27 November, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006. Good times, good food, good friends. Good bye.
and eating millet

party time, village style

There was a big traditional fete chez les Mouyang before I left, in anticipation of the millet harvest. Most of the activity centered around drinking millet beer. And making music.

16 September, 2006

on our way out

me and my leetle friend aya

A mountain by where I live in the rainy season so greeny

alive but a little bummed

What I will miss about Cameroon:
1. Eating in shacks. Where the menu is universal and consists of: eggs, beans and bread, fish, or beef, green leaf in a sauce-like form, and some accompaniment of starch, choices being ngyams (not so sweet sweet potatoes), rice, plantains, or manioc if you’re in the couth which I’m not and don’t regret ‘cause I don’t particularly like manioc.
All of this is not particularly relevant although perhaps interesting to the culinarily inclined, because the point is that the choices are few. On Tuesdays there is jamma jamma with plantains and on wednesdays there are beans and rice. For example. And let us not forget the piment. The red, oily hot sauce you need but a dab of. I will miss the simplicity and the absolute lack of pretentiousness. I went online and looked at the menu for the restaurant I used to work for and it struck me as absolutely ridiculous. Duck medallions in a beef sauce of mango chutney and baby lamb chop pate topped with a dollop of pure bullshit, mmm.
2. Being able to litter. There being no infrastrucure here, there exists no place to put your trash that would shuttle it to a commonly identified “trash place”, and so the trash place is the world people live, walk, and drive around in. The most common item of trash is the microcon thin balck plastic bag, which is considered a gentle and generous gift that accompanies your purchase. Otherwise there is not much opportunity to buy things that are wrapped up in anything other than it’s natural encasing, except for maybe kinder whatever, which is a weird European treat of frosting like white and dark “chocolate” goo with two small balls of corn- encased more-solid than the other substance chocolate stuff... I am not proud, but sometimes I eat it. It comes with a small flat spoon and a toy. It is shaped like an egg. There is a lot of unnecessary packaging and it is definitely not good for you. In any case, I have grown to love being able to throw anything I no longer want to hold on to out the window, into the gutter, or
3. Hissing at people. This is how we call people over who we want something from, and when I say we I mean anyone, and when I indicate wanting things, this can refer to anything from a beer or soda to a pair of shoes to a strange unidentifiable aphrodisiasical root, to ... fill in your blank here. Things available in Ashland. I mean Africa.
Soon to come.....
Whar I will Not Miss About Cameroon

03 September, 2006

Here is my dog, Scheiza

I realize that I tend to use this technology, this link with the outer world, too often as a way of venting the feelings of frustration, impotence and overheating that overcome me from time to time in this hard hot place. Either that or I detail personal activities and enjoyment. At least thatÕs how I feel. ItÕs hard to remember, when you are having a good, productive time, to rush to the computer and convey your enthusiasm. I think more often when I turn my face to the screen, I am feeling the need to get things out which I no longer want to hold in. So let me, consciously, in the light of this thought, share something good, the kind of thing I thought I came here to do.
Last week or so, myself and the other resident members of the Extreme North who were present held a ÔYouth Leadership ConferenceÕ. It was instigated by two Health volunteers, Erin and Mike, a young, attractive married couple. From Florida. Hey, a story gets better with ev
ery little detail, no? So, the idea of this conference was that each volunteer participant would invite one, maybe two, youth from their village who we considered as leaders, with potential, but maybe with need of a little boost of confidence and basic skills. We arrived on Sunday, made introductions in the afternoon and had dinner, and installed the ÔkidsÕ (most of them in their early twenties, really) in their crappy hotel. Hey, we were functioning on five hundred dollars donated from families in the US.
Peace Corps volunteers gave sessions on decision making, communication (me; it was bitchinÕ), how to research resources, how to continue education outside of the formal sector, hotw to protect your health, umm what else wish I had that schedule with me but in my typical disorganized style I lost it straightaway. Anyhow, us volunteers were each responsible for our sessions and they
 were all well executed, participatory etc., but what was really great was the Cameroonian-on-Cameroonian sessions. A fellow from the bank came in to talk about micro-finance for young entrepreneurs, and there was a panel of young Cameroonians who had become successful in their ventures (not a simple thing here, I tell you, taking great perseverance and will), and most memorably a fellow infectected with HIV who did a testimonial about how he contracted it, how he lives with it, what he has learned from learning how to live with what is, in the end, just another virus.
This guy currently works at the library where we held the four day conference; he had worked and lived with a previous health volunteer and spoke very well and bravely. This disease is not well understood and it can be a little scary to talka bout it with strangers.

I can't finish this right now. BUt all is life.

25 August, 2006

got well

I ate pizza and a mars bar for breakfast this morning. Mostly because they were there; I had made handmade pizza last night, and spent a dollar on the mars bar when I saw it for sale. Not often you run into such a deal in subsarahan africa.The pizza had green peppers, onions, cheese, mushrooms, salami, and a homemade tomato sauce. Jeff helped and Kate and Rachel helped to eat. We had jack and coke to drink.

