Monday, December 29, 2008

You know you're a PCV in Cameroon when...

1. "├ža va" becomes a regular part of your vocabulary
2. You don’t even flinch when you walk out your front door and a family of goats is grazing in your front yard.
3. Riding motos from place to place has become your primary mode of transportation.
4. Sitting 8 people in a bush taxi is normal and only 3 people in the back just seems like a waste of space.
5. Trips to the Frip (an outdoor market that sells used clothes which is kind of a like a big thrift store outside) has taken the place of the mall.
6. Casino/ Score (a supermarket in Yaounde) seems like a little bit of heaven on earth because it sells ice cream, pizza, and cinnamon.
7. DVDs with only one movie on them seem bizarre.
8. Cold showers have become routine and even refreshing.
9. Laundry has many levels of “clean”.
10. You stare just as much as the other Cameroonians when you see another white person in your village.
11. You have a stack of books lined up to read in the corner of your living room…and you are actually going to read all of them.
12. Soya and a Castel seems like the perfect antidote to a stressful day.
13. Texting has become your primary way of communicating.
14. Time has become relative…if someone says they will be somewhere at 5, you know that usually means 5:30 or later.
15. You’re a little tanner after traveling in a bush taxi because your skin is covered in a thin layer of dirt from all the dust.
16. You laugh when you are baking and the recipe says to “preheat the oven” (…because you don’t have an oven and you bake everything in a huge pot with only one temperature – HOT).
17. A spaghetti omelet and a steaming cup of Nescafe with sweetened condensed milk is the breakfast of champions.
18. A functioning toilet is a thing of the past.
19. You have developed cravings for kola nuts and burning fish.
20. At least one of your meals each week is a pineapple.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Victory is mine!

Kind of… I had my first practical today with my Form 4 students. We finally got 4 out of our 5 computers to actually work at the same time. There was a problem with low voltage but we now have a cable running from a greater power source to the school so we can use the computers at the same time. The fifth computer’s monitor is broken, so I’m trying to get a new one soon so then we’ll have all 5 working! Anyways, there are about 60 kids in Form 4 so I broke them up into small groups of three and only took 12 kids to the lab at a time. Each group got about 20 minutes on the computer because I had the class for 2 hours. Things went…ok. For a lot of them this was their first time using a computer so it took awhile for them to get the hand of moving the mouse and such. For half of the lesson I just told them to identify the different parts of a computer and point out the different parts of the desktop that I called out so they would become familiar with everything. Then their big task was to move an icon on the desktop. This was harder for them than it sounds and it took a little while for most people. So, there is still a lot of work to do but things are finally moving along.

So my cat I got during training died pretty soon after I arrived at post after it got in a fight and the wounds got infected. I was pretty sad about it and my Cameroonian friends said they would be on the lookout for another cat. I wasn’t really sure I wanted another cat and I didn’t actually think they were going to look for a cat for me, so my expectations were pretty low. Anyways, yesterday I was taking a nap and heard some knocking on my door and I groggily woke up and answered it. One of my students was standing there with a market bag and he said he had a cat for me. At first I wasn’t sure what he was saying but then he opened the bag and there was a tiny little kitten inside. Apparently he heard that my cat died and knew of a kitten in a small village nearby so he trekked for 2 hours to go get it for me. It was so nice and unexpected and reminded why I love living here so much. People just go out of their way to help you and make you feel at home. So, now I have a new kitten and I named him Milo. He is really cute and already litter box trained (I think 2 days might be a record).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cultural Explorations

One of my colleagues is getting married in Bamenda in a few weeks and that prompted a discussion of marriage in Cameroon between myself and the other teachers. I asked what the average age was that people get married here in Lewoh and found that most women get married by the time they are 18 and for men by 22 or 24. These are actually relatively old ages by Cameroonian standards where in some places it is normal for a 14 year old girl to be married, but compared to America it is still pretty young. Polygamy also still exists here, although it is becoming more rare. Usually only the chiefs and more well off families have multiple wives because obviously, it is more expensive to have a very large family. My host family in Bangangte were polygamists (my host dad was a chief) and there were two wives. The wives lived in 2 separate houses and all together there were 11 kids. It seemed to work for them and the wives appeared to get along just fine. This is not always the case though and I have heard many stories about the wives trying to poison each other or get together and try to poison the husband. However, like I said, polygamy is becoming less popular and more frowned upon. Before a couple gets married, they have to sign a document saying they either plan to be polygamists or promise to just be faithful to each other. I think the purpose of this is to promote discussion of polygamy between the couple before a marriage takes place so there aren’t any surprises after they are married. Naturally, our discussion of marriage also led to a discussion of divorce. Divorce is VERY rare here and the rate is very low. I asked if they could tell me if there are any situations in which a couple would get divorced and I received an interesting response. One of my male colleagues said that some couples get divorced if the wife puts a charm (spell) over the husband and gets him to do everything for her like make dinner, go to the market, do the housework, take care of the kids. Of course if the man starts doing these things he must be the victim of some type of sorcery and the woman is trying to control him. My response to this was, well what if the man just sees how much work the woman is doing and wants to help her out? I was answered with laughter. Anyways, it was a very enlightening day.
So, last week I experienced my first Thanksgiving living outside of the US and it was definitely sad and weird to not be with family eating turkey, but us Peace Corps volunteers know how to make do pretty well. A few volunteers met in a town called Foumbot and made up a truly delicious Thanksgiving feast from scratch. We ate green bean casserole, pineapple casserole, mashed potatoes, creamed onions, chicken (turkey was unavailable), and a wannabe apple pie. I was in charge of the apple pie and making it from scratch is definitely not easy. It ended up coming out something like a cobbler, crumb cake, stroudel of some sort…but it was still tasty. All and all, I felt stuffed and didn’t want to move after dinner so I think that means it was a successful Thanksgiving.
In Service Training (IST) is just around the corner and I can’t wait! All of the volunteers meet in this beach town named Kribi with our counterparts and we have conferences and more training sessions…but we also get to see all the other volunteers again and go to the beach. I am so pumped! It will be great to get a little break from teaching and to see friends again.