Sunday, March 27, 2011


After an overnight train ride, I arrived in the north province of Cameroon last weekend. The whole area has a very different feel which is hard to explain. I wrote an entire entry, but it's saved on my flashdrive and this cyber café doesn't have word 2007 so I can't open it and I'm too lazy to rewrite it from memory. I'll try to get back here in the next few days with another update, but for now just know that I love and miss you all.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bon Anniversaire!!

Before leaving Yaoundé I wanted to make sure I would be able to wish my mom a very happy birthday, and I really had no idea what the communication situation would be like in the north province. Therefore, I wrote this post two weeks ahead, just to make sure its message would arrive on time.

Happy Birthday Mom!!

After having lived with several other families, my original mom is definitely my favorite. Can’t wait to see you in a few weeks, but don’t be surprised if your “birthday present” looks a lot like a regular souvenir.

And because I try really hard not to post without pictures, here’s a shot of lightning on the beach in Kribi. I tried to come up with something corny about my mom lighting up my life to tie it to this post, but honestly it’s just because I really like the picture.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Halfway Recap

Recently, a friend of mine from Hope sent me a sweet note that asked a lot of questions about my semester so far. At the time I couldn’t really respond to all of her questions, but after thinking about it I decided that maybe it was time for a recap.

Favorite Food: Sauce d’Arachides which is basically a peanut sauce, but it’s different than what we call peanut sauce in the United States. You eat it with rice or fish or couscous. I’m hoping that maybe my homestay mom will teach me how to make it during independent study month.

Least Favorite Food: Baton de Manioc which is the root of the manioc plant. It has a really strange sticky outing and a tough rubbery inside. I’m not a fan, but I will eat manioc in other forms so my family seems to be okay if I opt of the baton.

Homestay Family: I’ve had two so far and they have been very different experiences. In one family I spent a lot of time reminding myself that I’m in a different culture and I need to adapt. The other family is a perfect fit and I’m hoping to live with them for my independent study month. But you can’t choose your family so why bother complaining or comparing. And even if there are bad days, the overall experience is definitely worth it so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

School: The SIT program has been great. I’ve heard some fascinating lectures, visited some really intriguing organizations (Peace Corps, US embassy, World Bank…), and had interesting discussions on the merits and faults of international development. Plus it’s almost time for independent study which is why I chose SIT in the first place. I’ll be studying elementary education in Cameroon and I’m pumped!

Biggest Challenge: Learning how to share. Everyone here shares everything! It’s just cultural, but it took me awhile to understand that sharing is initiated by the giver so even if no one is asking for things, you should be offering. If not, people think you’re stingy. My flashlight, mirror, and nail polish are family favorites, but sharing even goes so far to mean that my three year brother can eat off my plate. I’m still not quite used to that last piece, especially when the spoon returns to the plate with an excess amount of saliva.

Most Embarrassing Moment: One day I was eating dinner with my homestay family and a bunch of extended relatives. I had received a huge piece of meat (because I’m the guest) and was trying desperately to cut it with my spoon (the only eating utensil available at that occasion). After clanging my plate multiple times I looked up and realized that everyone was watching me. Eventually, one of the aunts leaned over and gave me a quick lesson on how to eat meat: pick it up with your hands and bite it.

What I Miss the Most from Home: Besides family and friends of course, I can’t wait to get back to a more balanced diet, safer driving habits, fast and reliable internet, The Gathering, being able to cross my legs (not culturally acceptable here), and a bed that does not have a mouse living underneath it!

What I Love about Cameroon: Street vendors (food and souvenirs!!), the birds that sing outside my window every morning, getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night, the fact that I’ll always be able to say “One time when I was in Africa…”, and a pace of life that has allowed me to be more present than ever before.

Hopefully that was enough to tide you over for a bit because by the time you read this I’ll be headed to the north province and I’m not sure what communication will be like. I’ll be spending two weeks in Ngaoundéré with my third homestay family in an area that is traditionally Muslim and very, very hot!

Sunset in Yaoundé

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On Doit Bien Manger

So a few weeks ago I decided that it might be fun to keep a food diary in Cameroon. What, when, and how people eat is really an integral part of culture and it’s definitely something that I want to remember when I get back to the United States. Not to mention my experience here has strongly contradicted the stereotypical picture of starving Africans, but when I try to explain that to people at home it’s hard for them to conceptualize what I mean when I say things like “heaping plates of food.” So here is a small taste of mealtime in Cameroon.

A typical breakfast includes a huge baguette, which occasionally has off-brand nutella inside, and some kind of beverage. I’ve actually become a big fan of warm milk in the morning – don’t judge, it’s delicious!

Lunchtime varies widely depending on the day. In Dschang I tended to buy individual items from street vendors, but in Yaoundé I almost always go to a restaurant. Most days I eat a delicious and filling lunch for less than $2. (Sorry there’s no pics, but it would be awkward to take a snapshot in a restaurant.)

Afterschool I usually grab something small from a street vendor on my way home. My personal favorite is a little bag of sugared peanuts. I use the nuts to convince myself that it’s a good source of protein, but really it’s just because they are yummy. Plus at 25CFA, it only costs five cents. Can you get anything in the United States for a nickel?

Dinner is typically eaten late, like 9:30 or 10:00pm. A big change from 5:00 meals at Phelps. The reason it’s late is because sometimes there are two dinners: one around 4:00pm and the other just before bed. I’m not really interested in eating four huge meals a day, so I generally opt out of the first dinner. Rice, pasta, and fish are staples here, which is good because I like all of those things. What changes the meal is the sauce or the other things that go with it. 

Koki and Potates (traditional Bamiléké dish)  
Couscous and pistachio sauce
Chicken Before
Chicken After - a direct violation of the "Don't see it before I eat it" rule.
Fish and Manioc (a root vegetable kind of like a potato but not really)
Okok and Manioc (looks a little funky, but tastes soooo goood!)
Beans and Manioc (so yeah, some stuff shows up over and over)
Rice and "Sauce d'Arachides" which is one of my favorite dishes.
Rice, fish, and vegetables = delicious!

Also, for anyone who is keeping track here is an update on the list of things I didn’t like (or had never tried) before coming to Cameroon but have since learned to at least tolerate… Coca-cola, Pineapple, Couscous, Sauce d’Arachides, Avocados, Plantains, Fish with bones, Koki, Potates, and Manioc.

Monday, March 14, 2011

85 and Sunny

In lieu of an official spring break, I spent the weekend at the beach in Kribi. It was wonderful to swim and the water was extremely warm. Not to mention how great it was just to have a weekend without homework. Basically I don’t remember what it means to “bundle up” and the following pictures are posted with intention of making the rest of you realize what you’re missing. That’s right, be jealous. 

Me and miles of beautiful beach!

A little crab that I found on a rock, I think he's cute.

What did I say about being jealous??
"The Pull" Cameroonian style.