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


Christopher said...

My e-mail is

cmox said...

Jim -- I have so many old running shoes that I dont' use anymore . . . I know this sounds silly but let me know if you want me to ship them over to you . . .I can collect, Uncle Pat's and Aunt Cathy's too . . . it's something right?

Aunt Cathy said...

I have plenty or running shoes and regular shoes that I can send. I'll work with Aunt Crissy and put a package together. Love you. Aunt Cathy