Sunday, November 4, 2007

By a landslide

Last week, or more like two weeks ago, there was a huge landslide just about a kilometer outside oe K├ękem. It completely swept away the highway that serves as the main route between Douala and Bafoussam, but it took down 7 houses and one elderly lady was killed. It is towards the end of the rainy season and landslides, although not of this magnitude, are common. In order for me to get to Bafang to check email I have to get out of the bush taxi and hike through mud for a good 100 meters and then get another taxi on the other side. Yet the entreprenuerial spirit here is alive and well. Within a day there were young guys renting out big rubber boots so people could cross without getting their shoes dirty and others who you can hire to carry your stuff so that you can cross easier. It is slowly clearing up to where they can make a path for motos to gt through, but the process will be slow.
After this incident I was at the bank a couple of days later and a man who is a "grand mutualiste" came into the bank and started talking to me about it as everyone did. Then I was surprised and a little confused as he started to tell me that it happened due to some connection with a four-headed snake that someone spotted on the same hill the next day! This man is a highly educated school administrator so I was shocked that he'd actually believe this, but beliefs in sorecrey and magic are all still very prevalent. Even watching T.V. I will see things about people killed by scorcery and the like.
Well, as for me all is well. I started teaching english, as I think I mentioned, and it is challenging but I enjoy it. The kids' (47 of them!) ages range from 11-16 and their levels all vary dramatically which makes it difficult, but I enjoy going and trying to teach them something. I do not have very much time today, but I wanted to drop a quick note to let you all know that I am alive and well.
Best!
autumn

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

"Its getting better all the time..."


So that last posting was a bit depressed. These ups and downs are normal though. I am feeling much better now that I have officially reached my second month of service. I thought I would just write a follow-up to that last post to let ya'll know that things are going well.

I thought maybe I would talk a little bit about the work I am doing. Things have started off slow as I am learning how exactly the bank functions and getting to know people, but I have identified what some of the major problems are and am starting the planification to help out. Firstly the bank doesn't have enough members to create a large enough base of savings money that the bank can then use to give out as credit. So, we are going to start doing sensibilisation to encourage savings and membership with the MFI. Also there are too many people who don't pay their loans back so we are helping out with the management of credit portfolios and I want to start making everyone turn in a budget with their request and I plan to help people who are taking out larger loans for big projects do feasibility studies. This all sounds well and good but the execution is always a lot harder than coming up with the idea.

Another big problem is that there are fees that one has to pay in order to become a member of the bank and therefore take out a loan. Kekem and the surrounding villages are quite poor and the thought of dishing out a large sum of money, even though it is more like buying shares and remains that persons money, is not possible or too daunting. So, I want to implement a program that another volunteer did a while back in their town where people can pay the fees and start-up costs little by little. Also hiring a motodriver to go out to these remote places and collect the money so that people don't have to take the extra time or pay the extra money to travel to the bank.

What I really want to do and am starting to set up for is do an after school program at the high school for teaching basic life skills and business, such as budgeting, setting goals, making action plans, etc. A kind of Junior Achievement Program. I really want to work with young people and am starting to teach english at one of the other schools (but only for a couple hours a week) which should help me make some more contacts in that area.

I figure the best way to feel better is to get as busy as possible so that I don't have time to throw myself pity parties. Hope this post finds everyone well and I miss you all!

If anyone has any ideas or has read something that they think is interesting and/or applicable please let me know and send it my way!

bye
autumn

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's a good thing you can do hard things


The first month has come to an end. I'll tell you what, it hasn't exactly been a picnic. Actually this has probably been the second hardest time of my life that I have ever had to weather through. The honeymoon period has come to an end and all of those things that I at first found so charming and wonderful have turned annoying and inhibiting. The culture, the language, and most of all the feeling of isolation has been difficult. It is not easy, I have found, being different. I feel like I can't leave my house without being constantly harassed or just stared at. People constantly want something from me, or think that because I am white I can some how magically fix their problems, which is a lot of pressure!! Over the last month I have wondered why in the world I would have ever willing decided to leave the United States, or the developed world in general to come to a place where I don't speak the language, people behave towards eachother so strangely and I live alone with lizards, cockroaches and spiders.

