, but without the pointy cone at the top. I didn’t to go into the club because I only brought sandals to IST and it wasn’t “club attire.” I don’t think I missed too much. There wernt even mirrors in the club. Maybe thats not an anglophone thing. I also heard people had ringing in their ears the next days during sessions. I was informed that there were people with cameras who would go around and film people dancing and it would be projected on the flat screens in the club, kinda like soul train. But soul train didn’t have the TVs where they were dancing.
One thing, actually two things, I really love about the NW region are the mountains and pidgin. Pidgin is like an undereducated middle schooler speaking some very unique form of slang. I’m very happy to be in francophone, but I think I would enjoy speaking more if it was in Pidgin. Our field trip Monday was to the Nazareth agroforestry center and a mushroom center. The Nazareth place mostly concentrated on raising animals and vegetable gardening. Not too much on agroforestry techniques. They raised chickens (for meat and eggs), rabbits, cane rats, and pigs. Then they also had what I would consider a community garden. They teach people how to grow and then give them their own plot to practice on. It was a fairly small scale operation run by the Catholics. The mushroom place had their work down to a science. We watched a not very informational documentary on their group for 30 minutes and then took part in the whole process of starting mushroom spores. This center is so popular Paul Byia even visited it. They sell a bunch of mushroom related products that claim to do amazing things. Mushroom milk? I dunno what that was about. They also made a delicious mushroom soup before we took the family photo. After arriving back at the hotel I went out into town one last time to see if I could find anything at the frip, the street thrift store. I had some Cameroonian say “whats up my nigger?” Probably because I looked like Shawn Paul. I just laughed because that blew my mind, au Cameroon. I didn’t find any shoes at the right price. I was looking at some Puma high tops from the 80s, but I lowball when bargaining. I think it helps me out though since I shouldn’t be acquiring too many possessions here. Especially since I’m addicted to panya. Anyone ever heard of Settlers of Catan? Wild game. That was played pretty frequently. That night I just talked with the remaining Agros, slept, and left at 6 am the next morning for Yaounde. Got my braids undone in Yao because I couldn’t sleep in them. I broke the rib on the case hoop because I was trying to dunk in HORSE. I got to play ultimate frisbee at the US Embassy that evening which was a trip. We played with the Marines stationed there. We had to turn our cell phones off and leave them in the security building. Go through a medal scanner and get our stuff x rayed at the airport. There was lush green grass and landscaping on the inside. A heated pool. Golf course behind the embassy, not part of it. I didn’t get to see the Marines house, but I hear its just like an American home. They have a dock to receive all their American goods that get imported in. It was a trip being there. That and dinner were the last things I did in Yao before heading back to post. Next morning Bertoua then Batouri. Meep Meep was happy to see me. Since coming back to post I jumped back into my regular routine. Worked more with Thomas on his farm, planning on what he and his team will do during May, and catching up with friends in town.
This past week and a half also went by really fast because I had to be back in Yao for Agro steering committee. Which is where I am now. Upon arriving in the case and having internet I saw an email from TIKI telling everyone I shouldn’t be coming to steering. Once he saw me here there was no issue. His reasoning is the East shouldn’t be represented because I’m in the only Agro in the East. There is also “rule” that each region needs 3 sector members to have a representative. I think its silly and there should be a rep from each region, which there is now. I got grouped with the South region since no one wants to replace the current rep. Business this meeting was about changing from Agroforestry to Environment, discussing FITU (Focus In Training Up), and changing wording so D.C. will like the new program goals and objectives. There was a lot more stuff but I don’t want to get into those details. We reviewed the good, bad, and discussed improvements for PST and IST. How the committee is going to change with the new group of Agros. Developing calendars. We got a security PC Cameroon update from LaHoma, our CD.
Crime is up in Cameroon. There were 15 burglaries in the last year. Some homegirl in the East had her house broken into. But she went to the beach before IST and after, so she was gone for over a month. I haven’t had any issues thank goodness. I’m pretty prudent though, hence the guard cat. Some official from D.C. is coming to visit and talk with volunteers in the West and North West because thats where most of the crime is at. Talk with them to make sure they are “feeling” safe. Its gotta be so hard to be Country Director. I can understand why she's ready to leave in July. I can only pray the next CD is as solid as this one. I’m getting a local painter to make these Solid Human Award signs for LaHoma and Kim before they depart from PC Cameroon. While I’ve got the internet I’m getting seeds sent to me from Trees for Life and ECHO. I also tried signing up on couchsurfing.org but you need to pay and I have no US bank accounts. OH. PC Mali closed down. Don’t know why? Google it. The current volunteers have the choice to go home or find other African countries that can take them in. We are going to take some in, I dunno how many. I dunno what I’m gonna do with the rest of my day here in Yao. A lot of volunteers are going to Hilton happy hour. Its a bar on the top floor of the hotel so you get an amazing view of Yaounde, but 5.000 for 2 drinks. Its 5.000 for me to get from Yao to Bertoua. I got my hair cut and bear trimmed so my PM will stop calling me Osama. I think I looked pretty hood with a scarf wrap and sun glasses. I’m gonna go walk around Yaounde for a bit and then probably come back and read. Nothing exciting. Oh, this is also my first time to stay in the case room that has A/C. I havent slept under a blanket in months. Maybe a bed sheet a couple of times but never a blanket since I’ve been in country.
24 more days until I head back to the U.S. Thats going to be a mind trip going and coming back. Just traveling to a developed area of Cameroon is a trip being away from Batouri. Paved roads or sidewalks. George foreman grills. I can’t wait to be home but I’m wondering what its going to be like once I get back. I’ll worry about that when it happens. I got some awesome mail from friends : ) Thank you again. Letters are en route so give it 3 weeks or a month.
Google “Moon Tiger” insecticide. Actually, it doesn’t come up. Just some score card for a safety rating on Moon Tiger mosquito coils. Moon Tiger is a company that makes an insecticide spray here and is probably illegal in multiple countries. Some volunteers get a bad headache or other reaction after they spray and inhale it. It kills the nervous system of whatever you spray it on, which doesn’t happen slowly. So you spray a cockroach and it usually creeps off and dies somewhere else. Now Meep just kills the cockroaches. I wish I had a can with me so I could write down the chemicals in it, but its terrible stuff. Another random thing, last week when I was walking around town I had some guy come up to me and try to sell a “diamond” which was a chunk of quartz. I offered him a dollar (500 CFA) but no game. My only plans until I leave the country are work with Thomas, help him recruit more people for his GIC, and get seeds. I’m out for a walk now. Peace out mes amies. Nous sommes ensamble.