little rivers


i took my first hot bucket bath hours ago and my hair is still not dry. It rains here everyday. Sometimes the misty kind of rain that just lingers making the air seem wet and never making a sound. Other times it starts slow with little drops i can hear tapping on the tin roofs and palm fronds. And I have just enough time to take my laundry off the line before it starts falling in heavy sheets, forming little red rivers rolling past my house back down the mountain to Bafoussam.


Today I had to walk an hour in the misty rain to the village over, Bapa, where another volunteer lives. She left for Yaoundé and asked me to look after her cat. Her name is Charmayne. The cat’s is Cardamom. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I passed lost of people, raising both my hands—as is custom—and said bonjour to the mamas, old men with canes and children carrying baskets on their heads. The children typically giggle when I speak. And when I ask directions or start conversation, they generally just watch me talk with mouths ajar and mumble a response or sometimes nothing at all and then giggle. The roads were slick from the rain, which is why I didn’t take a moto. The roads around Bandenkop are dangerous and eroded to miniature grand canyons. The fog was thick at the tops of the tall trees and off in the distant mountains. I walked past my favorite patch of cabbages, all sprinkled with droplets of rain water and glittering under the overcast sky.

I arrived to find the door to Charmayne’s compound locked and spent a good five minuted banging loudly on the metal door until finally two kids appeared—and in no hurry—to let me in. My knuckles were genuinely sore. I found Cardamom sitting on the couch and gave him a scratch on the head and put some water on to boil. I fixed some vanilla chai tea i found in a baggie (she told me i could!) and i hung out with the cat for an hour before walking the hour back to Bandenkop.

Tomorrow I leave for Bamenda in the northwest to celebrate my birthday! There is a restaurant there that makes pizza and a cafe with lattes and cappuccinos. There’s also a few “whiteman” stores which sells things like pringles, candy bars and american deodorant, etc. I can’t wait! There’s actually a lot of volunteers coming in for it from far and wide (5 different regions to be exact), but we’ll see who all shows up. My parents sent me a red velvet cake mix, icing, candles, sprinkles, a happy birthday sign with the metallic cut-out letters and glo-stick bracelets. All the ingredients for an epic Bamenda Birthday Bash!

for katie

i totally know what business to start when I get back. I eat it wayy more that I should. I will write you another aerogramm with the business plan 🙂 and we will also serve coffee because that was always part of the plan. Here I am enjoying my favorite meal here with some kiddos on site visit to Bandenkop. They live in Batie where another PCV lives named Ethan. He’s in the states right now buying me more cajun seasoning, peanut m&m’s and a big bottle of head & shoulders. yessss sweet sweet luxuries

community host


Tomorrow I leave for Badenkop for a sneak preview of my next two years. I met my host today, and got got to ask a few questions about the town. My host’s name is Jean (Marie?) and he is basically in charge of being there for me whenever I need his help for the first few months after post. He is a tall man and wore a trucker hat all day. I thought he worked for the school I’ll be working at, but when I asked him he told me he was a farmer. He also asked me if I could teach english, because there’s a shortage of english teachers I guess. I also found out that the village chief is younger than me and attends secondary school still. Maybe I’ll be his computer teacher! I’m excited and nervous. It will be strange being in the hands of an older man I don’t know, but he already asked me if he could call me Kimmy so things are looking up. My goals are to open my bank account in Baffousam, and ask my principal a bunch of questions. Oh, also I need to practice french the whole way there so I don’t look like a fool. We’ll see..

i’ll miss the big city, but I’m ready for my village

I have less than a week before I leave for Africa. On my bed I have stacks of clothes organized and ready for boxing, and my computer is playing BBC radio where Obama is giving a speech to both houses of Parliament speaking hopefully about the future. I thought I’d give it a listen before it becomes the only reachable station on my shortwave radio. I’m so excited to leave and lord knows I’ve waited long enough for this dream to finally come true. Last April I was accepted and waited patiently for my posting. After a few months I was told I would leave late February, and come January I was told the programs were filled and I would need to wait and see if there would be space for the May-July departures. My mom started pressing me to think about alternatives “just in case.” It was a lot of time to sit and wait, but I hated the idea of giving up. My aunt and uncle were awesome enough to invite me to their home in Chicago to keep my hands busy working downtown and getting quality cousin time until I got further word from PC. I finally received the package I had been waiting for and everything seems to be falling in line—as it usually does.

I waited a lot longer than I thought I would, but I honestly feel more prepared than ever. I’ve gotten to say goodbye to everyone I love and will miss. I learned how to survive without being surrounded by friends locally, living under the roof of a different family. I helped redo a kitchen from the floors to the ceiling and commuted to the city every day—working hard and designing for the often underrated non-monetary rewards. I even found a new friend to practice my french with twice a week—laura, who just happened to be from Cameroon! I got to do everything I wanted to do:

  • ate at all the famous deep dish pizza places
  • saw Peter pan on broadway with my cousins and Nikki (my favorite cubicle neighbor and ice machine escort every morning!)
  • thrift shopped in Wicker park
  • did the Bean and explored everywhere with katie D
  • danced in Boystown with Conner and Jibs
  • had casual monday lunches with Sean
  • went clubbing by limo with Jarred (still don’t understand how)
  • went to an art exhibition featuring the same Jarred (so proud!)
  • finished (almost) an entire kitchen redo
  • saw a bunch of cousin plays!

