Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My lazy excuse for an update

Things have been pretty crazy around here lately so I haven't had time to sit down and do a legit update, but check out these pictures I took exploring by my house the other day.

This one is the view of the rock formation for the road to Bamenda

Here's a bit closer

And closer still...

Here's a view from atop

And here's some balancing rocks that looked like ones out of a Road Runner cartoon.

I'll probably do a real update this weekend so check back sunday or something.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thanks for all your responses!

I've gotten some overwhelming response about my shoe drive idea. Let me make it clear that the whole thing is in the earliest stages of planning and I haven't run it past administration at all. So please don't start sending me packages of old sneakers just yet. I should know more and be more organized around New Years after I sit down and speak with PC administrators.

Thanks again for all the input, and I'll absolutely keep you all posted as to how everything progresses.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This is a lot longer than I was expecting it to be.

That’s what she said.

I feel like I’ve got to apologize to those of you that have kept up with this blog. My last, I don’t know, dozen posts or so have been pretty half-assed. I guess I’ve been phoning it in lately. Sort of like Pacino or Deniro’s last dozen movies or so. I suppose now that the initial shock and awe of being au Cameroun has worn off a bit, everything’s beginning to seem like business-as-usual. Granted, business-as-usual now consists of literally praying for rain just so I can bathe and occasionally having to kill my own dinner, but still. In other words, I guess a lot of things that might still seem interesting to you guys aux Etats Unis are becoming (somewhat) commonplace to me. Today, though, I went for a jog and took a different route than usual. About 15 minutes in, I made a turn and started running alongside one of the most picturesque, breathtaking valleys I’ve ever seen. And I mean gorgeous. Like… Erin-Andrews-courtside-in-the-Dean-Dome gorgeous. Looking over the valley, a couple hundred kilometers away is the massive, blue peak of Mount Bamboutous. I literally had to stop and immerse myself in the view. That’s right, I’m gonna go ahead and blame my break on the vista, not the fact that I was exhausted and completely out of wind. The surreal view made me remember just how dazzling my new home is and how lucky I am to be here.

And it’s not just the landscape; the people I live with are so wonderful. Here’s an example. In my last post, you got to meet Gizmo. He and another mutt (who I branded Dingo) had been sneaking into my yard for a few days. I mentioned to my neighbor (whose name I still don’t know because she insists I call her Mama) that I was interested in maybe buying one of the dogs. She tells me she’ll look into it and not 25 minutes later the owner arrives at my gate with Gizmo in hand. I told him I didn’t have any cash on me at the moment, and he just said I could pay him whenever it was convenient. Who does that? And on top of all that, when the owner heard that I took Gizmo to the vet for some worm medicine and a flea dip, he dropped the price 30%. I’m really blessed to be surrounded by so many kind people.

School’s been going very nicely. My students and I get along pretty well and I’m a huge spectacle among the student body in general. I’ll be teaching to a class of 30 with another 30 kids sitting outside the door just to get a peak at l’enseignent blanc. My student’s grades are pretty average but it’s still early so I’m more or less happy with their progress. The big problem with the Cameroonian educational system (as I see it) is a complete lack of attention to critical thinking. The kids copy down what they see on the board, and they’re expected to regurgitate it on a test. I’ve always been taught, and completely agree, that that’s the lowest form of education. I try to do some critical thinking exercises with my kids but its something that needs to be discussed on a much larger scale than my classroom at GBHS Babadjou.

On the subject of my students, I’m trying to get something started back home with a shoe drive, maybe at my old high school or even at Carolina. I have to talk to my boss about it, because I’m sure there’s a lot of paperwork involved, but I’d really like to get it done. So many of these kids (and a lot of adults) spend all day walking around in plastic flip flops and shoes that don’t fit. I saw one girl walking down the street with plastic bags taped around here shoes which where completely disintegrating. When I think about how many unused pairs of shoes are sitting in my closet alone back in the States, I have to think we can work something out to get some kids here proper footwear.

So a question I’ve been getting a lot from people is: What the hell do you do all day when you’re not teaching? Its funny when I’m asked that because people take for granted how long it takes to do everything here. I can’t run to WalMart and stock myself up for a month in 20 minutes. Doing anything takes about an hour. While I might get one after Christmas, I don’t have a refrigerator. As a result, I have to go to the market every day to buy whatever I plan on eating that day. On that note, my diet here is nourishing enough where my weight really hasn’t fluctuated at all. I weigh a little less than I did last June but nothing dramatic. I eat a lot of eggs. I mean a lot. Rough estimate, I probably eat about a dozen eggs a week. I usually stick to the whites but if I didn’t my cholesterol would be hovering around Avogadro’s number. Those who know me know that I love to cook, and I’ve been doing a lot of that here. Last week Experimenting with different recipes and such and making everything from scratch. Which is really a lot of fun. But it’d be a lot more fun if I had running water to help with the clean up process. Last week I made some killer fettuccini alfredo which took around eleven and a half hours to clean up.

Speaking of cuisine, I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately too. Because, hey, why the hell not? I usually don’t even eat the stuff I bake, I just give it out to my neighbors. I made some lemon squares Friday afternoon (Jesus did I really just admit that?) and brought them over to the aforementioned Mama. (Side note, my town is renowned in the West Province for its Palm wine [wine made from fermented palm sap]. Palm Wine comes out of the tree tasting kind of sweet with low alcohol content. After 2-3 days of fermenting though, that &%*# will strip paint.) So back to the story, I give Mama the carrés citrons and she insists I join here and a few others for some Palm Wine. I can’t be sure, but I think this stuff was a delightful 3 day vintage with an oaky aftertaste. I knocked so far off my ass so quickly I don’t even know what happened. I’m just glad I didn’t wake up naked somewhere in Senegal.

I try to keep active. I usually go running 4-5 times a week. I guess I get that from my dad. Nothing keeps you in a healthy state of mind than some physical exertion. Plus after a good workout I don’t mind the freezing cold shower with translucent water drawn out of my marine pollutant barrel.

I’ve been reading a lot. I just finished Jack Weatherford’s Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World which I highly recommend to anyone with a frontal lobe. Forget any preconceptions you had about Genghis Khan, because this book is going to turn them on their head. Okay, conceded, you probably don’t have any preconceptions about Genghis Khan. The book is excellent regardless.

Obviously the past few days have been centered on getting Gizmo acquainted to his new home. It hasn’t really been that hard since he’s such a lazy mutt. As I write this he’s completely passed out on his blanket on my living room floor. I almost regret naming him Gizmo. If I could go back, I would absolutely have named him Garlic. I read somewhere that feeding a dog garlic is a good prophylactic against fleas and ticks. After a few days of sneaking garlic into his food, I can attest that he’s certainly less itchy and seemingly more comfortable. Only problem being that now Giz’s breath smells like Van Helsing. He makes up for it though by being preposterously adorable. I’m growing quite fond of his mangy ass.

I’ll be at in-service training in about 3 and a half weeks, which is extremely exciting because I’ll be at the beach and I get to reconnect with all my friends from stage that I haven’t seen in three months. Also a little birdie told me that my Odyssey putter and a few Titleists are in the mail and might be here in time for Christmas. When I get back in June 2010 I’m going to have such a monster short game.
Wow, this post really turned into a wall of text. Sorry about that. Kind of bored on a Sunday night and I’m killing time before 9PM Cameroon time when I can hop online and check the Giants-Ravens half-time score. On the topic of sports, Tar Heels blew their chance at an excellent season by letting a late lead slip away at Maryland. But they’re still guaranteed a winning season and have exceeded pretty much everyone’s expectations this year. Butch should have them in a BCS game in two or three years. The basketball team kicked off the season with a win against a game Penn squad without Hansbrough or Ginyard, so that’s a great sign. Here’s to hoping it’s a sign of big things to come.

This’ll probably be my last substantive post for a while, I’ll probably get back to half-assing it again for a while (Don’t forget to see Pacino and Deniro in Righteous Kill in a theatre near you!)