After one whine session to my mom, I got ready for bed and realized how slow time seemed to be going. How my two years here seemed to stretch out into an eternity. I then realized how it was the end of september but the weather wasn't changing and I was again saddened as I realized that I would miss the changing of the seasons as I was used to. I also realized that perhaps that is a reason while time seems to crawl, because the way I gauge the passage of time is through season change. That night I looked out my window and the moon was really full and it painted all of the sugar cane, corn and trees in my backyard silver. My first thought is that it looked like a frost of the first dusting of snow and for a second I felt chilly winter air come through the window. I smile and this made me feel a lot better.

Living here has made me realize just how much our culture effects everything about the way we think, behave, and interpret the world around us.Especially as I try to work, I see how Cameroonians view time very differently than me. I think in the U.S. we see time as some kind of enemy that we have to constantly be on our guard against. We try to trick time, manipulate it so that it is lengthened or shortened to fit our needs. Here in Cameroon time is like an old companion that has been around so long you almost forget that they are there. But that you just hang out with and let it do its thing. There really isn't a concept of something not going fast enough, everthing just goes the pace that it goes. I think that in the zworkplace this has been part of my frustration as I try to make timelines, action plans and schedules. I just don't think they translate in the same way.

Another interesting observation. I have noticed that when talking about Cameroonians about their culture they always refer to it as "African" and not specifically Cameroonian. My counterpart says "this is how it is done in Africa" or "this is the African hospitality" but very rarely have I heard people talk about themselves or their culture in the context of just Cameroonian. Although I often do hear people saying mean things about the Nigerians, most people refer to all of the rest of Africa as their brother or sisters and there is definetly this sense of connection or pan-africanism in the way that they identify themselves, as Africans before Cameroonians.

So I have learned that trying to get immersed in another culture is very difficult. I am not sure that I will ever fully integrate or feel like a part of the people in my village. I feel like there is this constant wall between me and them. Like I will always be this outsider who is to be treated differently. But, when I walk to work in the mornings and I pass an older woman on the street I can say "Bonjour Maman" or "Bonjour la mere" (Good morning mother) and she will reply "Bonjour ma fille" (Good Morning my daughter, or my girl) as is custom, and then I feel a little bit apart of the larger family that seems to connect everyone else but leave me out.

So it is definetly difficult. But when I wonder how effective I can ever be or what the crap I am doing here living in conditions that are just plain hard I think of what my sister Ariel says to me. Whenever I would whine that "this paper I am writing is HARD" or something is hard she always says back "Well its a good thing you can do hard things."

Monday, August 27, 2007

La Femme de Kekem


So, training is finally over and I have arrived in Kekem. Luckily I found my house in working order, unlike some other volunteers who have to wait for theirs to be finished. The first couple of days have been strange as I try to adjust to the idea that this will be my home for the next two years! I am glad to have a place of my own where I can go home to and to be able to cook my own food, but I am not sure that I am going to like living alone. I guess I will learn to like it! I have a great three bedroom house with a large sideyard which includes; A guava tree, sugar cane, corn, lemon grass, aleo vera plants, and an asortement of herbs like Basil. Until yesterday it also included chickens, pigs and a dog, but the landlord took those away.
Yesterday also marked the day where I saw the largest spider in my life! It was as big as my outstreched hand. Good thing the landlords sons where around to kill it for me! They thought it was pretty funny when I screamed...but dang that thing was huge!!!!
Life in Kekem is going to be good. Nieghbor kids have been coming over, knocking on my gate and when I open the door they just stare at me. I think that I am quite the novelty. I gave them some candy and told them to stop deranging me and that I was going to be here for a while and that they would be seeing me on a regular basis and after that they seemed to lose some of their interest.
I am in Nkongsamba right now (Kekem doesnt have internet) and I just went through the long and painful process of opening up a bank account.It takes forever, and the guy helping us out ened up buying us a coke and just started chillin with us in his office, that was a first! When your banker buys you a coke you know you're a valued customer. lol.
Well, I dont have much time, so I am going to sign off. Wishing everyone the best!
Bisous
Autumn

