Saturday, January 19, 2013

“One day baby, we'll be old / Oh baby, we'll be old / And think of all the stories / That we could have told”

I left Cameroon behind in December but still feel that I need to wrap-up this blog by writing about my last few months there.

We had an interesting conversation in Girls Club about thinking about problems in terms of their root causes versus symptoms.  Then, we continued with our paper bead-making while listening to music and stringing necklaces.  Part of the scholarship funding for the A2Empowerment recipients covered other incidentals related to school so I spent a whole day in the outdoor market (marché) bargaining for a math textbook and a bookbag.  
The girls showing off their jewelry creations

In the middle of making rice one evening, my gas bottle ran out which meant going to my neighbor’s to cook over their fire.  The kids watched in disbelief at what I prepared – “What?  You’re going to eat that rice without a sauce?”  (And I didn’t dare let them see the chemically-induced orange powder I had for making macaroni and cheese.)  As it turns out, when I can’t heat food, I eat like I’m going on a picnic: potato salad, salsa and bread, pasta salads, etc.  The day that I could finally break away to refill my bottle, I unfortunately had trouble finding a moto so had to carry the tank all the way to the center of village.  By the time I got there, I was sweaty but (un)luckily, we secured it to the moto and took off just as it started to rain.  I arrived to Bafoussam looking worse for the wear - which seems to be my normal appearance when I reach the regional capital.   Once I had a stove again, the kitchen creations resumed.  I tried being adventurous with a recipe I found for carrot/ginger/banana/lime soup.  Unfortunately, it sounds better than it tasted so I stuck with the standbys from then on.
Rosemary onion pizza

Oatmeal cookies
For the second monthly meeting of Girls Club, I prepared beans to the best of my ability.  I can’t say they were used to the taste of tomato paste and cumin, but they were good sports and ate it all.  We had a roundtable about a current event from an online newspaper which turned into a fascinating discussion about domestic abuse and the messages that revolve around it from their various spheres of influence.  I was so proud of the girls for their candor and sharing their insight.

At the end of the month, I welcomed the next group of Peace Corps Trainees to my village for their field trip.  Because the length of training had been cut down, trainees no longer get to see their actual posts on site visit so this was intended to be an opportunity for them to see a “real” PCV in action to give them a glimpse of our lives and the work we do.  I programmed a very busy day for them which, in retrospect, I should have known would never be accomplished in its entirety.  With 24 of them and only one of me, it was a little overwhelming, but also great to share my experiences and answer questions.
The day started late (what else is expected?), and of course involved being delayed even longer at a gendarme check-point where they accused us of having more people in the vehicle than stated (simple counting could have cleared that up…but I digress).  The bus slowly trudged to Bapa but we finally reached a point where the driver refused to continue due to the steepness and instability of the dirt path (sometimes I forget exactly how “en brousse” my village is).  With a last-minute change of plans, we changed the location.  Murphy’s Law continued to reign as I attempted to have the soybeans ground.  The machine broke halfway through meaning I waited while a few men tried to fix it – a repair literally involving splicing wires and shoving them directly into the outlet.  The soy demonstration took awhile and involved a heavy downpour just to keep things interesting.  We also managed to squeeze in a quick soap-making demonstration and a lunch of beans and beignets before the group had to depart.  I helped with the general clean-up and returned home exhausted. 

(Field trip photos courtesy of Jaclyn Escudero)
The kids pitch in to help me grate the powdered laundry detergent

Finally, I rounded out October by seeing my former counterpart be officially recognized as the new chief of a neighboring health center.  It was a proud day for me to see her recognized and the potential that this new post provides her.
One of many long speeches necessary for an event like this

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