02 Jul 2010 @ 12:33 

I think I may have a rash on one of my arms…it’s what I get for scratching the thing so furiously whenever I think I have a bug bite. Oh well. 🙁

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Last Edit: 02 Jul 2010 @ 12:33

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 01 Jul 2010 @ 10:00 

I feel compelled to bring up that my posts all begin as letters to Amy (my girlfriend for those that don’t know). I send these to her afterward.  Afterward, as I’m sure no one here wants to read me professing my undying love for her every other letter, I’ve spared you and edited a bunch of stuff out. In addition, the letters are usually even longer than these posts so sometimes I take out some stuff that I believe may not be that interesting to all of you (some of my basic day-to-day interactions with certain people or something random that I’ve thought of while here).

I figured I may slip up at some point and forget to edit something out or maybe reference to something that you all aren’t familiar with. ..so don’t be alarmed.

I will say that I do add a few things for the purpose of this blog to the letters as well, but they still start out as letters first.

Cheers and thanks for reading 🙂

-Brandon

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Last Edit: 01 Jul 2010 @ 10:00

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 30 Jun 2010 @ 9:52 

Day 15­­ (June 30, 2010)

Today Robert and I went to The Principal’s house. It was a bit of an odd arrangement. His house, next to the school (actually, it’s a part of the school) was nestled as part of several nearby buildings. I’m not sure how we would have found it without him, but I’m sure that’s why he told us to meet him at the school.

As soon as we came, he gave the first of many apologies for his small one-room home. Indeed, it was a small home but it wasn’t uncomfortable or anything (it was probably the size of a single at Wake Forest). When I walked in, on the solitary table I saw two place settings and a pot of food in the middle. The arrangement was odd indeed. Robert and I were to be the only ones eating. I’d like to reemphasize that “small-talk” is not a feature in Cameroon; thus Robert and I ate as The Principal, his wife, and his daughter (15 perhaps) watched us from the bed a foot or two away. I had to fight the urge to make small talk since I realized that not only was it not common here, but it might even be irritating. At some point he turned on the TV and watched a DVD of worship music videos. The videos were of two or three singers in total that made music videos praising God in a traditional African style—it was quite nice. I actually left the house with a copy of one of them so I could watch it later, complements of The Principal. I intend to give it back when I’m done.

Anyway, once the video came out, the three of them stared at the TV as Robert and I ate in mostly silence peppered with occasional comments between ourselves. The food was very delicious (rice and fish) and I had a better time getting the bones out of the fish than usual. As we left The Principal apologized again before I asked a bit about the place and inquired about the teaching staff. It totals 16 staff that teach 108 students (all live on campus). He teaches Chemistry!! I thought that was cool and we bonded over that a little. Like I said, The Principal is a real stand-up kind of fellow, and he’s only been at the school about a year and a half. He apparently took over for an older lady and he had the job of “cleaning up” the place. He seemed relieved that his efforts have paid off and that he was able to bring about a different type of culture in the place (of which I’m sure the new computer lab will likely contribute).

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Last Edit: 01 Jul 2010 @ 09:53

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 29 Jun 2010 @ 9:49 

Day 14 (June 29, 2010)

Yesterday after I had returned to the lab again to continue my work, I ran into the principal. You know, the man told me his name, wrote it on a slip of paper and gave it to me, and probably said it again at some point but I can’t seem to ever recall it so I’ll keep referring to him as the principal. Or perhaps, The Principal. The Principal came up to me while I was working and invited Robert and me to his house for lunch on Wednesday (two days from now).

“What day did you think you could come?” He asked.

“Oh, any day is free for us!” I piped up, having no idea when Robert was actually free.

“Ok, good. I was thinking…Wednesday you could come by my house—“

“Yeah, Great!” I practically squealed.

A little too overzealous, I think…got to cool it down, Brandon.

“—Yes. The house is just down the road from the school, remember…?”

“Oh yes, I remember.” I responded happily.

“Good, good. Well then…I guess I’ll see you then? I’ll come by again around 1:00 to pick you up.”

