Monday 30 August 2010

Typical Cost of Living

Per a friend's suggestion, this post will be dedicated to the approximate prices of everyday items here in Ngaoundere. It must be noted; however, than albeit the supermarket has fixed prices, basically everything in Cameroon is negotiable.

5 carrots: 100CFA/$0.20US
Moto ride (~10min): 100CFA/$0.20US
Basil to last me a week: 100CFA/$0.20
5 medium-sized tomatoes: 200CFA/$0.40US
250grams (1/2lb) of spaghetti: 250CFA/$0.50US
Glass of Castel beer: 500CFA/$1US
The Laughing Cow Cheese: 800CFA/$1.60US
Bath mat: 800CFA/$1.60US
1 kilogram (2.2lbs) of beef: 2,000CFA/$4
Steak Dinner: 2,000CFA/$4
Cameroonian soccer jersey and jacket: 4,500CFA/$9US
Material, personal design, and tailoring for an outfit: 5,000CFA/$10US
Really basic cell phone (text/calls): 11,000CFA/$22US
Monthly unlimited internet: 25,0000CFA/$50US

Interesting, no?

Sunday 29 August 2010

Complete Cameroonian Immersion

Fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Andrea DeRocco and I decided to visit Ngaoundere's number one attraction: the Lamido Palace.

With an official PC letter, we were actually let into the Palace for free and given the opportunity to meet the Lamido (the traditional chief). We received a tour of the paintings and buildings and as it was Sunday morning, the officials came together for their weekly meeting. Nice VIP service!

Inside the Lamido Palace

Meeting the Lamido, the traditional chief

Afterwards, I went back to the center of town as I promised, Malyse, my buddy at the supermarket that I would let her do my hair. We bought extensions (yes, extensions) for 1500CFA ($3US) and sat outside for three hours listening to Westlife while I fully became Camerounaise!
With my Cameroonian pagne and new braids!

Later that night, Dali, one of my neighbors took me on a spontaneous tour to meet everyone in the neighborhood of Tongo Pastoral. We spent about 10-15 minutes with each neighbor as everybody complimented my hair! Good day of integration I must say!

Saturday 28 August 2010

Hiking Mount Ngaoundere

A must-do in the city is to hike to the top of Mount Ngaoundere. With the trail located just beyond Place de l'Independence, the ascent is a bit of a climb, but doable for even the most novice climber (i.e. a child could do the hike in less than an hour). Once at the peak, one can discover a beautiful panaromic view of the city.

Peace Corps Volunteers and Cameroonians hiking Mt. Ngaoundere in harmony

Saturday 21 August 2010

Why is My Front Door Being Driven Away By a Motorcycle?

After coming home from buying some necessities for the apartment, my keys got jammed in the front door today. After jiggling for about ten minutes, the security guard of the Capcol bank below me tried his luck with the keys to no avail. The director of the bank saw the situation and went to grab some motorcycle oil to grease up the lock. No go.

So luckily, the director called up his buddy locksmith as I waited outside with my tomatoes and broom. Within fifteen minutes, he showed up and smashed open the dead-bolt with a hammer. "The lock is broken," he said.

After giving him 5,000CFA (~$10) to buy a new lock, I went upstairs to clean up a bit. I heard a loud pounding downstairs and when I arrived, my door was gone! I looked out to the street and the locksmith was on the back of the motorcycle carrying away my door away.

"What's happening?!" I said. "Ca va, ca (It's fine, it's fine)," said the security guard. So I sat in front of the 6 foot-tall hole in front of my apartment..

After half an hour, my door and lock was perfect! C'est Afrique as the saying goes!

Friday 20 August 2010

Ngaoundere, Cameroun

Located in the the Adamawa of Cameroon's ten regions, I write this post from the city of Ngaoundéré, my new home for the next two years!

