Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wow I haven't posted in a long time.

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

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

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

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

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

- Back to Africa -

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Halftime

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

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




























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

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---

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

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

TARRRRRRRRRR!!!
HEEEEEEEEEELS!!!

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

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


















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

Saturday, April 11, 2009

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Get excited, Ma. Two posts in one month.

A couple funny things happened to me this weekend so I thought I'd share them here. I went to a wedding on Saturday night with Cook and had a blast. So I didn't know about the wedding until before we left, so I show up wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. Ultra classy, I know. I don't think they took it as an affront, though. I say this because when we arrived at around 9 PM, we were seated right next to the groom and his blushing bride. And I mean that literally, the bride looked very young and very nervous. Happy, though.

So we're talking and enjoying the traditional group dances by the women folk and just having an all around good time. Neither of us had eaten dinner and we were both starved by the time they brought out the tables. We were served at around 10:30 (Only the bride and groom ate before us) and it was an absolute FEAST. The groom is a private chef and homeslice went all Wolfgang Puck on the situation. Apparently most of the fare was Brazilian, but it all struck me as very German... So yeah take from that what you will.

After the delicious Ger-zilian fare, two women came out and started to clear all the plates and empty cups and such. The groom comes over to me and very proudly tells me that the two women clearing the table were his first two wives. I'm sorry but that &%$# is funny to me. This is far from my first interaction with polygamy in Cameroon and I'm not trying to speak out against it. I'm just tickled at the idea of having to bus tables at your husband's third wedding. Do you think he tipped? Seriously though, polygamy is a common enough practice in Cameroon and I'm past the point where I'll try and speak out against it. It's just a cultural thing. Besides, I don't really need to try and turn people away from it. Polygamy has its own inherent punishment. Two wives! Hiyooooo!*

The other thing I wanted to write about were these bootleg DVDs that they sell here in Bamenda. They sell all kinds of TV show seasons (mostly dramas, American comedy doesn't always translate well) and tons of DVDs with 40-50 full length movies compressed onto them. Interestingly enough, a lot of them are advertised as being printed on TDK brand DVDs. For those of you that don't know, that's my Dad's old company. Unsurprisingly, none of the TDK DVDs I've bought have actually worked. The best part of these things though is that they all come from China and have little blurbs and stuff on the back in horribly engrish. Check out this description of Season 6 of Friends:

Ross and Rachel get up last night after the marriage completely forgotten the absurd things. Breakfast, ask friends, the two waken ip from their dream, decide to settle in New York after the abolition of marriage. Rachel Ross Please rest assured that the matter would be entirely his dishes, but he has gone back on his word. Germany, and Monica all the money for their own marriage he, Lanshan, but not exports. If the combination of the two is predestined, and there should be signs? Sign one after another, but they still refuses to recognize life. Finally money Talk proposed cohabitation. Joey Fabian took over the food supply trucks, Fabian convince motorists to go home with him. He promised trip will be fun, but Along the way, most of the time he fell asleep.

I want to send all of my future blog posts to this company so they can translate them into Chinese and then back into this Engrish mess.

Next time, on Jim's Peace Corps Blog: Foreword to an International Incident!

Africa long time has kept Jameson Whiskey back and forth between his villagers. But this weekend beach plans for golfing because a break needed is what he has. After returns, Jim begins to finish school his students study but fare well on the exams will they? Who could tell. He plans to Europe with Jessica parents this summer coming, but firstly helps with training he will be Peace Corpse 2009.

---

But yeah so I'm taking the weekend off to release some stress and see the Southwest again. I'll let you know how that plays out but I probably wouldn't expect another update until April. Go Heels!



*Did I already make that joke on this blog? Perhaps. But hey it's a classic.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

You can't make this stuff up. (Also a note to the Newcomers)

First things first: A handful of you folks coming in on the new stage in June 2009 have contacted me through my blog here and there. I'm more than willing to help you out as much as I'm able. Problem is, if you contact me through the blog, I have no way of getting back to you. So drop me a line at jrb.pcv@gmail.com so I can reply back to you. If you've already asked me a question, shoot it over to my email so I can get back to you directly. Thanks and get excited, Cameroon is an awesome country.

