Monday, January 18, 2010

You know what's a LOT scarier than you might think?

Having a chicken hiding in your house and not realizing it.

NOTE: Real sorry to anyone who was offended by my language in this post. I basically copied it from an email to a friend and forgot to edit it properly. I try to keep the language on here as clean as possible so my family and friends can enjoy it and I'm sorry for the slip-up. Anyway, back to the story.

I was jogging a few days ago at my village's school. I left my front door open (won't repeat this mistake) but I looked my outer gate door. Only reason I even left the door open was because I was right next door at the high school. No one can get into my house if the outer gate is locked (its like a 10 foot high wall with glass shard on top) but chickens can (and often do) sneak under the gate door and dick around in my lawn.

I guess one sneaked into my house and secreted itself somewhere in either the back room or maybe under some furniture. My house has lots of like mice and probably bird and other rodent type animals living in the roof, so I'm used to various scratching noises. I more or less tune them out. Which is, I guess, why I didn't notice the chicken.

Later, in the middle of that night, I walked into my kitchen to get a glass of water. The lights were all out but there was a full moon and you could see silhouettes of furniture, etc. I look into my living room to see if the power was on (by looking at the light on my surge protector) and all of a sudden this like basketball sized, reptilian-in-its-movement, shadow runs like right towards me. I totally FREAKED out and booted the thing across my living room. I was able to turn the lights on right after that but when that thing charged me my heartbeat must have gone up to like 170.

Took me another like 20 minutes to get the thing out of my house too. T.I.A, man.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

5 Months Later: Still Alive and Kickin'

Even I feel a little bad letting five months go by and not posting anything. But again, as I've said in earlier posts, living in Cameroon has slowly but surely just because "life as usual" for me and things that would have seemed worthy of a blog post 12 months ago don't seem that way anymore. Sorry about that, because I know a lot of you enjoy reading this. So now that I've actually done some traveling and have some stories to tell you, I hope you'll all stop threatening me via phone/email/Facebook. And in a related story, I really need to compliment the fine ladies of the Carpluk clan. Yall can guilt trip like none other. Without further ado, here's a few stories for you:

So for the holidays this year, I decided I would do some traveling. I've lived in the West province for my entire 19 months in Cameroon. I was trained in Bangangte and eventually moved to Babadjou. I've also visited the Northwest and Southwest provinces, as I live right near the borders. I have also seen the Central and the Littoral provinces because we have Peace Corps offices and hold seminars in those regions. So as of December 2010, I had seen 5 of the 10 provinces. My original plan for the holidays was to see the East, the Adamoua, the North, and the Extreme North provinces. That isn't exactly what ended up happening, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. I left Babadjou after finishing with classes the week before Christmas and spent a night there before leaving for the East. I was really excited to get out there because three of my closest friends live in that province and I rarely get to see them. However, my time in Yaounde had me a little less excited about heading up north after the East. I started to think about the following things 1) It's like 2 days of NON-STOP travel to make it all the way to the Extreme North 2) This is the coolest season of the year, but its still going to be near 100 degrees 3) There was going to be very limited sleeping room since about 40 other volunteers were traveling north to celebrate New Years up there. Anyway, when I left the Peace Corps offices I was contemplating just skipping the northward part of my journey but I decided that if my friends out east wanted to go, I'd go with them.

I left Yaounde for Bertoua (the capital of the East Province) on Sunday and overall it was a comfortable ride. I had to wait three hours for the bus to leave but once it did the roads were mostly paved and I arrived before dark. I met up with two girls, leaving that night to make the trip up north, and my friends Joe and Trevor, who were traveling with me the next day. We had drinks and dinner and all around a nice night.*

The next day Joe, Trevor, and I got on what is affectionately known as a "prison bus." It basically looks like half of a school bus, painted blue, but with no glass windows, just bars. Honestly, it's just about the worst way you could possibly imagine to travel along dirt roads in the dustiest time of year. If you don't have something to cover your mouth/face with then you're gonna feel like a coal miner at the end of the day. We took this loathsome automobile to our friend Nik's post (I have no idea how to spell it, but I'll make ONE attempt here: Nguelemandouka. Phonetically: Gal-uh-man-dook-uh).