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

La Chefferie

This happened a while back, but I forgot to tell you all about my visit to the Chefferie! It was a very interesting experience. Firstly, our training director told us that we were going to go visit the chefferie of Bangangte to thank him for his hospitality during our stay here. So we all pitched money in and bought him several large bags of rice and headed over to the chefferie. We crammed into a small concrete room with a brightly painted ceiling and waiting while the Chefs secretary gave us a little breifing. Finally, the cheif arrived and we all stood up and at the same time we clapped our hands twice, bowed and said "Bello", I have no idea what Bello means it was just what we had to say. Then after that we all stood up one by one and clapped our hands, said Bello and introduced ourselves. I know that it is immature and culturally insensitive, but I couldn't help but giggle to myself at all of us Americans bowing to this cheif and saying Bello. The chief then proceeded to give us his family history. He told us he had 21 wives and "60-something" children (like he wasn't even sure) then he proceeded to tell us that he wants more wives and how he is open to a wife of any race or nationality and proceeded to give the invite. I thought, "Shoot if I didn't have this Peace Corps thing going I would be on that offer like a fat man on a twinky"....not!! Who the crap wants to be some guys 22nd wife!!!?? Then after he left the secretary started lobbying for him and telling us how great it would be to marry the chef. After the chief left we went into another room which was like a mini-museum with all of the chefferie's history. There was a chair in one corner that he said that if anyone but the chef sat in it that they would experience a horrible death. it was tempting, but I refrained from going over and sitting in it.

The chief is a community leader that doesn't techinically have any real administrative power, but he has a lot of power in the community and because of that he works with the official officals. He has kind of a spiritual leadership and I believe that he is so wealthy from a kind of community endownment. He studied in Europe and the US and decided to become cheif after he had had a different job and recieved a vast education. He told us that the community needed him so he came back. People come to him as a kind of parallel justice system as well, although I am not sure how it works exactly.

Well, it was interesting if very foriegn to me. All is well, one week of training left!! Ekks! I am very excited though. Hope all is well aux Etats-Unis!!
Autumn

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Le village de Kekem


So, I spent a week visiting the little village where I will be spending the next two years of my life!

The communication was hard, although my French has improved, because their accents are different and some would switch into the local language (Bafang) and I couldn’t understand anything or even know where their French ended and the Bafang began. I will also be the first volunteer in this town so I worry about what kind of expectations they have for me. A couple of people asked me, “Qu’est-ce que vous allez apporter?” Or “What is it that you will bring?” (Or, more accurately, in Cameroonian French it is “Vous apportez quoi?”) I think many assume that with me comes money and that is just not true. So, by the end of my visit I ended up just smiling and saying “Juste Moi” or “Le Connaissance” (knowledge) even though I don’t know how true that is.

The town is small. It consists of one main paved road where all of the bush taxis and trucks come through on their way to or from Bafoussam and Douala. Also, it is definetly more tropical then Bangangte, which is up in the mountains, and therefore hotter. I was able to look at my house that I will be living in, which was nice! Although, I do have pigs. I told the guy I didn’t know anything about raising pigs and he told me he would try to get rid of them before I arrived, but I guess I will see. I may have to learn how to take care of pigs. Swweeeet!

After my stay in Kekem I went down to Nkongsamba which a big city about an hour south of Kekem where I met up with some other volunteers and got to eat cheese (Yipee!) and I got my first bad bout of food poisoning (Not so yippee).

By the time I arrived back in Bangangte after a three hour trip in a “bush-taxi” or a van for 12 with 18 people squeezed in it, and a moto ride I was excited to be “home” in Bangangte where my homestay family came out all excited and gave me big hugs. I have come to really like Bangangte. There are only 2 more weeks of training left and Bangangte has become a little haven (no relation to my sister, who should call me!!:) for me. I know the names of the people who work at the boutiques next to the training center and I have made friends with the employees of my assigned company and the thought of starting all over again sans my American support system that I have now makes me a little nervous. I just need to remind myself that after some time in Kekem I will feel the same way about it. There is a lot of work to do in Kekem and I am really excited to get started, but at the same time I am scared out of my mind!

