Wednesday, December 31, 2008

lessons from my father




















3/9/2002 again:

women
hard work
transparency

work, women and what we won’t do in public. things my father never told me about. well, not in so many words. what i’m trying to say is that my father didn’t exactly sit me down and talk to me about such things. he didn’t have aphorisms or proverbs – words to live by – to pass on. his actions spoke many a word and much louder even.

on a few occasions however – in those teachable moments – he’d turn to me and share a thought or two. he’d tell me i was in the wrong and why. or he’d be speaking to others but i’d hear. and all this time – the time that’s passed – i didn’t realize i was listening.

i listened to my father talk about hard work. work ethic. that some are blessed with talent. a gift to play or write or perform. and that some – although not many see it in that light – are blessed with the ability to work hard. work ethic. he was blessed with that. my father.

i listened to my father talk about respecting women. not slandering women. not judging women. not making woman feel uncomfortable. he respected women. my father.

i listened to my father talk about being frank. open. honest. about having the confidence and integrity not to scheme. if you can’t do something in public (in view of people) don’t do it in private (behind their backs). he didn’t do things behind people’s backs. he didn’t scheme. he was decent. open. honest. my father.

those are the things my father never told me about. those are the things my father talked about. and was about. i listened. i saw. i didn’t know. but now i know.

Monday, December 29, 2008

hollow land

Indeed, beyond their physical reality, the territories of Israel/Palestine have constituted a schematic description of a conceptual system whose properties have been used to understand other geopolitical problems. The ‘Intifada’ unfolding in Iraq is a part of an imaginary geography that Makram Khoury-Machool called the ‘Palestinization of Iraq’. Yet, if the Iraqi resistance is perceived to have been ‘Palestinized’, the American military has been ‘Israelized’.
Furthermore, both the American and Israeli militaries have adopted counter-insurgency tactics that increasingly resemble the guerrilla methods of their enemies.

When the wall around the American Green Zone in Baghdad looks as if it had been built from left-over components of the West Bank Wall;

when ‘temporary closures’ are imposed on entire Iraqi towns and villages and reinforced with earth dykes and barbed wire;

when larger regions are carved up by road blocks and checkpoints;

when the homes of suspected terrorists are destroyed, and ‘targeted assassinations’ are introduced into a new global militarized geography

...it is because the separate conflicts now generally collected under the heading of the ‘war on terror’ are the backdrop to the formation of complex ‘institutional ecologies’ that allow the exchange of technologies, mechanisms, doctrines, and spatial strategies between various militaries and the organizations that they confront, as well as between the civilian and the military domains.
Eyal Weizman. Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation (Verso, London, 2007), p. 10.
this is what i'm presently reading... can't help but make the connections b/w current events in Gaza, my recent posts on Israeli incursions into the Occupied Territories almost 7 years ago, and the links the author makes in the excerpt above (and i allude to in the previous post) b/w American and Israeli approaches to the 'War on Terror.'

note: i've broken up the excerpt for easier reading... it's all one long paragraph in the book.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

until they understand...

3/9/2002:
40+ people (mostly Palestinian) were killed yesterday in and around the Occupied Territories. it was a Friday, of course. now Sharon is talking about a cease-fire... without the need for the 7 days of peace he’d been calling for as a condition to talks. he’s been saying things like: we have to inflict pain and casualties on Palestinians until they understand...

i don’t think he or a whole lot of other Western leaders understand that this will not end in that way. that no matter how many die or are killed in one day, tomorrow there will be more [resistance]. even more. i think maybe Sharon finally understood he couldn’t butcher that many people on a consistent basis and go on alleging they were all terrorists.

i think maybe Sharon got a phone call from DC telling him to cool it. that our "War on Terror" takes priority and he’s giving it a bad name. especially with the “Moderate Arab States.” yeah... God bless the Moderate Arab States. God bless America. God bless foreign national interest in our part of the world. peace.

on a lighter note... i went out to the farm with Paul and his crew [siblings] this morning. planted maize. got my hands dirty. good stuff.

smells like Babadjou

3/7/2002:
been raining again. hasn’t done so in over a week . dust was coming back. anywho... all is well now. clouds are back. forgot how beautiful and spectacular the formations are/were.

cool in the morning. a bit. fresh, if you will. even smells like Babadjou in the morning. definitely feels like it. funny how the rain does that... remind me of Babadjou. changes this place entirely.

i know i’ve written about this. it is too uncanny. and, like i said... Wum is much better suited to the tropics.

“oubanga”... Aghem for white-man ["outsider"]. just met a couple of them from the SIL group doing their stage here. American and Canadian.

and, of course, i’ve already forgotten their names. typical. couldn’t catch someone’s name if it hit me in the face. i shwear!

Friday, December 26, 2008

aches

3/6/2002:
ran out to the Lake this morning. not just to the beach spot... climbed up to the ridge around the Lake. great view. high up. these sports are really hurting my body. it aches. i'm tired. i don't recover physically fast enough. i stretch. i eat. i sleep. still... i ache. but good aches i guess.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

hip hop home














still 3/5/2002:
“Don’t Touch That Dial!”
DJ Marley Marl on the BBC World Service!

...hip-hop (serious stuff) on the BBC. all too random but truly welcome. little piece of home... wonder who else is feeling that out here?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

two slips, but who cares?

3/5/2002:
ACT Teaching Reading Seminar
(Association for Creative Teaching)

Scripta Verba Manet is the ACT motto. “Written word lasts."

-"when we repeat we remember, and we repeat what we remember."
-the skills involved in language are listening, speaking, reading, writing and thinking... each skill has its own vocabulary.
Tell a child what to think and you make him a slave to knowledge. Teach a child how to think and you make all knowledge his slave.
notes from a reading seminar i made a grand entrance into by falling on my butt in a busted chair in front of a crowded hall of 200+ students and teachers, LATE! no biggie, though. just dusted myself off, apologized for interrupting as i did and sat down closer to the front.

you know, i don’t know what it was but i totally/sincerely didn’t feel at all embarrassed. to me, right then and there and in front of all those people, i didn’t care... good thing or bad? confidence or apathy? self-esteem or presumptuousness? either way... i just didn’t care. and in a way, that concerns me.

besides, one of the other GTTC teachers [a colleague who was known for sleeping around with our students] was more ashamed i’m sure when his namesake, the seminar's leader, called himself the original version and our colleague the adulterated one!

no pun intended and much covering up for the Freudian slip but to no avail... 2 slips [one of the tongue, the other off a chair], 2 teachers got laughed at. but only one cared, i think. i hope.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

the hypocrisy of we

3/4/2002:
palestine keeps getting worse. afghanistan is still going. the philippines, georgia, iraq and yemen are next. listening to the BBC this evening [2002, Review of the Year] i didn’t know what to think. what is there to think? one just feels in cases like these. and [we] Americans (the administration, at least, but the public to the extent that [we] don’t protest) seem unable to do either; think or feel, that is. only for [our]selves.

and [we] send troops around the globe reflecting that... an ethnocentric egoism blind to how others are affected or may ultimately react. and [we] send volunteers around the globe talking about peace and understanding. i cannot believe i got a letter from George W telling me what an important job i’m doing. the hypocrisy disgusts me. makes me sick. ashamed that i’m out here. as an American... that i’d even begin to defend American values, ideals or culture... let alone represent them.

i was so disgusted as i listened to yet another self-righteous, myopic “ugly American” political viewpoint that it made me want to leave. head right to Yaounde and tear up my passport in front of anyone high enough to do something about it. to send me home. to take this label off of me. where do they get off? ...and how do i utter we anymore without buying into that same hypocrisy?

the Peace Corps... are you kidding me?!

Monday, December 22, 2008

honest constructive

3/3/2002:
...still here at Muhammad’s. his mother refused to let me leave before 1pm. after prayer, that is, wants to feed me again. good folks.

we went out to see the cows. Abdu and a bunch of the young men were struggling with an injured cow, itself struggling. this place is sooo big. beautiful open grassland. [my stereotypical] Africa.

saw Suhaibu in the morning. had a most interesting conversation about America, Israel, the MidEast and Oil... politics, that is. Suhaib was translating questions from an old Fulani man from Esu to me.

conversations like that make me think. they tire me b/c it’s tough enough to deal with topics like that without the language/cultural barrier. that makes expression and comprehension that much tougher.

question(s): other PCV’s... when they’re asked about America, how do they respond? how frank are they? how biased? and i? am i giving an equally biased view? an inaccurate one? an unAmerican one? a detrimental one? not constructive or just honest? can honest be constructive?
...is that the trick. be honest about American government. constructive about American people? can’t have conversations like that without thinking “wow... this PC experience.” surreal, the cross-cultural exchange. you take it for granted, but at times you can’t help but notice the exchange as you’re having it.

and the questions about America don’t stop coming. keep them coming. just need the answers myself. and in trying to answer i learn more. about here. about there. about me. about us.

Friday, December 19, 2008

peaceful people, beautiful place

3/2/2002:
just after maghrib [sunset] at Muhammadu’s place. BIG compound. small village, really. good people. a lot of people. peaceful people. beautiful place. stereo-typically Africa. imagine spending stage [training] in a place like this. with a family like this. would love that. guess that’s why i’m here now. spending the night... peace and freedom.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

mon-ee matters

3/1/2002:
“in africa there are no emergencies, only people in a hurry.”
a young, charming, well-spoken, intelligent, handsome doctor shared this proverb (and an anecdote or 2 from his personal/practical/medical experience to reinforce it) with Maggie and i this evening.

i’m tired... been tired. body needs rest. been up to a lot, physically. maybe to make up for not being so mentally.

joined MUDA [a local muslim men’s savings & loan group] today... spent 4,800 cfa on registration, savings and back fees. seems like a good idea. would have been/would be great with the ISA crew. remember how we spoke about it before i left home?... gotta write some of the guys about it.

funny how money is. doing business with people changes things. no nonsense. kinda strange. a little unnerving. only b/c of how i feel about money. but if all intentions are well, all is well. gotta talk with Adamu about that... mon-ee!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

go to things

2/27/2002:
go to things, Mohamad. go to things... don’t make excuses. you’re only here once, so to speak. better to go and know then stay home and not, or regret. OK? go to things!

monkey water

2/27/2002:
“it’s easy to give a monkey water, but it’s not easy to take the cup away.”
-proverb from
this morning’s
Network Africa!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2 Worlds, 2 Wums

26th February, 2002...
it rained today. early afternoon and evening. places are “fresh” now, as people here would say. actually, it’s like a different world. climate totally changed the atmosphere, if you will. and i’m not the only one who’s happy about it. you can feel the energy in the air.

the rain did a lot... it feels/sounds/looks like the tropics again. no dust. no heat. clouds keep the sun at bay. wind keeps humidity lower. not low, but lower. all is good... i like the tropics. i like it hot and dry, too, but Wum is no desert. hot and dry without the serenity of open space is no good. so i welcome the rainy season. knowing full well i’ll be cursing the mud soon enough.

but mangoes will be here soon! that’ll keep me quiet for a while. and it’ll all be green before we know it. Wum is 2 different places, i’m telling you.

Friday, December 12, 2008

bugs awake, clouds forming

2/25/2002:
fresh, cool breeze blowing through Wum this late afternoon and early evening. and just last week i was thinking this place would soon turn into a desert. it’s humid now.

bugs and frogs awake at night. clouds forming in the sky. rain at Benakuma. must not be too far off here.

it’s getting hard to drink my necessary 5 or 6 cups of tea per day. humidity and all... can’t keep my shirt on, either. kinda like it though... feels like Africa [see comments]. the tropics.