The roads to the Dooks are nothing like they are to Bertoua. They are completely unpaved and completely horrifying. For the first leg of the trip (80 km) I was in the backseat eating dirt and losing the feeling in my legs. Being in the back sucks because you're crammed in a row built for 4 with 6 other people and there's just a constant fog of dust flowing through the open windows. After we stopped off for a short break, Trevor kindly switched places with me and I rode up in the cabin with Joe for the last 45 km. Whatever I gained in physical comfort, I lost in mental quiescence. I cannot tell you how terrifying it was sitting in that front seat for that last 40k. The first leg of the trip, you're essentially on a two lane road, as crappy of a road as it may be. For the last leg, you're riding a bus on a bike path. And a twisty bike path at that. There are times when the bus is moving down a hill into a blind curve and the ONLY THING thats keeping you alive is that there's nothing on the other side of that bend. Because at the speed you're going down the hill you're taking on the roads you're driving there is just literally no way to stop the bus fast enough to avoid a head-on collision if another car is coming. I know it sounds like I'm probably exaggerating. But truly I am not. This conversation occurred between me and Joe in the front seat at about the halfway point of the second leg (and keep in mind Joe is one of the toughest kids I know):

Me: So... These roads are pretty insane, huh?
Joe: Yeah, I was just thinking that.
Me: It's like there's nothing to do but hope that there's no other car on the road.
Joe: Really, it's best not to think about it because...

And at this point the road got even narrower and Joe just cut off in mid-sentence as we both glared wide-eyed out the windshield and didn't say another word for about 10 minutes until the driving got a little less stressful. Afterwords we both laughed at how we were both simultaneously overcome with the freakish dangerousness of the trip we were taking. I'll tell you this now, I love Nik and I had a FANTASTIC time at his village but I will likely never go out there again for fear of having to make that drive.

Anyway, onto the Dooks. If you know Nik at all you won't be surprised to hear that Nik knows everyone in his village well and he's basically a grand there. Everywhere we'd go Nik would have more people to introduce us to and invite us over to eat at one time or another. It was a great time. Nik's post is a lot like mine in that it lacks a lot of the amenities (no running water, no consistent electricity, etc) but I have to say that I would not have been able to entertain 3 guests for 5 days as well as Nik did during our time there. It was a real blast. There are a lot of stories to tell but here are the highlights:

1) I ate vers blancs, or as most of you know them, grubs. Really not as bad as you'd think. but also not particularly good. I'm glad I tried them, but I doubt I'll ever have a grub craving. The one I ate was cooked well and was crunch and spicy. I chose not to eat one of the larger (read: HUMONGOUS) ones, though a Cameroonian told me that the big ones are just like chewing gum. Yum.
2) I learned to open a beer bottle with my teeth.
3) If you hand we a well-cooked chicken, I can now eat the entire animal. Bones and all. Gotta credit Joe for talking me into trying this one, but the bones are actually really easy to get into and the marrow is surprisingly delicious.
4) Some village children showed me how to hold an extinguished, but still smoldering, match in my mouth with my teeth and make my mouth glow like a jack-o-lantern. This is actually really cool looking and I can't wait to get drunk and injure myself trying this one at a bar back home.

Christmas was really great. We woke up and the four of us exchanged gifts and drank Irish coffee and palm wine and just had a really nice morning taking it easy and celebrating with Nik's neighbors. I'd glad that my last Christmas in Cameroon was spent with good friends in a great village. I'll look back happily on my noel at the Dook's for years to come.

After Christmas we were supposed to catch the train up to the North but we all decided we didn't want to deal with the travel (or spend any more money than we already had... Good God did I spend a lot of cash this vacation). So we just spent a couple extra days in Bertoua (again, the capital and main city in the East). Ate some good food, drank some good beer, and just took it easy for the last half of the vacation. It was a blast and I'm really glad I got to get out there. I might try to go see Joe and Trevor's posts out in April, we'll see.

I hope this post was substantial enough for everybody. If anything interesting comes up I'll make another post. I'm waiting to hear back from law schools so I'll probably post once I make a decision about where I'll be attending in Fall 2010. I hope everyone had a happy holidays and I miss you all sincerely. I'll be home in just about 5 months and I can't wait to see everybody.

*See me for details on just smoothly the night went

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wow I haven't posted in a long time.

I've really been derelict when it comes to this blog. First post in 2 months and first post with any real substance in 4. Sorry about that. I've been wildly busy over the past three months or so. Organizing the new Peace Corps Trainee training program at TOT/TDW, travelling to Yaounde for mid-service training and health check-ups, three week European vacation with the family and some friends, and then traveling to Bangangte to help train the new class of volunteers. I feel like I've been in my village for 20 minutes for the whole summer.

Where to begin? Well, my trip to Europe was fantastic. I got to see my friends and family for the first time in over a year and obviously that was special for me. I'm glad we did Europe instead of having me fly home because I think it would have been too difficult for me to re-adjust to the United States for a few weeks only to have to re-adjust to Cameroon after I got back. Meeting on the continent was a nice middle ground.

