Friday, July 30, 2010

A Day In the Life

Wake up – rooster(s!!) crowing at 5, 6,etc.

Turn over

Wake up – carpenter starts hammering at 7.

Turn over

Wake up –8 -  can no longer deny the morning light and the beginnings of a bustling day.

Peek out the window to see if Mt. Cameroon is visible – mostly cloudy, but sometimes quite the sight!  Mental note: “do not forget raincoat today”.

Go to shower.

Stare at shower knob contemplating the merits of shock therapy.

Cold rush!! Tense muscles! Icy goodness from head to toe!  Invigoration sets in and I splash around like a drunk seal!

A bit of tea, bread, and eggs, and I’m off to morning classes at 9.

Marvel at Brandon and Eric teaching, as I go between helping students on the side remember how to double-click and checking to see whether e-mail has loaded!

11 o’clock – class ends and we sort through which phase of the process each area school is at during the School PCs project.

Possible meeting with potential schools.*

I look outside and it’s raining… I regret not grabbing my rain jacket.

I daydream about my rain jacket dancing – playing maybe with the rain pants that I also left at home….dry.

The rain lets up, so I dash home – only a short walk from the center.

I pass a play yard where the kids finally shout my name instead of “white man” and I realize how much I love traipsing through the mud with the smell of something (anything really) burning in the air.

Spend the last few steps to the house comparing what I would “normally” be doing right now in the states.

Smile at the crazy wonderful contrast.

The sun shows promise of shining, so I collect clothes to do a load of laundry.

Check to make sure the water is on and not being rationed, and I’m good to go!

Throw in some powder and fill a bucket of water.

Realize I forgot to wear a long sleeved shirt to deter mosquitoes, but think, “eh, they won’t get me this time…” (Mental note: why, vitamin b?!?! why?!!)

A little plunge and scrub and I have something that resembles cleanliness that I can hang to dry.**

The smell of Maggi (a buillion-cube-like seasoning they put in practically everything) fills the air and I head inside to check out what’s for lunch.

3pm – Shovel in some rice and yummy Cameroon concoctions and head out to the afternoon classes at the center that have already begun.

5pm – Class ends – I wave goodbye to some of the very sweet students as they file out the door.

Return home to be greeted by our Cameroon family.

The girls’ giggles and general being make me feel close to the sweet, cutie nieces I left at home.

Smile again, this time for the similarities of children/humans worldwide.

Delve into evening/night activities – games with the other volunteers; soccer at the stadium; quick jog down a dirt road; soaking up the nightlife; live music with the neighbor; bootleg movie; reading (secretly crossword puzzles…); possibly catch up on work or plan for what more needs to be done during the week.

10-12midnight – I go to sleep to entertain Malaria dreams until it starts all over again tomorrow!

*Note that we have endearingly had to adopt/adapt to AST (African Standard Time, which means meeting times generally imply the “give or take an hour” rule….)
**Because it’s the rainy season, it can take up to a week before jeans are “dry” enough to wear, so they must either be supremely dirty or unholy smelly before you relent and wash anything.

Gratuitous pictures for the interested:


I always wondered how a washing machine works (it always stopped when I opened the lid...)

Some of us choose to get it all out of the way on laundry day...

 (Sorry kids, maybe another day when it doesn't take 15 hours to upload 1 picture:()

Monday, July 19, 2010

"White Men" in Buea

“White Man” – Something we hear almost every day, the “Man” stays even for Kristi.  It’s spoken as a token of endearment, and mostly by the kids as you walk by, but plenty of adults do as well; like when getting our attention at the market, or if I'm standing up in front of the Bar TV during a World Cup Match...

First Reactions 

In flight video of our official cross over Africa!

Although our plane trip here was one that made you hope for an emergency water landing, everything else has been going great since we got to Buea.  Buea, pronounced "boy-yuh", is not only fun to say, but is a great place to stay.  It is the capital of the Southwest Region of Cameroon.  The city is really an area made up of a series of towns that surround Buea Town, which isn’t even the largest of the towns that make up greater Buea.  Our town is named Bonduma and is “Down” from Buea Town.  Every place here can be described as “Up” or “Down” since we are on a slant at the base of Mount Cameroon, an active volcano.  This makes getting around and understanding where you are much easier since there aren’t any road signs.