I also have a bit of an interesting side note. A couple of days ago I saw a different side of cameroon. Firstly, it all began as I was watching T.V. over breakfast and these people on the news were wailing and accusing this woman of using witchcraft to kill some other women’s baby and make another man sick. The newsman went to several sick people around the town and they all vehemently swore that the lady was using witchcraft to make the people in the town sick. The poor woman, who did indeed look strange as the gendarmes were pulling her away, was being blamed for misc. maladies around the town and probably just because she was weird! I asked my host mom if she actually believed in witchcraft. She assured me that she didn’t, but then five minutes later said, “You don’t have this kind of thing in the U.S. but there is a lot of it here and it scares me.”

Additionally, later in the week I was visiting my assigned company, just chatting with them and one of the guys who works at a store across the way came over and we started chatting. He was young, probably mid-20s, and was at university in Douala. About an hour later this man came hobbling up to our store with about 4 pieces of bark in his hand and started to tell us how it could cure malaria and all sorts of other diverse maladies. To my surprise the guy I was talking with started acting really interested and asking all of these questions. The man selling it explained how to administer it and to my surprise the young guy paid him a pretty good chunk of money for it! And then he started EATING IT! I asked him how he knew it was going to help him, and how he was sure that he wasn’t eating the tree next door and he started to vehemently defend this “natural remedy” even though there was no way that he could know where the man who sold it got it from. Also, the man who sold it to him had a limp! It is amazing to me how so much of the superstitions and beliefs in witchcraft are still so prevalent here in Cameroon and even among the young and educated.

Interesting stuff and tons of good times. The rainy season is starting to really get under way, so by november I should have webbed feet.

Anyways, I will eventually get pictures up here before I leave the land of the internet. I miss you all and hope that you are doing well!

If you want to see some pictures of our training group and the town I am staying in right now you can go to www.39strangers.com

Bisous!
Autumn Brown

Friday, July 13, 2007

Kekem


Howdy All!
I apologize for the long silence. Life has been very busy over the last couple of weeks! I write because today I recieved my placement, aka the place I will be living for the next two years! It is in Kekem in the West province, it is a pretty small town and I am going to be working with a small local microfinance institution there. Next week I leave to go and visit the town, which makes me pretty nervous but I am sure that it will be fine.
The west province is the most developed part of cameroon and there are a lot of volunteers in the neighboring towns, which will be great for me not only to have a support network when I really need an American to talk to, but also for networking purposes as we start with our various projects.
Last weekend me and a friend made a trip to Bafossam (which a trainer called the Chicago of Cameroon) but it was like no other city I have ever been to. It was bustling and busy, I almost got run over about twenty times. But we found a supermarche where they had what seemed to me all the heavenly products in the world, like corn flakes and shampoo!!
Also in Bafossam we noticed a naked man just walking down the center of the street, now this wasn,t as strange to me as the fact that no one else seemed to even notice him! Ooh, but we also saw a cinema which was exciting!
Anyways I am out of time....stay tuned there is more to come later!
I miss you all and am wishing you the best,
Autumn

Monday, June 25, 2007

Quelque Chose Interessant

Today it really started. Each of the Small Enterprise Development (SED) Volunteers was assigned a small local business to pretty much consult. I met with them today and looked at their store. I am pretty scared to tell the truth. My french is not good! So they will start telling me about their accounts and the like and I won't really understand what they are talking about. I know that they don't expect me to turn them into Bill Gates or anything, but still I am really feeling the pressure of it all. Which is a good thing I guess.