Now for a little mini-update: I don't know what it is, but for some reason strange things always happen to me when I'm trying to bathe au Cameroun. As you probably already know, I'm without running water. As a result, I get mon eau by sending kids out with these big yellow jugs that I have to fetch it from a source of which I'd probably rather remain ignorant. Case in point: the other day my buddies Boris and Jordan come back with two bidongs full of water. I give them a bit of food money and send them off. After locking up I fill up my bucket with water and disrobe for a bucket bath. I start singing showtunes and dip my hands in the bucket to commence when what do I see...

A prodigious pack of polliwogs. There had to be a dozen or two tadpoles just loving life in my bathtub. After months of bush taxis* and Cameroonian "customer service," my threshold for annoyance has reached a level previously unheard of for a Browning male. All I could do is laugh. In June, or maybe even in August I would have tossed the water. But the sun was going down and I felt particularly grimy that day, so I just fished the little buggers out and lathered up. C'est la vie.

In case you were wondering, all tadpoles are currently alive and thriving in a water bottle out in my backyard. I'm hoping to farm them and grow them into frogs big enough to eat. Am I kidding? I might be kidding. (I'm not kidding).

*Part 2: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Mbouda

Okay so I guess this update isn't going to be as mini as I thought. But I figured you'd enjoy this story too, if only out of schadenfreude.

So I'm making my merry way to Mbouda to pick up some odds and ends. The taxi I took was particularly packed. Four up front including the driver, six in the back including myself. Two were about 10 or 11 years old sitting on their mother's laps. The smell of palm wine or raffia or whatever was pungent... It stung the nostrils. I'm not gonna lie it smelled like pure gasoline. Actually, that's inaccurate. Raffia/palm wine smells like a mixture of gasoline, rotten salad dressing, and body odor. Although that last bit may have just been the bouquet of the nine perspiring Cameroonians in the car with me. Regardless of its source, the smell of this vehicle was... incapacitating.

Anyway, I'm sitting with a tissue over my nose trying to filter out the funk, when I look to my right and see the woman next to me holding on to four thumb-sized beetles, squirming feebly in her grasp. I'm not exaggerating about how huge they were either. If beetles had theme parks, these guys would have been "This Tall!" enough to ride the roller coasters. So being a total schmuck, I venture to ask the woman "Ces sont pour qoui?" (Basically 'what the hell are you going to do with those?!" in my awful French) She laughs at me, picks out out one of the four (who we'll call Kenny) and bites the poor bastard in half. I sat there with my jaw dropped and my stomach turning while the rest of women in the back seat just laughed at me.

I really thought I'd vomit. Stan, Kyle, and Cartman were still squirming away, the oppressive heat, the smell of rancid Hidden Valley ranch in the air... But somehow I kept it together and did my best to laugh along at my naivete with the mamas.

The kid sitting on his mother's lap to my left wasn't so lucky.

I've seen projectile vomit in my day. I mean, I went to college. I did my share of binge drinking. I've seen acts of regurgitation that were worthy of note. Remember the time Veliz puked on our rug sophomore year and I had to cut a 2'x2' hole out of the middle of it with a pocket knife? Well, little homie to my left put Danny Boy to shame. This was straight Exorcist stuff right here. Sparing you all the details, the shear volume and velocity of this kid's emission had just about everybody in the damn vehicle sporting some spew. I mean everybody. I'm pretty sure some got in the glove box, don't ask me how. How this didn't start one of those epic "Oh-my-god-he-just-puked-now-I'm-gonna-puke-oh-my-god-now-he's-puking-now-we're-all-puking" scenes is beyond me. We pulled over and cleaned ourselves off as best as we could with twigs and grass and stuff.

