It has been SUPER busy the past few weeks here in Yaoundé; finishing up our Middlebury Program classes, struggling through our university class, exploring even more of the city and gaining more confidence and experience at my internship at Promhandicam. It’s nearing (if not already) the end of the rainy season, which, contrary to popular Cameroonian opinion, I am happy about. The rain here is torrential and is always accompanied by flash floods, the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard and lightning, which creates a real fear of being struck since Arjun’s house was struck as was a taxi right in front of him. Not too many lightning rods here… But the dry season has it’s own problems, including dust which is everywhere and gets into everything, and heat as there is no break from the sun. However, I stand by my preference because the sunsets here on clear days are unbelievable! It always looks like the mountains have been set on fire. I wanted to share with you some highlights from the past few weeks, before a big post in a couple weeks after we get back from our trip! Definitely stay tuned for that, I will have some awesome pictures and stories.
- Climbing Mont Eloumden
Ok so this was my favorite hike so far. It was also the longest and the most wild as Mont Eloumden is the tallest of the seven hills surrounding Yaoundé. We started from our host families’ houses in Montée Jouvence and headed out of the city, passing through small villages which gave us a real taste of village life. We had lots of cute kids follow us, always with the typical greeting of “Bonjour Blancs!” or “Hello White people!”. We had to cross a rickety bridge which was hairy because it had poured rain the night before and the river was so high it was touching the bottom of the bridge (bridge meaning several cracked boards nailed together). We successfully crossed the river only to be confronted by men wielding machetes who were cutting the high grass and “cultivating” the road, meaning chopping up the dirt to start a piece of land to farm. We have come across this before; people deciding a piece of road was a good place to try and plant vegetables. Most of the hike was following a narrow, red-dirt path through the rainforest, but upon reaching a certain point, we could see no path whatsoever (we later found out this was because the path isn’t used during the rainy season so no one cuts it). We were forced to literally bush-whack our own path through the jungle, getting very dirty, scraped and mosquito-bitten in the process. But the view from the top was well worth it and we felt like we were in the total wilderness of Cameroon which was very cool.
2. Teaching by myself for the first time at Promhandicam
This was something that I had really wanted to do since I started at Promhandicam. The teacher who is my impromptu advisor (mainly because he has been the most helpful in helping me navigate being an intern there), M. Jules, informed me on a regular Thursday during morning break at 10, that he had Malaria and so was going home for the day, so was I ok to teach the class until school finished at 2? Safe to say, I was really nervous at first, mostly because on such short notice, I had nothing planned to teach the students. But I had been with this class for a while and I felt really comfortable with the kids. I made a quick lesson plan which consisted of, vocabulary that describes a village, followed by a labelled drawing of a village (the theme of the week was villages, if you couldn’t already tell). After that, I took a vote to see what they wanted to learn, and they all wanted me to teach them Christmas vocabulary in English and then sing songs. So we spend the afternoon doing that and it was a huge success! I thought at first that without their usual teacher, no one would listen to me, but the kids were great and attentive, for the most part. We had a couple of sleepers, but that happens even when M. Jules is there. The most difficult part was definitely having a class of 50 students, 11 of which were blind and many of which were learning disabled. I had to spell our everything I wrote on the board for the blind students and they weren’t able to do the drawings so I had include them in other ways, like having them sit next to a seeing student so they could describe their picture. Working with a group of students of all different ages and abilities (from as young as 6 to as old as 16) certainly has it’s challenges, as some can’t read or can’t express themselves orally and it made me all the more impressed by M. Jules who does this every day. Teaching is so exhausting! But I left feeling rewarded and like a lot had been accomplished. Plus we all ended up having tons of fun!
3. Eating our goat
This title is an odd one at first glance, less odd here in Cameroon. For some background, my host family was given a live goat as a present (as you do) by one of my host father’s patients (Kennedy is a surgeon). It was tied up outside my room and lived there for over a week, being fattened up. It enjoyed such pastimes as bleating loudly at 3am, scaring small children who live in the apartment (including my 2-year-old host sister who had to run by it every time she needed to get in the front door), and breaking it’s rope several times in an attempt to escape it’s fate. Eventually, a man came over and killed it for us. This was a slightly traumatizing experience as I had considered the goat quite cute (much to my host sisters’ disgust), but as it is part of the culture, I swallowed my animal-protective instincts. We ate it for Sunday lunch with Arjun and Sandra’s mother because it was a big deal to be able to eat a whole goat. We had it with couscous and veggies and I have to say, it was pretty tasty. I could also vouch for the fact that it was VERY fresh. I did not miss being woken up at the crack of dawn the next day, but it’s little empty corner made me sad on my way to school. This experience did teach me a lot about appreciating our food and about the way people eat here. Meat is so fresh because the electricity goes out so often that nothing can be kept in a refrigerator or freezer. I am not a huge meat-eater and have gone through phases of being vegetarian, but I think that if people want to eat meat, it should be eaten the way that Cameroonians eat it. There is no hiding what animal it is or where the meat came from, everything is on your plate and you are expected not to waste anything (although I couldn’t quite chew the bones like my family can).
I hope you enjoyed this little update on my life, stay tuned for the next post on our adventures in Western, Littoral and Southern Cameroon!