05 December 2012

Holiday Adventures

After the 50th anniversary event I needed to take some vacation days to unwind. Luckily Thanksgiving fell perfectly into this time. So on Black Friday I headed to Bertoua where I would eat my 3rd Thanksgiving meal over two days. Pretty awesome. I made our family spinach dip in a bread boat and we killed our own turkey.
After Bertoua, I headed to Kentzou where Jakob and Geoff live. Kentzou is a town all the way on the eastern border of Cameroon.
It was a really calm and beautiful town. I took some nice runs down to the river and learned a few words of Fulfuldé.
Here we are on the pirogue after swimming at the river.
This is a bus taking the barge across the river to head down south towards Yokaduma.

If Kentzou was a quiet, calm, Muslim town, then Messamena, our next stop, was the exact opposite. Eddie is posted in Messamena, a jungle town in the heart of southern Cameroon. Here there are lots of Christians, lots of drinking, and lots of spunk. If you don’t speak loudly, then what you are saying must not be important.

Eddie worked really hard on his house to make a lot of improvements. He added two sun roof panels in his living room; made tables, benches, and shelves; planted a nice sized garden and has plants all over his house. Basically his house is pretty awesome. He also has a cute dog named Jackie Chien (chien=dog in French).
We stayed in Eddie’s place for a night before heading out to the Dja reserve to survey the schools inside. Eddie, and I headed out on two motos with a mission to get to the end of the road by night fall. It was only 100km, but most of it would be through jungly terrain. We started off pretty well, with only a minor stop due to gendarmes and one of the moto guys not having his papers. Then we hit a big road block at the entrance to the Dja. The officer inside did not know who we were and thus did not want us to pass. Finally we were able to demonstrate that we were here to do work surveying the schools to see if UNICEF could provide any help. Eddie’s landlord is the education inspector for the Dja schools and so having his authorization was crucial.
Here is the before picture.
Our motos crossing the river into the Dja reserve.
Here is some of the terrain we had to cross with the motos.

Finally we arrived just before nightfall at our destination Ekom. It was a really cute village and they welcomed us so nicely. They even made a delicious, leafy sauce for me to eat!
The next morning we took a walk to the river.
Then we went to the school.
Health center garden in Ekom.
Next school down the road, looking less well off then the first.
And farther down the road, there was this school. Actually even though it has the least means it had a teacher who cared and the breeze of the wind easily blowing through.
This was a nice school, but look at that latrine, I am too scared to use it. Imagine being a little child…
Last school in the Dja. Apparently it fell down due to termites and they are just rebuilding.
Mission accomplished Рwe are crossing the Dja river back into Somalomo. All in all I had a great week and a half vacation, spending time with friends, relaxing, and traveling. Now I am back in Yaound̩ for my last month of work before heading off to my next adventure.

Celebrating 50 years of Peace Corps in Cameroon

For the past two months I was completely consumed with helping to plan and coordinate the 50 year anniversary event that Peace Corps held. Our new Country Director, Jackie Sesonga, had seen similar events across West Africa and decided that this would be a great opportunity for PC Cameroon to raise our visibility in country.

We started seriously planning about 6 weeks before the event; I was mostly working on organizing PCVs in Cameroon. It sounds easier than it is I think because communication is so difficult. Texting or calling is really the only way to get in touch with people and there are about 200 PCVs currently in country. Needless to say I did not call all of them and instead relied on a few point people to contact others. Anyway, long story short – we had an amazing event.
Kim and I holding the gift basket for Chantal Biya
Chantal Biya being welcomed by two Peace Corps children
Chantal Biya visiting all the stands at the fair
Jackie Sesonga, the PC Cameroon country director, with Kim and I

Rose, my counterpart from Bangang, and me! It was a really nice and quick reunion

There were two parts to the event. First was the swearing-in of new PCVs after their training ended. The trainees (now PCVs) did an amazing job preparing a performance to the song ‘Man in the Mirror’ and our Country Director gave a very touching speech during this ceremony. Second was a fair set up with 16 tables (10 regional tables – Centre, East, South, Littoral, South West, North West, West, Adamaoua, North, and Far North –; 5 sector tables – Youth Development, Community Health, Environment, Education, and Community Economic Development –; and 1 training table). Chantal Biya, the first lady of Cameroon, was invited and actually came to open the fair that was set up. This was probably the most successful part of our event. She walked around to each table, where PCVs and Cameroonian counterparts where given the chance to explain their stand. Chantal seemed genuinely interested and shook everyone’s hand. All of the tables looked great and the event ran smoothly because of everyone’s hard work.
At the end of the day we relaxed by going to Hilton Happy Hour to celebrate our successes together! Also here are some recent pictures
Winning trivia night after trying so hard for so long
The marine ball was a blast!