Sunday, November 24, 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?

Monday, September 09, 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?

Friday, July 19, 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:

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Ma Nouvelle Maison

I've Moved Houses (Again). After nearly 6 months at my "studio apartment" (essentially a small unit in a bigger house), I moved to another house. I'm now in the Muslim quarter:

It might be a little weird to be moving houses with only about 5 months of service left, but the old house had some problems that were never fixed. It was also a weird location: it was between a prison and a 7th Day Adventist Church.

Anyway, I've moved. Its a bit more posh. For instance, I have running water. Not all the time, but I haven't had to use a well since I moved. I sometimes leave my bucket outside when it rains though. Old habits die hard. I also hear different things in my new neighborhood. At my old place, I would often hear the noise of my neighbor's loud music reverberating against our common wall, making me think I was at a night club. At my new place, I would instead hear the calls to prayer from the nearby mosque:
There's also the pigs right behind the house who make quite a ruckus when being fed in the morning:

A little weird that there's a pigpen in a Muslim quarter.

There's also turkeys nearby:

That's even weirder -- turkeys in Cameroon? I am almost positive turkeys are originally from America.

Well, that's it for now. Signing off from my town where the streets have no name, but where they do have stop signs:

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Dix Choses Dont Je Pense

I don't feel no pain
I don't have no time
to listen to conflicting points of view
Its a crazy world to live alone
-- Sublime

In honor of RPCV Cooper's blog, Cooper in Cambodia (and also because I don't really have a specific topic to blog about), I'm listing "ten things I think" (or have done) of late, a potpourri of thoughts and actions, if you will:

1)  The Undiscovered Country  -- I've been listening to a lot of Sublime and Mitch Hedberg lately.  The lead singer of Sublime and Hedberg, of course, have been dead for several years now.  Gone before their time.  Due to drugs, I believe.  One can only wonder how much more they could have contributed to music and comedy.

2)  Movies -- I watched Django Unchained but after recently reading Uncle Tom's Cabin and Peter Mathiessen's Shadow Country, the film was a bit of a disappointment.  

3)  Asians in the Media -- Is Ken Jeong an Uncle Tom for playing the ridiculous Asian gangster in The Hangover films?  Is he basically "dancing for the white man" at the expense of Asians?  Are people laughing  at Jeong because he reinforces the stereotype that Asians are goofy, nerdy, etc.?  Has Jeong set Asian-Americans back 100 years?

4)  "Western" Food -- I recently came back from the West region of Cameroon, but when someone from my town asked me if I tried the local food, I realized that I mostly just ate  shawarma and a few hamburgers during the trip.

5)  Funny PCVs -- I don't know too many people who can make me laugh, but I gotta say that I've met some pretty hilarious volunteers -- Emily, Ryan, another Ryan, Rob, Sarah, Ben, to name a few. 

6)  Latest Derangement --  some kid called me "sensei" and then bowed, like I was some sort of martial arts teacher.  I had to restrain myself because I was ready to go off and have a violent reaction.  Then again, if I had that reaction, that would just reinforce their idea that I know martial arts. 

7)  ¿Donde vas?

I almost said "tambien" instead of "aussi" while talking to someone.  That could mean that my Spanish is slowly coming back, which is good.

8)   Things Cameroonians never say:  "Oh, I'm sorry.  Did I cut in front of you?  A thousand apologies.  Go on ahead."

9)  Cameroonian French -- I like how Cameroonians add "un peu" to a lot of sentences, e.g. "Tu vois un peu", "Tu comprends un peu", "Ca marche un peu", "Descends un peu."

10)  The Weather -- The upside of being in a humid climate:  no matter how cold it gets, a cold shower (or bucket bath or river bath) isn't really cold. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Le Patois

When I lived "in the bush" at my old post, they preferred speaking the local language, which was Bulu.  I would find myself in groups where people rarely spoke French.   Thus, I took it upon myself to learn Bulu.  Here's some sentences I've learned in Bulu:

1)  Ma dji mekala a Mekalat.  I eat beignet in Mekalat.

2)  Wo dji mise mikos.  You eat fish eye.

3)  Akon a kon amu na ake dji kon a akon.  Akon is sick because he ate beans and plantains. 

4)  Ma ke yen etua metua emos Ntewua.  I saw an extraordinary car on Wednesday. 

5)  Monti Minsili asili minsili adjo minsini.  Mr. Minsili was talking about the bicycle. 

After learning simple sentences, I started working on translating short stories.  Here's one about baton de manioc.  I suppose one could title it "Obili bibobolo?  Got Baton?":

Monday, March 25, 2013

Parce Qu'il Est Là

Me: "J'ai monté Mont Cameroun." 
Cameroonian: "Ah, tu as fait le tourisme." 

Just got back from climbing Mt. Cameroon:

We took three days.  I went with a fellow PCV buddy and 3 Europeans, a guide and several porters.  We reached the summit during the second day and got back to Buea at about 1:30 pm on the third day.   My shoes, repaired by a cobbler about 3 months ago, barely survived.