At this point I was pretty much done with the expedition. I decided to just hoof it back home. It took me about an hour to walk it, and I was pretty tired by the time I got back. It had been a really hot day and I probably walked 3-4 miles back home in the noon heat. All I wanted was a glass of water. Of course, however, my water filter was empty. So in my exhaustion, I had to hump it out back and fill it up with some of my reserve water. I carry the filter back into the kitchen, and it just so happened that I took a peek inside before I put the cover back on.

It was full of tadpoles.

FML

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Fresh Air Fund

A representative from the Fresh Air Fund asked me to write a blog about the programs they offer and the need for hosts, staff members, camp counselors etc. which I am more than happy to. (even though I copied most of it off their website). I was first introduced to the program when a neighbor hosted a child through the Fresh Air Host Fund Family. There are several other programs that Fresh Air organizes, here's some information about that you might find of interest:

Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from disadvantaged communities. Each year, thousands of children visit volunteer host families in 13 states and Canada through the Friendly Town Program or attend one of five Fresh Air Fund camps.

Each summer, 3,000 children enjoy themselves at one of the five Fresh Air camps in upstate New York. They are now accepting applications for counselors for this coming summer of '09. They hire staff members with a wide range in some pretty amazing fields. Fresh Air Fund is looking for college-aged men and women who love to work with children.

For more information please visit this website
http://freshairfundcounselors.smnr.us/

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Carolina 101 - Dook 87

I don't know if my Aunt Mary Ellen, my Uncle Ben, and their heathen dookie children (miss you guys) check this blog at all, but just in case they do:

Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices
Ringing clear and true.
Singing Carolina's praises.
Shouting N-C-U.

Hail to the brightest star of all
Clear its radiance shine
Carolina priceless gem.
Receive all praises thine.

I'm a Tar Heel born, I'm a Tar Heel bred.
And when I die, I'm a Tar Heel dead.
So it's rah-rah, Car'lina-'lina!
Rah-rah, Car'lina-'lina!
Rah-rah, Car'lina-Rah, rah, rah!

GO TO HELL DOOK!

Definitely woke up at 3 AM just to follow the score of this game. Tyler Hansbrough and Long Island's own Danny Green are undefeated at Cameron Indoor Stadium. God Bless America.

That one was for Gizmo.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

National Lampoon's Southwestern Cameroon Vacation

So this past weekend I took a trip to the Southwest province to visit some friends before a provincial meeting and go on a hike out to some waterfalls. The hike and ensuing swim was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, but I'll get to that later. First things first: I had to get to the Southwest. Now I live in a small village. I don't have any big markets, not really any restaurants, there's only one real bar, and I don't have running water. As a result, I consider my life pretty rustic. I took one thing for granted though. One thing that I have that makes my life here so much easier than so many other PCVs in different regions. I have good roads. Beautiful, paved roads. Roads that are falling apart in some place, but are paved nonetheless. As soon as we left the West province, so went the roads. It was 2 hours of traveling a distance that would have taken me about 35 minute in the United States. It was 2 hours of perpetual speedbumps. God forbid our driver drove any slower than 100 km/h over the sharp turns that could have easily sent us off of a cliff to a flying, firey, Michael Bay-esque death. I suppose its enough to say I respect the difficulties faced by my fellow PCVs in the Southwest much more than I did before the trip.

After Deathrace 2008, I found my friends' posts in the Southwest to be truly awe-inspiring. I think my post has some beautiful scenery, I really do. But I've never seen anything as green as the forests of Menji and Lewoh. When the fog rolled into the valley on the morning I left, it looked like something you'd see in a National Geographic.