Mom, Dad, Jessi and I hung around London and Paris for 10 days or so. Doing all the touristy stuff like the double-decker red bus tours and such. I had a blast. Dad put us up in two of the nicest hotels I've ever seen. Going from tiny ass Babadjou to 4-star hotel living was such a welcome shock. I forgot how clean life can be. Spending time with the family was perfect. Lots of drinking and eating and arguing: Business as usual, exactly as I'd hoped. It was sad saying goodbye for the second time but it's only for another 10 months or so before I'm home for good, so that tempered the emotions a little.

After the family left, Billy, Kunal, and I went from Paris to Brussels to Amsterdam back to Paris. My lawyers have informed me that it's in my best interest not to discuss Amsterdam in any form that can be catalogued and used against me in future litigation. Sooo... Man, Brussels was awesome! What an underrated city. Quaint and clean and oh-so-cheap after a week in Paris and London. I tasted a beer there that was advertised as having won an international competition as 'The Best Beer in the World.' Obviously, one's a little skeptical after reading such a claim, but I gave it a try. I'm no beer expert, but I can tell you this: It definitely isn't NOT the best beer in the world. I recommend giving Delirium Cafe's 'Delirium Tremens' a taste if you're ever in Brussels.

Oh, another funny thing about Brussels. The metro system is on the honor system. You buy a ticket, but no one checks it. Apparently sometimes they have random inspectors come through and check to see if you have one, but thats it. I love Europe.

- Back to Africa -

Helping with the new training group has been a lot of fun. The new stagieres are incredibly hard working and really make our Ed/SED stage look like a bunch of drunks. They take their work seriously and I have no doubt that they'll do great things for Peace Corps Cameroon. It's sort of funny being in the role of teacher/trainer since I've only been here a year and I'm just now starting to get a grasp of things, but I hope I've been able to give some good tips and make some stagieres feel more comfortable teaching/living in Cameroon. I remember how stressful stage was and in 2008 we were lucky to have some great PCV trainers who were hugely helpful in getting us through the whole 13 weeks in one piece.

Getting ready to take the LSAT at the end of the month in September. This is take two, as last time we tried things sort of fell through on the Cameroonian end so they cancelled the test. With any luck I'll be applying to schools in October and I'll know where I'm going by the time I get home. I'm applying mostly in NYC, but I'll probably also apply to George Washington,North Carolina, and maybe some others depending on my LSAT score. I'll keep you all posted.

Sorry for the long break between posts, I'll try and get back on here again sometime soon. Thanks for reading... and Go Yanks!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I've been in Cameroon for 376 days now. That's pretty wild because it feels like just a couple of months ago that I was getting off the plane. The idea that I have less time here ahead of me than I have behind me is mind-blowing. I've seen things and met people that would have otherwise never entered my life and I wouldn't change a second of it. That said, I'm so excited to be 2 weeks away from flying to Europe to see my family and some buddies from college. A few weeks of modern civilization will be a welcome repose.

I haven't posted a blog since 1974 (roughly) so I feel like I owe you guys some substance. First things first, here's a fun little bingo card of common diseases amongst PCVs that the Albins made. I have been lucky (knock on wood) compared to other PCVs, but even I've had six of these maladies. Guess which six and win a prize! (Prize may be subject to non-existence)

We're here for Mid-Service right now, which is essentially a intensive health check up at the one year mark that all PCVs have to undergo. It involves a lot of pooping into small receptacles to be tested at a lab. Never have you seen more fully-grown, mature (some less than others) adults discussing the technical intricacies of defecating into a container the size of a film canister. If there was a chalkboard here, we'd have been sharing diagrams.

I have to go to the lab to get blood drawn in a bit, but I have a good story about a magical bush taxi ride that I'll post later this week before I go and help with the training.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I use a lot of ellipses in this post...

So I haven't forgotten that I have this blog, as much as it might seem like I have. I've just been wildly busy and completely uninterested in updating this thing. I'm taking the LSAT in approximately 40 days and I've been spending just about every moment I can spare practicing for it. I tell you what... if after June 8th I never have to play another logic game for the rest of my life, I'll die a happy, happy man.

If all right handed baseball players wear even-numbered jerseys and all left handed baseball players wear pinstriped jerseys, then how many pitchers are also available to play first base?
A) 3 B) 4 C) 5 D) Kill yourself.

But I'm making some headway and I think all the effort is paying off, so I've got that going for me... Which is nice.

Classes are wrapping up. I'd give you an exact date as to when I finish up classes but there really isn't one. It's sorta just when my students stop showing up to class. I'll probably be done within two weeks. I'm pretty sure a few of my friends in the North are already finished. The national educational system is just that organized.

