Sunday, December 23, 2007

December 23, 2007
Well it's official, I'm back. I left Cameroon about 3 weeks ago and have spent the time, up till yesterday, traveling around...France, England, Chicago, Denver and finally back home. It's been an uneventful yet fun transition back, a little cold and snowy but, I'm loving it :) I had a great time seeing friends all around the western world, but have started missing the ones back in Cameroon. It's definitely a strange time, feeling not here nor there. But the snow is fun, the American football is exciting, the Christmas lights make me happy and, you'll all be happy to know, the turkey sandwiches are just as I left them.

So, this will be my last blog because, let's face it, my normal non-Peace Corps life just isn't that exciting. Still, thanks for reading and following my activities over the past 27 months, for all your thoughts and prayers and encouragement! Here are a few pictures from the last days in Cameroon and travel around. Merry Christmas!

With my friend Viviane and her daughters, Jonetta and Eleana.

At our "gonging" becoming "R"PCVs

...and the pin.

About to depart from Douala.

What is it about Paris? I mean, it looks just as great, if not better, when it's drizzling... 

Playing tourist. We're actually quite cold and not that excited to be outside the coffee shop.

From the top of the Durham cathedral tower. Such a quaint British town.

With Wes and Charlie.

Tower Bridge, London

And the witchy hair is gone (sorry Stacy)!

Home Sweet Home. Back and freezing in Steamboat.

...oh and just for some more entertainment, check out:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

25 November 2007

Things that make me happy--or at least entertain me....

Cute pikins.

Herbal sales on public transport.

Dancing in the case.

Matching shirts.

Being an African woman.

Gifts from the states.


Anglophone car-art.

Tributes to the USA.

Creative hats.

Muntant pineapples.

Friday, November 16, 2007

16 November 2007

...With my departure from Cameroon literally within sight, I have spent the last few weeks frantically trying to see people, get projects finished, pack and wrap up normal, everyday activities. It hasn't been easy. Saying goodbye to friends, c0-workers and even those random neighbors who happily greeted me everyday has been very difficult. I feel very lucky to have had this experience which makes saying goodbye so much harder.

I will, thankfully, be replaced in Ndu. A new volunteer will come in December to start her 2 years there. It was fun to have her visit for a few days and it gave me an interesting look back on how I may have been so long ago. While I know I have changed a lot, for the better I hope, it's difficult to look at yourself and see those changes. Still, I'm looking forward to hearing about Amber's time in Ndu and hope she finds it as rewarding (though not without it's challenges) as I did.

A few things that I will miss...

I will miss the kids running up the hill greeting me every afternoon shouting “Allo Allo!” (Which they think is my name), and especially the youngest one who sounds more like “Yai-yo, yai-yo!”

I’ll miss morning coffee in my Spice Girls mug.

I’ll miss Pa’s foufou corn and njama-njama; my landlords car working never; sleeping 8 hours a night; throwing things at chickens; daily walks and talking back to Denise Austin workout videos.

I’ll miss the complete sincerity in my friends’ inquisition about my weekend. I’ll miss how wonderful a bucket bath can be. I will miss walking home from CBTS and stopping to gaze at the billions upon billions of stars that are brighter and more abundant than anywhere else I’ve been on earth.

I will miss sitting on fence posts talking to my friends and making them laugh by telling them the latest tale of embarrassing myself or falling. I will miss feeling integrated enough into a culture so much that it doesn’t shock me anymore. I will miss Anglophone English—until. I will miss the rain.

I will miss feeling sore from washing a bucket of clothes and being referred to as a Cameroonian woman because I wash them myself. I’ll miss riding on the back of George’s motorcycle through (over, around, and sometimes under) rocky bush roads to the village. I’ll miss making old Mamis smile by speaking one of ten phrases in the dialect.

I will miss my wonderful friends, dance parties in the case, movie nights, and drinking palm wine. I will miss the fog, miss the sun, miss the sounds of drums and singing and banter from the traditional kitchen. I will miss not ever matching and wearing the same thing a few days in a row.

I will miss the emotional roller coaster that made up everyday for 26 months. I will miss the pace of life. I’ll miss pineapples and mangoes, sounds instead of words, and oatmeal everyday.

Despite the irritations, trials and frustrations, I will miss it all (well most of it, at least) and cherish it forever.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

September 24, 2007

The days seem to inch by yet weeks pass before my eyes. Amazingly June turned to July, July to August, August to September and sometime next week, September will end. This meaning that I will have only 2 months left in Cameroon and even less time in Ndu. With that realization slowly settling in I think of all the things I want to do and wish I’d done, while I try to come to terms with the fact that it probably won’t happen. It’s a tough thing to realize and accept (even as I write this I’m compiling a “to-do” list that inevitably will be not fully accomplished).

However, over the past 2 months I’ve felt fairly “successful” and “productive.” (By the way, the meaning of both words had changed significantly for me since coming here nearly 2 years ago). Our HIV/AIDS sessions in the village have gone well—we’ve been very lucky to team up with a duo of very knowledgeable and helpful staff from Banso Baptist Hospital who, working within the parameters of one of their own projects, are giving free tests at our seminars and will try to organize abstinence clubs at the local schools before, during, and after our seminar. This (as all you “international development” connoisseurs will know) makes our project fairly sustainable…which, after all, is the goal of all this work anyway! So far we’ve tested over 100 people and educated about 100 more. Our final session is in a few weeks at the secondary school where there are about 600 youth—we’re hopeful it will go as well there too!