And now some shout-outs:

Mom and Dad – Love you guys! Thanks for all the care packages and recording all those Giants games for me. Knowing I’ve got you both waiting back home makes doing this so much easier (take that however you’d like haha)

Jessi – Little sister, keep kicking ass at Delaware and keep giving out my phone number to your coed friends.

C724 – I doubt you’re reading this, but if you are… you’re on my mind.

Billy, Nathan, Chris, Dres, Kunal – Get at me via email, we gotta talk about Europe next summer. And Kunal if you’re still thinking about coming down this way let me know so I can help you set it up. Also, I’m totally ashamed to admit it, but… I shaved my beard. In my defense, it is really, really hot in Africa. I promise if you all meet me on the Continent next summer I’ll grow it back. BC4L.

To any of my fellow PCVs – See you guys in a few weeks. And remember, no matter what, “Don’t be a %&#$@ About It.”

To anyone who’s actually still reading and not back to stalking Facebook yetwww.facebook.com

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Say Hello to Gizmo!

I just got myself a puppy dog. He kept sneaking into my yard under my gate so I started feeding him. After a few days of this I talked to the family that “owned” him and paid roughly $2 American so I could keep him. He’s a total mutt, but very loveable. Also very lazy. I’ve named him Gizmo as he looks a lot like a Mogwai. Not to mention if I feed him after 9 o; clock he poops all over my house. Check out the mangy mutt:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Yes, we did.

President-Elect Barack Obama.

Thats pretty wild, n'est-ce pas? I am officially cautiously optimistic about America's future. I was telling someone the other day that I dont think Obama is going to save the world. He's going to raise taxes, which I dont agree with. He's not going to be perfect. But he puts a new face on the United States in a time when the globe is shrinking and international relations are more important than ever. In short, I think he gives the United States a better chance at a peaceful existence. We'll see though.

Anyway things are bon au Cameroun. I baked up some brownies last week and gave some out to these toddlers that are always near my house. The resulting sugar rush was a sight to be seen. Im officially the most popular white person in Cameroon. As long as your survey pool is only children from the age of 5-7 in my tiny village.

In service training is rapidly approaching and Im really excited to see everyone again and unwind for a few days. Its hard to believe Ive already been in country for 5 months. Time is truly flying.

Its Homecoming back in North Carolina, and the Heels need to beat Georgia Tech to keep hope alive for a shot at the ACC Championship. College Basketball kicks off in the next week or two as well. UNC's squad this year against any other team should be like Russia vs. Georgia, but we'll see. With any luck we'll dismember everyone as predicted and maybe even earn a few UN sanctions. Cross your fingers.

Not much else is new, but Im giving a test next week and I plan on giving another joke bonus question. So maybe we'll get some more gems like I had in training.

Go Heels, Go Giants, and GOBama!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trick or Treat

So its almost Halloween, which of course means absolutely nothing here. I dont really plan on doing anything besides maybe eating a couple snickers bars. Things have been going pretty smoothly here lately. I was running out of water, but its rained the past few days so Ive been better off in that department. The dry season is upon us though, so I need to get used to it.

I was thinking the other day about how old the village I live in must be. Like, how long peoples ancestors could have been living in this same area. Thousands and thousands of years. I mean I can only trace my ancestors living in the United States back until the early 20th century. Before that my family was in Europe. But people who live here can be walking the same paths as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. Im really living in the cradle of human civilization. Pretty wild.

So funny story. Im teaching Physics to like 40 8th grade-aged kids, and these two goats scramble into the classroom and one mounts the other. Right in the middle of class. Kids barely missed a beat, just chased them right out of their classroom. Then 10 minutes later I drop my chalk and the entire class erupts in laughter. Really?! Is my clumsiness really that much more hilarious than two goats &!?@ing during homeroom? Oh well.

Happy Halloween, everybody.

PS - Forgive any typos, this keyboard is atrocious.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Finally got some pictures up.

So you can leave me alone now, Ma. Uploaded some pictures of the Swearing In ceremony in August as well as some pictures of my house. Let me know what you think.

Also it seems like everyone else is posting a wish-list from the States on their blogs lately. I don't really recommend sending anything because shipping is pretty expensive, but if you'd like to, here's a list of some things I could use:

1) Books
2) DVDs (movies or TV Shows like The Simpsons)
3) Hot sauce (Texas Pete)
4) Parmesan Cheese
5) Pictures from back home

But really anything sent will be greatly appreciated. That's all for today.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I was not, in fact, eaten alive by jackals.

A friend of mine voiced concern to me that I had not posted in two weeks and that he had been worried for my safety. I am fine. Thanks for the love. Are there jackals in Cameroon? I should look into that.


Friday, October 3, 2008

So I'm naked in my front yard, right...

That should grab your attention. Let me explain. You know how phone booths are really tight and cramped? Well you could fit roughly three of my bathrooms in there. Additionally, I have no running water, so I have to bathe out of a bucket. This involves splashing water all over myself... and the walls... and the sink... and the toilet (which I pretty much have to stand inside). Oh, and did I mention the drain on the floor doesn't so much live up to its name?

As a result of all these comforts, I've taken to showering outside in my yard. Its actually really nice. I have a 10 foot wall that gives me privacy. When its nice out, I can see the mountains over the wall and since I usually shower later in the day I get to watch the sunset. And when its raining, it's almost like I'm taking a real, honest-to-goodness shower. Almost.

So anyway, I fill up my bucket out of the giant barrel I use to collect rain water. Keep in mind I use this water for everything: flushing my toilet, washing my clothes, washing my dishes, showering, and after filtering it I even drink the stuff.

So I'm having a hell of a time lathering up and singing Miley Cyrus, when I spy a sticker near the bottom of the barrel that I'd never noticed before. In big bold letters, above a picture of a fish with Xs in his eyes, it reads: MARINE POLLUTANT.

Some things you just have to laugh at. Certainly, that barrel has been in my yards for years and it's perfectly safe, but honestly, what is it with me and showers in this country? On the bright side, the sixth finger I've started growing has really upped my words-per-minute at the cyber cafe.

Friday, September 26, 2008

One word review of The Dark Knight



Additionally - The Joker has replaced Patrick Bateman as my favorite character from anything ever.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Have I got a travel story for you...

Prologue: Sometimes things go so badly, you actually question whether or not there is a God. Then sometimes things go so badly that your faith in God's existence is reaffirmed; you know that there's a God because he must have been up all night planning how he was going to *&%$ all over my day. I travelled from my post to the capital city of Yaounde today. Upon leaving, I texted a friend who's been here a year asking how long the trip would be. She said it should take 3 hours at the shortest and 5 at the longest. After reading this post, you can guess for yourself how long it took me to get there.

We left Mbouda, a large town near me at 12PM. We made excellent time driving to Bafoussam, arriving in just under an hour. I remember enjoying that hour thoroughly. I had enough room where I could actually lie down in my seat. It was noon, and the whole day was ahead of me. Life was good.

One could think of this trip as BB and AB. Before Bafoussam and After Bafoussam. Before Bafoussam, I was a happy young man with a bright future and faith in mankind. After Bafoussam I was a angry goblin whose fury made him small and callous.

After arriving in Bafoussam, we sat in the Agency parking lot waiting for more passengers for two and a half hours. We were full after an hour and a half, the last hour was spent searching for our driver, who had disappeared into a nearby bar. I'm not even going to get into that. So after making great time for the first hour, the entire day was shot. I already knew I'd be arriving after dark, which was a bit of a pain in the ass itself, because Yaounde is not a very safe city.

After driving for about an hour, I feel like someone is trying to reach in and take my wallet. I smack the hand away of an 10 year old boy who looks at me guiltily, and tell his father what he was doing. He smacked his boy so hard across the face that I genuinely felt bad for telling on him. All those feelings of remorse quickly disappeared after I felt him digging for it again 20 minutes later. This time I looked away as his father went to town on him.