Anyways, thus far my days are broken into segements of classes. I have language classes, technical classes , and cross-cultural communication classes. I find the X-Cultural classes especially interesting. The other day we had a conversation about Gender roles in Cameroon. Before we came and during our orientation in Yaounde we were told over and over again about the male-dominated culture that exists here in Cameroon. In my host family and while observing the social attitudes I have seen this. The men and women are definetly constrained to their perspective roles (for the most part, I can't say that for ALL Cameroonians). We were also told that as a women we may have hard time being taken seriously and respected in our workplaces. We did a little exercise taht taught me a lot about how women are viewed in Cameroon and/compared to how women are viewed in the U.S.

Our teacher broke us up into four groups all the American men in one group, the American women in another group, the Cameroonian men and the Cameroonian women. We all went to our respective flip charts. We were told to write the words th at come to our mind when we think of the word 'Woman'
This is what we all wrote (punctuation the same as well)

American Men:
legs!!!
feminism
smells good
manipulation
harder life
little feet
bra....lol
Victoria Secret
smile
strong
athletics
emotional

American Women:
the song "American Woman"
strong
organized
independent
undervalued
self-sufficent
liberated
mother
multi-tasking
tough
caretaker
friend
sexual object
vulnerable

Cameroonian Men:
Maternity/child bearing
beauty (physical)
sensitive
weak
tender
domestic chores
kitchen
sex(#1)
patient
respect
submissive
crying
faithfulness
artifical
demanding
materialistic

Cameroonian Female:
mother
beauty/elegance
education
protector
sensitive
fragile
maternelle
manager of the house
attentive
lots of babies
ambitious
feminist
shapes the childrens future

Okay, they wrote the last one in french so something might be lost in translation. But, you get the general idea. This is very interesting to me and disappointing at the same time. Look what the American men wrote! These are all educated and fairly mature men and they wrote about almost entirely sexual things and they said that they were tring to be politically correct! The only sexual thing that the Cameroonian men put on theirs was the word SEX. Alos intersting is the firs thing that they put was child bearing as where the american men put legs!
American women obviously think of themselves as very liberated but obviously the men don't seen to really think so. I think that it is interesting how the Cameroonian men and women have almost the same woman in mind. All around I thought that the Cameroonian men's depiction of a women was more kindly then the American men's. Why are the American men and women's view of women so different? Why do men in America think of Vicotira Secret when they think of women? What is wrong with that picture!? Of course this is not a conclusive study, but it is interesting to me.

This is becoming a very long post. I will try to keep you updated as I keep trekking on!

Yesterday I saw papa johns pizza in a commerical and almost tried to eat the TV screen! haha! The cravings are starting to kick in...

Anyways, au revoir!

Autumn

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ma Vie Camerounaise


Bonsoir!
I don't have much time so I have to make this post short. I just wanted to highlight a couple of moments I have had were it has really hit me that I am indeed living in Africa right now and just the amazingness of that fact.
Yesterday I played soccer on a red dirt field with both Cameroonians and other Peace Corps people. As we were playing I looked around myself and saw the scenery and all of the kids watching (and laughing at us, rightfully) and thought to myself, this is amazing, Here I am laughing with these people who in the normal course of things I would never had gotten to know. People from across the world. I just feel overwhelming grateful for the opprotunity to get to know them (especially my host family) and get the chance to try and see things from their perspective.
My next experience is more like an everyday experience. It is my french course. I sit in a field with my teacher, under a mango tree with chickens walking around my feet.
It is those moments that I know will be with me forever.
I dont have much time now, but stay tuned...next time I will write about a very interesting cross cultural session we had.
Bisous!
Autumn