Muaza says it won’t last. the heat, that is. rainy season can bring cold winds during the storms. like Santa, i guess... just not that cold.

all right... PEACE MUHAMMADU!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

suddenly hot and humid

2/23/2002:
it’s hot and humid all of a sudden. like overnight. i’m SW [southwest province] sweating. strange. really so drastic of a change. rainy season is coming... sooner rather than later. the heat, clouds, insects and even thunder are all telling the same tale. gotta love these transitions.

gotta love the extremes. cannot believe Wum got this hot... and who ever heard of humidity before it even rained? no rain for months and it’s humid! was just saying last week that Wum town will soon become a desert if it doesn’t rain. now that looks like it’s right around the corner.

signs of the rainy season... extreme heat, strange humidity, everyone to and from the farm, the clouds and bugs at night. oh.. went to Muhammadu’s with Maggie today. HOT!... and we still drank tea!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

eid in any language!

‘Eid mubarak! [arabic]
Bonne Fette! [french]
Barakata Sallah! [hausa]
Happy Eid! [english]
Njoli njam! [fulfulde]
2/22/2002:
...heard a bit of all of that today. spent a nice long day out in Ukpwa, 9am-6pm. ate... twice. well. meat... ram, beef, chicken and fish. prayed out there. toured the village with Maggie. sat down and had interesting discussions with the young men. HIV/AIDS, Bin Laden and development, among other topics.

women figured heavily in our discussions but not in our presence. Maggie sat, ate and chatted with the men today. wonder how she feels about that? will ask... about that, Bin Laden and Ukpwa wanting too much tomorrow. we ended the day out there watching a football match. nice place. great people. good day.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

bamenda and back
















2/21/2002:

...well, was to and from Bamenda today. tired now... mostly b/c it’s late. Isma was too cute the entire time. too dirty as well. but i think i ended up being dirtier by the time i got back here this evening.

got to the bank. sent some letters. was unable to find an envelope to send that audio cassette i made. did send Isma and Das off. but didn’t do email. got mail from BP 5033. talked to the fam... got a few things from Vatican [imported goods supermarket]. got here safely... coming home is nice now.

wished Arouna and Dairou [two muslim friends in douala and yaounde] bonne fette by phone. tomorrow is eid al-adha! [feast of the sacrifice]... didn’t get to email. next time. spending eid in Ukpwa. gonna chop [eat] meat! Maggie is coming, too.

Monday, December 8, 2008

das is here

2/20/2002:
was just thinking this morning that Das was supposed to be coming around to visit around this time. end of Feb... fete du mouton [feast of the ram, or the sacrifice]. figured i should let Paul and Maggie know, as i may be in Bamenda or at Ukpwa if/when he shows up.

well... Das is here. he’s chillin’ to Um Kalthoum in the living room, perusing through my old Newsweeks. his edible adorable daughter, my sister Isma’ilah, is sleeping in the other room. has the dress Nunu got her and her hair is all done... she’s too cute. beautiful girl.

we’ll be off to Bamenda together tomorrow morning around 10am. gotta make a few changes to my plans (can’t pick up my package), but it’s worth it. family always comes first, n’est-ce pas?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

trust faith

2/19/2002:
a few scattered thoughts before i go to bed...

-Ibrahim took shahada [converted] at the mosque tonight after maghrib [sunset prayer]... he got some change from a couple brothers, and he’s getting a book from me.

-it’s easy to get lost in thought during those long walks home under a hot sun. i wander through memories in my mind and my heart wanders a little further back home. home-home, that is.

-i’m having issues with lack of structure. WHY?!

-hard work is a gift, hardly working a curse.

-la imana liman la amanata lahu
= “there is no faith in someone people have no faith (trust) in.” -Hadith

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

cement bags to Ukpwa

2/17/2002:
took the cement bags out to Ukpwa today. all went well except Zengue [local trader] asked for 3,000 cfa instead of 1,500 for fuel. made those deductions. i’m going to spend a week out there in the village sometime... insha’Allah.

Monday, December 1, 2008

input-output

"income is the direct output of input."
-quote from a Christian preacher
on the radio this afternoon...

i.e. don't sweat the mon-ee, ee di come! [the money will come, in pidgin]

...was listening to the radio show as i waited for Joe, Apollo the plumber's brother, to come back to his shop at Fish Point in Bamenda.

back in Wum now. long day. not bad. especially as i saw Kristen... she's well. got a nice letter from her. sweet woman. school is good for her. a lot of hours. much work. she may also ET after this year.

all right... gotta sleep. tomorrow.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

subhan Allah!

2/16/2002:
...just finished with a 2-hour email session here in bamenda. wrote to the country director of peace corps morocco. God helep with that! seems like [an internship at the botanic garden in] Limbe this summer may be possible. got a positive reply from Dr. Ndam. only that the garden may be too wet during that season. rainy, that is.

anywho... i'll ened with one thought. Suhaibu [muhammadu & ibrahim's older brother] came to visit after Friday prayer in Wum yesterday. we talked about a bunch of things. we got into ethnic diversity among Muslims, among other equally interesting topics. at regular intervals, Suhaibu would marvel and say "God is so wonderful!" and say it so sincerely that it touched me.

subhan Allah is what i suppose he was translating... i like it! God is so won-duh-ful!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

walking to wum













 

2/14/2002:
Sarah got in yesterday... still waiting on the rest of the crew: Chris, Heather and Mike. should be here this afternoon, insha’Allah. Sarah caught a ride with this French family that happened to cross their path.

she hurt her knee and has some pretty bad blisters... she’ll recover though. says the trek was beautiful. worth it. that there was just about no one out there. not even at Lake Nyos. they slept by a river one night, and in what seems to have been a cattle path on another night.

said they woke up to cows all around... kinda scary. i’d like to make the trek myself. Maggie seems to be down, as well. i’m sure we can get a couple other folks to come. we’ll do it from Wum to Nkambe though. just for a twist.

2/16/2002:
well... everyone arrive safely. the day before yesterday. they were a sight! cracked me up. everyone was in pain. sore. tender. battered. blistered. but in high spirits. said the trek was well worth it. beautiful country. interesting stories. they really were too funny.

got a couple of photos... but nothing could capture the sight of all of them walking ever so gingerly to the taxi park. still, i’m sure a sense of achievement helped to sooth the pain... just a little.

we got to rest/relax at the house. God bless mama! had 2 good meals (dinner and breakfast) and 1 good night’s rest. and i got a kind note from Sarah & Chris (with a box of ma3moul as a gift!) back in Bamenda:

“Thanks again for being an awesome host to your dirty, crippled guests."

Monday, November 24, 2008

EE notes for NWP

these are my notes and feedback, as the new NWP EE committee rep, to my fellow PCVs at the "the slum" (Northwest Province volunteer co-house in Bamenda) from our national EE committee meeting (held in Yaounde on 2/9/2002):


Sunday, November 23, 2008

full of grace


















2/12/2002 (part 3):

i'm in the process of writing Rama that letter about kids in Africa. in depth and interesting. that said, my letters home still aren't flowing that well...

i'll end with a quote from Mike:
"don't feel bad that you're struggling... Peace Corps is like this."
...and a quote from David:
"...some people, for reasons clearly unknown to me, walk gracefully down here on earth. And those of us fortunate enough to be touched by them as they give of themselves live better lives, and learn to treat others better, as modeled by the graceful ones."
Mike is a graceful one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

bicultural, bilingual

2/12/2002 (part 2):
had a series of interrupted, interesting conversations with Cheryl in Yaounde. we’ve only sat and spoken to each other twice... so it was nice having such comfortable conversation with her now. she has quite a personality and a head on her shoulders. not to mention class.

we talked about family, moms, brothers, marriage, our biculturalism and Africa... Cameroon, Mali, South Africa and Morocco, in particular. she’s thinking about extending service for a year in Mali. Bamako, actually. had some advice for me about Morocco, too.

about bilingualism... won’t go into depth now, as i’m tired. i’ll elaborate later. basically, every time i go from Francophone to Anglophone Cameroon i come back thinking/speaking French. can’t just turn it off. it confuses me.

i guess it’s the same when i come back from Syria to America. it takes a while to readjust to the different zone and – hmmm... mentality? it's the same confusion that has me wanting to start writing English from right to left and Arabic from left to right (see 4 languages post). i wonder if that confusion translates into, or is reflected in, the national cultural identity of Cameroonians?

during the African Cup of Nations i couldn’t help but be totally amused by the commentary. 5-10 minutes in French, then 5-10 minutes in English. even the pre/half/post-game shows were simultaneously bilingual! 2 anchors... one Francophone, one Anglophone. and often one will be speaking directly to the other (or their respective guests) in one language and receive a reply in another.

“can you say IDENTITY CRISIS?!” i don’t know???... is it forced? is it working? it is strange... at least to me. and talk about a legacy... colonialism’s, that is.

well... i guess i’m not that tired. i did elaborate. that’s all i have to say about language here, for now.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

cramped discomfort

2/12/2002 (part 1):
two days later [from the tired outline]. here we go...

the trip(s) to and from Yaounde were rough. did the Bamenda-Baffousam-Yaounde thing on the way there. cramped and uncomfortable. HIGHLY! had a friend traveling with me, from bamenda... and he had it worse!

in Yaoudne, the EE [environmental education] meeting was short (relative to the journey, that is)... good group. more on that later...

saw a bunch of PCVs, too. talked to Adam in Bamenda. he’s leaving (ETing) in June. on good terms, of course... he's probably known for some time now. Kay was ill and in Yaoudne. Nat, too. spoke to Kay... she’s leaving her village for another one, also in June.

not sure, but Kristen may still be unhappy with her post.... didn’t see her though. cannot confirm. Robert moved posts, as well. still in the SW though. that’s it for our stage... but i also saw and spoke with a bunch of other PCVs in Yaounde.

had an extended conversation with Mike. i vented. again. totally. was looking for advice. maybe even some inspiration. tough though. i kinda dropped or bounced a lot off him. he did ask one interesting question:

“ideally... if you had it your way, what would you do or what would you want to accomplish here?”

good question. what is/are my goals? figure those out, then go for it... just do it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

tired outline

2/10/2002:
things to write about (just an outline... ‘cuz i’m tired now):
  • trip to/from Yaounde... talking to a few PCVs
  • EE stuff... write up house feedback & things to ask Mike
  • Bilingualism... mine, Cameroon’s and identity crises (or at least language confusion)
  • Carton rouge aux travaux les enfants... letter to Rama on Youth Day
btw... the Indomitable Lions won the Cup of Nations over Senegal: 3-2, on penalty kicks. glad i left Younde... must be nuts there now!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

village project 2

2/6/2002:
material & labor:
-35 cement bags (4,700 cfa /ea.) = 164,500 cfa
-6L fuel for delivery (500 cfa /ea.) = 3,000 cfa
-labor, water & sand (community contribution) = ~33,000 cfa
-subtotal (materials & labor) = 200,500 cfa

-total (subtotal - community contribution) = 167,500 cfa

schedule:

-approx. 15 young men in village to assist w/labor.
-their schedules will rotate over course of project.
-need to meet & confirm before work commences.

extra funds?
(200,000 - 167,500 = 32,500 cfa)
-will look into small project for these and ask about using them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Africa

2/5/2002:
wicked sh%t happens here in Africa... was listening to that True Love, True Crime series on Network Africa/BBC this morning. can’t say all the entries aren’t a little melodramatic, even exaggerated. but still... the ones about rebel soldiers killing infants and chopping off people’s arms are all too real. and all too often corroborated by the news itself.

rebel soldiers in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Congo, Ivory Coast... and the list goes on and on. just depends on the relative stability or instability of African nations at that particular time and no African nation seems immune. i’m sure all have suffered through these same stories of faction fighting, tribal warfare and general lawlessness.

what a mix in some of these countries... religions, tribes, races and, of course, political ideology (or power struggle to put it simply). that’s what it ends up being, but always under the guise or split along the lines of differences in people. people.

Tony Blair said that Africa is the scar on the conscience of the world. indeed... Africa has a lot of people to blame for its present situation. but will they fix it? can they fix it? my brain is not totally in gear here... need to stop...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

walk fast or far?

"If you want to walk fast, walk alone... If you want to walk far, walk with a friend."

-Zimbabwean proverb... heard it
last night from the South African
Rev. Eddie Makue [see his bio, PDF].

Sunday, November 9, 2008

to see whole

There exists the argument that some returned volunteers have gained insight into the damage they have done to others - and thus become more mature people... The damage which volunteers do willy-nilly is too high a price for the belated insight that they shouldn't have been volunteers in the first place (from To Hell with Good Intentions, 1968).
i've been struggling with these words for a few days now... what they mean. how to understand them. the implications. for me and for others. for this kind of work (international development). for the ethic they could inspire. for a deeper understanding of our roles. and for a greater awareness of – for lack of a better word – the system(s) we're all a part of. actually, there is a better word... wholeness.

i had 3-4 conversations with good friends about illich and his ideas this weekend. they helped me realize that it's not about just stopping... ending international development. as if that were possible. indeed, many people are benefiting and i don't have the right (or the power, really... i'm not sure anyone does. even illich must have understood that) to just stop it.

it's not about that. it's about change. no matter how slow or gradual... and it does change. it is changing. international development, that is. not just what work is being done but also how it's being done. "it's a matter," as one of my friends put it, "of unlearning paternalism in exchange for partnership."

it's also about intention... the theory of change i believe in is that change comes from within. this is hard for me to describe or fully articulate, but people only have the power to change themselves... and that can be quite powerful. but it can also be tenuous... the control we have, even over ourselves. which is why i'm so interested in presence.

presence, as i understand it, is less about having control over the situations we find – or, if you like, put ourselves – in... and more about how we deal with them. this takes awareness. a greater awareness than i had while i was in cameroon. and often a greater awareness than i have in my day-to-day, even today. even at the 'simple' frustrations in life, whether it's waiting for a bush-taxi or a metrobus.

this lack of awareness had me looking (and i'm still looking... b/c it's hard to unlearn these things) for specific answers to the situation i was in. a young american overseas trying to help. there was more than that, to be sure... i was also trying to learn. understand. respect. adapt. did i do damage? i'm sure i did. less than others? perhaps.

but it isn't just about me or any other volunteer or kind of volunteer (muslim, multicultural, bicultural...). it's also about the change occurring in the people, and the countries, we were working with. change that we didn't have very much, if anything, to do with.

and there's more... a change in the institutions doing development. brought on, in part, b/c of their understanding of past and present failures, and the need to change. there are many voices speaking up right now about peace corps needing to change [see the Fall 2008 'Worldview'; PDF, esp. pages 20-21]... to pick only one institution in the behemoth that is international development. a very small player, at that.

so the bigger picture emerging is a set of factors changing... coming together to change. one of my friends asked me to stop trying to isolate any one of those factors in the hope of finding change in it alone... she asked me to think more whole. it's about the change in everything coming together.

which brings me back to illich... there's certainly something to his "to hell with good intentions" argument. there's a lot to it! "scathingly accurate," as another friend pointed out... and compelling. and yet there's more. i.e. there's a bigger picture that illich's argument is only one part of. what is it? i haven't figured it all out.

i've gotten glimpses of it... and the experiences i've had and the people of wisdom around me are helping me see more. this blog is helping me see more. that is, in part, why i'm doing this... to see more. to see whole, insha'Allah.

Friday, November 7, 2008

don't come to help

If you have any sense of responsibility at all, stay with your riots here at home. Work for the coming elections: You will know what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how to communicate with those to whom you speak. And you will know when you fail. If you insist on working with the poor, if this is your vocation, then at least work among the poor who can tell you to go to hell. It is incredibly unfair for you to impose yourselves on a village where you are so linguistically deaf and dumb that you don't even understand what you are doing, or what people think of you. And it is profoundly damaging to yourselves when you define something that you want to do as "good," a "sacrifice" and "help."

I am here to suggest that you voluntarily renounce exercising the power which being an American gives you. I am here to entreat you to freely, consciously and humbly give up the legal right you have to impose your benevolence on Mexico. I am here to challenge you to recognize your inability, your powerlessness and your incapacity to do the "good" which you intended to do.

I am here to entreat you to use your money, your status and your education to travel in Latin America. Come to look, come to climb our mountains, to enjoy our flowers. Come to study. But do not come to help.

Ivan Illich, from To Hell with Good Intentions. 1968.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

an impact?

i'm not sure where to start with the previous post... to make an impact. how do i reflect on my thinking then, through how i think presently? ellen was right about indoctrination [see the 3rd comment]. i feel like it's been a steady process of unlearning a lot of what i've learned growing up. not just in school, though that's probably where it started. but also through work and in life.

there are at least 3 issues that come up for me as i reread what i wrote more than 6 years ago in that post:
  1. most importantly, what does making an impact mean?
  2. what do i mean when i write about a place called "Africa?" what "Africa?"
  3. how do i begin to address the last line in the previous post, for myself... where am i needed most?
while all 3 of these issues are certainly worth deconstructing, i'll only be focusing on the first one. for now.

so what does that mean? "to make an impact or a difference in a small village." i suppose i was referring to (international) sustainable development. peace corps training was my first introduction to that concept, explicitly. i'm sure many a peace corps volunteer has struggled with the idea. we often talked about it... were we making a difference? what would make us more effective? how could we have more of an impact?

and how is that measured, exactly? in the number of people reached? students taught? farmers trained? or community development projects executed? for other agents of international development, perhaps it's more easily quantifiable or more tangible... like miles of road built or rural infrastructure constructed. tons of food produced or local income generated. to say nothing of attempts at quantifying "quality of life."

i can't help but notice how all these are external measurements... how about the difference or the impact made within? on ourselves... as humans. reciprocally. reflexively. b/w people. not just "development agent" and "beneficiary." how do we begin to measure the depth of human exchange or relationship?

and what if that exchange, by definition, is not reciprocal? what if the relationship, no matter how "human," is not at all of mutual benefit? the thoughts of ivan illich come to mind [thanks to ellen for sharing in an early comment]... and what he describes as a likely "new awareness" for "North American do-gooders":
...the awareness that even North Americans can receive the gift of hospitality without the slightest ability to pay for it; the awareness that for some gifts one cannot even say 'thank you' (from To Hell with Good Intentions, 1968).
i'm not sure what to say, really... there's more from illich. much more. and i'll let him speak for himself in the next post. yet i can't help but wonder (without going too much into it here) about the 3rd question i raised above, "where am i needed most?" and is it simply a question of where?... or what? and how?

to make an impact

2/3/2002:
looks like Mali will be playing Cameroon in the semifinals of the African Cup of Nations. they beat South Africa in Kayes [western Mali] today. Cameroon plays Egypt before the semis... don’t think that’ll be a problem.

reached Weh today. Maggie and i, of course. took the road to Esu a little out of town to this rock outcrop. nice view. whole thing took a couple hours. introduced Maggie to Pa Wango on they way back.

she thought he was cute. he is. also sensed he’d be a great person to sit and talk to. he is. i cannot believe i neglected to introduce him to mama. bad form on my part. especially b/c he’s got kids in the Maryland/DC area. alas...

a note. Maggie and i had mexican last night. got to talking about posts and PC admin. after dinner. especially as i got a package with some memos in it... Grace [PC staff from Yaounde] came out to visit her brother, the State Counsel.

anywho... we were talking about posts. my opinion is put volunteers in small, remote villages and give them a post-mate. that towns like Wum (and by implication, anything bigger) are too big for volunteers to make an impact.

Maggie agreed that it’s difficult to make a difference in larger towns, but that that is the challenge. to make an impact in towns like that. Africa is heading in that direction... urbanization, that is. and that’s an important step in development.

it’s easy to make an impact or a difference in a small village... the same needs to be done in towns, though. and that may be the setting where we’re needed most.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

c'est la vie...













2/1/2002:

...and the days just keep marching on. indiscriminate. the passage of time, that is. but i won’t go there. i nobi in mood fo philosophizing.

i have been speaking more pidgin as of late. maybe that speaks to how little i’ve been in the classroom? and that shall only get worse. or is it better?

will no longer have 3rd year now. i’ve actually only had them all of 2 times this term. one class with 3A, one with 3B. but let’s not go there, either. i know i will have to soon, but not tonight.

been exercising these past few days. eating ravenously as a result. all is well there...

went out to visit Mu’allem [literally, teacher] Gibreel’s compound. man passed away last Tuesday. left behind 3 wives and 12 kids. people here were real shook that first day. good man.

i think i only met him once or twice. didn’t speak to him more than once. had to see a pic to remember his face. his compound is way out there. about ½ an hour by motorcycle down Bu Road. then a five minute walk down and up a hill.

the road is bad at parts. rocky. Ibrahim [Muhammad Omaru's brother] took me... wasn’t the comfiest ride, but i’m glad he took me. Sani [Ibrahim and Muhammadu’s older brother] was there.

Gibreel lost a wife a year or 2 ago when lightening struck the compound. i saw her/his orphans today. people die all over the world, everyday. c’est la vie... so why does it seem like it happens more here? why does it seem so much more unfair here?

gotta amend that tired cliché to something like c’est la vie en afrique... doesn’t make it any more fair, but at least a little more realistic.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

beautiful morning

1/30/2002:
...was a big moon over africa last night, as well. big and beautiful. but neither drove me to write home or write in here. i'm still in a bit of a letter-writing funk. been writing in here regularly, though.

it's Wed morning. Maggie and i rode out to Lake Wum. was a little worried about getting their late... for the sunrise and for some quiet time before people arrived. didn't miss either in the end. sun rose over the ridge around the Lake soon after we arrived. no one else was there. guess people don't go on weekdays.

beautiful morning. beautiful lake. good conversation with my new post-mate. about Cameroon. about home. heard the children singing the national anthem [MP3 audio] across the fields from the school there. that was nice.

anywho... spoke to the PTA president and HM of the Nursery School this morning. about how to approach painting the doors there. seems we'll have to discuss the matter at the next PTA meeting to find out for sure.

that's sometime next week. in the meantime, i'm going to do a little research and/or some campaigning to see if the parents will agreee to paint the doors themselves. even the SDO. we'll see what happens from there... if/when we get there, that is.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

on the ill cliff

1/27/2002:
feeling a little sick. standing on the ill cliff, if you will. sore throat. tonsils hurt. back hurts. light headed. no serious fever, but general body ache.

the latter symptom could just be due to cleaning all weekend. bending over to sweep and squeegee.

anyway... took a couple Tylenol. ate well. not in that order! and i'm going to pass out now. here's to getting up well!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

village project

1/26/2002:
material:
~46 cement bags
-sand and water, available locally (is it enough?)
-technician needs to confirm quantity, is it a fair estimate?
-confirmed, he says it'll need 35 bags max.

labor:
-technician – the village will cover his costs?
-help – villagers will provide most of the labor?

questions:
-are there wholesalers in Wum?
-can the price per bag be reduced with bulk purchases?
-can dealer deliver bags to village?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

maggie is here!

1/26/2002:
Maggie [my new post-mate] is here! just got into Wum yesterday afternoon. i think it’s going to be good to have someone to talk to. to speak American English with... in front of Cameroonians who just don’t understand. like when friends or colleagues go "Bush" Pidgin on me! ;)

anywho... week spent at GPS [govt primary school] Wum was nice. like i said, satisfying feeling putting in a full day’s work. great seeing the children. REALLY want to teach at that level. but i’ve said that already.

funny that only now do the little kids around Wum know i’m a teacher. you can hear them whispering it to each other as i pass. and they tell their parents, who also seemed not to know exactly what i did in Wum...