Roughly 12 to 13 hours later (I kind of lost count) I was able to check off one of the things on my "Do before you leave Africa" list. I saw a monkey! Four monkeys actually! We were pulled up at a control station (one of the 50 stops we made) and four monkeys were pressed up against my window! Four dead monkeys. Dead. There was a man holding four dead monkeys. Trying to sell them to me and the other passengers. To eat. They were totally in tact, not skinned or anything. Very fresh. Probably only clubbed to death minutes earlier. I just kind of sat there stupidly with my mouth open while he tried to peddle his wares. For a moment there, I was worried that I wouldn't get a good look at these, the first monkeys I've seen in Africa. Lucky for me, though, the woman next to me decided she'd like nothing more than braised chimp for dinner and bought one. So I spent the next 30 hours with curious george staring at me with dead eyes. There are some things you can't unsee.

All in all, the trip actually took around 9 hours. That's 280 KM travelled in 9 hours. I once drove from Chapel Hill to Long Island (530 miles) in eight hours. I can't express to you the frustration that this trip caused me. I had to wait about 4 hours before writing this post up, because if I had written it immediately on arrival, I probably would have typed it with my forehead and then put my foot through the motherboard.

I'm safe and sound in Yaounde now, and I've taken a nice hot shower. Tomorrow I'm going to watch a The Dark Knight bootleg (thanks mom and dad!) and I'll redo this whole catastrophe and head home on Saturday morning. Stay classy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

14 weeks down, only 90 to go!

My house is finally a house! Sorta. I’ve got my living room set all moved in. Couch, four arm chairs, nice coffee table, and that’s in addition to the bamboo couch and arm chairs that I already have. When you walk into my front door, it actually looks like a living room. It’s fantastic.

The past week or two have been pretty stressful. I haven’t really started teaching, because everything is still getting rolling at my school. When they say that September 8th is the first day of school, they really mean that is the first day that school starts setting up. I have my schedule (more or less) ironed out, but I am still waiting on textbooks. Its really hard to teach a class I have no training in (like Physics) without a textbook. Hopefully that will all be worked out by this coming Monday, however.

Life in Babadjou has been really great. It’s gotten on my nerves a little bit standing out as much as I do. Anytime I do anything I’m getting gawked at and laughed at on occasion. It wasn’t as bad in Bangangte because I was with so many other volunteers, so it never really bothered me. It’s a little bit worse when you’re by yourself. That’s not to say I’m not having fun though, I am. Most of my coworkers are very friendly and so is the owner of a bar in the market. He’s a really nice guy and his place has the coldest beer I’ve had since leaving the States.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, and I’m about halfway through a non-fiction book called Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. It’s about how different societies came to be more powerful than others. It won the Pulitzer and it’s really interesting. I’ll put up a mini-review when I finish it.
It’s nice to see the Tar Heels and the Giants both come out of the gates firing on all cylinders, since the Yankees are not going to make the playoffs. But I guess if they have to miss the postseason, I’m glad its when I’m out of the country. Justin Tuck is one of the top 3 defenders in the league right now. Argue all you want, its science.

I also wanna say thanks to my buddies who are sending me some packages (Billy, PG, Ky). The books and hot sauce are going to come in very handy. Thanks again.

Jessi – I hope your first year at Delaware is going well and that you’re making a lot of friends. Next summer is not so far away, Europe here we come! Love you kid

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Babadjou?! But I barely know you?

I think I need a shower after that joke. It’s been pretty hectic putting my house together and getting used to being completely on my own. The house is still pretty empty but I’ve been able to acquire a few things. I also talked to a volunteer who is headed home really soon and she’s going to sell me most of my stuff, so I should actually have a more-or-less fully furnished house in the next 3 weeks or so.

But aside from moving in, having my own place has really been great. The house is huge. Three bedrooms, one bathroom, one kitchen, and a giant living room. The whole thing is surrounded by 10 foot cement walls with broken glass shards at the top, so I’m pretty secure. I’ve got a little porch area, and I’ve set up a bamboo chair so I can sit out front and read. I think my favorite part of the house is the kitchen, though. It’s great to be able to cook for myself. I think I’m making rice and beans tonight. Yum.

The only real complaint I have about the place so far is that I have no water. It’s not that bad because I have a giant barrel outside that collects rain water, but if it goes a few days without raining then I have to have little kids (les petites) fetch it for you. And let me tell you, you don’t realize how much water you go through in a given day until you start having it handed to you in yellow emergency jugs by a seven year old. The dry season is gonna suuuuck.

I’ve been meeting a lot of people that live near me and a few coworkers. Everyone’s been really friendly and its made the whole transition a lot easier. Once I get better with the language and start making more friends in the area it’ll all be gravy.

Speaking of coworkers, I have no idea what’s going on with my school. They’ve told me that the class schedule should be ready by this Monday. Which is great, because then I can know what classes I’m going to be teaching. Only problem is, classes START this Monday. So yeah. Awesome. Not to mention they’ve been hounding me to teach English and Computer Sciences (in French). I kinda put my foot down and told them I’d only be teaching things that I’m trained to teach (Radical thinking, n’est-ce pas?) We’ll see how that works out.

Anyway what’s new with everyone back home? Grad-schools and such are starting so let me know. Also send me books. I’ve been reading like a fiend lately (as there’s not much to do here until school starts) and I’m running out of stuff to read.

I’ll post again next weekend after my first week of actual teaching. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What do Africa and America have in common?

Moving in still sucks. I’m at post now, in a giant house with absolutely zero furniture. The house itself is pretty nice. Tile floors, decent kitchen, three big bedrooms, and a living room the size of a small aircraft hangar. The fact that its so big is almost a negative because I can’t afford to properly furnish it so it looks kinda gloomy.

Moving into the house wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. A friend who’s been here for about a year now hooked me up with a Cameroonian who owed her a favor. I told the guy I wanted a bed, a stove, and an iron and handed him a ton of cash (The mattress by itself was nearly half of my moving-in allowance, but I wasn’t spending another night on a 2” foam square like I have for the past three months). Giving this kid almost all my cash was certainly not the least sketchy thing I’ve ever done, but he pulled through. He got everything I wanted and delivered it right to my house. Pretty stress-free, actually.

I’ve been here for three nights now and I finally get to cook for myself. Tonight I tried to prepare ndolé, a traditional Cameroonian dish made of bitter greens with like a peanut sauce. It might not sound great but when it comes out right it tastes almost exactly like a thicker version of spinach and artichoke dip. That’s when it comes out right. The recipe calls for peanut butter, which I couldn’t find it in the short time I had to shop today. So I figured I’d just try and make my own peanut butter. I’m an intelligent guy, right? I can figure it out, right? Wrong. I’m not even going to write what my attempted method of preparation was because you’ll all think I’m marginally retarded. Long story short it didn’t work. I made the dish anyway with my peanut-butter-abortion and while it looks and tastes nothing like ndolé, it was still pretty good. I’m eating it right now with some fried plantains. I shall call it, “jimbolé.”

I just read Umenyiora is out for the year. That sucks. What doesn’t suck is that I found out the nearby major city, Bafoussam, has a few bars with ESPN. I might get to see Carolina curb-stomp Duke come February. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

My phone/internet connection is pretty bad at my house, which kinda sucks. But I’ve been keeping myself entertained by reading the dozen or so books I have with me, and watching one of the 60 or so movies I know have on my iPod (media exchange with my friends in the last few days of training was so necessary).

All in all though I’m doing very well. Spirits are high and I’m excited to start teaching in… Oh jesus I start teaching in 2 weeks. Merde.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ain't no party like a Yaounde party

Because a Yaounde party doesn't stop. We've all been in the capital since Sunday and its been a blast. Yaounde has a lot of little treats that you don't find in small villages like Bangangte. The past few days I've been eating pizza, hamburgers, chinese food, and Snickers bars an in no way is that depressing.

In Yaounde we stay in the case (kahz), which is attached to the Peace Corps headquarters. It's like a giant dormitory that sleeps about 25. It's hilarious, I feel like I'm back in freshman year again. Everyone in bunk beds and playing ping pong and stuff. There's a big DVD collection and a pretty decent library (from which I have ganked a nice little sampling for the next few months). But its been really nice to get to hang out with everyone all night for the last few days before we all leave for our own corners of Cameroon.

