17 Months In + Safety/Security Update

Salut,

This past week was a mix of lots of different random things (mostly in a good way), so I wasn’t sure which to write about. But as always, I’ll try.

First, I should probably address the safety/security concerns here this past week. It made about one line of news in CNN and BBC, but for those of you who didn’t catch the non-headline news, a French family that was in the Extreme North region of Cameroon was kidnapped on Tuesday while going on a safari by Nigerian terrorists that came over the border. Needless to say, it’s a bit alarming, but Peace Corps + the US Embassy is on it, and is advising us as necessary. My post is literally about a 3 day trip away, so, rest assured, I’m safe. And, not to mention, I’m really far from any borders. Thanks for the messages and concern. I’m fine though, promise!

We're all safe and sound!

The AniPals and I are all safe and sound!

Secondly, I made it into Month 17 and now have Month 16 under my belt. It’s true. Days drag but the weeks fly. I spent 2 hours cleaning and cutting a buttload of veggies for a delicious veggie stew. And that’s how I’m celebrating the passage into Month 17.

Oh, who am I kidding? I just had a ton of time to kill…woulda done it anyways.

Well, last week I went to my friend, Kate’s, post. She switched posts in October into my region, which I’m excited about, and it was fun to finally get to see her post. Her post is right outside my regional capital, so not too far. Although… transport here is crappy enough to make even a 30 minute bush taxi ride sound unappealing.

Anyways, here village was really cute – much much smaller than Bazou. Though she has no running water at her post, she has a super spacious house, a cute cat, and yummy food that made up for it. And honestly, as long as the water sources don’t dry up, it’s at least nice knowing that there’s consistently water.

As I walked around her village, I think I realized that her living situation (minus the ginormous house, though it’s just mostly empty concrete shell – nothing super fancy) is more of what I imagined my Peace Corps experience to be like. Bazou is on the side of being a larger village, has lots of veggies in the market, all day, every day, has a paved (but potholey) road that goes around the outer parts of the village, has music blasting from jerry-rigged speakers whenever electricity is on, and I have running water…most days… (except of course about half of this past week). Meanwhile, her village is a quaint little village that is reachable only by a dirt road. During the day, her village seems totally empty because EVERYBODY is out in the fields. But when they do come back at the end of the day, so many people not only recognize her (and can differentiate her from the other white PCV!), but they also almost all call her by her name, instead of just, “La Blanche!

I was impressed.

While there are some days that I wish I had a slightly smaller post like Kate’s post (and perhaps, in turn, less weird political drama), I am grateful for what I do have at post. Though Kate is only a ½ hour away from Bafoussam – where you can get tons of foods, including “White Man Store Foods” (ie olive oil, canned veggies, and other weird imported goods that land in Cameroonian ‘supermarkets’), lettuce, eggplant, and cucumbers, her actual village sells only…tomatoes? It wasn’t even what I considered to be a “market.” And we hit it on a “good” day. I’m glad I can pile on the veggies onto my dishes here with no fear of running out! And literally nobody in her village has a fridge, so that means no soy drinks or yogurt either. Yikes.

Dud Muffin: The Worst Mouse Hunter of Cameroon

Dud Muffin: The Worst Mouse Hunter of Cameroon

Also, since Bazou is larger, we have more government workers, which automatically makes it one step easier to finding friends that are more educated. In a small village, you can only talk about cassava and corn for so long. And though her post is also up in higher altitudes, probably even higher in altitude than mine, Bazou is rolling hills everywhere, which is refreshing to look at. Though not always refreshing to walk/run up.

I was only there for a short stay, but it was still great to see another post, something I haven’t done much of. And it was even better getting to catch up with a good friend. We scarfed down some delicious food, played all sorts of American music, and even finished a puzzle. Simple life, simple pleasures.

Upon my return to Bazou, it was pretty much back to my routine, minus the fact that power and water seem to always be on short supply.

HIGHS:

  • Visiting Kate at her post
  • I finished a few documentaries on my computer in the past 2 weeks, including Jesus Camp, Flow: For the Love of Water, The End of America, OutFoxed and some weird French documentary about how HIV came from the polio vaccine… The first 4 were awesome. The last one? Not so much. More like a bunch of crazies with bad science and a love for being in front of a camera.
  • I always encourage my students to share what they learned/discussed in class with their friends and family, since there’s a lot of family dialogue missing in this culture. This week, 2 of my students said that their families have started bleaching their drinking water because of my lesson last week. Honestly, while I know the kids all learned something last week, I didn’t expect any real changes to occur, because kids have no say in whether or not bleach gets purchased. So I was excited about just the 2 new families who will be treating their water.
  • I’ve been on a real sugar kick this week. Oops. But I’ve been chowing down on goodies from my care packages that I received a while ago/things I brought back from the US. Reese’s Pieces and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have never tasted so good!
  • I finally got into a book that was so good, I finished it in one sitting. The book was Sarah’s Key. It was pretty intense, but really interesting. Definitely recommend it.
  • I’ve been trying to keep my house slightly more organized, so I’ve been on a cleaning kick for the past two kicks, trying to clean and organize my house. It’s not that fun, but it gives me something to do.
  • Although my internet has been total crap for the past few weeks, the past 2 days have proven to be much better. Hooray!
  • I think Timon finally realized that he can pounce on things. Better late than never, right?

LOWS:

  • Forgetting to bring my bank card/lots of extra money with me to Bafoussam, so I couldn’t load up on my “city veggies” while I was there. Oh well.
  • Timon sucks as hunting. Or more like, he doesn’t hunt. At all. So I’ve cut him off from food off the table, and I put him outside at night to go hunt, instead of tryng to snuggle up with me. Sadly, after coming back from the first night out, he lost his cute collar. Womp.
  • Internet, water, and power all have been very, very spotty of late. Water ran out around 4pm one afternoon, and didn’t come back on the next day, either. Then, the following morning, water was running when I woke up at 6:15am, but by 6:45am, it was out again. What?
  • It’s moumoutte fly season. These damned biting flies are horrendous. They’re the bugs that had me waking up in the middle of the night during training, nearly in tears because it was so painfully itchy. Luckily, I don’t react to them nearly as badly as before. But for about 10 minutes it’s just super intense itching, and I get these weird raised blotches where they’ve bitten me, with a red dot of blood in the middle, showing where these ruthless bloodsuckers have gotten me. I got bitten about 20 times today, 15 on the walk home from the school, and an additional 5 during the rest of the day. :-/
  • Because of water shortages, I haven’t been able to exercise here in Bazou. I need to wash my running stuff, which I didn’t have water for, and exercising only adds an additional shower into my day, which, of course, takes up water.
Not happy with his mouse-hunting inadequacies.

Not happy with his mouse-hunting inadequacies.

 That’s all I’ve got for now. See ya (ie I’ll blog again) in March!

Love,

Wes, Pumba, and Timon

1 Comment

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One response to “17 Months In + Safety/Security Update

  1. Melody Porter

    I’ll admit to having looked at the map to make sure you were far from the area where the kidnapping took place… it’s good to hear that you are well, Wes! I love reading your updates. Can’t wait to get your letter in five months.