OK... i’ll end with 3 or 4 cute kids at the primary school:
  • Petel (Saalifu)... i like that kid.
  • Rashidatu... adorable little Fulani girl i pass on the way back from GTTC in the afternoon.
  • Maaryatu... Rashidatu’s equally adorable older sister.
  • Yusufu... their brother. tall, thin, funny little boy.
may God keep them, insha'Allah.

my last two fingers











1/24/2002:

a few random thoughts before i sleep. made babaghanoosh. OK... too much tahina though. Jovis [my young neighbor] had another dream... something about OMZ bringing me a car here.

i’ve been walking back from the primary school with little Petel these past couple days. he waits, semi-patiently until i’m done and holds my hand (last two fingers, actually) the entire walk back. it’s cute.

i enjoy my time at the primary school. miss the kids. would like to teach younger students. have my own classroom. teach different subjects.

i also enjoy getting out of the house early. feels like i have a job. feels good coming back tired. gratifying. still don’t do quite enough work in the afternoon, i think.

Mr. Wanna visited. nice man. he gave me a yam.

Monday, October 27, 2008

satisfied

1/23/2002:
today. probably one of the longest – if not the longest – days here yet. up at 4:27am. now 4 past 9pm. teaching practice. short lunch break. up to GTTC for an EE [environmental education] Club meeting. short afternoon break. to mosque, then Arabic class with the muslim men's club. would like to mark the rest of these 3rd Year tests, but my eyelids are heavy. body aches. i’m satisfied though. happy to be here... just gotta look up and realize it every now and again.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

good Paul

1/21/2002:
took a wicked nap yesterday afternoon... much more than a nap! 4:30pm to 4:30am, with a short break for prayers around 11pm. just can’t get this siesta thing down. we had 2nd year student teaching practice and observation yesterday. stood up for 2 or 3 hours and watched our students struggle. back hurt. sleepy.

also had a struggling lesson myself, later in the day with 3rd year on H2O. the irony!... faltering teacher. tedious lesson. uninterested and undisciplined students. i’m talking about the scene during both the primary school lessons AND my own!

one more thing... i left my keys in the front door (on the outside) today when i left for school around mid-day. realized it when i couldn’t find them after school... no harm done, though. Paul [my neighbor and colleague] noticed. took them. sent his nephew Godwin to let me know and bring me back.

Paul was also very good about helping out with teaching practice today. what to do, who to see... good colleague, good neighbor, good friend.

Friday, October 24, 2008

without any reminders

1/20/2002:
...a little before seven AM. i dey for vatican taxi-park... waiting to go to Wum. drinking cocoa at that man’s make-shift omelette-stand on the side. actually forgot to pay him last time. remembered in Wum. he thanked me for reminding him now.

kinda tired. stayed up a bit yesterday with the gang here in Bamenda. we ate pasta for dinner. then had a house meeting. i’m the new environmental education (EE) rep, Kay gender & youth development (GYD), and Nat VAC (volunteer advisory council). Kay and Kerri (w/Mike as liaison) are the new volunteer house managers. sorry the new agroforestry PCVs couldn’t be there!

...yesterday morning a few of us (including Adam, Kay and Nat) sat and listened to Garrison Keillor do The News from Lake Wobegon. you know... on NPR, A Prairie Home Companion. it was great. nostalgia. made me think of long rides homes on 66 East at night. that’s when it came on.

why i listened to that show, i don’t know? to Adam, Kay and a few others it reminds them of home... small-town America. their parents listen. NO ONE i know listens to that show! why did i? he can tell a story. he’s got quite a voice. peace-invoking. homey.

his stories hit home. no matter where that is. they’re so human... often touching and moving. and he’s funny. interesting sense of humor, but funny. i like the show. it reminds me of home. not small-town America, but home nonetheless. Lord! do i straddle two cultures or what?!

b/w listening to Abdelhalim Hafez and Fairouz, to A Prairie Home Companion... it takes a trip to Africa to show me that i’m more of an American than i ever thought, and that’s sooo ironic. but i’m also Muslim and Arab... and i’m reminded of that here constantly, as well. or do i remind myself of that? or am i just that without any reminders? i am.

anywho... i listened to Garrison Keillor’s voice and it took me home. and i was happy to share that with the people i did. now i’ll go back – hear him on NPR – and think of Africa... my friends in Africa. the trip that’s teaching me what i am. ironically. surprisingly. but it’s welcome. it’s all welcome.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

welcome in wum

1/18/2002:
in Bamenda. spent most of the day in Babadjou, though. alone... i mean that i was the only one from Bamenda to go down to the Swearing In Ceremony for the new agro-forestry volunteers. the ceremony was OK. unfortunately dampened by the accident 3 of the former-trainees got into a couple days ago.

they got pretty beat up in a crash b/w Mbouda to Babadjou. you know the road all too well from training. how bad the cars are. how fast they go. one of the trainees broke her jaw. another hurt his head/neck... pretty badly. they both were sent off ot DC today.

the third is in Yaounde... injuries not too serious. all the new volunteers are going to Yaounde actually. for some counseling sessions, understandably. a few seem like they really need it. especially the ones that were at the scene of the accident.

they’re pretty shaken. would not do well at post like that... alone. hope everything works out for them. those in DC and Yaounde. tough time for this stage. hope they stick together. i'm sure they will.

mama called... she’s fine! i’m a little tired. spent much of the day walking. around Bamenda in the AM and Babadjou/Mbouda PM. ate lunch at the Saladiere with Andre and Raymond. they’re coming to visit me at post soon. Das, too... i think.

it’ll go like this... Raymond during Youth Week. a handful of volunteers the week after (they're waking to Wum from Nkambe in 3-4 days!). Das during or before Eid. oh!... and Maggie [my new agroforestry post-mate] will be in Wum in another week or so. everyone’s coming to Wum. everyone’s welcome in Wum!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

sustainability & mercy














my next-door neighbor in wum was a single mother with four children. their ages ranged between about 2 and 14 years old. the two year-old was a precious little girl named Petula. i’d like to share a lesson i learned through Petula... about sustainability and mercy.