On a slightly different note, I’ve been, once again, faced some interesting cultural and traditional incidents. My favorite was shared with me by a missionary friend who teaches at the seminary in Ndu. Recently during a “forum” it was presented that because of juju a friend of a friend of a friend’s sister (or something like that) actually gave birth to a cabbage…like the kind you make coleslaw out of…

The new group of trainees (soon to be volunteers…well in 3 months) arrived on Saturday. It is weird to think that only 2 years ago we arrived here seeing as I feel that I’ve learned more in these 2 years than the previous 5 (with that being said I also feel as though I’ve lost significant brain function due to daily use of “special English” and pidgin)…but this is more “worldly knowledge.” Here’s to hoping the next 8 weeks are productive, successful and enjoyable—as much as saying good-bye can be—as I try to wrap up one life and remember what the other one was like!!
Pictures...the first ones are the road from Ndu to the village where we have been doing our HIV seminar and one from inside the classroom during one of our sessions. Taking pictures while trying to hold on to the back of a motorcycle is always exciting.
And, while in Yaounde a "band" came and play for a few hours for another volunteer's was very fun, they even had a cow bell. What more do you need?

Friday, September 07, 2007

September 7, 2007
Lots of time in Yaounde, too much internet access and my camera is working again so...Pictures!!

COS Conference, Soul food and dancing in the case...

Soul much butter. So much garlic. So much cheese.

...dancing to 80s and Stacy's choice of Braveheart Techno mix

We love Peace--in all languages

Matching dresses, Ingrid's birthday dinner (lip staining red wine??), and COS dinner!

Friday, August 24, 2007

A few pictures from a busy work week!

Our first HIV/AIDS seminar and free testing the a village went really well.

Baby weighing is more fun when guest come and soy milk is made!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

This blog is from May 1st--but I just found it and realized I never posted it. So…here's an old one! As for current life, it's going well. Lots of rain, cloudy days and running water. I'm busy working on 3 different projects (a 2-year high for work load!) and getting excited about finishing up in about 3 months!!

Below are some random travel pictures. There aren’t really ways to describe the wonder of Cameroonian travel except through pictures and even those don’t usually do it justice!
The car smelled really bad--my bad didn't smell that much better though.

One kid had pink eye, one had orange hair (not so much for style, more from lack of nutrients) and there were a total of 14 of us in ONE car.
I think this may be too much stuff...
Labour Day 2007…US weekly photo shoot or national holiday??

I avoided it last year but no such luck for Cameroon Labor Day 2007! It started out well, pouring rain at 8 AM. I received one of my favorite greetings thus far:"Morning Miss Ally. You're up?"
"Weh! Thank God."
…Now I wasn't quite sure if "A'int that the truth!" would have translated well, so I just smiled. Our departure was delayed until about 9 wherein we bounced along, 18 in a Land Rover, not comfortable. About 20 minutes into the hour-long ride, the car started puttering, if you will. The engine was revving and it was taking about twice as long to get up hills. Finally smoke was pouring out of the hood and into the car. I said a quick prayer that, 1. We'd make it, 2. That we wouldn't explode into a million pieces and 3. That my legs wouldn't start on fire and Chaco's wouldn't melt to my feet. Once again, "Weh, thank God"…my feet are fine. The car, however, didn't make it much further. We did, however, make it to the Labor Day festivities about 12:30--an hour and a half after they were "supposed" to start. We stood for another hour or so while I had to explain why it wasn't necessary (and actually probably a little inappropriate) to march waving the American flag…I mean, come on, it was no surprise to anyone there that I'm not Cameroonian and this wasn't American labor day…right?

When the time to march actually came, we lined up carefully holding our small Cameroonian and American flags. As the march began (I should point out that marching is a very serious thing…fascist, straight-armed, iron-faced…they're not messing around), I shuffled my feet a little in line with the others only to be ridiculed by a drunken man…
"Girlfriend! My girlfriend!! Left, right, left right! Baby. My girlfriend….left, right, left, right!!!" I stared straight ahead, not following his strict marching orders. As we marched, very seriously, past the grandstand full of important people, I heard the announcer say, "And there's the Peace Corps!" I am the Peace Corps.

After the grandstand stood about 40 cameramen, dressed in their "Fuji-film" vests, stepped out of line to take my picture. It was one of the most unnecessary things I've experienced. It was like I was a Hollywood star leaving the grocery store (if so it would have ended up on that page of US weekly about "stars doing normal things." Although my caption would read something like, "…marches in parades." Not as cool as Jake Gyllenhaul throwing a Frisbee or Meg Ryan buying contact solution or something). But just like an annoyed Hollywood star, I didn't smile at all…not even in the slightest, in fact I scowled. It was awesome, I can't wait to see the pictures posted in town. After that the groups began high-fiving and hugging, seriously congratulating each other on a job well done. For marching? I can only assume. This is, after all, very serious business.

I was hungry, tired and sick of being the center of attention so I hopped in a car back to Ndu. The rain had stopped and the view was spectacular. Mountains in each direction and clear skies, blooming farms in every direction--it was beautiful. To make the ride that much better, I saw a monkey on a leash. What else can you ask for on a Tuesday? It was an experience…one I'll be happy not to repeat but am glad to have done, once. And, in the words of my friend Silas, "Weh, thank God." True.