Saturday, October 30, 2010


I am feteing American style this weekend. All nine of us Easties are in Bertoua this weekend for a regional meeting. During which we each discuss what has been happening at post and address any concerns of the region we want to take to administration. Its refreshing to see all of us together. I get the chance to see how everybody is adjusting to post and discuss ways we are all coping. It helps putting things in perspective, even something simple as having a market everyday. I feel lucky, lucky, lucky, to say I have access to a SWIMMABLE swimming pool (just as long as there is electricity to clean it with)! Only other possibility is the ocean.

Okay, back on topic. Tonight is our halloween fete. Where other regions have more people and maybe can make it a big party, we will probably just be sitting around chatting, BUT some will be dressed up! Me included. East theme this year is Cameroonian. My take on that is food. I will be dressed up as piment (P.MA.NT.) Its a hot pepper here that is served with almost every dish. Did I mention its hot? I'm quick to grab the bowl when it is served on the table so that I can skim just the oil off the top before it gets mixed. People can have spoonfuls of it, I can manage only about 3 drops. Other highlightable moments on this trip: stocking up on some food, eating fish dinner (its a break from eating only beef and chicken here is expensive so that rarely happens), banana pancakes, baked macaroni & cheese, good bread,...okay i'm hungry.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


So its been almost two months in Batouri now. Except for weekend trips to Bertoua, I cannot leave. It is required of volunteers to spend their first and last 3 months at post. The title for this post comes from the fact its the main feeling i've felt since arriving. Frustration for my language, for the culture and living here, and for figuring out what real sort of work i'm supposed to be doing.

The language will come, i'm sure of that. Slowly but surely. Not to mention the prescence of many ethnice languages, of which i've been learning a bit of Fulfulde here and there. My days usually consist of getting to the bank around 9 AM. I'm really not obligated to work my first 3 months, but merely supposed to observe and integrate into the culture. With this I use my time at the bank merely for French. To study it and pratice conversation. I've started trying to think of work I can do with a SED volunteer here in Batouri. I'm starting a girls club at one of the local high school's with my health postmate Jackie and there are plans for condom demonstrations on worls aid's day. My french is not quite there for business classes and the East is the least-developed region here, which is proven so to me by some mentalities of people I have encountered. This hasn't made thinking of projects and their prospect of success the most easy.

Having just said the East is the least-developed, with that it is also the most aggressive. As a volunteer you are always on the job 24/7 and I feel that here where it is like I'm on American Idol when I leave my house and everybody watches me as I walk since it is not so common to see many white people in this neck of the woods. Buit (pronounced like Bwe), Nassara, La Blanche, are all names I am frequently called as I walk the streets. It annoys me to know end when they call me that stating the obvious, but if I turn and all they want is to get my attention for a wave or to come up and greet me with a handshake thats okay. What has been bothering me the most is the stigma that white people are all rich. And sometimes here even with my Peace Corps salary and living in a house that sticks out like a sore thumb in my neighborhood only proves the stigma true. I've been asked for money, to give them things I'm wearing, a young girl coming to my house to give me her sob story again saying she needed $, and for me the saddest/hardest is being asked for food. Of course that doesn't even take into account the "i love you's." I was pulled into a conversation by a guy wanting just a word. He asked me in English so I relented. As soon as I sat down, he offered his love to me and asked to see me often. I immediately stood up shook his hand and wished him a good day saying that is not the way to start a conversation with a blanche. With that i'm sometimes asked if they can go back to the states with them. I just say "we'll see." It stops the conversation easier than saying no. I've got replies to all these scenarios save for the asking for food, to which i've only been able to hang my head and keep walking. Its frustrating the days when I feel everybody wants a piece of me and even more so I feel so on guard with anybody trying to befriend me. This makes me feel bad when intentions can totally be innocent.

Sticking out when walking around can have its rewards. One day I can feel its a spotlight and the next I can be grateful. Walking home one day my sandal broke and as I was hobbling along I eventually had about 15 people crowd around me and try to fix my sandal. They refused when I said i'll just walk home barefoot. They were starting to go to some lengths when I was just trying to give my sandals away saying i'll just throw them out when I get home. Several pairs of sandals were brought forth of theirs to choose from and of course everybody knowing where I lived the girl I took sandals from just said she would pick them up later at my place.

What really is frustrating is the constant on and off of both water and electricity. Its good when I have them both for 3 complete days and then I know i'm pushing my luck. Which is funny to say that as I'm writing this, yep for sure electricity just went out. I'm getting quite used to cooking by candlelight. I will after 2 years learn to appreciate cooking since all of it as to be down by scratch. One of my many where in the world moments was cooking on my gas stove by candlelight and sewing curtains by hand.

But I digress, while there as been a lot of frustrations most of which probably won't go away, its all part of this big adjustment period. What makes Batouri for me is the friends that I have made here. It helps to find things that make you happy. Ed Nader who I get my internet from has been in town this week. He owns a tobacco company here and comes for a couple weeks every few months. When he is in town his inflatable pool is cleaned and i have taken very much advantage of that! Hot season is coming and I do not look forward to sweating anymore than I am and I never thought I would say but I don't want my face and arms tanned more than they already are.

P.S. Oh i didn't even talk about the frustration of my computer. It has been down since i got here. Trying my best to get it fixed. Looking like i'll have to do a system recovery where i'll loose everything since i'm in middle of nowhere Africa. With a computer broken here its like i'm up a creek without a paddle with a hole in it being chased by a hippo (incidentally which are here in the East and one of the most dangerous animals in the world). After not having internet for over a month, I am finally borrowing my Education postmate Jessica's computer. Crossing fingers next post will be with my own....