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 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