Saturday, May 7, 2011

And the Moral of the Story is...

As a pre-service teacher I can say things like “the world is your classroom” because it’s true, even if the phrase is cheesy. My semester in Cameroon has ranged from ordinary daily living to extraordinary scholastic opportunities, but there’s been hardly a moment when I haven’t been learning something. I won’t keep it to myself so here’s a top ten list of Lessons Learned in Cameroon:

10) No matter where I go in life, there will always be room in my suitcase for a jar of peanut butter.
It takes time, perseverance, and pure skill to get a peanut butter jar this clean.

9) Getting the rabies shot wouldn’t have been a waste of money.

8) Being called beautiful over and over isn’t even flattering when it doesn’t come from someone who matters.

7) Sometimes a hole to squat over is actually preferable to a toilet.
My own bathroom in Ngaoundéré!
6) Dial-up internet does still exist and it makes Hope College wireless seem lightning fast (shocking I know).

5) Achieving a true clean feeling after a bucket shower takes practice.

4) The sky is the same all around the world so looking straight up can be a great reminder of home when everything on the ground feels strange and unfamiliar.
Simply Awesome.

3) Just because it’s red doesn’t mean it’s tomato. Unknown sauces should always be sampled or you could end up with spaghetti doused in pimante.

2) It is possible for a homestay family to become just plain family.
One of my most treasured photos of the whole semester.

1) So much of what I thought I knew before coming here was derived from stereotypes about an entire continent being full of starving children and thatched roof huts. After a semester I know that’s not true, but I also know that I can’t replace that false image with a better one because the reality is that it’s  impossible to squeeze a country, a semester, let alone a continent into one picture. I don’t appreciate stereotypes like all Americans are rich white cowboys, so I won’t generalize about Cameroon.

 If you want to know what I found here besides starving kids and rural villages, let’s have lunch and I’ll tell you the whole story.  (And I’m not kidding about lunch.)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Last Days in Dschang

So where did the last fourteen weeks go? As I’m writing this I only have 11 days left in Cameroon, and by the time I actually post it there will be even less. As the time gets shorter I keep trying to fit as much in as possible. Here’s what happened with my last few days in Dschang.

I spent two mornings with some of my favorite people, preschoolers! It might sound silly, but I had a great time visiting the nursery school where my host mom teaches. The kids were adorable and now I can sing Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes in French.

I also had a chance to visit an artisanat staffed by blind people. See the entire living room set in the photo below, the person who made it did everything by touch. Pretty cool, but my suitcase is not big enough for that. 

Oh yeah, there was that huge, gigantic, monstrous paper looming over me for awhile. Three cheers for finishing that!! Hip Hip Hooray!! Hip Hip Hooray!! Hip Hip Hooray!!

When I finally found 5 ½ hours of spare time, I decided to get retressed. The braids are back and the plan is that they will stay until I can sleep in my own bed again. 
Me and the girl who did the braids.
Tomorrow I take the bus back to Yaoundé and the next week is spent wrapping up the program: final presentations, language proficiency exit exams, goodbye party, etc. In some ways this semester has flown by, but I feel like I’ve made the most of it. I’m coming home with a suitcase full of souvenirs, 1400 photos, and no regrets. With only a few days remaining, I will cherish every second I have left here, but when it’s time to board the plane I’ll be ready for that too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Om Nom Nom

As I have previously mentioned, Cameroonians love to eat. They also love it when their American students cook some “nourriture américaine.” And previous students have set the bar high with things like pizza, tacos, and hamburgers. So last night Rebecca, another American student in Dschang for ISP, and I took a stab at it. You might say that French Toast is kind of cheating when it comes to making American food, but everyone says it’s not actually French so why not.

Me and Rebecca manning the stove.

French Toast and a host of toppings, no maple syrup though.

Overall the whole event was a success, but French toast in Cameroon comes with some distinctly Cameroonian challenges.

#1) You can’t buy all your ingredients in one place, and once you have found them you don’t just walk to the car, you have to walk all the way home. It’s amazing how heavy two bags can feel 45 minutes or an hour later.

#2) Cinnamon is practically impossible to find. After searching unsuccessfully for days in stores all over the city, I happened upon a single bottle at the last minute. It was a tiny French toast miracle.

#3) In a country where people use the metric system and no one has measuring cups anyways, an American recipe really doesn’t do much good. Just keep adding until it looks right. (Makes me think of you, mom!)

#4) When the electricity is cut it gets dark pretty early in the evening and it can be hard to judge whether or not French toast is well cooked via flashlight. (Not kidding, this happens moderately often and last night there was no power from 3pm until about noon today. The pictures are deceptive because there was a flash, but we were cooking in the dark.)

Despite all this, it was fun to share a little cuisine with the family and to have a little taste of home. Plus it was super delicious!!

My host dad contemplating after his bite, I think he liked it more than it shows.
Best I ever had, wish I had more!!

No comment.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

At the Chalkboard

Well, it's probably better that I couldn't post pictures the other day, because now I have even more! In the past two weeks I have observed eighteen math lessons and taught one of my own. The teachers and kids have been wonderful and I'm so happy it all worked out. Now I just have to write 40 pages about it...

All the kids use miniature chalkboards. I bought one for myself and it might be my favorite souvenir.

One of the classrooms at the private school.

One of the classrooms at the public school. (They're not all quite this nice.)

That's me...teaching a geometry lesson!!

A shape for every kid, plus a silly band at the end.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh The Places You'll Go

Since the last post I’ve been busy observing in schools (no teaching yetL), writing my final paper, and trying to soak up all the time I’ve got left here in Cameroon. Here’s what that means in pictures.

Map of Dschang: Since I’ve been here for a combined total of a month now, Dschang is really starting to feel like home. I’ve discovered shortcuts and alternate routes, the best boulangerie, a nice supermarché, and a good place to buy souvenirs. The map I made probably won’t mean much to anyone else, but it’s a great way for me to remember everything I’ve seen here. 

Church: My Dschang family is protestant so I have been going to church with them. It’s a really sweet church and I wish I knew how to duplicate the overwhelming atmosphere of hospitality; it simply wafts over you as you walk through the doors. Last week was Palm Sunday and lots of people had actual palms to wave which was a colorful addition to the singing and dancing that already exists.
The church building. They are currently fundraising to put on an addition because it’s packed every week even with two services.
Inside the church on Palm Sunday.

Market: After church I went with my mom and host sister to the market. It’s a crazy place and you can find everything. Bras, tomatoes, shoes, pineapples, casserole dishes, jewelry, bedroom furniture, green beans: you name it, they’ve got it. (Well except peanut butter, Oreos, milkshakes, and a host of other American foods that I have been craving lately.)
A view of the chaos.

A woman selling spices. My mom identified most everything for me but I really don’t remember.
School: I finished observations in a private school last week, but didn’t get to teach because they were having monthly inspections. This week I’m in a public school and I’ll remain optimistic that all those shapes I cut out were not in vain.

(I had pictures of the school too, but I've been loading them for almost an hour and now I have to go. Blame the super slow internet because you're going to have to wait for another post. Sorry!)