computers in bandenkop

The computers arrived in Douala (the port city and economic capital of Cameroon) in mid-December after one long month of shipping. Once they arrived, the port held them asking for more money even though we had letters from the head of Peace Corps Cameroon, the US Ambassador and other “big people” asking for exoneration. We unhappily paid and transported the computers to the University in Tombel, a village outside of Douala. I arrived in Tombel to pick up my portion of the computer shipment (50 machines!) early January. Once I arrived a friend of the university organized a travel bus to transport my computers from Tombel to Bandenkop. This turned out to be the worst day of my life.

Just out of Tombel the driver filled the empty seats with one too many passengers even though I had paid for the whole bus. Also, the driver didn’t have his license on him so when the police stopped him at the first stop out of Tombel so we waited over an hour and a half for the driver to try and talk the gendarme into letting us pass with only a bribe. He was refusing for so long, because allegedly this same driver had driven through this stop before fleeing the police. We were finally allowed to leave after the driver bribed him with 20,000cfa ($40) when the typical bribe to pass is 500-1000cfa.

We continued on and dropped off the other passengers before turning off the paved road to head to my village. The sun was starting to go down, and I was beginning to get very nervous. When we entered my village I took a big sigh of relief, it was dark, the computers had been bumping around for an hour on the dirt roads, and I had been alone with the terrible driver guy. I was waving to all my friends in the center of town as we passed. We took the small road that leads to my house. We were just minutes away when the tire blew on a rock. The driver started cussing in his village language and french. I was so tired, dirty and frustrated. He hadn’t traveled with a spare. I couldn’t believe it. I ran back to the center and found my friend with a car asking if he knew where we could find a spare tire, but it was already pitch black night.

My friend ended up taking another teacher and me in his car. We pulled up to the broken down bus, and my friends started to yell at the driver about how irresponsible he was. I was so happy to have back-up. We loaded as much as we could into his suv and dropped it off minutes down the road at my house. We finished it all in 2 loads and I thanked them with beer money. I carried each computer into my house and set all 50 up like my house was a giant cyber cafe. In the morning I began matching up cables, mice and keyboards, and while I was working there was a knock on the door. The driver was there, he said he had slept in the bus and woke up early to find the new tire. He was headed to Bafoussam and just wanted to say goodbye.

I invited the 3 other ICT volunteers in the West region over with promises of cooking chicken and blueberry muffins if they would come over and help me re-install the OS on some laptops and turn on and troobleshoot all 20 of the desktops. We worked all day and next morning and had an MLK day feast in between. I couldn’t have been more grateful for my friends here.

Distribution day was a few days later. Power had been out for one week so I couldn’t get pictures like I’d wanted. (SORRY!) But I’ve begun taking pictures of the computers in their new homes. Here are just a few: a teacher at my school, the school treasurer, and the kids (my students) playing with MS Paint on the computer bought by one of my adult class students.

Thanks again so much for your donations and support. I will post up more pictures as they come.


before you leave for peace corps you think two years will fly by like they did in college. You think about the big events you may miss, weddings, babies, and shrug a shoulder thinking of the big adventure you’re jumping into. When you’re miles away and a year and a half in it isn’t only the big events you’re sad about missing, but the small overlooked life changing moments that you dwell on. It’s the simplest days that you miss and are homesick for. My best friend had her heart broken and I can’t give her a big hug and tell her it will be alright. I think about all of my best friends and how many days have passed since I last talked to each one. They’ve all met new people I don’t know and have built up these relationships while i’m waiting for electricity and free time to skype. I’m really far away and I feel it sometimes.

thank god for blogs

join the club

“At the end of last school year, my voice was calloused and my hands were dried out and white after each day of school. My school saw its first computer lab which had opened halfway through the school year, and the with the addition of the lab my computer classes were made a little easier. I split each grade level in groups of twenty, two students per computer. Some of the classes had around 80 students so each student got less than 30 minutes of computer time once a week. Most students had never touched a computer, so using the 30 minutes for finding 3 letters on the keyboard was almost unbearable. The smaller groups made the classes considerably more manageable, but I was forced to give the same lesson three or four times consecutively for each grade level. Needless to say teaching in the Peace Corps quickly lost its luster and I needed to get creative or wait for a second wind of adrenaline like the one that got me through PST and the first few months at post. I decided to start a club called Typing Tuesday. I found a great typing game in French for students to practice their hand placement and avoid staring at the keyboard while they type. Students could sign up for the first hours after school or the second. They had the first 45 minutes to practice, and at the end of each hour they had races and I tracked Words per Minute as well as Precision percentage. The winners got their names written on the board, and a sense of competition drove them to practice the rest of the year.

