Thursday, February 20, 2014

The PI and Cameroon

Just got back from the Philippines where I saw many similarities with Cameroon.

1)  They both sell a lot of things in small, plastic packets in small boutiques (or sari sari stores).  Everything is apparently the opposite of buying in bulk -- whether its coffee, flavoring mixes (maggi cubes in Cameroon or sinigang mixes in the PI), detergent, etc.  Every ten feet, there's one of these boutiques.  Now if the PI would just get their heads together and sell hard liquor in small plastic packets…

 2)  They both have great hikes to mountains -- Mt. Cameroon and Mt. Pulag.  The difference is that Mt. Pulag seems better maintained and not as trashed.  It may have something to do with more conscientious hikers.  We had to watch an orientation video at the visitor center before our hike, advising us not to trash the mountain.  I'm not saying that was the reason Mt. Pulag seemed better maintained, but it may have helped. 

3)  Speaking of trash, they both burn their trash.  They both, however, reuse their beer/soda bottles, so I suppose that's something.  I did see some locations in the PI that separated their trash into recyclables, trash, organics, etc.  I didn't see any recycling facilities however. 

4)  They both have merchants who walk the streets selling their goods.

5)  They were both colonized by European countries white people -- Cameroon by the French, English and Germans and the PI by Spain and the US. Colonial mentality is still alive and well in the Philippines as evidenced by its skin whitener billboards. 

This post was written in honor of my blogging buddies, Marj and Bill:

Photo right before the hike to Mt. Pulag. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cinq Autres Choses

Mac:  I don't know how to play chess.
Rob:  Don't worry.  You don't wear glasses so you're not expected to know how to play.

1)  Top Five Funny PCVs I've Met -- just like the DOW Jones, the top 5 often changes.  So the current top five are Emily, Rob, Ryan, Ryry and Luke.  Or Ashley.  Disclaimer:  I have no credibility regarding this list. 

2)  Chess -- There's about 150 PCVs in Cameroon.  Out of that 150, I only know of about 5 chess players, much to my chagrin.  Alas, PCV culture in Cameroon is dominated by board games involving dice. 
3)  Campo -- finally visited Campo-Ma'an National Park:

It was ok, except for a couple of glitches -- we never saw any wildlife other than a few flightless(?) birds and our rented tent leaked and soaked me and my friend's belongings.  There were other things that could've gone better, but hey, on the bright side, it wasn't that  far from Kribi. 

4)  T Minus Less Than A Week -- my bank account is closed, I have left post and moved all my items to the capital, I said my goodbyes at post.  All that's left are interviews with the bosses, PC paper work, medical check ups and a taxi ride to the airport in less than one week.    

5)  PCVs -- I also want to do a shout-out to some of the PCVs who have made these two years quite memorable:

There's other PCVs of course during the two years.  They're just not in the picture.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tu Dis Tomate, Je Dis Tomato

A look back at some of the conversations I've had with Cameroonians:

1) Cameroonian: "You should leave a mestizo child before you leave Cameroon. You should also try tuba, a type of traditional food."

2) Cameroonian: "When someone calls you 'le blanc', 'ntangan', or 'chinois', that should not be a problem. You should not be offended."
Me: "So its ok if I call Cameroonians 'le noir' or 'evindumot' (Bulu for black person)?"
Cameroonian: "No, that's offensive."

3) Gendarme: "Tu fais quoi au Cameroun?" ("What are you doing in Cameroon?")
Me: "Peace Corps."
Gendarme: "P Square? Tu chantes?" ("You sing?")

4) Cameroonian: "Ce n'est pas Chine. C'est Cameroun." ("This is not China. This is Cameroon.")
Me: "Ce n'est pas Chine? Oh, merci pour l'information." ("This isn't China? Oh, thanks for the information.")

I sometimes think my sarcasm will get me in trouble one of these days.

5) Me: "I have a pretty sizable front yard. I should turn it into a demonstration plot with two rows of crops surrounded by agroforestry trees or shrubs."
Cameroonian: "That's not a good idea. We don't farm our front yards here in the south. You can farm on the side of the house, but never the front yard. This is not Western Cameroon. To be well-integrated in the South, you have to be like Southern Cameroonians."

So I guess that means I should go deep into the forest and slash-and-burn my way to a farm if I wanted one.