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bienvenue a Bangante


I read over that last post and I want to apologize for the horrible spelling/grammer. I have to go really fast because it cost money.
So, I have arrived in Bangangte! I am now living with my host family and have started my training. Living with this family has really plunged me into the actual reality of what my life is going to be like for the next two years. My family came and picked me up and the city hall and one of the first things that they said to me was "was thought that you were going to be a boy" because I guess that Brown is the name of a boy here...anyways...so that was a bit awkward, coupled with the fact that my french is STILL atrocious it has been a bit difficult.
My family is really nice though. It is a mom, dad, 18 year old girl, 16 year old boy, and then a 4 year old girl and a 1 year old girl. My first night with the family was expecially interesting. Firstly, they put like an entire fish on my plate to eat, and I had to eat it becuase it was just for me. Only the dad and I ate it. It is kind of awkward because I have been eating different stuff then the rest of the family, which is nice of them, but it kind of makes me feel guilty.
When I went to bed the 18 year old came with me and killed the cricked for me that was making noise in my room and then a lizard ran across the wall and I left out a little yelp and agian the girl got up and killed it for me. She's a sweetheart. The 16 year old asks me a lot of questions about what it is like in America and is good about helping me with my French. The 4 year old is scared of me. She just sits and stares at me. My first night she even came over and hesitantly touched my arm. That was pretty funny.
Bangangte is beautiful. It is higher in the mountains so it is not has hot as Yaounde. The roads are all really red so the green plants look amazing in contrast. Also, it is a weird mix of palm trees and pine trees. I will try to post some pictures later.
I am really liking Bangangte and my host family. It is also interesting to watch the family dynamics, which I will try to talk about later. (I dont have a ton of time right now).
IT is a bit of a culture shock, but I am adjusting. I am getting used to the cold showers or the cold bucket baths, the strange smell of my mosquito net and the food.
Bisous et au revoir,

Autumn

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Corps de la Paix

Tomorrow is the big day where we leave Yaounde and go to live with our host families. I am really excited, but some of the things the instructors were telling us have me a bit apprehensive. Firstly they gave us a huge lesson on boiling water, not eating unwashed/peeled vegatables and rabid pets (including monkeys!) that we may incounter in our homestay. Secondly, my thoughts of losing weight in Africa have gone out the window as they assured us that they will feed us really well because gaining weight is a good sign and they won't want anyone to think that we haven't been happy/well-fed. So, I will write more about my homestay experience later, but I am writing now because I don't know when the next time I will have access to internet will be.

Most of our instructors are Cameroonian and today we have a Cross-Cultural section that was VERY interesting. Some of my observations, and some of the things I have learned so far (that were a little more than a little strange to me at first) include:

Men holding hands: Ok, it is illegal to be homosexual in Cameroon so when I saw my first pair of men holding hands in the street while they walked I thought....ummm...aren't they scared of being arrested? But, as I talked to some people I learned that guy friends hold hands. Not for really long durations, but when walking a short distance together or while talking.

No visible traffic laws: Little cabs toyota camery cabs are crammed with like 7 people. The driver stops and picks up more people regardless of who is already in the car. And traffic laws are more like suggestions.

"The 11th province": In Cameroon where you are born is where you are from not matter what. One of my teachers was saying that he lived in Yaounde for as long as he remembers, but nobody considers him from Yaounde because he was born somewhere else. There are 10 provinces in Cameroon so someone who was born in one province then moved to another is said to be from the 11th province. There are two anglophone provinces and my teacher was telling me that in Cameroon there is a strong Anglophone seperatism movement (maybe that is too strong, at least autonomy movement) is going on and when Paul Biya (current leader of Cameroon) came to power he wanted to squelch this movement so he started moving francophones to anglophone provinces and visa-versa. My teacher was a francophone who ended up in anglophone. This is kind of where that 11th province idea came into being.

Cameroon has about 230 languages.

I was talking to one Cameroonian here that said that in African languages there are not words for colors...like Green, Yellow, Blue, etc. They only have Black (the absence of light), White (light), and Red (I don't know why Red). I looked at him skeptically so he brought over one by one each of the Cameroonian staff (who each speak several languages and each a different mother African language) and he asked them how you would say a certain color in their African langauge. He pointed at some plants and said "How would you say that color in ----?" She thought and she said "Red." All colors are red and each of the other staff said the exact same thing...they called the Bananas red too. They don't use colors to describe things. They use size or they said "The color of the leaves, etc." I thought this was fascinating and hard to comprehend at the same time.

There is no saying really for "That is not fair" or that idea is not articulated. "This isn't fair" is a very American, or Western mind set. In Cameroon saying "This is not Fair" would not really make sense. I think this might have to do with the Rule of Law not being as developed and a cultural appreciation and respect for authority. If someone is in authoriy then "this is not fair" is irrelevant.

Overall Cameroonians are very open and friendly. Peace Corps have been in Cameroon since 1962 so it has a well (and well established) reputation here and is generally respected. I am really excited to move on to training although it is extremely rigorous. For example, in a couple of weeks I will be going to local businesses and MFIs (Microfinance Institutions) and trying to help them formulate business strategies and learn from them...IN FRENCH!

The best things in life are oftentimes the most difficult, so I will keep that in mind as I get through the next couple of months of language, culture and technical training!

Lots of love and Bisous,

Autumn

Monday, June 11, 2007

Les Premiers Jours


I have arrived in Cameroon safely after a very, very long flight!
(and for the Francophones, I am sorry if I spelled that title wrong...eeks!)

Before coming I had a three day orientation in Philadelphia where I met all the other volunteers coming over with me, and got my first set of shots. The other volunteers are really cool, as a group. Then came the two 8 hour flights (To Paris then Yaounde) and then I arrived. Yippee! It is AMAZING! We had a quick stop in Douala, which is the biggest city in Cameroon but not the Capital, so my first impressions were made there. It is beautiful. The Guns and Roses song "Welcome to the Jungle" was stuck in my head when we landed because it looked like a Jungle. Right off the runway you couldn't really see any houses, just the vast amounts of greenery. From the runway I could see the kids playing and even a funeral going on close by. We then arrived in Yaounde. Every country has its own distinct smell and I think, although others have their own interpretations, that Cameroon smells like a mixture between woodsmoke and cornmeal (not unpleasant at all). While collecting our baggage the power went off in the airport, but I guess during the rainy season (now) that is a common occurance, so we had to wait awhile to pick up our bags. Afterwards we went a boarded a huge old bus and made the hour trip from the airport to Yaounde where we came to our hotel and immediately went to sleep. Sunday was a free day and most of us spent the day just catching up on sleep. In the evening a couple of us decided to take a walk to a stadium we saw in the distance (Cameroonians LOVE soccer). It was being reconstructed (via a gift donation from Japan....interesting) and there we met a nice worker named Andre who gave us a tour. My french needs A LOT of work, but I was ok enough to ask some simple questions about the place. People seem friendly but we do stick out like sore thumbs.
The hotel is nice, but the bathrooms are....different. But in the eating area we can see a Banana tree with bananas on it and it overlooks Yaounde. Which is pretty cool.
The food is DELICIOUS! We went to the Peace Corps Country Directors House for dinner and it was all delicious. I am very glad that I like the food. The fruit...oh my goodness. The watermelon, pineapple, everything. It is all very exciting right now.
We are going to be in training for the next couple of months and at the end of the week we move into a Host Family house in a different city a couple of hours outside of Yaounde. During all of our training we will be living with this host family, and although I am excited to finally move out of my suitcase, I am nervous too.Today we got some more shots and had our language test.
I really can't wait to be able to speak well enough to really communicate with people on the streets. I want to ask them so many questions, just about life and politics in Cameroon, what they think of the U.S., ect. That may take a while, but I am determined to get there.
There is a lot of poverty everywhere you go, but I don't really look at it and think "these people are so poor." They live how they live. It is very different then what I am used to, but all the same I don't think it is fair for me to critize their housing, ect. Most seem happy and curious. And notwithstanding the negative side, I think that there is something to living a kind of simple life that brings a different kind of fulfillment.
Anyways, I didn't cover all of my thoughts/feelings ect. but I am on a shared computer now so I must make it short.
In brief, so far so good. I really like it here actually. It may sound odd but when I woke up for that first morning and looked out my window it just felt so great. Coming to Africa kind of feels like coming home somehow. As cheesy as that sounds. A lot of people seem to say that though, so I think that there is just something about Africa that captures people, which right now includes me. In two weeks I may be writing about how frustrated I am or how I miss such-and-such food. But, for right now I am loving all of it.
I hope that everyone is doing well and I do want to hear from each of you and I will reply. It is just that for the purpose of mass dissemination a blog seems to work.
Bisous,
Autumn