I’m alive! Sorry its been a couple of months since I’ve posted a blog; not only has it been an ordeal getting internet at my house but also time is, surprisingly, flying by. The days seem long (roosters crowing around 6-- many of you know that I’m not much of a morning person!) but the weeks go by quickly. I can’t believe Januarys almost over!
So what have I been up to since swearing in? Well initially I was busy getting my house set up; fixing some cracks in the walls, adding bars to the windows, painting, getting a bed and kitchen stuff etc. I’ve ordered a dresser and bookshelf to be made of bamboo, unfortunatly they won’t be ready until March. But they’re made at this great center that provides room, board and physical therapy for disabled Cameroonians and in exchange they make furniture- seems like a great way to spend my PC stipend! It now really feels more like home, its so nice to have my own place! I also have a little veranda where I like to hang out with some tea watching the goats, the kids or the sunset.
The first month at post I spent a lot of time just walking around, getting to know the village. The holiday season was a good time to get to village in that kids were out of school and people weren’t working in the fields as much. I often eat dinner at Emmanuals house or with another neighbor, Mama Alice. She and I also have prepared koki together a few times, so far its my favorite local dish. People here are really generous with food; I'm often given gifts of avocados, squash, prepared dinners...to the point where its sometimes too much! Luckily I've made some friends who sometimes come over to make dinner at my house, or I can have them come by if I've been given too much cous cous!
The first couple of weeks I also spent just getting used to daily life and such. I get water just about everyday from a pipe in the forest, its a 20 minute round trip (did I mention that its uphill on the way back?). This is also where I do my laundry. The typical 20 litre bidons, plastic jugs, people use are just a bit too much for me to deal with so I use a 10 litre bidon and make a lot of jokes about how weak I am. There is a market in Kamna every eight days, I usually walk there (its about an hour) as its a nice walk and a good way to chat with people ('You walk in the dust just like us!). Two days before the Kamna market is Lietwe (mispronounced by me as letszo), which is the local market and meeting day. The market is mainly root vegetables, maybe some tomatoes and onions, but its good to just hand out there. There are also a bunch of meetings on Lietwe that I've been going to either alone or with the nurse, Simplice, to introduce myself.
In terms of work I initially did a fair amount of protocol with Emmanual and with my counterpart Annie; I met with the chef du village, the gendarmes, various ministres, prefets, and sous-prefets. I've spent a lot of time at my health center just hanging out to observe and chat with the nurses and anyone who comes by. The first week at post I did a vaccination campaign with Simplice which was a great way to see the village and to meet people. Emmanual belongs to a GIC (a government recognized community group) Paysan Plus, and I've been going to thier Sunday meetings. They're main projects are pig raising, bee keeping and general agricultural concerns. I went to the Club Sante at a nearby school before thier holiday break, I was really impressed with how organized and engaged the students were, but there won't be another meeting until sometime in February. Most of what I've been dong is just keeping my eyes and ears open; getting to know people, explaining my role here and listening to thier health concerns.
I've also been going en brousse with Adija, a Fulbe woman who lives in village, who has been helping to introduce me to the muslim families that live there. Its really pretty out there and the women (I have yet to meet any of the men besides Adijas husband, Ahmadou) are really nice and welcoming. Earlier this week we went to her friends house for a fetes des enfants; twins had been born last week--they were tiny! We ate rice and goat, then I hung out as they spoke in rapid fire Fulfulde, after prayer we ate more rice (in cous cous form) and goat, gave gifts and then I was given a ton of rice as we were leaving. Again, people are genrous with thier food! It was a great (but long) day!
Sorry this is such a quick (but too long) summary. Happy (belated) holidays!