I considered Typing Tuesday (Club Informatique) extremely successful. When I posted up the sign-up sheet students would sprint out of their classes pens-in-hand. Students got to use the computers for an entire hour instead of a quick 30 minutes, which helped the students advance much quicker in class—getting used to the motor functions often used with the mouse and keyboard. This was one of my favorite parts of the job by the end of the year. The same interested kids would come each time and they knew the drill so I needed only bring a book and read while the sound of clicking echoed around the computer lab walls. Because of the success for both students and teacher, I decided to ask for less hours this new school year and focus on clubs where I would find more interested students and more manageable class sizes.

This year, aside from Typing Tuesday, I am running English Club as well as Science Club. In English Club we are rehearsing the play Peter Pan. The first week I opened the computer lab to show the original Disney film projected on the wall. Students trickled in filling every inch of space in chairs, on the ground and standing in the back. They laughed at Smee’s every word, at Nana the dog and her humanistic ways, at Tinkerbell’s jealousy of Wendy and Peter, and of Captain Hooks’ dread of the tick-tocking crocodile. Last week we held auditions and I took a video of each student. The first handful of students had used the week before to memorize a line or two, but after they auditioned, the students who had just come for something to do began reading the script and running up on stage to take part in the fun. This week I will be posting up the winners of each role, as well as the side roles of pirates and lost boys. The play will be December 19 and rehearsals start this wednesday and continue until the presentation. I also have the help of a fellow teacher who will be working with the backstage crew making props and backgrounds. It should be magical..

The last club is science club. This club is a cooperation project with Matt Loftis and I, as well as an excuse to get to redo all our favorite science projects from elementary school as well as learn some new French vocabulary. The first week of the club was the well-known Egg Drop. After a short lesson on the Scientific Method and gravity, 6 groups of students got to protect their egg with recycled bags and other packaging materials and drop them from the tallest building in Bandenkop (2 stories!). Only one group’s egg broke and everyone gave them a hard time. The next club day was Foil Boats. After a lesson on buoyancy, groups received equal sized sheets of aluminum to make a boat that would hold the most pennies. Some of the boats were pitiable, others purely decorative, while a couple were ready for the challenge. After one of my more difficult students succeeded in holding 42 pennies, I couldn’t resist quickly building a “teacher” boat for matt and I and winning with 58 pennies. Teachers: 1 Students: 0. The most recent experiment was papier-mâché volcanoes. It was a much lengthier lesson than experiment, but the students were interested and answering questions. Before adding baking soda to vinegar, the students learned the layers of the earth and the parts of a volcano, then we gathered in groups to watch the reaction. It was less exciting and competitive than the other experiments, but was still a success and the students left with the volcanoes to show and explain it to other students outside.

I think I speak for most everyone, when I say that teaching in Africa isn’t easy. It’s almost impossible for me to have a silent room with the younger students, and the class size makes it impossible to reach every student. It is also that much harder as an American, as a woman, and as someone who believes it is morally incorrect to hit students. As idealistic volunteers, the fact that we can’t improve every one of our students’ work is a big pill to swallow. With clubs I’ve found that I can reach the students who want to be reached and are interested in the subject matter. I can more easily see the small successes and improvements from my work, and the evaluation is much more enjoyable. My students are now typing at rates of 53 words per minute, students see Matt and I’s matching planet and stars pange and run into the classroom announcing Science Club!, and by the end of the trimester my students will have memorized and performed an entire play in English in front of school administration, community members, and a couple visiting parents from the States.”

