Sunday 23 January 2011

What Just Happened?

This morning I made a speech promoting savings accounts for women. It was made in a Lutheran church to 500+ Cameroonians in a language that I still do not fully understand.

This is life.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

My Finished Apartment!

Peace Corps housing can vary by country, culture, city, and well...from a closed mud hut to a concrete house. Uniquely, this Peace Corps Volunteer lives in a city apartment that is furnished with every color of the rainbow.

After months of housework and purchases, the apartment is finally done!

Living room entrance view (top photo) and kitchen view (bottom photo)

Bedroom complete with mosquito nets and electric toothbrushes

Kitchen without sink (I make it work)

All-in-one bathroom/shower

Best part of the apartment - the balcony!

Monday 17 January 2011

Breaking the Caisse a.k.a. Finishing a Full VSLA Cycle!

Another women’s VSLA savings group finished their first cycle today (a.k.a. breaking the cashbox/caisse). Results? The women received over a 50% return on their yearlong savings! For every 1,000CFA saved ($2US), the women received 1,556CFA ($3US) back. The average return received by those who saved was 35,000CFA ($70US) with the highest saver receiving over 90,000CFA ($180US) back. The cash out was exciting to see as the concept of saving money can be unheard of and difficult – go ladies of Mandamsa!

Finishing a savings cycle and receiving over a 50% return!

I also received four packages with letters today making the day complete (though one included test prep books ordered from Amazon Africa). Items included a Nicholas Sparks’ book (thanks, Brenda!), parmesan cheese (thanks, Brittany!), and a dried orchid (thanks, Nick!).

Saturday 15 January 2011

Just Another Day...

As the train arrived in 15 hours from Yaounde to Ngaoundere (train rides can range from 13-16 hours, though it is not unheard of to be delayed on a train derailment up to 36 hours), I was able to make it back to my house to charge my phone and drop off luggage before heading to my women’s VSLA savings group meeting at 9:30AM.

Today, the group started their third savings cycle and thus, revisited the VSLA constitution. This provided a great chance to really discuss group problems and see leadership develop. Being thorough, the group members spoke up until 11:45AM!

The VSLA savings group of Kawtal Robbe

Wanting to make it to my MC2 before it closed at noon, I called fellow PCV, Harley Hunner, to wait for me outside of the PC transit house. While taking a moto-taxi, I motioned for another moto-taxi to follow us. Right when we arrived, we picked Harley up and made it to the MC2 right as they were closing up for the day.

Currently doing a book donation project to the University of Ngaoundere, we wanted to talk to the Loan Agent about the proper procedures. He had spoken to his faculty contact there and they requested a formal letter.

Back at the PC transit house, I helped another PCV to use my computer for Skype and then had lunch at The Concorde (can be found on Google Earth!) with three other PCVs.

At 3:30PM, I headed off to the neighborhood of “Douze Poteaux” where my women’s group planned to congregate before heading off to the Governor’s house. They had arranged a meeting to give him crops from their farm in light of the new year. This, according to the President, would hopefully be the beginning of a partnership.

Luckily, I had the Governor’s cell phone number as well and I was able to call him and say that I wanted to say hello with my women’s group. He showed up not too long after and gave the group advice on how to get help from the State.

After making some quick food chez moi (my home), I headed off to meet the other PCVs before heading out to…the Karaoke Bar! Though not open yet, the owners love PCVs and we were invited back to enjoy a pre-opening Saturday night. Who knew I would have a karaoke bar down the street from me in the Peace Corps? Such is life…

Yes, that's right. This is Ngaoundere's first karaoke
bar complete with a bubble machine!

Thursday 13 January 2011

Time in Yaounde with Some Volunteers

A recent business trip took me back down to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon and headquarters of the Peace Corps. A handful of PCVs are dubbed “Contact Volunteers” – meaning that if there is any kind of emergency, it’s our job to contact the other PCVs around us and relay information. This is actually an interesting process as should a large event happen, cell phone service may very well be cut. So to contact my other PCVs? I will send message by a moto-man and/or agency. They’ll take the message to the “American” living in town and that’s that. Simple huh?

When the conference was finished, we were lucky enough to have some time to explore Yaounde. First stop: the Artisinat (artisan market) for Cameroonian paintings, jewelry, and handmade crafts. Second stop: La Pailotte for some Vietnamese food!

Happy with our free necklaces

Ashley Johnson sporting her personalized made PC jacket

Enjoying Vietnamese food at La Pailotte

Ethan dancing the night away

Saturday 8 January 2011

My Balcony View

I used to see taxis out my window in I see the the traditional chief's posse and his horses.

Ngaoundere, Cameroon