“Ok, great!” I responded, shaking his hand happily. There we were again, the two of us smiling happily like dopes shaking each other’s hand. I noticed people around the internet café (they use the lab simultaneously as an internet café to help cover costs) staring at us quizzically. After he departed I buried my face in my monitor; this time as well I didn’t want to see Robert’s expression.

I’ve begun to suspect some funny business with Nado recently. Last night I went to his store again.

“Nado!” I exclaimed, happy to be the first one to get it out this time.

“Brandon!” he happily replied before returning to a customer in the store. Once he was ready for me, I pointed out some eggs that I wanted and then began to look at some packs of cookies. He walked over and I thought I recalled him saying “These, 90 francs” pointing to a large pack of cookies.

“90 francs?” I asked, a little surprised. He nodded at me and then turned to a customer who was impatiently demanding some butter.

90 francs for these?! What a steal! It’s kinda cool having Nado as a friend, a “man on the inside” and stuff.

“Ok, so how much are these eggs again?”

“500”

“Ok, yeah I’ll get all this.” I stated, putting them on a random box of drinks in front of me. I got out my wallet. “How much for everything?”

“900”

What?! Nado!! You said the cookies were 90 francs! I thought miserably as I shelled out the money. Perhaps I misunderstood him.

Perhaps I had misunderstood him. But today, when I stopped by at lunch to get some bread, both Nado and the lady (who I imagine actually owns the place and is probably his mother or Aunt or something) were there this time.

“Brandon!” He shouted, with a smile.

“Nado! How are you?” I replied, no longer expecting a response (he didn’t give one).

“Can I have some bread?” I asked, gesturing how much of it I wanted to the lady who started to slice the bread.

“How much for the bread?” I asked her.

“170” she replied. I started to put my hand into my pocket.

“200!” Nado cut in, looking at her. She looked down at him, smiling, and then looked back up at me.

“200.” I looked back from her face, smiling sweetly at me, to Nado’s, who was giving me his usual grin only it looked a little more evil this time.

Nado!! Again?!

Nado’s been up to some funny business, I think. Perhaps the bread was supposed to be 200 (though I’ve paid both 170 and 200 for bread because I always make up an arbitrary amount to buy when I go there). But I’ll never quite know.

I’ve got my eye on you, Nado.

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Last Edit: 01 Jul 2010 @ 09:51

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 28 Jun 2010 @ 9:47 

Day 13 (June 28, 2010)

“Brandon!” Nado exclaimed.

“Nado!” I returned cheerily. It had become our typical greeting whenever I came to his shop to buy bread, some eggs, or maybe just a bottle of water. Often I would feel lucky and venture to ask how he was feeling that day or how things were going. To date I’ve never gotten a response other than his wordless smile. I think one day I fancied he may have said “good” but I can’t be certain.

Today Pascal came by. He had come by multiple times the past few days actually but I had always been too busy to go out with him. Today the internet was being particularly frustrating and my work troublingly slow so I decided to just forget it and head out with Pascal.

“Where are we going?” I asked as I tugged my backpack onto my shoulders. Pascal smiled, a bit awkwardly.

“I was thinking we’d go to Malyko.”

“Yeah? Sounds great”

We stood there for a bit, me staring at him and he smiling awkwardly (but genuinely) at me. Somehow I seem to end up in this situation often. I smiled a little awkwardly as well and made a move towards the door.

“Shall we?”

“Yes, yes” he said, darting out in front of me. As we approached the road, I recalled our last jaunt together…the lengthy one.

“How are we going to get there? Are we going to take a taxi?” I asked, trying to gauge his intentions early this time.

“We can take a taxi…but it’s not that far. We could walk.”

“Yeah, why not take a taxi.” I looked up into the sky.

Oh man, what luck!

“See, it’s about to rain, we probably shouldn’t walk…” I trailed off, desperate on the inside but trying to appear cool and open to either option.

“Ok, let’s take a taxi then.” We quickly pulled one over. As Pascal opened the door, he held it open for me to get in. I peered into the car and saw a rather large lady on the other side.

This should be good., I thought, squeezing in. As the car rolled on, I stared out the window.

There’s always a bit going on here—people on the side of the road doing funky stuff. Hah! Even a basketball court there. I’ll have to remember that, not that I would play or anything…

This continued for some time.

How long has this car ride been? What?! Pascal! “Not a long walk”?! I thought, staring incredulously over at him as he smiled amiably at me.

“Yes Brandon?” He asked, curiosity all over his face.

“Err, nothing.

On my right a weird site of maybe 60-70 people all surrounded with food, plates, and other merchandise came into view. It didn’t quite seem like a market—those usually had stalls of some sorts—but they clearly seemed to be waiting for something.

“Pascal, why are they all just sitting there with all that stuff?”

“This area is called ‘Checkpoint’” he explained very seriously.

“Oh, ok.”

I still don’t get it.

I stared out the window some more as I passed another group of them. I became even more curious then.

“So why do they call it Checkpoint again?” Pascal turned to me and laughed.

“I have no idea why. Ever since I came to Buea, they called it Checkpoint. So now I call it Checkpoint too.”

We had a good laugh after that, the mystery of Checkpoint drifting further behind us and equally fading from my thoughts.

I had been to Molyko before in my first couple of days in Buea. It is a lively area, perhaps the liveliest area in Buea. We really didn’t have much of a purpose for being there, we just walked along the street, seeing what we saw and me asking questions…more often than not he provided a steady stream of answers whether I had asked a question or not.

At some point we passed a bakery and I couldn’t pass up the chance. It wasn’t that exciting really. Most of what they had was muffins, cakes (so they called them. These were hand sized things, no icing, and sweet but not that sweet. It more reminded me of store-bought cornbread), and a few other things that looked shamelessly like just plain fried dough. There was a big bin of it actually and I had seen them sold on the street before by men wheeling mobile carts around.

Nothing sells like butter, sugar, and oil.

“I’ll take a cake, please.” I bought one and immediately split it in half as we left, giving the other half to Pascal. It was common for me to split everything I bought with Pascal whenever we were together. It just didn’t feel right to eat and indulge in front of him and it wasn’t exactly costing me much so why shouldn’t I offer him some?

“How is it? It’s good?”

“Yes, it’s cake” he said, not looking up from his cake.

Wait, what did that mean? Was he simply telling me that it’s cake? Or was that sass?!

“So…it’s good?”

“Yes. It’s cake” He repeated, this time with a little more emphasis, if you will.

Yep, that was sass. Textbook sass, I thought, laughing to myself as I wiped my hands on my pants. Napkins aren’t really big here, and by that I mean that they’re non-existent. The closest things you can get are the torn strips of paper (they tear it from the paper bags they sell in supermarkets but I have no idea where they get it from since it’s very uncommon to shop at a supermarket here…they’re only 2 in the whole city!) which are usually used to wrap things (usually cooked meat) at the market.             As I was thinking this, we passed one of the two supermarkets. I waited politely for Pascal to finish explaining something, and then asked, “Can we go in?”

“Oh,” he said, looking up at the store and then a little confused. “In the supermarket?”

“Yes, is that alright?”

“Yes, yes,” He said, quickly changing track.

As we went inside, it was a little refreshing to see a well tiled floor that was completely clean.

Clearly the term Supermarket is being used a little liberally here.

Some light classical music was playing overhead and there were perhaps 5-6 other shoppers in the store. The store had perhaps 4 aisles, each very lightly stocked with seemingly randomly selected.

So many pancake mixes? I thought, after seeing the second aisle of it.

Perhaps Bueans love their pancakes. I’m quite partial myself, I thought before losing myself in thoughts of pancakes. They are quite good and I resolved to make a trip to IHOP when I get back, perhaps first thing. Pascal was oddly quite behind me so I thought I’d ask him why there were so many pancake mixes when I noticed a lady worker standing behind us looking either really frustrated or really bored.

Ah! We’re blocking the way! I pressed up against the shelf next to me (an odd assortment of plastic knives) trying to make room for her to pass. She did not move.

Ah! She must want THIS aisle! I darted to the other side of the aisle, pressing up instead against the toothpaste and lotion (I told you it was random). She moved to the other side of the aisle and stood there, picking at her fingernails. Confused, I looked over at Pascal who seemed quite alarmed (and probably disturbed) by my darting about.

Perhaps I’ll just… I thought, walking normally down the aisle. Peeking behind me, I noticed the lady shift along in the same direction.

Is she following us?! I thought, finding the situation a hilarious now.

Perhaps if I… I quickly started darting up and down the aisles (paint, pancakes, dish detergent, and packs of gum) at a rapid pace just below a run, Pascal and the lady rapidly jogging after me to keep up—it must have been a rather funny-looking scene to the rest of the store: me darting around aisles and the two of them running after me. But indeed, I did make sure that she was in fact following me. I assume the temptation to steal may have been common given the limited means they had of keeping track of inventory.

I stopped abruptly in front of the perfume, pretending to take interest in it as the lady, looking furious, stood a few meters off. Pascal stood next to me, silent, but looking positively bewildered. I wasn’t sure if that was because of our little adventure around the store or because I had inadvertently stopped in front of the female perfume aisle. I quickly turned around and began, slowly, to walk up another aisle (hair products), inquiring calmly about the supermarket as though the last 45 seconds had been perfectly ordinary.

Pascal explained to me then that people in Buea don’t like shopping at supermarkets often because the prices are fixed and one therefore cannot argue with the seller to lower the price. I’ll bet, I thought as I looked at the 8,900XAF price on some olive oil. In retrospect, perhaps this currency exchange has spoiled me as 8,900XAF is less than $17 and the bottle was rather large.

We left without buying anything (much to the workers’ frustration) and milled about Malyko a little bit. Pascal told me about a Russian girl online that he had met. It was a bit of a sad story. The two had hit it off on some website (I never understood what kind it was) and exchanged emails. At some point he asked her for some money and she refused to return any of his emails or text messages after that. It was a decision he clearly regretted and he swore to me many times “If I could go back, I would never ask her anything! Anything! Ever again, not anything!” I felt for him. Who hadn’t said something at some point that they regretted or even ruined their relationship with someone? This case was, though, another reminder of the lack of savvy that most of the Cameroonians I’ve met have with the internet. I only hope that my Internet course is able to help some small bit for that small number of people I’ll come into contact with.

Yikes! My Internet course! I thought, signaling to Pascal that it was time to go; Work waits for no one.

Posted By: Brandon
Last Edit: 01 Jul 2010 @ 09:48

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 26 Jun 2010 @ 9:45 

Day 11 (June 26, 2010)

Today was mostly a day of work. Robert and I worked about from 8:00-8:00 today but it is somewhat necessary considering the work we must get done. When we came home, Genesis’ wife Marseline made fufu and eru!! I had told her that I wanted to try it and she actually made it—pretty cool. I liked it too. It’s essentially this combination of waterleaves and beef (the eru) and this mushy stuff that basically tastes like a more firm, solidified version of grits. I think the eru started to taste worse the more that I ate though, which was weird, but mixing it with the fufu fixed that up.

A young guy named Jerry, about our age, was here as well. He seemed pleased that I was eating the fufu and eru the way Marseline had suggested (with my hands) and asked me how I liked it. In turn, I inquired about what his thoughts were on the traditional Cameroonian dish.

”How do you like it?” I asked with a wad of fufu hovering before my mouth.

“Ah yes, I like it very much” he replied happily. Seeing him this happy was odd because before we started talking to him about the fufu, he had that blank, serious look on his face that gave off the impression that he didn’t want me to bother him—a look Cameroonians have perfected.

“Yeah? Me too. So what’s your favorite Cameroonian dish?”

“Definitely fufu and eru!”

“What?! Everyone says that every time I ask them” I exclaimed. He laughed a little too.

“Yes, if you show up to a party and there is no fufu and eru…” his face suddenly became serious, grave even, and started wagging his fingers back and forth. I looked down at my bowl.

This fufu thing is serious stuff!

This was the second time I had heard this exact phrase! Does every Cameroonian inevitably attend an emotionally scarring party devoid of fufu at some point? I thought it was pretty amazing that some item could become an expectation at any party. Do we (Americans) have something every party must have? Ditzy, drunken girls perhaps? Maybe they “spike” their fufu but they don’t tell me.

While I was thinking this, Jerry started to inquire about what I was “reading” at University (which means what I’m studying) and whether I was doing electrical engineering of some sort. It was pretty surprising when he told me that whenever he passed by and saw me and Robert working that he admired us and our mental ability to just sit there and focus on stuff. I guess I was surprised that anyone could find us admirable for that kind of stuff, but he told me that he wants to go into electrical engineering so I can see why he would value that skill. He seems like a friendly guy and I wish I had been more inclined to speak to him sooner despite his stony exterior.

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Last Edit: 26 Jun 2010 @ 09:45

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 24 Jun 2010 @ 9:31 

Day 9 (June 24, 2010)

“Please, have a seat” the principal said, swirling out two small chairs facing his neatly organized desk. Robert and I had returned to the school to have a word with the principal about the lab and a few other things. “How can I help you?” he asked with a large smile?

What a nice smile!

“Do you want to talk about Dreamspark a little?” I asked, turning over to Robert. Robert proceeded to explain Microsoft’s educational program offering free software and downloads to students whose principals contact Microsoft to verify their status.

“Yes” he said, smiling, “I would be interested…” he seemed unsure how to continue.

“We’ll help you out with the application process and all the…technicalities” I piped up. The principal nodded happily and continued to stare at us.

“Another thing I wanted to ask is if you’d be willing to participate in a program where I’m going to try to help link up students at your school with students in America to exchange stuff and basically become connected.”

Dang that was a pretty lame explanation.

“Oh yes!” the principal exclaimed, his smile very big again. “Something like that has always been my dream. I’ve never known how to get that started or what kind of people to contact…” He stared down into his lap for a bit, just smiling. “Yes, I would like that.”

“Great! Yeah this is the part I’m most excited about as well,” I exclaimed happily.

“And perhaps…could we try to connect the teachers?” he inquired?

“Oh yes, certainly. I figured that it would be best to let the teachers decide what it is that they need and for them to feed ideas into each other!” I was pretty happy that he and I were on the same wavelength with what we wanted. Robert must have thought we were big dopes, just sitting there smiling at each other. I decided not to look at him.

Last night Genesis came back from America and it was pretty cool to finally meet him. He had a great smile and seemed very friendly. At some point he Robert and I talked a little “business” but made plans to continue today. That never panned out so tomorrow we’re going to talk instead. It was funny watching him with the kids (two very young daughters Naomi and Tony) because every time they started crying and screaming he would stay calm and reason them into silence. He’s a very calm, patient man it seems—probably useful for someone so heavily involved in non profit work.

Today we didn’t meet because we had some trouble contacting Levi so we decided we would meet tomorrow instead. I didn’t do much today besides working and sleeping. Cameroon lost their final match today, making them 0-3 in the world cup today, one of the worst performances of any team. What was most amazing was the sharp contrast in the general public’s interest in the game. Because their opponent was already guaranteed into the next round and Cameroon was guaranteed not to be in the next round, many reasoned that the match had no real significance and didn’t bother watching the whole thing if at all.

I just realized that I told Pascal that we would hang out tomorrow and not today because I thought I would be occupied with work for Genesis. Not only that, but now I’ve realized that I committed to going on a trip to a nearby city with Adam and Sabrina and we leave in the early afternoon—I feel pretty bad. He actually brought me some mangos because I told him that I like fruit. “Promises, promises,” Levi once said to me, rubbing his face in his hands with exhaustion.

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Last Edit: 01 Jul 2010 @ 09:33

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 23 Jun 2010 @ 9:22 

Day 8 (June 23, 2010)

After the day at the office I wanted to pick up my shirt but Levi was gone and I wasn’t sure about how to get back to the tailor’s shop. At this point, the gentleman, who later introduced himself as Pascal, offered to take me to the shop. He had ended up sitting around and talking with me and Deric (the guy that works/volunteers for HINT) the rest of the day.

Unsure what to talk about I inquired a bit about the local geography. What I didn’t realize was that this essentially booked me a guided tour of almost every region in Buea that we had discussed.

“You see that street over there?” He pointed.

“Yes”

“That’s mbako village, remember?”
“Ah…yes” I replied, not remembering. Pascal has a penchant for talking and I had decided early on in the walk not to try to interrupt him when he was trying to explain something.

“Do you want me to show you the street? Or go straight? The street loops back around into this street again remember?”

“Yeah, I remember.” I did remember this time. I tried very hard to remember everything he had said but the terminology and all the Cameroonian names he had thrown out were too overwhelming for me to remember.

“Do you want to go see it, or just go straight?”

“Yeah, you know, I think we should just go straight” I said, not really wanting to walk anymore on a journey I thought would entail taking a taxi anyway. It was uphill and a good distance away.

“No no, I asked if you wanted to see the village, or just go straight.”

Oh well, It was worth a try.

“Oh ok…Yeah, let’s see the village”

The village was much like the rest of Buea that I had experienced, with shops and stall along the road with plenty of cars honking at me to squeeze out of the way on the roads which were much narrower here. I was actually glad that Pascal took me to see the village afterwards. I think he’s a pretty intellectual guy and we chatted about a lot of things from living a life of excess to the benefits of having a man tailor your clothes instead of a woman. We tried some more beef from the street, but this time he pointed out that I could have the intestines as well. I think he expected me to play the foreigner card and decline on principle…not a chance. Tasted about the same as the rest of the cow really, just a little chewier.

It’s interesting the perspective Cameroonians have of foreigners (and I imagine this can be generalized to some extent to other African countries). When I bought the shirt and trousers with Levi, he sat quietly as the woman told me it cost 15,000 XAF. I thought this was a bit pricy but consented because I didn’t want to haggle prices in front of Levi. Later though, I got the impression that he thought the price was high. Why not tell me then and there then? Well, I think the mindset here often is that if I’m willing to pay the price, than it was a fair enough price. I actually argued with one shopkeeper who tried to make the assertion that as a “rich” American I had an obligation to pay more than Cameroonians.

Also, when Pascal found out that I had gotten traditional African clothing at the tailor he was extremely impressed. He told me he liked it when he saw foreigners trying to do Cameroonian things like eating the mbanga soup (I had inquired about his favorite Cameroonian dish and told him some that I had tried so far…his surprised but impressed reaction was similar to the one I had received every time I told a Cameroonian that I ate that dish. Apparently it is the traditional dish of Buea) or wear traditional African clothing. Levi seemed the same way. This surprised me because I was worried I might appear to be…touristy and pretentious in trying to wear African clothes as if this somehow made me more cultured or one of them. That certainly has not been the reaction I’ve received so far and I definitely think I can appreciate that willingness to view people’s actions positively that I’ve seen multiple times here. Sure, they’re human and have doubts and suspicions like everyone else (perhaps not enough when it comes to computers) but I’ve found them to be very much more accepting and welcoming, despite their stony, stoic exterior (small talk doesn’t really exist here—neither is smiling when not happy just to set each other at ease).

Pascal declared us friends (“Though you are only here for 2 months, we are friends” he declared, standing there awkwardly afterword as we grappled with how to go our separate ways given our newfound title) and gave me directions to his home. Before we parted he promised to introduce me to even more Cameroonian traditional dishes, a male tailor, and the other regions that we had discussed that we missed because they were too far for the evening. Oddly enough—I’m looking forward to it all.

P.S. I’ve been asking a bunch of people what their favorite Cameroonian dishes are, trying to get a feel for food that I should eat—that’s how I came to eat the guacoco and mbanga soup (delicious albeit tedious to pick out the bones in the fish). Salee said that hers is fufu and eru. In fact, as she put it, “if you go to a party and they do not have fufu and eru, oh no, that is not a real party and people will be angry.” I thought that was pretty funny. Pascal’s favorite dish apparently is this fufu as well.

Oh yeah, Genesis came back today from America.

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Last Edit: 01 Jul 2010 @ 09:26

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 22 Jun 2010 @ 9:28 

Day 7 (June 22, 2010)

The streets of Cameroon are an interesting thing. I’ve already discussed their hectic nature in an earlier post. What I haven’t added is that there aren’t any stop lights in Buea, and many don’t have street lights either. It doesn’t disturb the residents of course, but it has bothered me on more than one occasion. On both sides of the street are these deep channels where the constant rain can flow. Because there are practically no trash cans in Buea (the City Council does a terrible job), many trash is simply thrown in the canals and allowed to wash down to wherever they finally dump out, presumably far enough away from Buea that the residents shouldn’t be affected by it. This is part of Adam’s research and he seems extremely bothered by the trash handling in Buea and has also pointed out multiple times that the canals do not in fact lead that far away from Buea and that it’s actually going to be responsible for health hazards soon. It’s shameful to see so much trash on the streets but there really isn’t much that can be done—I literally walked around with some trash for an hour waiting to find a place to throw it away before conceding and tossing it in myself. Even when one does find a trash can (which has only happened once), no one is sure what many of the people are actually doing with it afterwards.

Today was a pretty exciting day. Streets in Buea are lined with tiny road stalls and shops literally every 2-3 feet. Mostly they sell food, cell phones, cell phone credit that can be used to make calls, or the ability to use their phone to make phone calls on the cheap. In fact, the people that sell the cell phone and the cell phone credit probably outnumber any group in Buea save perhaps for the taxi drivers. They all sit in front of large podiums, typically with an umbrella above it, and wait for people to come up to them.

Typically the food stalls sell either beef, fish, or corn. Though these are all very tasty (actually the corn isn’t that tasty from the one that I’ve tasted), especially the beef, I had begun to grow a little tired of constantly eating beef, bread, and bananas (these were quite common too). Also, none of this really felt, Cameroonian…I wanted something that was a little more traditional. I told Levi about my feelings and so he took me to a restaurant (my first actual restaurant in Cameroon) and we had guacoco and mbanga soup—delicious. As in many things in Cameroon, it was spicy but not excessively so. Essentially it’s a soup with some type of fish inside served with some type of vegetable (I wasn’t familiar with the name, it’s probably grown only in Africa) that was mashed into a long rod. The texture was kind of like that of rice noodles (or whatever the flat disk-like noodles are that is often served at Thai restaurants).

Later I also asked him if he would take me to a tailor to get myself measured for some clothing that was traditionally African. We picked it out and I’m pretty excited but I don’t get it until tomorrow evening.

A particular shop across from Genesis house is one that I frequent often, mostly because of its proximity. I like the family there, though they did try (successfully) to overcharge me for some banana’s when I first got here. Yesterday night when I came and asked for eggs (I usually get random stuff, to the family’s amusement), the boy working there made an odd grin and asked me rather flatly,

“What’s your name?”

“Brandon,” I replied, waiting a bit. He continued to smile at me, as if there was something comical about me and my name.

“…what’s your name?”

“Nado”

“Nado?”

“Nado”

“Ah ok. Great!” I gave him the thumbs up at this point, which made me feel a little ridiculous because I’ve been doing this to everyone here to express happiness. I’m not sure what else to do though…I figured it was universal enough to convey my emotion, because I did feel pretty happy that he had asked for my name, even if our conversation didn’t exactly grow much after that.

Posted By: Brandon
Last Edit: 22 Jun 2010 @ 09:28

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 21 Jun 2010 @ 9:19 

Day 6 (June 21, 2010)

I saw the computer lab in one of the schools for the first time today. It was smaller than I expected but for the most part was very good. The lab fit 10 computers. Robert, Jones, and I all had the job of testing the computers to determine what was working, what wasn’t, what we needed to buy, etc. It wasn’t very difficult, especially considering that Jones and Robert did most of the work. I actually felt pretty useless the whole time but I’m sure they picked up on my silent support.

The principal seems like a stand-up gentleman and I’m excited about working with him in the future. I’d actually like to talk to him one-on-one for a little bit to get to know him better. He was always smiling and seemed very happy about the work we (or rather, Robert and Jones) were doing. I always appreciate happy people, especially here where I seem to anger so many people with my foreign ignorance. Ah well.

P.S. I realized this morning that I had forgotten to take my malaria pills in 2 days. That was unsettling. Probably won’t forget again though.

Posted By: Brandon
Last Edit: 21 Jun 2010 @ 09:19

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