Overall, it was a good hike.  However, my buddy and I were thinking that there were ways to improve the hike.  For example, the food could've been better.  Granted, we didn't pay that much for food, which probably explains why we got bread and chocolate Tartina spread (similar to nutella) for breakfast.  Not that great for a 5-6 hour hike.  We probably should've brought our own food like trail mix to munch on while we were hiking.  Dried fruit like mangoes or pineapples probably would've also been a better option instead of the chocolate sandwich or even the bananas which became squished in the backpacks after a day of hiking.  The dried fruit would be lighter to carry, too. 

Trash was also a problem:

Its not just at this one spot -- water bottles were all over the mountain (eg our campsite).  Kind of ironic that there were signs all over the mountain telling people to "leave nothing but footprints": 

Our tour guide said he would bring back the bottles we brought and then bring them to Limbé, the nearby beach.  Not really sure why he said Limbé.  Hopefully, not just to throw them away there.  Alternatively, I told him that I heard there's a facility in Douala called SOCAVER that supposedly recycles plastic bottles. 

Bringing water filters might've also reduced the dependance on plastic bottles.  Or have the tour group filter the water at their headquarters and then use that water for the hike instead of buying a bunch of new water bottles for each hike. 

I'll give the tour group props though for bringing reusable plates and utensils, but they used way too many plastic bags for the vegetables they brought. I was telling my buddy that perhaps the park should have bins to separate trash from recyclables and have some kind of clean-up crew.  Sure, that'll cost money, but the park could maybe start charging people an entrance fee or have some kind of donation box.   After all, its mostly tourists who climb the mountain anyway.  They can afford it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Les Trois 'R's

"Il est un écologiste.  Il veut conserver la nature." -- Merchant in my town explaining to others in the store why I bring my own grocery bags and refuse their plastic bags    

Back in training more than a year ago, I did a presentation on waste management.  The main point of that presentation is illustrated by this photo from the film 21 Jump St:
I've tried to be true to that presentation during my time here in Cameroon, especially since I've lived and currently live in towns where waste management often boils down to people just burning their trash:

I'm not always successful following the three 'R's, however.  For instance, I sometimes don't "buy in bulk", especially when the opposite of "buying in bulk" is all that they have in many boutiques:
Now if only these small packets ("sachets") were biodegradable …

Other times, I've had better luck.  For example, instead of buying disposable razors, I found this razor where the only thing that you change is the blade:

Another example, when the wire on my macbook adapter practically burned off as I previously mentioned, I didn't order another adapter.  That would be just adding waste.  Instead, I did what most Cameroonians would've done when something breaks -- I tried to get it repaired:

The photo shows the adapter after being repaired by Iziaka, a local electrician.  Its been several months and its still working.  Not sure for how long though since Iziaka isn't exactly an authorized Apple repairman.  But hey, electronics is electronics.  The laws of electricity follow here just as it would in the US, right?

I've also had problems with my Timberland hiking boots.  I could've asked someone in the states to send me new boots.  Or I could just get my boots repaired.  I did just that.  First, I went to a cobbler at my old post and he fixed it for 1000 CFA (about $2):
The repairs didn't hold up.  So I took it to another cobbler at my current post, costing 3 times as much (ie about $6):

They're holding up after more than a month and hopefully will continue to do so for my upcoming treks. 

Now if I can only find someone to repair my still-frozen Kindle, still currently a paper weight.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Le Dérangement

Scene at a bus station:

Cameroonian:  "Chinois, est-ce que c'est ton sac?"
Me:  "Non, ce n'est pas le mien.  Aussi, je ne suis pas Chinois."

Whenever I'm walking around town, people would "derange" or annoy me with shouts of "Chinois" or "Ni ho".  I've had several approaches to dealing with these annoying people.  One of my more successful approaches involved wearing a foulard and growing a really long beard:

Instead of the usual shouts of "Ni ho" or "Chinois", I would get "Salam Aleikum" or "Arab" or "Tu es musulman?(Are you muslim)".  Sometimes, I would get "bin Laden", but not that often.  I decided to abandon this approach however when people started calling me "pere" or "papa" (father).  And they weren't trying to be funny or anything.  They were sincere in calling me "pere".

    My approach now is just to look as I would back in the US -- no more foulard or long beard.  This new approach invites trouble because Cameroonians in the South love to "derange" or annoy Asians while being more reserved towards Muslims.  Go figure.  But its fine.  I've decided to follow the advice of a fellow volunteer who told me that the worst thing to do when people start annoying me is just to ignore the "derangement".  Its weird because when people "derange" me with their shouts of "Ni ho", its usually because they think that its the way to say "Hello" in my language.  I don't think they're being jerks or anything.  On occasion, I would even have a decent exchange with the "dérangeurs" and they learn that I'm a Pinoy.  Sometimes, however, they ARE being jerks and so I would usually reply with "Ce n'est pas poli" or  "Je t'amuse?" ("Do I amuse you" a la Joe Pesci in Good Fellas) or if they're really annoying, "Tu es malade?" (Are you mentally ill).  Either way, after a few weeks of this more "confrontational" approach, the "derangement" has died down.  I still get deranged, but not as much as before.  The decrease could also be due to the fact that the townsfolk now know that there's an Asian guy in town, who is apparently not Chinese.  My goal in my remaining time in Cameroon is for the people in my town to yell "Magandang araw" or "philippin" at random Asians they see.