But yeah the moment of truth is nigh upon us with the swearing-in ceremony this friday. Everyone's really excited and anxious to finally get to our posts and begin our three months of solitude. I just can't wait to be able to cook for myself and finally have some privacy. I love my host family but you can only wake up to Brian Adams blasting at full volumes before you start to want to commit multiple homicides. Voila.

Yeah the keyboard on this computer is awful so I don't want to write anymore. My next post will be coming from inside my new house sometime this weekend. A bientot.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Big Brother is out there.

So word around town is that certain volunteers have taken it upon themselves to read a bunch of trainees' and volunteers' blogs and report to the administration about things that they believe are insensitive or offensive. That must be a fun job. So if anyone out there feels marginalized by any of my comments, please shoot me a comment and I'll remove any such posts.

Something like that makes me want to password protect this thing, but where's the fun there? Viva la revolucion.

PS - I just plain don't like the Irish. Filthy people. Sorry Grandma.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How'd you spend your Sunday morning?

I’m assuming you woke up around 9:30 or 10, had a cup of coffee, read the paper, etc. You know, the usual lazy Sunday type package. What’d I do? I put on a dress and had an audience with the King. I roll like that.

We got to the Chefferie Superieure de Bangangté a little after 10 and got a little tour of the palace. They showed us a bunch of photos from the reigns of former kings and all kind of stuff. I’ve uploaded some photos which you can peep up in this piece. The King has a really nice Zebra rug. And I don’t mean the King of Bangangté saw a nice faux-Zebra skin rug in the Pottery Barn catalog. I mean someone went out, found a zebra, murdered it to death, and turned it into a rug. And then put a coffee table on top of it. Majestic.

So check this. The palace is located in the Sacred Forest. It's called the sacred forest because it is home to the King’s totem animal, a leopard. It is said that if this totem leopard is killed, the King too will die. More on the Sacred Forest. One of the former Kings only ruled for a few weeks because he “had relations” with a woman during his initiation in the Sacred Forest. So he was put to death. Kind of harsh, but it might have been worth it. Hundreds of people are in the Mile High Club. How many people have had sex in a Sacred Forest? It’d be like you and a bunch of sleazy Disney characters. Thumper suddenly comes to mind.

Overall, the visit to meet the King was fantastic. The King was very friendly, if a bit intimidating. He was extremely generous and provided everyone with a huge lunch. Afterwards we came back and had a few beers and watched the Olympics.

Speaking of the Olympics, I’m extremely torn over Team USA (AKA the Redeem Team). I love Kobe Bryant, I love Dwight Howard, I love LeBron James, and I love America. But do I love those things more than I hate Coach Krzyt-head? I… I don’t know. I can’t bring myself to root really hard for the team knowing the Rat bastard is on the sideline, but it was a lot of fun watching LeBron and Kobe jump out of the gym all day against a woeful team China (although, if anyone wants to send me one of those super fresh Team China Nike jerseys, I won’t complain). Final Olympic thought: There’s this smoking hot girl on the USA gymnastics team named Nastia. I am down with that.

So I leave for my post 2 weeks from today. That’s pretty wild. Model school is finished and I’ve graded all my final exams. My classes did pretty well so I’m excited about that. I only had to fail one kid, but she didn’t even have anything nice to say about my bubu so no great loss there. I hope I don’t get too into this whole teaching thing though. I’d like to be able to afford things one day.

I think I’m going to be getting a kitten next week to take with me to post. Half for companionship and half to kill cockroaches and mice. A few girls got some and they’re really fun. I have a picture of Tess’s (which she has aptly named Petit Lion) uploaded with the rest above. Any ideas for names when I do get one? I’m thinking Hobbes. Leave any suggestions in the comments.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Cameroonian Kids Say the Darndest Things

I’ve been almost embarrassingly active on the blog this week. Last post for a while, but I had to put this up because I’m sitting here grading quizzes and I think you’ll get a kick out of this.

So I had my first full-length bubu made last week. It’s pretty sweet looking. Kind of like a silvery blue-ish color with embroidery on the collar and sleeves that one could only describe as "tastefully baller." Pictures forthcoming, eventually. Anyway, I gave my chemistry class a quiz this past Friday. For the last question on the quiz, I wrote: “For a free bonus point, write about how much you like Mr. Browning’s new bubu.” Some of the responses I got were priceless. And I promise that I didn’t make any of these up.

“I like Mr. Browning’s new bubu because firstly it fits him nicely. Secondly, it is a responsible dress. His wearing it makes him more and more responsible and gentle.”

Man dresses and responsibility go hand in hand in Cameroon.

“Mr. Browning’s new bubu is very nice with his shoes. He will be a very beautiful man in his life.”
You know what? You’re damn right I will be a beautiful man in my life.

“I like Mr. Browning’s new bubu. He looks like a country man with it. I will like to have one like that.”

This boy got an A+ and my tailor’s card.

“I think Mr. Browning has the best bubu I have ever seen in Bangangté.”
I gave this student the best grade ever seen in Bangangté.

My personal favorite, however:

“Mr. Browning’s new bubu is too big on him but he seems okay with that.”
This girl has an absolutely fantastic sense of humor. Needless to say, she will not be passing my class this summer.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny Ramirez: Los Angeles Dodger

Anyone who wants to be my favorite person can send me a Manny Ramirez Dodgers jersey as quickly as possible. I am so excited to be able to root for Manny being Manny on the other side of the god damn country and not killing the Yankees two dozen times a year.

Go Dodgers!

Who needs bugspray? We're only in AFRICA.

We had an hilarious health session today with the Peace Corps Medical Officer. Basically he talked for a while about how important it was to be using bug spray with DEET in it, because it is the most effective chemical for protecting yourself from mosquito bites and, in turn, preventing malaria. Anyway he goes on and on about how important DEET is and how he hopes we're all using our bug spray.

Eventually one of the trainees raises their hand and asks the PCMO, "If it's really important that we're all using DEET bug spray, why is the bug spray in our medical kit advertised as DEET Free?!" And lo and behold, he takes out the bug spray we've all been given and on the cover in big fluorescent letters reads "DEET FREE!" Even funnier is that when you look on the label, it has all these cartoon bugs holding hands and dancing in a circle. I don't want my mosquito's tripping on my bugspray like LSD and dancing around like they're at woodstock. I want them to die horrible, horrible deaths upon touching my skin. This bug spray they've given us is an absolute joke. I'm pretty sure the ingredient list reads: water, sugar, and human blood.

Look forward to my next post about the Peace Corps' newest innovation: mesh condoms.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

J’ai une maison!

C’est vrai. They‘ve finally found me a house. I’ll be living in my village and not the bigger city about 15 minutes away. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because I’ll be closer to my school and I won’t have to commute to work at all. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass in the sense that my village doesn’t have any running water. Soooo I’ll be bathing out of a bucket for the next two years. But hey, I did join the Peace Corps right? This is Africa, not the airport Hilton. But yeah I’m really excited that they’ve finally squared that all away and I can stop stressing about it. Apparently it’s got three bedrooms, a living room, and a “bathroom.” I’ll probably convert one of the bedrooms into an indoor kitchen though. I WILL have electricity, so at least I can have lights and maybe even a refrigerator.

One thing I hope I can find in my new village that we have here in Bangangté is the beans and beignet lady. More or less every morning, I walk next door and there’s a woman serving fried beans and fried beignets. Not exactly healthy, but unbelievably delicious. For 150 CFA (About 25 cents) I get a big plate of beans and three or four beignets. The beans are great and have some really killer spices in them, but they don’t even compare to these beignets. I can’t possibly explain the words the orgy of taste that are these beignets. They’re so fresh; the woman literally squeezes the dough into the fryer as you order them. Crispy on the inside and soft and chewy on the inside, it’s like the best plain doughnut you’ve ever had, only better. I’ve heard rumors that there are beignet ladies out there who serve them with powdered sugar. If I find one, I’m going to marry her and bring her back to the states. Sorry Mom.