-my new CHALK article (Peace Corps Education Newsletter)

thoughts on freedom

In lieu of our country’s independence, here are some thoughts on freedom:

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
-david foster wallace

-I take the only desire one can really permit oneself. Freedom, Alvah, freedom.
-You call that freedom?
-To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.
-What if you found something you wanted?
-I won’t find it. I won’t choose to see it. It would be part of that lovely world of yours. I’d have to share it with all the rest of you—and I wouldn’t.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

The DFW quote is my favorite quote that I saved on my computer and open up to read every now and again, and is the contrary to the other. For a depressed guy he was truly inspiring. I’m reading the Fountainhead right now, and I’m really loving it. Its written according to the philosophy of Objectivism by Ayn Rand that says many things, but one of which is that the pursuit of one’s own happiness is the “proper moral purpose of one’s life.”

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.
—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

I don’t know if I believe this philosophy, but the book is extremely interesting, and is on the subject of architecture and design with one character designing buildings at their simplest forms and logical layouts, while the popular architect designs for the clients adding unnecessary adornments to facades and layouts to provoke discussion with no real use. It’s great so far and I roped my architect friend and old roommate into reading it with me.

I’ve been reading a lot lately, because I’ve been in village trying to conserve on my internet hours, as well as the fact that this July I gave myself a crazy schedule. Each Tuesday and Thursday I’m giving adult computer classes to people who have never touched a computer. Each Wednesday I’m teaching anyone who wants to come to my house starting with how to make tofu, block soap and powdered soap, paper &fabric beads, Batik (fabric dying with wax), and then Matt is coming for the last week to give an Intro to Business class. So far a lot of interest, and yesterday I accidentally worked on my computer for HOURS making a computer game on Flash so the adults can practice clicking and stuff. It felt good to be working on design projects again.

I also talked a woman in Yaoundé into giving a small class of fabric dying so I can better teach it in my village. She makes beautiful fabric and I bought way too much the last time I came to town. She’s a wonderful lady, named Charlotte and we had a good time dying our own fabric which are now skirts. Enjoy the pics!

Also, I recently got my first weave put in. Let me say, it really takes a village. I think everyone got to do at least one braid. Not really, but as people passed they would stop and talk or stop and braid a few and then continue on shouting “Du courage!” as they left. Some people laughed, and some people told me I looked more than beautiful. My main braiders were Mama Marie and Fanou, the 7 year old sister of Ingrid and daughter of Honorine. They laughed when I maid faces from pain and continued on until 3 packages of fake hair were tied onto my scalp. It turned out nice for a weave on a white girl, and I plan on leaving it in for 2 months and never doing it again. It’s 4 days later and my head still hurts.

Lastly, I got the best surprise in the mail the other day. The post office here is a joke, and I’d been trying to get my mail for weeks. The guy with the key is always out, or they’ve closed early or opened late in the day on purpose so I can’t get my mail. Finally I went a few days ago for my long awaited package, and they gave it to me! I was hoping it was the package of art for my students from the Art Exchange that I had them participate in, but when she opened the door and I saw it wasn’t an envelope, I knew my package had gotten lost in the mail like I’d thought and was disheartened. I took the package and tilted it up so the mouse holes didn’t drop anything out of them. I looked at the name and didn’t recognize it, and went straight to the office to open it.

I cut open the box and saw a letter on top of a pile of wonderful things. The letter was written by a women who follows my adventures in Africa through this blog, and had included some gifts for my students and myself. I immediately used my new burt’s bees, ate my chocolate, went home and lit my new candle. I knew I needed to update my blog since it’s been over a month and THANK this Kansas mama! Life in Cameroon gets to be life in Kansas really quick. I began with a lot of energy and inspiration, and slowly lost adrenaline and reverted to my normal ways in America. Bandenkop has become my new “small town” with it’s small town life and small town conversations, garden growing, from-scratch cooking, and chickens running around. The only difference is that I’m speaking french or patois, and rocking chairs don’t exist. It’s a shame. It’s nice and necessary to get inspiration from people, and it was just what I needed to get my head back into the swing of things. I only have a year left and I have ideas I haven’t even started on!

I also love any opportunity to hear from people back home. My good friend here who teaches at the primary school grows sunflowers in her garden. I have no idea where she got the seeds but they make me so happy to see them. Keep those Kansas reminders coming. I miss you friends and family, and I’ll be coming home soon enough. Don’t forget me.


red teeth for a week

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I’m overwhelmed by the radical emotions I come across here. In a day I can start out happy—wake up, turn on taylor swift and mix up my instant coffee with a spoonful of target mint hot chocolate mix (thanks katie!) and powdered milk. After only a few hours I’m fuming after being called “la blanche”, “makat”, “nassara” or just “white” over and over if I’m not in my village. I can schedule a meeting and feel great about how much I prepared and how grown up and organized I feel teaching adults, and then no one shows up until an hour after the scheduled time. I can come back from a trip, excited to be home, only to be greeted by “what have you brought me?”. C’est la vie au Cameroon. It’s great here and I’m really happy with my decision to sign up for this adventure, but at times it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had, and I don’t think I’ll truly appreciate my life here until I’m back in the states with the glow of computer screen across my face instead of the hot African sun.

Since the last time I wrote I’ve done so much, so let me catch you up. My last post was for valentine’s day and since then I’ve had a boyfriend for a record breaking 6 months! For those who can’t “Facebook stalk” Matt’s his name and he’s from Nashville, TN. He’s a community economic development volunteer in a village called Bangangté which takes me 2 hours to get to on the best of days which is rare. He went to school in Florida for business and grills a mean steak. I’m a lucky gal. My parents got to meet him when they came for a week to see my village, along with all my friends and colleagues and even another mom and dad who were in town visiting my friend Max. They were the guests of honor at a party I organized with all my best friends, teachers and elites of Bandenkop. The women made different dishes so my parents could taste everything in one sitting. Speeches were made, fighter whisky was drunk, and the first rain fell of the rainy season. On the last day I took my parents to a “resort” on a lake owned by a french millionaire where they got to sail with my friend, Henri, who is a french volunteer who also lives in Bangangté. On our way to the airport we got stopped by gendarmes and had to pay a bribe, and once in the city we got lost in the maze of tiny roads and taxi traffic that we almost didn’t make our flight. But we did. And I had a first class seat all the way to Italy!

My parents and I spent 4 days in Cinque Terre—a beautiful area made up of 5 fishing villages. We stayed in manarola with a view of the sea out the window and a giant checkerboard painted on the sidewalk before the beach. I ate pasta, pizza or seafood for almost every meal and wine with almost every meal. Good wine. Not boxed Penasol. Everything was pretty and clean, and people looked so classy I tried to hide the fact that most my clothes come from kilo bags of used clothing sold on a blanket in the markets of Cameroon. We walked a lot, ate a lot of gelato, rode trains and boats and took a million pictures. We spent a day in Piza and took the necessary pictures and I bought a tilted mug for Matt with the tower of Piza for a handle. Next stop was Florence. We visited the Uffizi art gallery and I saw all the art pieces I’d studied in college. It was incredible. Before getting on the plane I went grocery shopping with my mom and we stuffed my suitcase full of edible souvenirs. I hugged my parents hard and left the next morning before anyone in Italy was awake and headed for the airport. The brussels airlines angles saw that I had ridden first class to get there so they upgraded both legs of my trip back to Cameroon. The plane was completely new—complete with a reclining massage chair, personal tv with new movies I hadn’t even heard of yet. I drank champagne for hours and watched 3 movies. I could have lived on that plane..

Back in Cameroon I went back to post for a week and was completely depressed. It had been to much. I missed my parents, hot showers, soft beds and customer service. After locking myself in my house all week, only leaving to teach my classes, I left for Bangagnté and hosted a party at matt’s apartment to cook all the Italian food I’d brought back. I even managed to bring a couple bottles of wine. Everyone was happy and it reminded how much I love being here.

Shortly after that I got the news that I had been chosen to be Greeter for the new training group coming June 1. I’d applied in December, and had been following up for months. I really wanted this position every since we arrived in Cameroon and had 2 volunteers to grill about life in Africa and get us pumped up for our next two years. I helped with planning their 3 months of training these past two weeks with a handful of other volunteers who applied for the job. Now I’m back at post for my last week of school. I’m going to Bafang for Saturday to have a sushi and kimchi party with a fellow graphic design volunteer, Kalika, and then off to the airport in Yaoundé to greet the newbies!

I’m really glad it’s summer. I have a lot of ideas and I don’t have to teach kiddos so I expect to be a lot less stressed 🙂 I’ll try and be better at blogging. Bear with me. I missed you guys.


this ain’t summer camp


I’ve never been one to miss people when I travel or move cities. Even when I was little and went to summer camp and all the homesick kids would cry at night with the counselors assuring them that everything would be OK and they would see their parents in just a couple weeks. My parents would also get mad at me for never writing them back. The older I get the more I realize how lucky I am for the family I have and how much I never want to lose them.

