Friday 19 November 2010

Waterfalls and Life

The morning was spent watching PCV Andrea DeRocco’s Spanish class. Though there were about fifty students and only one teacher, the students were highly attentive! I brushed up on some of my high school Spanish and as I was leaving, we had an “educational” moment with the kids as I explained that my nationality is American and my origin is Vietnamese. Good stuff.

Watching my fellow PCV teach Spanish - go Senora Andrea!

For 3,000CFA ($6US) and half an hour of our time, we took motos to the Koudini Waterfalls. The waterfalls were literally in the middle-of-nowhere. We moto-ed over bridges and walked through cut-off trails. My moto-man even lost his shoe for a bit.

As we could slowly hear water as we approached the falls, the sight was one to see! Because rainy season just finished, the falls were huge! The cave was like another world and I felt like I was back in Costa Rica.

The Koudini Waterfalls - breath-taking!

We walked over to the “secret” waterfalls that apparently the locals didn’t even know about. With only trees and grass and bushes at landmarks, I was surprised at how well my fellow PCV knew the terrain.

On the way to the secret waterfalls

Secret waterfalls the locals didn't even know about!

Moto-ing back to the village

A PCV’s experience in the village is very different from one that lives in the city. Andrea goes without electricity and running water on a daily basis. Even when she doesn’t know the moto drivers, she can just say “My house” and they know exactly where to go! In my city of Ngaoundere, I can say the bank that I live above and the motos still get lost! Good to experience the village if I must say so!

Belel, Cameroon

Belel, Cameroon

Thursday 18 November 2010

Traveling to Belel: Slight Inconvenience

9:30AM – I head off to the Narral Voyages bus agency to go to Belel, a village 120km from Ngaoundere, to visit fellow PCV, Andrea DeRocco. I buy my ticket and wait for the bus to be full of people before it can go

11AM - The Narral bus finally leaves and we’re on our way.

11:20AM – The car/bush taxi gets stuck in a ditch on the side of the road. I proceed to make friends with a young mom.

The bus stuck in a ditch. C'est la vie.

12:45AM - The men finally finish pulling the car out of the ditch and fix the tire. Off we go!

1:30PM – Quick, random stop so men can push the car and then all of sudden the engine works again.

I like this juxtaposition between kids, car, and cattle

3PM – The car stops so Muslims can prayer. A Cameroonian tells me we are one hour away from Belel. Car continues after twenty minutes.

4PM – The car picks up more people including a fellow PCV. Another Cameroonian tells me we are one hour away from Belel.

6PM – We finally arrive!

The journey one must go through to travel in this country!

Sunday 7 November 2010

Wedding Ceremony Time!

I got invited to a wedding ceremony, so it was an appropriate time to wear my fanciest pagne! Well, I wasn’t really invited directly; a friend’s friend didn’t want to go alone (just like the singles table in the U.S.), so I came in to save the day.

Prom pagne shot!

Cameroonians place a high standard on the shoes that you wear and I accidently walked out of my house in my tall flip flops. The boys saw my shoes and asked if I wanted to change – how embarrassing! On came the heels.

Ibrahim and me waiting for the ceremony to start

The wedding ceremony was considered to be a mix of modern and traditional. Not wanting to cause too much attention to myself (being American and all), Ibrahim took my camera and took the following photos:

The bride and groom receiving gifts

Wedding cake!

Delicious wedding food!

I think my favorite part was at the end. It’s Cameroonian culture to start things late and things get going slowly, but man, everything after the ceremony was a blur! Kids ran around pulling chairs to clean up and EVERYBODY pushed themselves into pictures with the bride and groom – it was hilarious! Great for the bride and groom and though as I’m sure that they felt like celebrities! Even the photographer would take a picture of us, give the camera to someone else and then jump in the picture too – good night!

Thursday 4 November 2010

“Today We’re Going to Talk about Diversity – J.Lo and Oprah, I’ll Need Your Help”

After a morning of Excel lessons to the employees of my microfinance institution, I spent the afternoon in the neighboring village of Beka Hossare, population 2,500. According to the Women’s Learning Partnership, 60% of Cameroonian’s population is under twenty-five, thus my postmate and I run a youth group composed of a diversity of girls; some girls are without parents, some have never been to school, etc. The group’s name, "Bikkoy Rewbe Bee Sembe", means “Girls with Strength” in the local language of Fulfulde.

Our girls group, Bikkoy Rewbe Bee Sembe
The group has roughly fifteen members, ranging from seven years old to fifteen years old. The first hour is usually spent with an activity ranging from girl’s empowerment to diversity awareness to dance. The second hour is spent learning English. The girl’s voted for the name "Bikkoy Rewbe Bee Sembe" and a session was spent creating rules for the constitution (i.e. Be on time, respect others, etc.).
Today’s lesson was a highly interactive diversity awareness activity. I printed out pictures of various people with incredibly different ethnicities. The girls were then asked, “Who is (s)he?” and they would have to guess the nationalities. After the guess was made, I would ask why they thought what they did.
"Who is she?"

“She’s American!” "Why?" “Her hair!”
Of course, only about one out of the nine photos was guessed correctly. All the Caucasians were American and all the Asians were Chinese. Jennifer Lopez was Cameroonian because of her fashion and Oprah was African (though not any specific country) because of her skin; however, after the Oprah comment, we threw out the man himself…

"Who is he?" “American!” Why? “Because he’s Barack Obama!”
Haha, then we went back to Oprah and it started hitting the girls that they were wrong. We revisited each photo and had a discussion on how you couldn’t tell what anybody was just by looking at them.
The volunteers then went into our own nationalities and ethnicities and we spoke about how even here in Cameroon (and even in the room), there are different groups and languages all in the same country. We further discussed how yelling the Fulfulde or French equivalent of “white person” at us or yelling at us at all is actually not okay (though it can be amusing at times to both parties, it gets tiring after some time).
Good, fun, and educational activity for all!