Anyway training is really starting to wrap up. We have another week and a half of teaching left and then we start to administer “final exams.” After that we head out to the national capital to set up our bank accounts and party a little. Then another week and a half later we’re done. It’s crazy how fast it’s all flying by now. In 26 days we’re all going to be scattered about the country. Really exciting, yet melancholy at the same time. We’ve made a bunch of tight friendships in the short time that we’ve been together, and it’s going to be weird knowing some people won’t see each other for months.

We’re trying to set up a fantasy football league between the trainees. I think it’ll be a fun way to keep up with our teams back in the states and also keep up with each other through email when we’re all on opposite sides of the Roon. We’re going to do a live draft next weekend or so. Should be a blast.

Yeah so I’ve been reading a lot of other volunteer’s/trainee’s blogs and they all seem to be a lot more philosophical and deep and existential than I am. Am I cheating you guys by not posting really thoughtful updates about how this cross-cultural experience has lit a fire in my soul that can never be extinguished, or something fruity like that? Because I’m really not that deep of a guy. I don’t really feel any different than I did when I left, besides now when people here speak to me I can understand 50% of it and occasionally form a semi-logical response instead of smiling awkwardly and saying “Quoi?” Yeah, so sorry if you don’t feel like you’re getting meaningful insight into the inner workings of my mind. In fact, consider yourself lucky. It’s not pretty in there.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It's times like these I wish I didn't believe in karma.

Because starting tomorrow morning, I'm the teacher, and not the smartass little schmuck in the back of the class making the teachers life a living hell.

Seriously though, can you believe they're going to put me in charge of a class full of kids? Cameroonian parents have worked hard all year to save up enough money so that they could send their children for a few months of extra schooling this summer. They're paying cold hard cash to give their sons and daughters a head start on next year's lessons... And they get me? They get this guy:

Caveat emptor

In reality, I feel pretty confident about the whole thing. I've received some great training and I think I'll be able to handle it. The class sizes are pretty small so I should be able to keep things under control. If nothing else, at least I'm bigger than my students. Most of them anyway. On a related note, if you read anything on CNN.com about a Peace Corps Trainee getting lynched by a pack of unruly 12-year-olds... Avenge me.

This week, about half of the volunteers (the Small Enterprise Development group) were on their site visits. They came back today and one of them had an idea so hilariously stupid that we immediately knew it was brilliant. A group of about 7 or 8 of us guys have decided to stop shaving for the next month and grow as thick of a beard as possible. Going the month will take us to a few days before our Swearing-In ceremony. That's a big deal, the Country Director comes, the US Ambassador is there, and so is the mayor of Bangangte. So naturally, we're going to make asses of ourselves and shave off our beards, leaving just the solo mustache. Remember my pictures from Lost Friday? I'm hoping to look like that, only with a real mustache. In all likelihood I'll end up looking like a 15 year old wearing a week's worth of peach fuzz so he can try and buy a six-pack at a gas station.

On the homefront, how have you guys liked The Dark Knight? Any reviews would be welcomed, as long as they're spoiler free. Any spoilers and I swear to all gods christian, pagan, or otherwise that I will hunt you down and eat your black heart.

I see the Yankees have woken up a bit, that's nice. I'd kill to sit and watch a baseball game. More than anything though, I hate the fact that I'm going to miss every UNC basketball game this year. They are going to be horrifyingly good this year. They are going to annihilate people next year. Opposing coaches will be forever haunted by the memories of these beatings. Their children will weep while they watch their fathers humiliated on national television. Their wives will never look at them the same way. After the assault, many opposing players will give up the game of basketball for good. Some before the end of the first half. It's going to be awesome.

I should be pretty busy the next few weeks, planning lessons and getting ready to leave Bangangte and head to post for good. I'll try to keep up with the weekly posts but we'll see how that goes.

That's all for today. Shorter than usual but I'm really busy writing lesson plans. And by writing lessons plans I mean goofing off and teaching my little brother Frank how to say inappropriate things in English.

PS - Congratulations on getting into UDel Jessi! Let's go Blue Hens!
PPS - Blue Hens? Seriously? Pbbfffttthahahahahahaha

Saturday, July 19, 2008

This is Jim wearing a dress.

I don't think I could make the title any more straight forward. Here's a picture of me in my first pagne. It's just a simple chemise. Basically like an oxford shirt. And HERE is a picture of me in my first bubu. This one is only like a 3/4 length bubu (basically just about my knees) and it comes with a pair of pajama-style pants. Next week I'm going to get a full length bubu (think a gown down to the floor).

I'll do a full length post tomorrow or the next day. I have a lot of lesson planning to do before then.

PS - User poll: let my hair continue to grow out and look even MORE ridiculous, or just buzz it all the hell off?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fission Mailed

So the trip to my post was less than stellar. That's not to say there's anything wrong with the village. I haven't seen enough of it to make any kind of judgement call. The school itself is nice looking, but I didn't really spend any time in the village itself. I left Bangangte around 8 AM and arrived sometime around 10:30. Me and my counterpart headed to the school, we met the principal and left from there. Then we met the Sous-Prefet of my village. Here's the thing about Sous-Prefets, though. I can't really think of a position in the united states that compares to it, really. It's sort of like a Vice Mayor, of sorts. But anyway they all look strike me as Bond villains. Super well-dressed, very soft spoken, and very intimidating. You'd get what I mean if you met one. The Sous-Prefet was, in fact, very friendly and helpful. When the principal told him he wanted help finding me a house, he sort of laughed and said that was going to be a big problem. As I've heard from others, there is very little housing in my village. Pretty much everyone that teaches/works there lives in Mbouda (very large city about 15-20 minutes away) and commutes to work every day. I was under the impression that I was going to do exactly the same thing, but apparently not. Anyway, they said they'd do their best to find me a house with running water (very rare in my village) and that they wanted to furnish it for me. Hopefully that'll work out. After that we met the head of the Gendarmerie (sort of like police, but military). Then we were supposed to meet the Chief but he was out of town. All of this was finished by about 12:30. After that, we did NOTHING. And by after that, I mean until Friday morning when I left. My counterpart left for Baffoussam to take care of some things, and my principal was very busy. I basically spent 80% of my time alone in my hotel in Mbouda, alone. Not exactly super fun. Hopefully once my housing arrangements get squared away, I'll be able to go back for a day or so and give things another look. We'll see.

Travelling to and fro in Cameroon is hilarious though. There are a few formal transportation companies where you can go to an office and buy a ticket, but that's kind of expensive. Basically what you do is strap on your backpack and stand near a gas station. Within 2 minutes 10 different guys try to drag you into their random cars telling you they'll take you where you want to go. You just pick the one that looks the least drunk and jump on in. On Wednesday I drove in a van the size of a Windstar. The driver was going roughly 140 KPH. I have no idea what that is in MPH but it felt fast as hell. It wouldn't have been as frightening if there hadn't been 23 people in the van with me. 23. That's two football teams and a referee. The first day, I had an elderly woman sitting in my lap. Sweet lady, smelled of palm wine. Two days later I rode in a civic-sized car with 12 people. For that trip, I had a middle-aged man sitting on my lap. Not as friendly, still smelled like palm wine. Whatever, don't be a b*tch about it.

I'm back in Bangangte now, and its wild how I've already started to think of this town as home. I was so relieved to get back here. Hopefully after a month in Babadjou I'll feel the same way about it. We'll see though. Sadly I have no pictures of my trip, as I was too bummed out to take anyway and also I didn't feel like getting mugged for taking out my camera in too crowded of a place. Babadjou and Mbouda are really gorgeous though, near the mountains and if you get a clear view the countryside is really breathtaking.

That's all for today. Lot's of lesson planning to do this weekend. Model school starts on Tuesday. We observe classes the first week, and begin teaching our own lessons on tuesday. I will be shaping the youth of a nation. May God have mercy on their souls.