Once classes are finished and I've got the LSAT out of the way I'm still swamped. I've got some secondary projects I'm looking to get off the ground, I'm going to be helping out with training the new group of volunteers coming in June, and then finally... mercifully... I'm going to Europe for a couple of weeks with family and friends. I can't even tell you how much I'm looking forward to it. I probably won't leave the McDonalds in Heathrow until I've eaten 2 or 3 of everything off the menu. I think I'm gonna get to play golf in London and Paris too, which is wildly exciting. I miss my weekly round of golf so much it's almost irrational. I actually dream about golf some nights.

I've been trying to take care of my mice problem. So far I've got 7 notches on my belt and I gotta tell ya, I feel bad about every one. You hear 'mice' and you think 'rodent' or 'vermin' or 'pestilence' but when you're house is actually infested with the and you've gotta see the damn things all the time... You realize just how cute the little bastards are. Seriously every time I catch one I just want to train it to sing and make dresses like in Cinderella instead of doing what I actually do... Go outside and throw the little sonuvabitch as far as I can over my fence. That way I don't feel like I'm killing them. It's in God's hands at that point. I bet that exact same defense has been used in any number of trials in the Hague*. Really I wouldn't even set traps for them if they weren't crapping all over my house. I haven't had a house this unsanitary since I stopped living with Randy and Kunal.

UPDATE - Oddly enough, in the time it took me to write up this whole post, I caught number 8. May their tiny little mouse deity forgive my sins.

Things are going well on the volunteer front. We're about to kick off our Moto project with the HIV/AIDS prevention conference next weekend. Very excited about all that. Much less excited about the presentation I have to give in French during said convention. But hey, c'est la vie.

Anyway that's all I can think to write about. Except that I'm gonna be super pissed if the western hemisphere is wiped out by swine flu before I get to go to Europe. Seriously people, get your act together. I get the impression though that this is another one of those SARS/bird flu scares that never actually turn into anything in countries where people have toilets and soap and real hospitals and such. I'm crossing my fingers.

I'll probably update in the next couple of weeks after our convention and let yall know how it went. I know you're all tingling with anticipation.


* I actually googled to find out if it was 'at' or 'in' the Hague.

PS - I just realized as I'm writing this that I haven't made a post since a certain college basketball team won a certain national championship.


For those of you keeping score at home *cough*AuntieMUncleBenThomasBenMaximus*cough* since 2005 Carolina has won two national championships, been to three final fours and four elight eights while Dook hasn't been past the Sweet 16. But hey, who's counting? I AM. Never graduate. Okay that's enough gloating...

Who am I kidding? Of course it isn't! To finish the post off... Here is perhaps my favorite picture ever starring perhaps my favorite Tar Heel ever... Half Man/Half Amazing... Air Canada... The Human Highlight Reel... Vinsanity... Vincent Lamar Carter:

It doesn't hurt having Julius, Antawn, or Mahktar in there either. Also, reports indicate that Vince stopped watching with any intensity and really half-assed his applause for the entire second half.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

So close! Thanks to all of you who've donated!

Little mini-update: We're about at our goal for the Moto project! We're about $600 short as of this post so anyone out there who hasn't donated yet... any little bit counts! I'm blown away by all of your generosity, helping us to raise around $5500 dollars in around three weeks.

And I'm sorry I've been so lax on the blog. I promise to do a legit update tomorrow about the arrival of the rainy season and various other things. Thanks again

Donate more money here! The amount you donate is directly proportional to how good of a person you are. It's science.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Beep Your Horn for HIV Prevention (AKA Show me the money)

I'm working with other volunteers in the West Province on an HIV/AIDS education conference next month. We're targeting motorcycle taxi drivers. Moto drivers are usually young men (20s to early 30s) who make up a sizable portion of the population and have unfettered access to the people of the village/town/city. This mobile population is highly implicated in both the transmission and prevention of HIV, and yet it is often overlooked when it comes to HIV prevention education. Imagine doing a nation-wide college lecture circuit on the dangers of binge drinking... but not inviting any of the frat houses to attend.

Anyway, if you'd like more information about the project or to make a donation (any small amount would be hugely appreciated) then just follow this link to the donation form.

Also if you guys could, in the comments section, mention that you saw this on so I can properly thank you guys after all the money is in. Thanks again and God bless you all.

PS - To all Brownings and Carpluks and their respective offshoots - Now's your chance to prove just how much you love me. I promise that the aunt/uncle/cousin/grandparent who donates the most will become my favorite family member. And I'll visit you when you're old and boring and we can talk about the humidity and how kids today don't know how good they've got it.

And if it's my parents then I'll just continue to be an unwavering source of pride and all-around perfect son. Dad, remember how you'd always make me finish my dinner because of the starving kids in Africa? Well guess what, those starving kids grew up. And now they're giving each other HIV. Here's our chance to help.