That was a couple of days ago and since, I've been thinking about material consumption. Here, it seems so special that when I get a go at the goods, I gorge. Whether it be trashy celebrity magazines that I would never waste my time on in the states or sour patch kids candy, I will savor that artificial goodness until my stomach hurts and my head reels from all the unreality. So, what's going to happen to me when I get back to endless rows of goods all at a low low price and cavernous warehouse spaces full of every item you could ever desire, all for a fixed price, no haggling allowed? I know that when I was home for ten days last June, I returned to Cameroon almost empty-handed; I would go into a store, look briefly at all the Things, and leave almost immediately, content to know that it was still available, having purchased none of it. Telling myself that I would come back later. The thing is I never did.

Do we buy and consume things to make ourselves feel better or more real? Because I don't think that approach is working.

06 August, 2006

This guy thinks he's hiding

Yesterday I entertained for nearly an hour the idea of signing up for another year of my life here. [ Insert sitcom laughtrack here]... Today I find myself doing the math of how many days left on this continent and how to use them up- and how! To get to where I can eat raw leafy greens without fear of the repercussion of pissing out my ass, if you’ll excuse my french, to get to a place where I can walk down the boulevarde without being racially identified every meter, a place where I can wear lipstick and not be hissed and kissed at mercilessly.
While I was entertaining this notion of digging in, I was riding my bike through the countryside with farmer friend Celestin; we were making the rounds, meeting people who had requested an introduction, checking up on the guy with the tree nursery, burning my forearms in the sun. It felt good, and I was feeling frustrated that all of these opportunities are presenting themselves now just as I prepare to pack up and head out, these people approaching me with great ideas for projects (example: the fellow who has a field he want to use to for planting native species of trees, now found only up in the plateau, so as to eat the old-timey fruits), looking for help with things I might be able to contribute to, or want to; but I suppose these are ideas for the next person. And I reckon things always seem perfect when you know you are about to leave them.

14 July, 2006

The gracious hostess of July 4, 2006 finally gets to take a break and enjoy the festivities. It's so much easier to love America when you're not there.

After certain rains the winged termites pour out of the exit holes they create just for the occasion: randomly scattered across the drenched landscape, they themselves rise up as each termite exudes some something on itÕs way out, thin fragile brown walls framing the open hole where the insects came forth from the earth, only to come back at a later time.

They are attracted to lights, and this is a good thing for those African families with an outside light, and their neighbors. Everyone pours out of their living spaces, with buckets and bowls of water. Once a flying termite is caught it is put into the water, where its wide flat wings will pin it to the surface of the water. They are easily caught; children take greedy handfuls. After, the wings are removed and the fat, red little bodies of the termites are fried up. They are tasty and a superb source of protein. My cat ate all that had been caught in the kitchen when I turned the light off and closed the door. It was a real fox hunt. After their one night of flight the termites settle down, find a mate, spend a couple hours trailing each other around closely, and when they find their mysterious spot, they burrow into the ground, wings dropping off, and I guess they lay eggs once they're in there. Hard not to admire termites for being so damn ecologically successful and all but they're a nuisance to me, eating on everything...

The pork blowout was a vast success, despite being faced with all the worst cast scenarios in the world. It rained as the fire was being lit, it rained again, the electricity was out the entire time. Nonetheless, delicious pork was prepared and enjoyed, the frisbee was thrown, the beers were cool enough in the relative hot hot weather, the pool was splashed in. It was a party, a truly American barbque. However you spell that.

I left for both of the slaughterings, but I left it in the hands of those I trusted to do it with humanity. They said it went well; they seemed strangely exhilarated after I came back from where I had been. The first day we had planned to kill one and roast it overnight, having the Cameroonians who were helping us (not a good amateur endeavor, pig slaughtering) prepare the second in the 'traditional manner', but the first one turned out so good and the pit ended up taking so much effort to make, that we roasted the second one as well, thus providing ourselves with tender pork meat for a full 36 hours. It was tender, like I said, and juicy, marinated in a wheelbarrow in a brine of onion, garlic, citron juice, oil and piment. At first I had difficulty with the sight of the rubbery body in the wheelbarrow, the face IÕd seen twice a day through the peephole of the fascist pig holding cell, split down the middle... but once that cadaver hit the grill and the smell of roasting pork reached mine nostrils, I was into it, the bloodthirst took hold of my saliva glands and it was smooth sailing until the Grand Finale:

Menu - Fourth of July Pork Blowout, Tokombere, 2006

PORK Millet fed young pork, marinated Florida-style, pit-roasted

served with:

cucumber salad
fruit salad- mango, pineapple, orange, watermelon
potato salad- just like momma used to make
devilled eggs

with intermittent rounds of cinnamon rolls and banana bread as the marmite oven allowed

and don't forget the key 4ojuly ingredient: for Proud Americans everywhere:
your choice of 33, Beaufort, or Castle Milk Stout
mandarin Absolut available upon request
does this picture need any explanation? Methinks not.

The ladies prepared food...

....while the boys played frisbee.

26 June, 2006

Nice sepia giraffe circa Waza 2006 with a canadian family.

Nice sepia giraffe circa Waza 2006 with a canadian family.

Nice sepia giraffe circa Waza 2006 with a canadian family.