PS - Jessi. I miss you. Come to Cameroon. You're small. Mom and Dad can ship you UPS. You might want to get some shots before you leave, though. There is all kinds of ridiculous crap here that can/will kill you. Seriously, Jess. I miss you like crazy and I don't know why I'm using a public forum to say it but whatevs. Tell Mom and Dad to get ready to take you to France next June. I'm not kidding. We're all meeting there. Mom and Dad in Europe are going to be hilarious. I bet $50 Mom breaks something in the Louvre. Another $50 Dad beats up a mime. Love you, talk to you soon!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bucket Bath? More like &%$# - it bath.

This weekend was a lot of fun. We had a Fourth of July party at the PC HQ on Friday afternoon and had a lot of fun. Beers and burgers and a few of us worked out some ghetto ass version of beer pong. Then on Saturday night we headed to a party at the Mayor of Bangangté’s house. She was incredibly friendly and generous and we all ate ridiculously well. After dinner, the Mayor asked me and a few friends if we wanted to play “Bébé Foot.” So we went up to her game room and got SCHOOLED in an intense game of Foozball. The Mayor was talking ish the whole time and it was hilarious.

I also found out that I’ve reached Intermediate High proficiency with my French. That means that, while I still have a lot to learn, I’ve attained the level needed to complete my Peace Corps training and swear-in as a volunteer. That relieves a lot of pressure and now I think its going to be easier for me to advance my French because I’ll be less worried about attaining a certain level and just focused on expanding my vocabulary.

One last thing, I hit my lowest point since arriving in Cameroon. After an intense game of Ultimate Frisbee yesterday, I came home to shower before the party at the Mayor’s. Of course, the water and the electricity were both out. No big deal though, I can just bucket bathe with some rain water, right? Nope. No rain water in the barrel outside. Okay well at least you filled up your emergency tanks for exactly this type of situation, right? Nope, I’m a jackass. So I essentially “showered” by wiping myself off with a washcloth soaked in 4 inches of water in a bucket our housekeeper had just used to wash her feet. Go me.

Also, tomorrow is our one-month-in-country mark and there are still 38 of us. Go Stage 2008. Way to not be a b*tch about it.

Peep the pictures from the various fêtes.

PS - Mini-Book Review: Cormac McCarthy's The Road was absolutely brilliant. I couldn't tell you if I like it better than Blood Meridian
but I will say reading it has completed my about-face on McCarthy. I need to check out All The Pretty Horses. But yeah The Road is a horrifying but beautiful story about a father and son in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It sounds really cliché but it’s anything but. Read it. Now. Do it. Especially you, Aunt Crissy.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Don't Be A B*tch About It

Another week in the books and its funny how things are progressing. After the first two or three days here in Bangangté, everyone was talking about how they felt like we’d been here for two or three weeks. Time just seemed to be crawling by. This morning, though, nobody could believe it was already Saturday and that we only have 8 weeks left of training.

PST Status: Nobody has quit or died yet. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice. I’m really impressed by how tough everyone in the group is. No one’s really shown any signs of cracking. My boy Trevor brought along a dozen beer cozies with him that he made for his Fantasy Baseball league. It started out as an inside joke with him and some friends back home, but written on each of the cozies is what has become our Training Group’s Unofficial Motto: “Don’t Be A B*tch About It.” It’s a bit crass, but when you have to sit through some of our horrific medical sessions (imagine sitting in a room for 2 hours a few times a week, just hearing a laundry list of all the horrible things that are inevitably going to happen to your body) or deal with some of the Roon's everyday hassles, it’s a great mantra. Think you might have worms living in your intestines? Don’t be a b*tch about it. Host family insists on feeding you fish-heads and chicken feet for dinner every night? Don’t be a b*tch about it. Have to sleep with headphones on so you don’t have to hear the mice eating your socks? Don’t be a b*tch about it. You get the idea. One of these days I’m going to have to type up a whole glossary of the lingo we’ve come up with since arriving. Some of it is definitely coming back stateside.

But yeah personally my spirits are high. We had a little med session on mental health and everyone filled out a questionnaire about the things that are getting to us the most about being here. Really, besides the obvious things like missing family and friends, the only thing killing me is that I haven’t played golf in a month. I guess I got lucky because I have a great host family.

The kids are so hilarious because we all have the same since of humor, meaning it’s a houseful of smartasses. Whenever I’m with them and I want to say something but need to look in the Francais-Anglais dictionary, I always make this little clicking noise with my tongue while I search for the word. After doing that for about a week, the kids do it to me whenever I look like I’m thinking about anything. I was sitting playing chess with Jacque the other night, and I paused a half beat extra to think about a move, and I immediately hear six little kids going “TCHK-TCHK-TCHK” in unison and then laugh at me. Punks. That night I specifically ate more at dinner so there’d be less left for them. Kidding. Sort of? But that is kind of an awkward part of my evenings...

Every night I get served with either the mother, the father, or Jacque (depending on who’s home.) The kids kind of hang around in the living room while we eat and then after we’re done they eat the rest. So like every bit I take, I’m taking out of a nine-year-old’s mouth. And as much as I love stealing candy from children, that can rack on a guys conscience a wee bit. To remedy the situation, I’ve sort of just switched my lunch and dinner meal sizes. My big meal of the day is lunch (which I procure and pay for myself). I’ll usually have a big avocado, tomato, and cheese sandwich or a plate of rice, beans, and potatoes. Follow that up with a couple hard boiled eggs and a Coca-Cola and you’ve got yourself a meal. Then I just eat a tiny bit of what the family is having at dinner so there’s more left for the kids. Reading over this it sounds a lot worse than it actually is. I'm not going to bed hungry, Mom.

On a lighter note, the education volunteers find out our posts this Thursday (AKA where we’ll be spending the next two years of our lives). Naturally, I’m insanely excited about it. There are going to be 7 science education volunteers. There are 6 posts in the two Anglophone provinces and 1 in a Francophone province (although still teaching science in English at a bilingual school). I won’t be too upset if I don’t get it, but I'm actually hoping I get the Francophone post. I feel like if I’m going to bust my ass for the next two months learning French, I want to be able to use it. It seems like I’m the only Science Ed volunteer who wants that spot though, so maybe I’ll end up getting it. Frankly either way I’m not too concerned because the Anglophone provinces are extremely beautiful and from what I hear, a bit more developed.

I got my first shirt tailored today. The material cost me 3.000 CFA (roughly $6) and the tailoring cost me 1.500 CFA (about $3). I had enough material for two shirts (deux chemise: basically an oxford or a blouse) but I didn’t feel like having two shirts of the same material, so I’ll probably just use the remainder for an ironing board. You get clothes here made out of material called pagne, which is basically cotton-like material with really bright and wild designs on it. I’ve never really been into prints but hey, when in Rome. The print I got is like dark green, and black, with a little bit of orange. It’s a bit more mellow than your average pagne but I’m going to ease into the style. Eventually I’ll want to get a boubou made. What is a boubou? Think man-dress. Tres GQ. I get to pick the finished shirt up on Wednesday so I’ll probably put up a picture of me in it when I post here about why posting announcement.

Oh yeah, anyone who reads this that’s into golf (Billy, Koon, Dres) needs to check out the book The Match. It’s by the same guy who wrote The Greatest Game Every Played (Mark Frost) and it was a NYT Best Seller. It’s about a Best-Ball match with two of the 1950's best amateurs, Ken Venturi and (Tar Heel) Harvie Ward against legends Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. Mark Frost is an amazing writer and the book is just unbelievable. I read it in about 5 hours, in one sitting (250 pages). I just grabbed The Road by Cormac McCarthy and I should be processing that one for a while. Blood Meridian was so good I decided maybe I was wrong about McCarthy when I didn’t like No Country For Old Men. I’ll let you know what I think of it when I finish.

That’s all for today. Check back Thursday night or Friday to see where I got posted and possibly some pictures of me in my hot new African formal wear.

P.S. – There are no prescriptions here. Any drug you want you can get over the counter. Odds of me developing a Brett-Favrian vicodin addiction? 5:3.

P.P.S. – Danny Green, Ty Lawson, and Wayne Ellington are all coming back. UNC is going to go undefeated next year with an average margin of victory of 25.5 ppg and I’m going to miss every minute of it? Nice.

P.P.P.S. – Hi Mrs. Firth!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cameroon Top 5 Lists+ Pictures

So I was thinking the other night about a few things and I threw these lists together to give you guys a better grasp of what it’s like living here.

Top 5 Things That Will Take Some Getting Used To:

5) Every time I get drink bottled water, its piss warm. But when I take a shower, its Rocky Mountain cold.

4) Taking said showers with tomorrow’s dinner. Pre-beheading.

3) Another Trainee said it best: “All the food is good here, but Cameroon has made me realize how important presentation is to a meal." The other night I was served Plantains in peanut sauce. After closing my eyes and digging in, I LOVED it. But imagine being served a plate of gray, banana-shaped logs served in thick, brown, speckled gravy.

2) French.

1) The Bangangte 06:00 Wake-Up Call – I don’t know where in the town charter it says this, but apparently the local Crowing Roosters, Crying Babies, and Loud Music Bumping unions have organized to have ALL HELL break loose outside my window every morning 10 minutes before dawn. The music and roosters I can live with, but there is this one kid who lives next door and every morning he wakes up screaming like someone is killing him. Frankly its gotten to the point where I’m hoping they just finish the job.

Top 5 Things that I Already Love about Cameroon

5) Sleeping in a mosquito net makes me feel sexy. Sue me.

4) 24 Oz. beers for $1 everyday. 1.5 Oz. Capri Sun-like bags of whiskey for 25 cents. Huge, delicious plates of rice, potatoes, beans, and sauce for 75 cents. And more than anything else: The Bangangte Egg McMuffin: A hard boiled egg with some spicy sauce served in what is essentially a giant doughnut hole with no powdered sugar. How much? 25 cents.

3) Being the only white guy in a market full of 2,000 people. I’m sure this one will get old, but right now whenever I walk around, all the stares just make me feel like a rock star.

2) Cameroonian television – 17 channels of Spanish soap operas with French subtitles. 3 channels of soccer.

1) Pierre’s – Local bar where every night they set up the place especially just for the influx of PCTs after training. Great food, great beer, and a great atmosphere. For you Chapel Hill folks reading this, its like Montys but EVERY NIGHT.

I also uploaded some pictures from last nights festivities. Some of them didn't work, so there's only about 10. I'll try to get some more up next weekend.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wireless internet in Bangangte!?

So yeah, thanks to some help from one of the IT education trainees, a bunch of us were able to figure out how to use our cell phones (essentially) as wireless routers for our laptops for about $1 an hour. Way faster than your average internet cafe and immeasurably more convenient. I'm still going to keep the updates weekly, because I'm not really trying to spend much time on the computer when there's so much to do around here. But this way I can really get on the web just about any time I want/need.

Things are still going well with the host family. We play a lot of card games and I'm still teaching Jacques how to play chess. He's a very quick learner and I'm sure he'll be embarrassing me in no time.

We now have a regularly scheduled pick-up soccer game among the trainees and a few trainers. We played Thursday and it was a blast. Some of the trainees are very good, some very bad (moi), and almost all the trainers are insanely good. Our training director David (much older guy) was absolutely schooling us twenty-somethings out there. The "field" is 100% mud/clay. Not a patch of grass on it, sort of like the field we used to practice football on at RPHS. I wiped out fantastically near the end and got pretty scraped up. I'll undoubtedly have developed gangrene in my left arm and leg by the time you read this post.

Through a bit of lobbying, I was able to get the trainee curfew extended tonight (Until 9 PM! We're insane.) And we're all gonna get together for some drinks and I think a few people are going to cook up some food. So far no one has died, quit, or gotten pregnant. But we've only been in Bangangte for like 10 days so there's plenty of time. If I had to guess which would happen first, I'd go with a pregnancy. You get enough 25 cent sachets of whiskey in you and bad decisions are inevitable.

Oh yeah, I really need to start writing down my dreams too. This malaria medication is well known for giving incredibly vivid dreams and it has been living up to the hype. I had one last night where I had all kinds of bugs living in my skin and I had to pop them out like pimples. Here's to hoping it wasn't a premonition of things to come.

Anyway things are going pretty well, another full week in the books. We do a thirty minute teaching example next week and I think I'm going to do mine on mitosis. I know, they're going to be riveted. I might take some pictures tonight/tomorrow and post them mid week, in which case I'll post a link here. A bientot!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bangangte pictures uploaded on Flickr!

I found an internet cafe that actually communicates with the outside world faster than your average carrier pidgeon (though not much), so I was able to get some pictures uploaded. There may or may not a few candid shots of the voyeur chicken I accidentally showered with. I forget.

Warning: The adorability of certain Cameroonian children may be too potent for some.

check dat ish rite hurr

Monday, June 16, 2008

I am officially Peace Corps

Yeah, it’s official. I’m in the Peace Corps. I realized it yesterday night when I got home from Pierre’s (a local market/bar where the PC trainees get drinks after training sessions) and jumped in the shower. Am I officially in the Peace Corps because I’m bathing out of a bucket? No. Is it because there’s no water heater and I shower in cold water? No. It’s official because halfway through my shower, I noticed there was a chicken and three chicks in the bathroom with me. Let me repeat that. I showered with a chicken. Somewhere between lather and rinse, I hear a “BICKAWWW” from next to the toilet. Lo and behold, there is Mama Hen and three little babies. I just burst out laughing and started to chase them around the bathroom naked like a madman.

So as you’ve clearly noticed, I DO have internet access in Bangangte, even though I thought I wouldn’t. I should be able to update this thing and upload some pictures once a week or so, maybe a little less. But that’s good news. This village is so unbelievable I’ll have a lot to write about.
My host family is fantastic. My dad is an Economics Teacher, my mother sells phone cards, and there are four children that are unbelievably adorable and hilarious. They all love American music (Akon, Beyonce, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown) and they dance to the music DVDs that they have just about every night. My mother’s brother, Jacque, lives with us as well. He’s 20 years old and extremely friendly. Everyone, especially Jacque and Kevin (the oldest child), is patient with my weak French. We played Uno together the other night for like two hours and I’ve started to teach Jacque how to play chess. The latter was extremely difficult considering I know about six French words. Four of which being “Je ne comprende pas.”

Bangangte in general is gorgeous. It’s extremely green and very temperate. From about 11 AM to 2 PM every day it gets very hot but during the night its extremely comfortable. When it rains, the roads turn into EXTREMELY sticky red mud that sticks to your shows like glue. I’ve been paying the kids in candy to clean my shoes on rainy days, as its extremely important culturally to have clean shoes at all times. In fact, all of the Cameroonians dress nicely (think business casual) at all times. In the States, dress is about individual expression. Here, its about respect for others and your community. It’s a bit of a hassle getting ready every morning, but its kind of a nice feeling being well dressed all the time.

So I'll probably be updating this thing on Sundays or Mondays. So check back. Im about to try and upload some pictures but the internet CRAWLS here so I dont know if its going to work. Otherwise, I'll see you Sunday.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

One quick last thing before I leave...

I have my cell phone up and running so if you guys ever want to call or text me while Im here, the number is (011) (237) 79 49 60 06. That includes the US international calling code and then the Cameroonian country code. Its kinda expensive but not too crazy. Especially just for the once-in-a-while text message. Just thought Id give you guys the info because Id love to hear from you. It wont cost me anything if you call me, as all incoming calls are gratis. But if you text itll cost me a bit to text back so dont be offended if I have no credit on my phone and cant hit you back.

Anyway we got our language test results back and apparently Im an Intermediate Low, which is two levels higher than I expected to be and Im a little stressed that the people Im going to be grouped with are going to be moving too quickly for me... I guess we'll see soon enough. Thats all for a while. On va parler en dix semaines.