Today I woke up and fixed pumpkin pancakes and peppermint tea and sat down to a colossal crossword puzzle my parents sent me from the christmas paper. I worked on it for about an hour making a good dent in the 1500+ word puzzle, all the while reminiscing on the mornings I spent living in Chicago riding the L to work with my uncle. We would grab a Red Eye at the entrance of the station, board the train, take off our gloves and set to work finishing the crossword before our arrival downtown. Uncle Peter would always finish the crossword and the sudoku, even on Fridays when it was the 5 star difficulty. Today is his daughter—my cousin, Dallas’s—birthday, and I had the pleasure of celebrating with them a year ago. We woke her up with a tray of hot cinnamon rolls and a computer screen with Skype open and her big sister on the screen to wish her happy birthday from Colorado. I got to spend the beginning of her teenage years with her, and I’m better because of it.

On the other side of the crossword puzzle were locals’ stories of christmas eve traditions and memories. Since college, I haven’t had a consistent christmas in the states. I’ve spent christmas in India with one of my best friends from high school, Artee, and her family who are hindus. It was still one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life and I probably owe my acceptance to the Peace Corps to her. Another Christmas was spent in warm Australia in my bathing suit scanning the great barrier reef and trying desperately to not to be obvious to my parents and little brother as I batted my eyes at the aussie instructors. Babes, all of them. This year I was in Bangangté, Cameroon with 40 other volunteers in a small apartment with a chimney (the reason for the location of the event). I sewed christmas stocking with children in my village and we cooked a mexican feast and ate on anything that resembled a plate closely enough. We tried our best to recreate the feeling of family and tradition with a christmas tree, ornaments, lights and some decorations my parents sent. Who knows why we crave these things.

My family has always traveled to family’s homes for christmas, but I was lucky enough to have enough “traditional” christmases in my childhood to hold onto. I remember the smell of my grandparents burnt orange carpet in their old home in Shreveport, Louisiana and the sound of the train that went by in the middle of the night. I ate all of the m&m’s in the plastic candy cane holder one year and threw up christmas colors. My grandma used to make a gingerbread house with us grandkids each christmas we spent there, and she always bought the grossest candy—minty gumdrops and off-brand peppermint bites—to decorate the roof and walls—perhaps to keep us from eating all of it. On years we went to Chicago to my dad’s parents we got to have a white christmas. There was even a frozen lake behind the house that we were never allowed to walk on. My uncle Stan, who’s Jewish, would give us gallon bags of dollar store treasures each year and I remember playing with a small plastic hinged man with sticky balls at his hands and feet. We would stick him to the top of a window and he would alternate his feet and hands sticking bending at the middle and tumble down the window. Waiting at the top of the stairs christmas morning, my grandmothers’ cookies and candies, Bing Crosby playing..

I didn’t mean for this post to take a christmas tangent, but I just have these moments here where I see a picture or read something and it makes me hurt with how much I love my family and how lucky I am. I’m constantly surrounded with african culture, tradition, values, etc. Sometimes I wish my mom were here just to let me know things will work out and keep me focused on whats actually important. Right now I’m happy and I know everything will work out, but here is just a list of my past month excitements:

-strep throat
-coxsackie virus
-housing problems- boss finally told me he wants to move me to a village called Bare in the Littoral Region at Easter if I don’t find a house really soon.
-4th annual MLK feast, complete with cheesy biscuits, fried okra, chicken, eggplant, coleslaw, chocolate cake, mashed potatoes, etc.
-new computer lab
-wake-boarded and sailed on a lake by Foumbot
-Tungiasis, pulled 2 sand fleas and a billion babies out from under my toenails last night
-an Elite took me on a moto tour of houses in Bandenkop to try and find one that works!

This is Africa.

joyeux noel


This may possibly be my busiest year to date. If I had succeeded into
training myself to use a planner like I tried in middle school, I may
have filled in every little box and used up all the stickers on the
back page for appointments and birthdays, vacations and minor life
changes. If they had stickers for moving to a village and learning a
foreign language I may have used those up, too. None-the-less it has
also been one of my favorite years.

Looking back at all the pictures looking for the perfect ones to use
for my Peter&Demetra-inspired Christmas card, I got to relive all of
the adventures I had this year. I lived in two different states and
moved countries as well. I took part in the unintentional tradition of
living with your parents after graduating college and was pleasantly
surprised. In March I moved to Chicago to live with family and arrived
just in time to take part in the snowpocalypse of 2011. I got to have
2 little sisters for a small time. I took the subway to work in
downtown Chicago everyday, and ate at every restaurant I possibly
could. I helped Peter and Demetra re-do their kitchen and bathroom
from laying tiles to finding beautiful cabinets on craigslist. I
finally received my long awaited letter from Peace Corps announcing my
departure and post in Cameroon, Africa. In June I left for Africa and
had three months of training while I lived with a Cameroonian family
learning customs, foods and practicing my awkward French. I moved to
Bandenkop, a village in middle-of-nowhere Cameroon, with a few bags
and a cat named Bellatrix Lestrange. I’ve been teaching computer and
english classes at the government high school of Bandenkop since
September—somedays I’m the only teacher who shows up. For Halloween I
dressed up as Rapunzel and danced with Gaddafi, and for
Thanksgiving I spent the day making american “usuals” and eating
around a bonfire outside the tree-house of an African prince.

This year I got to cross three things of my list of things to do
before I die; work for peace corps, live with extended family, and become
fluent in another language.

I am so thankful for this year, and I honestly couldn’t have made it
through without you, my family and friends. I hope you all have a
really wonderful Christmas with your families, because I definitely
would if I could!

I love and miss you. Merry Christmas!

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!

it’s official

Yesterday was the swearing in ceremony for the trainees. We took the same oath that the president takes to start service, and I became a volunteer in a matter of seconds after weeks of wishing i could just be a volunteer already. I loved Bafia, and my host family with Mama Lydie and Papa Piment, Jerry, Patricia and Epiphany. This morning I had my last spaghetti omelette sandwich and I gave Mama Lydie some printed off photos,black & white,of the family I had taken over the past months. I wrote a letter on the back of one page and handed it to her with a small box of wine. She was so happy and hugged me so tight that my eyes watered. I was extremely lucky getting them as my host family.

Today was spent in a bus with all of my fellow volunteers headed to the West. The bus was packed with water filters, bikes, regulators and suitcases that would never pass through an airport without being charged a million dollars. Volunteers were dropped off along the way in their respective villages, while the rest of us headed to the big city, Baffousam. In Baffousam there is a volunteer run transit house where we had the bus driver drop us off in front of. We lugged all of our belongings up three flights of stairs and settled in to our new home for a night. We found the internet immediately and I got to skype with ferrell and see the first american face since 3 months. The other volunteers and I walked down the road and stopped at market stands buying ingredients to make baguette pizzas. We went to the super marche to buy cheese and tomato paste. Right now I’m using the computer while the other toast the baguettes. We’re about to sit down to our first pizza meal on a table made of two metal trunks with a candle sitting on top.Our plates  are plastic grocery bags and I can’t wait.

Today I was thinking about how I was getting to do my life dream. I can’t believe how well everything has worked out. I’ve worked hard and also been extremely lucky, but I couldn’t help but tear up from happiness. I’m done being cheesy. I’m going to go eat pizza. But I love you all-my friends and family and I’m loving life in Africa and I hope you’re all doing well.

child-bearing hips

I can’t believe it’s already august. Right now I’m waiting for 11:30 to roll around to teach my last practical class (the students have an hour of IT every day for theory and 1 day practical using the computer lab). I’m hoping that the other half of the class will get to create email accounts with gmail today. They type so slow which slows things down a lot, and the account forms and security questions are guaranteed to create chaos. “Madame! Madame! I can’t read these squiggly letters!” I’ve grown to really like my kids. I hope they do well on the final exam friday.

I’ve also really gotten comfortable with my host family. We have our routines, and my french has improved so much with their help. They are so patient with me and they’ve taught me so much about the Cameroonian culture and way of life. Their is a way to do everything, even striking matches. I cut plantains like mama lydie, wring my laundry like mama lydie and i’ve practices my slow african woman walk (use a whole lot of hips and walking so slow it almost feels like you might be moving backwards) When I have a basket resting on my child-bearing hips it looks especially convincing.