With a population of 400,000 habitants, the regional capital sits at the end of the train line to Yaounde and links North and South Cameroon. Named after Mount Ngaoundéré , the city comprises of both Muslim and Christian populations. Interestingly enough, there is also a Norwegian population (thanks to a Norwegian mission) along with a handful of Peace Corps Volunteers!
University of Ngaoundéré
Lamido Palace and Lamido Grand Mosque
The Petite Marché

Each Peace Corps experience is different and I'm looking forward to living and working in the heart of "The Land of Milk and Honey!"

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Swearing-In a.k.a. Officially Becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer

It's graduation day! Or it at least it sure feels like it. After 10.5 intensive weeks of training, we are no longer "Peace Corps Trainees" but official "Peace Corps Volunteers!" The PC Swearing-in oath:

"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,
That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same,
That I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion,
And that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps.
So help me God."
Very official no?

Ben and I reppin' our Peace Corps bags
(actually it's only mine - his bag is just blue)
All 43 of us wore matching pagne tissue.
Each PCV created their own design.
Even my entrepreneur showed up! Old school pic-style!
With the Cameroon Peace Corps Country Director

Monday 16 August 2010

Small Enterprise Development

Over the course of the past eleven weeks, each Small Enterprise Development trainee has consulted a small business. I had my final meeting with my entrepreneur today who owns a cyber cafe in the center of town. Our major accomplishments included:

-Implementing an accounting system - The most important implementation has been the "cahier de caisse," a simplified method of accounting. He records his expenses and revenues on a daily basis (he didn't write anything down before!) and has been teaching the accounting method to the other employees.

-Performing a SWOT: We conducted a SWOT analysis of the cyber cafe. He is looking into other opportunities such as selling cell phone credit or snacks.

-Looking at benefits versus costs - After having his employees track when, who, and how long each customer uses the computers, we decided it was unnecessary to buy another computer as that would just be an added expense; there would not be enough benefit versus the cost. Thus, the focus is not so much expansion
at the moment, but rather improvement on attracting clientele.

-Budgeting - He has made a personal and business budget - something I think everybody should do!

-And...minus a few fluke expenses this past month, he is making a profit!

With my entrepreneur, Jean Marie and his cyber cafe

We will continue our working relationship as I plan to revisit Bafia in the future. And as a thank you, he gave me a "cadeau" (gift in French): pagne tissue! Time to make another Cameroonian dress!

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Cultural Faux Pas

At the Model School Ceremony today, my fellow Peace Corps Trainee Ben Ace went up to introduce his students and their Music Club. Wanting to show support, I yelled out to him. Thus, I cheered "Allez, Ben!" which I thought was "Go, Ben!" in French. Well, though the conjugation was correct, the verb "aller" means "to go" in French. Therefore, I accidently yelled "Go away, Ben!" to the amusement of my higher-level speaking trainees and some Cameroonians. Oops.

I guess the cultural faux pas moments all begin somewhere!

Top 5 Reasons Every Person Needs a Bucket (or at least every PC Volunteer)

1) Laundry...dear goodness...I miss the washing machine and dryer.

2) Bucket bath anyone? There are many methods such as standing in the bucket, soaking just your hair in the bucket, standing on the outside and using a luffa...your choice.

3) Bleaching and iodine-ing vegetables and fruits...duh.

4) The manuel toilet flush - it's all in the wrist.

5) When you're experiencing one of your many foreign diseases and don't have the strength to get out of bed, the bucket is your best friend.

How did I ever live life without my trusty bucket?

Sunday 8 August 2010

Peace Corps Training Days

Pictures of a Peace Corps Trainee's life in Bafia, Cameroun:

The postal service vans of Cameroun - festive!

My host mom making kous kous

Shantal and her lovely family that I visit from time to time

My host mom in the traditional kitchen in the backyard

Bike rides in Bafia keep me sane!

One of the awesome kids that sells delicious beignets

The June 2010 Small Enterprise Development Peace Corps Trainees