6) Cameroonian: "You should marry an African woman because she will be submissive. African women are not like the women in the US."

7) Me: "Tu as le petite Fanta?" (Do you have a small Fanta?)
Cameroonian: "Non, c'est juste ça." *He points to a bigger size Fanta.*
Me: "Fanta normale?" (Normal Fanta?)
Cameroonian: "Fanta moyenne." (Medium Fanta)

8) Me: "C'est comment, uh… Attend, C'est Bertrand? Non, Marcelle, n'est-ce pas?"
Cameroonian: "Non, je suis Augustine."


9) This one happened just a few days ago at a bar:

Cameroonian: "J'ai soif. Tu m'achete une biere." (I'm thirsty. Buy me a beer.)
Me: *no response. I just walk away.*
Cameroonian: "Tu es 'shish'"(You are cheap.)
Me:  *I turn around and walk towards him.*  "Est-ce que tu me connais?" (Do you know me?)
Cameroonian: "J'ai soif. Je veux une biere." (I'm thirsty. I want a beer.)
Me: "Pourquoi est-ce que je dois acheter une biere pour toi? Je te connais?" (Why should I buy you a beer? I know you?)
Cameroonian: "Je suis ton frere." (I'm your brother.)
Me: "Quel est mon nom? Si je suis ton frere, quel est mon nom? (What's my name? If I'm your brother, what's my name?)
Waitress: *saying something in agreement.*

I walk away and leave the jerk at the bar. Yeah, I think its time to leave Cameroon.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Just Sayin'

I don't get why Facebook is always telling me what my profile page should look like.  They tell me I need a cover photo.  All of a sudden we need a cover photo.  If you don't have one, they'll just make your cover photo some grayscale image.  Good thing that that's what I was going to make as my cover photo anyway.  I'm a minimalist like that.  They also tell me my profile is only 80% complete because I don't have info like my hometown.  Really, Facebook?  Facebook has become that annoying paper clip in Microsoft office:

Just let me log on, man, because as Hasan Minhaj said, I just need to see who checked in at Pinkberry.  Or find out what people had for lunch.  Note:  I had no idea what Pinkberry was before doing an internet search.  It's apparently a SoCal thing. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

¿Qué tal?

With my departure from Cameroon fast approaching, its time for me to think about what to do next.  South America?  Sounds very intriguing indeed.  Of course, I would need to brush up on my Spanish, which is very, very rusty.  Mucho.  I have a couple of ways of dealing with this situation.  There's electronic books I can and have bought and downloaded.  Granted, electricity would need to be more consistent than it is now.  There's also tutors.  I met one here at post and he's helping me out.  Finally, there's TV shows or movies that are either subtitled or dubbed in Spanish.  Here's a couple of quotes in Spanish from two funny shows, Scrubs and Curb Your Enthusiasm:

Richard: Estoy un poco enamorado de ella.  (I happen to be a little bit in love with her.)
Larry:  Un poco es la frase que lo define.  (A little bit being the operative word.)

Todd:  Yo soy 25% británico.  (I'm 25% British.)
Janitor: ¿Sí?  Pues me aburres al 100%.  (Really?  I'm 100% not interested.)

Sheryl:  ¿Tú rompiste con ella?  (You broke up with her?
Larry:  Sí, sé que es imposible que un idiota como
yo rompa con alguien.  (Oh, yeah.  Right.  That's impossible for an idiot like me to ever break up with a woman.)

Who knows?  With enough practice and some luck, I may be renaming my blog Mis Pensamientos Aleatorios or Mis Pensamientos al Azar early next year.

Speaking of funny, check out Hasan Minhaj's posts, where he talks about topics such as the Asian-American Miss America, Chris Brown, Ashton Kucher and Jeremy Lin.  His videos aren't subtitled, but I would be curious to know how one would go about translating 'Holy Shish kebab' into Spanish.  Something chorizo?

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Cinq Choses Dont Je Pense

Because I couldn't think of 10. 

1)  COS Conference -- we laughed, we cried, we played trivia, we got extensions, we got denied extensions, we drank, we got together one last time, we called people out, we danced.  Our last hurrah together since most of us will be leaving Cameroon in November.  Bittersweet. 