Uploaded a few pics before Bangangté

So we're not exactly working with blazing fast internet speeds so I can put up all of my pics or even any of them at full resolution, but I set up an account where I'll be throwing up a few snapshots whenever I get the chance. I haven't taken that many pictures of Yaounde because 1) Im an idiot who always forgets his camera 2) We really haven't travelled around Yaounde that much (We're mostly sequestered to the PC Office and our Hotel). The link is right here.

But tomorrow I head out to Bangangte to meet my host family and see the place I'll be living for the next three months. We had a questionnaire about our living preferences (Like electricity, running water, toilets, etc.) and whether or not we'd mind living without them. Most people just put they didnt mind any of it. Me? Not so much. Me (and Trevor and Joe and Nick) were actually honest. We figure we can handle living without those things for three months, but if they're actually going to use the questionnaire to place us, why not try and get them? Screw looking easy to please, I don't want to crap in a hole for three months longer than I have to.

But that said I probably wont have internet access often or at all for the next three months, so I'll be out of commission. But as soon as I get back I'll have a full report on Pre-Service Training as well as a bunch of photos. You stay classy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Settled in in Yaounde!

Well I've been in Yaounde for a few days now (and I'm on a Peace Corps computer so it's actually got a good-old-american-these-colors-dont-run keyboard with like punctuation and such). Of course I've just gotten settled enough in time to leave on Thursday to head out to Bangangte to meet my host family whom I'll be living with for the next 10 weeks. I'm really excited about it, because basically my French can only go up from where it is. I think living with them is going to allow me to immerse and get better at picking up the language.

Anyway the weather here is surprisingly mild. We're in the rainy season which is about 9 months long in Yaounde, and its a bit cooler now. It gets pretty warm in direct sunlight and from around 11:30 AM to like 2:00 PM, but at night its a very comfortable temperature. Bangangte apparently gets down to the 50s at night, which will be great because its a lot easier to sleep in the cool for me.

But anyway as I was saying everyone in my group is very cool (There are 38 of us all together). There are about 6 or 8 of us who get along very well so I'm having a lot of fun and not feeling too homesick just yet. We're still a bit sheltered here in Yaounde, and things will probably be a bit more wild in Bangangte, but since I've made some friends I think I'll be able to tought it out.

But anyway: To answer a few questions:

1) Chris - Yes the keyboard does have a cidella(?) as well as a bunch of little like pictograms for Pidgin (like fishes and suns and sech)

2) Billy - No "i surrender" button but the "Esc" button takes up half of the keyboard.

3) Ellen - See you next tuesday :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Here in Cameroon

This French keyboard is really bizarre so forgive the grammar and punctuation in this post. Im gonna keep it short and sweet and with a bit of luck I'll post more info and some pictures later in the week. Just wanted everyone to know that Im here in Cameroon and all safe and sound. I cant even get exclamation points on this thing, haha

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Last full day in the States

Staging so far has been a blast. Well, I suppose thats not true. The actual Peace Corps staging sessions and all that has been kind of boring. Standard seminar crap (icebreakers, group posters, etc.). But meeting everyone else headed to Cameroon has been great. There's 36 of us going and everyone is really enthusiastic about leaving and extremely friendly. Just about all of us took over a bar a few blocks from the hotel last night and got to know each other. After meeting them all I'm even more excited about training because I know that worst comes to worst I'll at least be around a bunch of friends.

Tomorrow morning we go to the clinic and get a bunch of shots and such before flying to Paris at 6:45. That's a 7 hour flight, followed by a 2 hour lay over in gai Paris, followed by another 7 hour flight to Douala(doo-all-ah), Cameroon. That's when things get kinda hectic. We take a 50 minute flight from Douala to Yaounde (yah-oon-day)which I can only imagine should be an interesting one. We're in Yaounde for like 5 days before heading to Bangangte (bon-gone-tay) for the next 10 weeks.

Well anyway, I think most of us are just going to take it easy tonight and watch the Laker game. The next few days are going to be very exciting and undoubtedly tiring so I should probably just rest up tonight. I've got a cold and I'm hoping to kill it by Saturday morning, cross your fingers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Book Recommendations?

Forgot to mention that I'm going to bring about a dozen paperbacks with me and I've still got room for like 4-5 more. Hit me up with some recommendations at jrb.pcv@gmail.com. The smaller the book the better so I can bring more along. So we're looking for maximum awesome to page ratio here. Merci.

I'd Rather Pack Then Watch the Yankees Lately

Yup. It's come to that. I'd rather sit and pack my bags than watch the "Bombers" score 2 runs a series. Can Joba hit? Maybe Joba can hit. Throw him on 1st base and see what happens. How bad could that be? He couldn't do worse than Giambi in his golden thong, could he? At least I don't have to worry about them winning #27 while I'm in the bush. Bah.

Anyway so I've pretty much got everything I need and I'm gonna start throwing it all in bags over the next few days. I don't need to bring that many clothes with me as I can get most of what I need made over in Cameroon pretty cheap. The following is a list of everything I'm going to bring. Not exactly riveting reading but I'm using it to make sure I'm not forgetting anything.

- Collared Polo shirts - 4
- Oxford work shirts - 5
- Ties - 3
- Tee-shirts - 5 for wearing out, 5 casual
- Jeans - 1 light, 1 dark
- Athletic Shorts - 2
- Belts - 2
- Dress Pants - 2 light, 1 dark
- Beaters, socks, and underwear - 12 each
- Raincoat
- Light coat
- Sweatshirt? Maybe
- Bathing Suit
- Watch
- Sunglasses
- Yankees hat (Masochism)

- Dress Shoes
- Rainbows
- Running Shoes
- Hiking Boots

- Antiperspirant
- Moisturizer
- Q-Tips
- Shampoo
- Body Wash
- Washcloth
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Lysterine, Floss
- Tweezers
- Nailclippers
- Earplugs
- Camping towels
- Razor + Crazy mad razorheads
- Shaving cream

Work stuff:
- Day-Planner
- Notebooks
- "Donated" Science textbooks (hoping to steal some from Rocky Point High School)

Kitchen + House Wares:
- Ziplocks
- Leatherman Multi-tool
- Can-opener
- Some snacks

Electronic stuff:
- Cell Phone
- Mag-Lite
- Hand-cranked Lantern
- USB Flashdrive
- Powermonkey Explorer Solar Powered Cellphone/iPod/Digital Camera charger (awesome)
- Laptop? (Haven't decided yet)
- Travel Chess Computer
- Need to buy an iPod and a Digital Camera

- Lots of photos of friends and family
- Peace Corps paperwork
- World Map
- Postage Stamps
- Alarm clock
- Chess set
- Playing Cards
- Calculator
- French dictionary
- Umbrella
- Putter (Yes, I have a serious addiction)
- Combo locks
- Laundry stuff
- Drying line
- So much duct tape
- Mirror
- Carolina stuff to decorate my walls

Damn it I have so much to do.

Friday, May 16, 2008

T-Minus 20 Days

Hey everybody,

So even though it goes against every fiber of my being... I've started a blog. I chose this over sending out any blanket emails because that's wildly pretentious and obnoxious and I don't think I need any help coming off as pretentious and obnoxious.

I leave for staging on June 4th. I'll probably make a post before I leave about how staging went. Past that point I have no idea about how often I'll be able to update this thing. But I should be able to get to a computer on a somewhat regular basis either at my school or when I travel to bigger cities like Douala or Yaounde.

My email is jrb.pcv@gmail.com and I'll try to respond to any emails as quickly as possible. I'd love to hear from you all as much as possible. Keep me updated on what's going on back home/with you guys/the Yankees/Brangelina.

Also I'm bringing a digital camera with me and I'll try and link to any pictures I take on here as well once I get that all working.


PS - Important assignment for all of you. Any time you see a decent movie in the next 27 months, either shoot me an email about it or leave it on here via comment. I swear to god I'm near suicide knowing I'm missing out on stuff like The Dark Knight or Burn After Reading. It's up to you all to make sure I know exactly what I need to check out as soon as I get back.