The hike itself was described to us by our friend Brad in simple terms. "It's like a 2 hour hike." Knowing Brad's ultra-laid-back attitude, I should have known he wasn't the kind of guy to use the intense language one needs to accurately describe the trek. Language like "exhausting," "not for the faint of heart," or perhaps most succinctly "vertical." All in all it took us about two and a half to three hours to climb/walk down the mountain to the base of the falls. We were guided along the trail by a local friend who called himself Rastking, and would alert us to his location (the trail itself was about one pace wide and the foliage was so thick you could only see so far ahead of you) by playing on a flute he brought with him. Near the end of the hike, I went on ahead of the group because Rastking told me there was only one trail to follow so I couldn't get lost. I felt like booking it a little so I took off. After I got down to the riverbed I was probably about 15 minutes ahead of the front of the group. In that time I got a little worried that maybe I made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up down or upstream from where everyone else was coming. Hearing the flute's music coming out of the woods a bit later was reassuring and singularly surreal.

After I got down there I was really in my element. I suppose in some ways I'm still an 8-year-old. I love climbing trees and rocks and rope bridges and going on adventures. Getting from one place to another at the base of the falls involved a lot of jumping from rock to rock and a lot of guessing which rocks would be slippery and which wouldn't. It was a great time. A few of us went swimming in the pool under the falls, and that was something I'll never forget. The roar of the cascading water, the breeze whipping this way and that, the way the water was refreshing but not freezing. I'm really glad I made it out there.

The way back was another story. Remember how I said getting from one place to another required guessing which rocks were slippery and which weren't? Well after a few hours of bouncing around surefootedly like a coked-out squirrel. I got a little cocky and guessed wrong. Feet went one way, body went another (read: into the damn river). I had my bag on at the time, and my digital camera didn't survive the immersion. Though, when I think about how close I was to having my head dashed open on a rock just below the waterline, I suppose breaking my camera wasn't that big of a deal (especially since I was able to get my pictures of the hike off of it).

Again, remember how I said it took us like two and a half hours to scale down the mountain? Well the hike back up was one of the single-most exhausting things I've ever done. My quads are still yelling at me. The way up was a lot quicker going though (An hour and a half, I think?), so I suppose that was a plus.

I've got some really good pictures, but I can't upload them here at my house. So check back here on Thursday or Friday and I should have them uploaded for ya.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My dog > Terminix

Just a little mini-post, but I told my mom about this the other day and she got so grossed out I had to share it with everyone.

A few nights ago, before I got into bed, I noticed a spider about the size of my palm in the corner of my bedroom. I stood there and pondered what to do with it. Last time I saw one of these buggers, I just stepped on it. That resulted in a loooooot of spider guts all over my flip-flop and bedroom floor. Like, copious amounts of spider guts. I had to actually use paper towels to clean up this absurd amount of spider guts. So I'm sitting there trying to come up with a gameplan, and Gizmo walks into my room. He stands at my feet for a minute, notices the spider, and then very calmly walks over to the thing and just eats it in like two gulps. Looks back at me, wags his tail, and walks back into the den.

Awesome.

Friday, January 2, 2009

My thoughts in the first weeks and how they've changed in 7 months:

1) "It seems really, really dangerous driving around with 10 people in an '85 escort knock-off"

Travelling here in Cameroon is an absolutely mind-boggling mess. You can travel short distances on motocycle taxis, but they're too expensive to take on long trips. For said long trips, you have to take bush taxis. Bush taxis can vary in size from tiny compact cars to big ass vans. Regardless of size, however, you know you're not leaving until there are at least 4-8 too many people in the vehicle. I once drove from my provincial capital to my home with the following setup: Driver pressed against the driverside window with a teenage boy sharing the driver seat with him. I'm sitting between the driver and passenger seats straddling the gearshift (all the vehicles here are manual). There are two people in the passenger seat. 4 people in the backseat, 2 are women with children on their laps. One preteen boy basically lying across the laps of the other 2. 12 people in a compact car. At first it felt dangerous, now its commonplace. I remember just the other day thinking how luxurious it was to be the only person in the passenger seat.