I loved Chicago, historical blizzard and all. I’ll miss the big city, but I’m ready for my village!

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old people & computers

tomorrow is the day I get to talk to the lady at the front office of the neighborhood and ask her about the possibility of teaching a computer class at the club house. (the neighborhood community center next to the marina) I’m super excited about the whole plan. I’ve researched and created some lesson plans that I hope to solidify after getting advice from Pat, the office lady. I also want to consult the closest thing I have to a focus group consisting of my grandma and Konnie, my grandpa’s wife on my mom’s side. I’m crossing my fingers for a “of course you can bring these old ppl into the 2000’s!” It will keep my hands busy in January at least, and will also be a great thing to talk about when my PC rep calls me. If I don’t hear any good news soon, I think I’m chicago bound. It’s a lot more difficult to live here than I was anticipating. I just need a distraction and teaching will hopefully be the key.

for my meeting tomorrow I designed an example flyer I want to give to people with the schedule of classes and a friendly message. it was fun to play around with. i’m wayy too productive here.

on my death bed of sorts

it’s strange to think about how i want to say goodbye to things in a month. whats the proper etiquette for things like this? i have a month to try and hang out with everyone i love in lawrence, to see everything i haven’t gotten around to seeing the past 4.5 years i’ve been here. i’ve always been the kid at summer camp who was grossed out by the girls crying about being homesick. i just never got it. i knew i would go home. calm down, kid, it’s just 2 weeks and then you’re back at your house being hot and bored because it’s texas. i’m not usually one to miss people either. this time it’s a little different. when i come “home” everyone will be scattered. in a month everything changes, and i say real goodbyes. but who really feels the sincerity of a goodbye until they’re already gone..

i guess i’ll have a party or something..

things to do before i leave: (feel free to add to it)

•sell all of my stuff
•take pictures of the town
•go to all the stores on mass i’ve never been in
•eat at kelly’s diner with ferrell
•find a way to see everyone at once and hug them really tight
•get people’s email
•finish my website so peeps can follow me
i am my mother’s daughter

i’m being my mom for halloween. i just received a package with her old glasses in it. i asked her to mail them to me and i’m so glad she still had them. i always remember running into her room after nightmares or because i had an “accident” and she would reach over and put on her glasses. thick red translucent red frames. the lenses are about a 1/2″ thick. it feels like i’m wearing those drunk goggles they have you try on in high school and make you do obstacles in. after this next episode of 30 rock im off to go find some good mom jeans from the salvation army. i looove halloweeeeeeeeen

culture flog. culture blog.

aside from my 9 1/2 hour shift at work, today was awesome. my friend ife* invited me and my friend galo** over for dinner. we’ve been on rotation for these dinners. galo is from ecuador and started us off a month ago with a traditional ecuadorian meal. so authentic his mother probably talked him through the recipe from skype. tonight ife and his wife shanxi*** cooked a nigerian dish. the dish was a colorful plate of pounded yams that looked closer to mashed potatoes—the yams in nigeria are white apparently. the yams were topped with an okra soup with little shrimps and then on top of that was a spicy red tomato sauce which had been tamed down for our ecuadorian friends sensitive taste to any hint of spice. the meal was wonderful. we ate with our hands and washed it down with apple cider and chocolate ice cream. for this we used a spoon. afterwards, shanxi pulled out her accordion and gave us a recital fit for a stage rather than a guest bedroom with an air mattress and folding chairs. i was blown away. her control over each hand playing completely different things left my mouth on the ground and a self deprecating response of how i had just recently mastered rubbing my belly and patting my head at the same time. i was blown away.

we went around talking about our individual short-lived music careers. ife explained the abrupt end of his music career as being the result of a mean music teacher back in nigeria. galo’s mother had signed him up to take a violin class at the conservatory in their hometown in ecuador, but a broken arm from soccer kept him from reaching his full potential and his also-mean music teacher made him play through the pain. my mother had signed me up for violin lessons starting at age 4. at age 8 i told her to quit trying to live her life through me, because i didn’t want to go to practice (and because i watched way too much television, obviously)

ife went on to explain that his music teacher was the reason for everyone in his 8th grade class quitting the music program. the teacher had warned them that if they didn’t pass the big test at the end of the program then they would be flogged. 7 students passed out of all the kids taking music that semester. luckily ife was one of them. apparently flogging was not out of the norm in nigeria. ife further explained girls would typically get hit on their hands. boys on their bum or their calves. galo told stories about how his school had a giant pile of rocks in the schoolyard and when a student got in trouble they had to go outside and count out one thousand rocks before they could come back in.

i come from a family that does belt spankings and mouth washes with soap. none of which i ever got because i was perfect, but also because my dad just told me to cry and pretend when we walked out of my room together after my apparent spanking. oh, yelling was a big one, too.

little did i know that around the world kids were being forced to get caned on the legs, count giant piles of rock, stand in front of the classroom holding their ears and jumping up and down, cutting the long grass in a giant unused field behind the school with a machete, stand with arms out knees bent and tiptoes until their legs feel like jello. and not just for doing bad things, but also for not getting a good enough grade.

if this is still how things are i’m going to have to get creative when i start teaching in africa..

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