2)  Song About Math -- My new favorite song is Wizboyy's One Plus One, not only because the singer's name sounds funny, but because I also learned that one plus one is apparently one.  Also, the song has the following lyrics:

Is a dream of every man
to get a finest girl like you,
we go be like Rice and Stew


You are the personality,
The sugar in my tea,
My testimony…
See, the probability is equal to unity of our matrimony..
This love is raised to the power of infinity.

You should really hear it:

3)  Star Trek Into Darkness -- just recently saw the latest trek movie and it seemed more like an extended SNL skit than an actual film.  But I've gotta say I'm biased since I prefer the original cast.  You just can't replace the original Khan or Kirk or McCoy, etc. 

4)  Things I Didn't Know Before -- According to Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, Pinoys originally came from South China thousands of years ago.  The same book also says that the people of Madagascar originated from Asia.

5)  Green Corps -- I think Peace Corps should look into becoming more green.  For instance, how about replacing the current PC vehicles with hybrid vehicles?  Or have the staff take public transportation?  How about "Bike to Work" day?  Hey, I'm just throwing it out there.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Une Ode Pour le Sud

Tyrion: "The northerners will never forget."
Tywin: "Good.  Let them remember what happens when they march on the south."

The south region of Cameroon gets a lot of flak.  Its too "derangey."  The people are lazy.  They're rude.  Well, lets talk about the positives.  South, how much do I admire thee?  Let me count the ways:

1)  It has a rainforest.  All it needs is a high profile celebrity to give it publicity, maybe promote ecotourism.  *Cough* Sting.

2)  Getting "deranged" builds character.  You learn to verbally defend yourself and call people out when they deserve it. 

3)  Its relatively safe.  Getting "deranged" is the worst that they do.  Its not like Yaoundé or Douala or Bamenda where they've got a lot of thugs.

4)  Sometimes you don't want to be surrounded by a lot of Westerners.  The South only has a few volunteers for its size and sometimes thats good.  Sometimes, its good to be away from "the culture within a culture", aka Peace Corps Volunteer culture.

5) As a fellow PCV once said, "You can see above the ankle."

6)  No trouble hearing anybody because everyone shouts down here.  You never have to ask yourself if you're being rude, because well, nobody else asks that of themselves either.

7)    You will learn about fine cuisine.  Ok, not really.  Unless you consider bush meat with manioc as such.   You will learn about interesting cuisine, for sure. 

8) You never have to worry about wearing a jacket.  Its not cold like the mountaineous regions.  Its also not extremely hot like up north.  Its just humid. 

9)  Water shortage?  What's that?

10)  One word:  Kribi.

Ah, the South, what can I say?  We make a good poster, at least, right?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Deux Ans

About to wrap up my second year in Cameroon.  Here's a monthly snapshot of the second year.


August -- I attend a wedding in Yaoundé between a volunteer and a host country national:

September -- I keep working on my french by starting to read the classics -- Verne, Dumas, this Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel: 

October -- I visit the Southwest region for the first time:

November -- I attend Peace Corps Cameroon's 50th anniversary.  Volunteers from each region would man a table.  A fellow volunteer in the South suggested we all wear suits a la Reservoir Dogs:

December -- I move posts but stay in the South region.  I also attend a cultural festival in the Northwest region.  While there, I visit a traditional house, where people were drinking palm wine and had their scabbards out:
 Good thing the tips of the scabbards were blunt.


January -- I go to Yaoundé for mid-service along with other Environmental volunteers.  Afterwards, several PCVs and I check out my new post, which included activities like trying out my postmate's barbell:

February -- I begin working at my new post:

March -- I climb Mt. Cameroon.  My cellphone was also my camera and the battery would not have lasted if it weren't for my solar charger, which the guide decided to strap to his bag:

My original idea was to strap it to my arm, but the bag was a better idea.

April -- I attend a conference in the West region.  On my way back to Yaoundé, I pass by Douala, where I see this bin that apparently recycles plastic bottles:

Douala seems quite progressive when it comes to environmental issues.  Relatively, of course.

May -- I finally win my first game of chess against my nemesis, aka postmate.  I also attempt basket composting with a local farmer:

June -- I learn that raffia wine is different from palm wine:
Despite appearances, I'm actually enjoying my raffia wine, which is sweeter than palm wine.

July -- I begin working with another counterpart, here building a seedbed to do a germination test:

Nearly two years down, a few more months to go.  Its been quite a journey, to say the least.  My relationship with Cameroon  thus far can best be summed up by this song: