My friend (and honorary post-mate 4 lyfe) Catherine works with an NGO in Garoua, the capital of the North region. One of the things she participates in is a weekly radio show! Each week a topic is discussed specific to young people, for instance, last week was how to chose contraception (we had a nurse and educator as a special guest). Catherine’s part of the show is playing an American song (usually top 40) and translating some of the lyrics and then do the same for a proverb.
I’ve been able to join Catherine the last two weeks and help with her segment. They laugh at me because I dance to every song. Which, let’s be real, is exactly what you should do when you’re on a radio show. The woman who runs the show keeps announcing to the audience that I’m “always dancing”.
Last week we played Thrift Shop by Macklemore (featuring Ryan Lewis). It was fun to rep the 206 in Cameroon. The woman we worked with was skeptical that “grandad’s clothes” were actually in style in the US. “People wear those? And that’s in fashion?” Oh yes, they do and it is. :)
Chez moi is coming along. I have a private compound within a compound. A large yard and covered porch, 3 room house (bedroom, kitchen, living room), a latrine outside and a well in the shared compound. There’s a forage down the street and a grande mosque on the corner. The house was unoccupied for a large part of the last two months so it was covered in dust when I arrived (thank you, dry season). A fellow angel of a volunteer (who lives about 20 km away) came over to help me clean and move in. We emptied the entire house (imagine 4 volunteers leaving things in a house that they don’t want to port around the country and I appear to be a mini hoarder to the neighbors when I bring it all outside), swept, and scrubbed the floors. We put everything back in and I’ve been having fun arranging it all.
I’ve arrived in what will (hopefully) be my village for the next year and a half (yikes, time FLIES) but I’ve arrived at an awkward time. The school year is almost over and the rainy season is about to start (3 cheers for rain!), meaning people will start leaving to spend the summer away and the amount of available food will decrease. Another thing—no one really expected a volunteer to arrive. Ngong has had volunteers semi consistently for the past 7 years, but the last two both moved villages before their service was over. Consequently, I went to the hospital to introduce myself and the chief was pretty apathetic. He hasn’t known any of the last volunteers nor was he involved in requesting their service. Also, because of so much movement with volunteers’ villages lately, I don’t have any of the official paperwork stating what I’m doing here or have approved host institutions. Basically, this would be the Kathleen of 5 months ago’s nightmare. However, at this point, I feel a lot more confident in my language/socialization/work ethic/ability to be alone and find work partners. Snaps for personal growth! It will be difficult I’m sure, but I’m hopeful that I’ll find a lot of people who are excited to make our village a better place.
Today I get to move in to a home. I will be living just south of Garoua on the main road. I was all prepared to argue my case but the powers that be had a look at the house I wanted and determined that it was safe for me to live in and gave the all clear! WOOT! I am quite happy to no longer be displaced and am excited to see what this new village holds for me.
Have I got a story for you…
About 24 hours after I moved into Boula Ibbi, my manager called me. She asked me, “how are you? How’s Boula Ibbi?” and I responded that things were going well. I had met the health center staff and been able to make connections in village, but then our call dropped because the reseau is a little spotty.
About two minutes later, I received a text message from her. As I read it, my heart sunk. The PC had just found out from a gendarme that there was a history of bandit activity in Boula Ibbi. She said, “I’m so sorry, Kathleen, there are posts still open in two other areas”.
At this point, I was really upset. I sobbed for about 2 seconds, then I pulled it together and walked to find a spot with better service to call her back. In my head, I was almost certain that this all meant that my new post was closed, but I realized I should talk to her before planning what to do next. We finally connected and it was true, I was being evacuated…again.
My new home is in the semi-large village of Boula Ibbi (also spelled: Boula Ibib). I have one bedroom, one living room, one covered latrine for a kitchen, one indoor latrine, a small porch and my own walled in area! There is no electricity or running water (now I’m a real PCV). BUT, the house is new so it’s the same pretty blue as my last one. I have more furniture this time around, courtesy of another volunteer, so it’s fun to arrange and design.
My neighbor is also my landlord and my pharmacist. I was a little worried that it would be a bit weird living/working relationship-wise, but I can already tell he is very hard working and very nice. One of his wives brought me dinner my first night—yellow sauce (with mystery meat) and rice! They visit every once in awhile with the two kids, and the youngest son was a little afraid of me, but I won them over with some silly bands. They brought me breakfast this morning—beans, beignets, and chai.
The hospital staff is really big this time of year, with 4 extra nurses in training who are here for a few weeks then will return back to school in the city. My health center chief and one of the other nurses both speak a little English, so we’ve been having fun with that. They’re pretty excited to finally have a volunteer (they requested one last fall but didn’t have a house available) and I’m pretty excited to finally have a village.
It was fun walking around town yesterday because people would start talking about me in Fulfulde and I would cut in to tell them that I understood what they were saying. Haha, their eyes would get so big and they smiled and welcomed me to the village. The shock and awe has been fun.
Also: IT RAINED LAST NIGHT. I went to sleep outside as soon as it started, partially because it was way too hot to sleep inside, but mostly because I. LOVE. RAIN. Friends & family, especially those of you in the PNW, send the rain my way.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” -A.A. Milne
On Wednesday I was escorted to my lovely home in Dourbeye. Along the way, we saw a troop of BABOONS. So. Cool. My house was surprisingly clean (usually there is a lot of dust buildup) and the only thing out of the ordinary was a dead lizard in my hallway. It felt so much better than I expected to be home. Though I know it wasn’t possible, it would have been so nice to just spend one more night there.
As I was packing up my bedroom, I heard, “KATY KATY!” from outside. My pharmacist and I had a nice call back and forth, where he’d say that then I’d say, “YAYA YAYA” (his name). I ran out to see him as I was yelling back, and my Fulfulde professor was there as well! They had never been to my house, but they came by to say goodbye. It was just the start of the wonderful reunions. I was so happy to see them; they kept saying, “You are here! It has been so long!”. One of the grands in my village came by to say hello, then he gave me money to buy myself a chicken in my new village!
People were upset that I had to leave, even saying, “we could have protected you!”. It was all quite lovely. I made sure they knew that I wanted to stay, and it helped to have Bouba there with me because he’s known some of these people his whole life and was able to explain more details. I made sure to tell them that they could call me and I’d meet them in a nearby city if they happened to be traveling through. They were happy that I was staying in the North. :)
I really hope Dourbeye does get another volunteer one day. It’s full of lovely people who work hard and care about where they live. Bouba told me, as we were driving away, that his village (Dourbeye) is one of the best. I said, “hey! It’s my village, too, now. We have to share.” But then I agreed; our village is one of the best.
For the past month I haven’t talked about any work I’m doing. Which is sort of because I haven’t been doing any.
The reason for this? I’ve been homeless.
Today marks 6 months in Cameroon! I am proud of myself and so thankful to all of you for supporting me. It literally took a village to get me this far. (I’ve waited a while to use that joke)
I’ve already learned so much and I can’t wait to see what the next 20ish months bring me.
Today Cameroon had me in the health clinic. *WARNING* I’m going to describe my symptoms…so…if the body doing its thing is not a subject you like to discuss/read about…you should skim? Wait for the next blog post? I’m not sure how to accurately warn you, because I love this sort of thing.
It all started a few days ago (Monday night) with a bit of diarrhea.