2) "I'm really not comfortable eating from a community plate of fish with no utensils and dirty hands"

This was one of those things that if I hadn't gotten over, I'd never be able to eat anywhere but my house and the more expensive restaurants. In fact, the dining here in Cameroon has become one of the things I'm going to miss most in the states. Usually when out on the town around dinner time, you can walk up to any of the dozen or so women cooking fish on a makeshift grill and order some "poisson braise" while you wait at a nearby bar. They'll then grill you up a whole fish, throw it on a plate and bring it to whatever bar you're at. It's usually accompanied by a bowl of non-filtered water with which you can wash your hands. It's usually delicious, but there's almost no way to avoid getting sick the first few times while your body gets used to the new germs and such.

3) "This weekly malaria prophylactic sure is convenient!"

Every friday at around 10AM I take Mephloquin, which is a malaria prophylactic. In the beginning I thought it was convenient that I only had to take it once a week and I didn't experience any side effects. Well about a month or two in, I've started having the most horrific, vivid nightmares every friday night like clockwork. I usually wake up around 2AM in a cold sweat after dreaming about crazy stuff like murdering my family or my dog (actual examples). I could switch to another pill, which is taken daily. But the side effects for that pill include sensitivity to sunlight. And as an Irish/Ukrainian living 3 degrees above the equator, I don't really need any help getting sunburn.

4) "It's so nice having all these kids in the village know where I live and come visit me all the time!"

This is something that I imagine every Peace Corps volunteer, regardless of location, has to deal with. I'm lucky enough to have a big ass 10 foot wall surrounding my house so I can more or less set my own visitation hours. But I still get knocks on my gate at all hours of the day, even moreso now that I've gotten a dog that the kids love to play with. It's even worse at some of my friend's homes. I spent the night at one's place just recently, and she had kids knocking on her door and singing random crap in french at like 3 in the morning. Don't you have homes!? It's one of those things that comes with being the only white within 50 kilometers or so. You're a novelty.

5) "Jesus Christ washing my clothes by hand for the next two years is going to be awful"

I actually handwashed my clothes for two months before giving in and starting to pay kids to do it for me. Now I genuinely think its probably easier to do laundry here than in the states. The quality of the wash isn't as good, but where else can you get basically your entire wardrobe washed, dried, and folded for $1 USD?

6) "QUIT STOPPING THE CAR EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES! IT SHOULD NOT TAKE 90 MINUTES TO TRAVEL 30 KILOMETERS"

Travelling au Cameroun is a joke, as mentioned in #1, but I gotta say I'm happy to be here because I now know that NOTHING will be able to test my patience in the states. I'm well on my way to becoming an absolute goddamn zen master. I once sat on a bus in 90 degree heat for two and a half hours while the driver got accosted by police. Luckily this was only about a month ago so I had gotten used to that sort of thing. If it had happened in my first week I probably would have killed myself/those around me.

7) "I'm really glad I have electricity in my house, but I think I'd rather have running water."

It sucks not having running water, it really does. Doing laundry, washing dishes, washing floors, showering, cooking, and anything else you need water for instantly becomes a hassle. But I'll say, after spending some time at posts without electricity, that it's way better than not having lights. You don't have lights, and your day is just over at 6:30 every night. There is just not a damn thing to do but go to sleep.

8) Man, defecating outside into a hole in the ground is really, really awful.

I've made it into a game. Now its like target practice!

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All in all these past 7 months have been pretty mindblowing. I've seen some insane things (bodies on the side of the road just left there after horrible car accidents, boiled monkey [delicious, but looks like boiled baby], etc). It's also made me more appreciative of life back aux etats unis. After bathing out of a bucket for this long, I'll never again complain about weak water pressure or low temperatures in a shower. It's also convinced me of what I want to do with my life back in the States. After seeing how corruption (Cameroon has been called the most corrupt country in the world by a number of sources) has crippled this country and its citizens in so many ways, I know that studying law back in the states is something I could really get into and enjoy.

So yeah. Such is my life.

Note added after posting: This post reads kinda bleakly, but you should all know I'm really, truly happy here and having a great time. Just felt like ranting a bit.