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