Sunset over Mt. Cameroon - The summit is behind the part of the mountain seen here.

Most of the time the mountain, and sky, is entirely in the clouds.

Our Home

Kristi helping Naomi ride her new bike

We are fortunate to have one of the few houses with running water.  However it shuts off for hours at a time throughout the day and night for rationing purposes.  There is no hot water but it is chlorinated and we’ve been drinking it with no issues so far.  This renders our steriPen useless but will come in handy when we travel (and remember to bring it!) and are unsure of the water quality.  Will try to write another post on the water situation here as another volunteer, Adam, is doing some great work in this area.

Our room is great, with plenty of storage, which we’ll eventually make use of... ;). It has opened windows but a mesh screen to keep out (most) of the critters.  The sound of Buea through our window is almost always alive; from construction work, to loud music, car horns, and the ever present roosters.  They roam around everywhere but apparently always go back to their rightful home at night and don’t care much whether it’s sunrise or not to issue a call...

Our Hosts

Genesis - The man with the plan

Marceline - Getting her hair done

Genesis is a Pastor at nearby Buea Community Church and Marceline stays home with her 3 permanent kids and 8 temporary kids (8 volunteers!); quite the undertaking.  They have been wonderful and everyone we have met has been extremely nice and generous in showing us the Cameroonian ways, including how to keep from paying the “white man” marked up rate for goods and services.  Although most know English, the primary language here is Pidgin, which uses English as a base and just mashes the words together.  For example, “How are you” becomes “Howf-you”.  It is quite difficult to understand but most can switch into full on English for us “white men”.


2 from England, though one is a transplant from Poland.  
1 from Chile
3 from the US: 
  • 1 Huntington Beach, CA (Chapman)
  • 1 Cambridge, Massachusettes (MIT)
  • 1 Winston-Salem, North Carolina (Wake Forest)

They are all students save the Chilean and are all our junior.  They are all excited to be here and more so when they found out we weren’t an "old fat boring married couple", as the only information they had on us was that we were married and from Texas.

The food has been incredible, with plenty of carbs and fruits to go around, especially plantain.  Will post more when we know more about these tasty morsels.  Some of my favorites are Eru, a cooked green concoction, and the tomato stew whose spices are new to me but their tastes are quite welcome at lunch.  Dinner is not customary here beyond tea and maybe some fruit.  There is breakfast and a massive late lunch served around 2:30.  Occasionally we’ll find ourselves in want of a snack at night and will peruse the sidewalk vendors for some meat-on-a-stick (easy on the spice!) or an omelet.  So far the most interesting food I’ve tried is snails-on-a-stick and cow skin, which is put in some of the casseroles.

The temp is about perfect.  Never feels like it gets much hotter than 80 - 85 and at night cools down to a superb slumber degree.  It rains every day for a half hour or so every 5-6 hours.  We were prepared for that but I didn’t consider the constant overcast.  A break in a cloud which manages to uncover a sliver of sunshine is greatly celebrated in our volunteer group.  Sometimes we’re just enveloped in a misty cloud, but are usually just below the cloud line.   

The rainy season ramps up next month and tapers off in October.  Along with being excited to see a whole new skyline in a few months it will also mark the time when the mountain will be clear and dry enough to make the climb.

How about some "Things" lists

Things I’ve seen that reminded me of home:
  • Our exact car, blue toyota corolla, standing out from all the other cars which are 99.9% taxis
  • A local wearing the Cameroonian national football jersey with a University of Texas Longhorn jacket over top
  • Obama: T-Shirts, hats, names of businesses
Little Things I’m glad we brought with us:
  • Mini computer speakers
  • Ear plugs and night shade
  • Quick dry towels
Things we’d thought we need but haven’t/can’t use:
  • majickJack – Internet connection is not fast enough.  Did have some success with it at an internet cafe “down” the road
  • Sun Shower – The cold showers have actually been quite welcoming most days with the heat and humidity
  • Steipen – Clean water has not been an issue in Buea!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Trip to Limbe