Petula’s mother, Mommy-Ka, came knocking on my door one afternoon. she asked me for money. she didn’t ask for very much. in fact, she wanted a loan that she insisted she'd pay back.

mommy-ka was a hard worker, and i knew this. i'd see her up early in the morning getting the kids ready for school... at the farm, tending row after row of corn and bean plants... and in the market, selling oranges and peanuts.

mommy-ka was poor, but a scrapper. she made sure her kids were well fed, well dressed and in school. i never knew how she managed to make ends meet with four children to support and very little income, but she did.

that day that she came knocking on my door, however, all i could think of was the warning that peace corps gave us about lending people money. they advised against it. but if we did decide to do otherwise, we ought only to loan people as much money as we could afford not to get back. i.e., don’t assume that anyone will ever pay you back.

we were also taught to think of ourselves as development workers, and this is where the matter of sustainability arises. development workers help people help themselves. they teach people to fish, they don’t give them fish.

it seemed to me that mommy-ka wanted me to give her fish, not to teach her how to fish. after all, she was asking me for money. no matter that she was asking me for a loan. what guarantee did i have that she’d pay me back? besides, if i gave my neighbors money and they got used to that, what would they do after i left? how was that sustainable?

so what did i tell mommy-ka that afternoon as she stood at my door asking me for a hand? i remember trying, somewhat clumsily, to explain all that i just said above about sustainability and helping people help themselves. i also remember telling her, in pidgin english, “aye nobi bank” = i am not a bank.

i can't remember how much time passed before what i'm about to describe came to pass (though this'll come up in my journals in another notebook or two)... but petula and her mother were away from home for a few days. i hadn't noticed their departure, but i also didn't see them around.

the wailing that day, however, was hard not to notice. i ran to my window and saw mommy-ka coming down the road carrying her baby petula's limp body. they'd been in the hospital for the past few days. petula was dead... of malaria.

1 in 5 childhood deaths
in africa are of malaria. children shouldn’t die of malaria. it's preventable. it's curable. it doesn't take much... but it takes attention. and caring. i can't help but think to myself why didn’t i give mommy-ka that loan? what was i worried about? why didn't i pay more attention? why didn't i care more?

i didn’t kill petula, i know that. malaria did. poverty did. ignorance did. apathy did. but i didn’t help either… inaction is an action. doing nothing is doing something. i should've been the one knocking on my neighbor's door asking if she needed help, not the other way around.

what happened to mercy? what happened to love thy neighbor? and how can "sustainable" be an adjective we use to measure or describe the depth of human relationship (PDF: see 'Whole Language' pp. 37-38)? i learned a hard lesson about sustainability and mercy through this...

it is our reciprocal interactions with others – especially our neighbors (next door, next town, next country...) and particularly those relationships infused with love and mercy — that sustain us… that make us human.

“a believer is not one who eats his fill while his next door neighbor goes hungry.” –Hadith

“life's persistent and most urgent question is 'what are you doing for others?’" –MLK

Monday, October 13, 2008

see the sky

1/17/2002:

“no matter how short a man is, he can always see the sky.”

-today’s proverb (from Ghana) on the BBC’s Network Africa.

Mass at St. Martin's

1/14/2002:
morning time at St. Martin’s Church... waiting for mass to begin. my 1st mass, really. but more so, i’m here on account of Peter and Christina getting married. i’m taking photos for them...

later that day

...took 2 films (50 cartes total) today. mostly at the church, but a few this afternoon/evening across the Nursery School where the wedding reception is still raging, if you will. i’m tired and i dare say that i’ve yet to do any work today. it’s 9:30pm. i’ll stay up until midnight to at least do a little marking [i.e. grading] of papers.

almost forgot... the visiting Cardinal Tumi, Archbishop of Douala, spoke about marriage today, appropriately enough. and condoms and AIDS, not surprisingly. marriage good. condoms bad. that was the message. even promised death to those who use them.

that line is no longer so astounding to me here. still misguided, in my opinion, and definitely misunderstood. i agree with what the Cardinal said about marriage. it is a big part of the answer. not the only answer, but neither are condoms.

the Cardinal said that marriage is about 5 things:
  • Love... two hearts, joined
  • Consent... “i do”
  • Unity... monogamy and fidelity
  • 4Life... “until death due us part”
  • Children... have them
...and that we outside of marriage, himself included, have no right to the beauty and goodness of intimate relations, i.e. sex... outside of marriage, an "abomination." inside marriage, holy. so i’m left pondering where condoms fit into that?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

life here in Wum

1/13/2002:
Sunday evening. still no work done... school work, that is. Mohamad’s got time management issues! ...i’m telling you.

anywho... Nat and Kerri left this morning. we went to Lake Wum. get there a bit late... people there. quite a few. trying to catch tadpoles, fish or something.

still nice there. not as serene, of course. plus the sun was up and the mist lifted... need to be there at like 6am, ideally. leave here before sunrise or right after fajr [sunrise prayer].

again, anywho... we had fool [fava beans], hummus and zaytoon [olives] for breakfast. then i saw them off. they took Patience. the lady at Vatican helped little and gave me no face. [both Patience and Vatican are “bush-taxis” – cameroon's public transportation – to bamenda].

we had our [community men’s group] meeting today. arabic classes starting again. mine on Wednesday evening, 7:30-8pm... won’t be easy! Buba is back, though. so i hope we get going again. i pray i get motivated, get moving.

you know... i think it takes not leaving post. will commit to the community meetings, classes and life here in Wum. go in to Bamenda for mail and banking... even some shopping, but back the same day or next morning.

i’ll just have to ask the crew [my stage-mates] to visit me up here. and i’ll do the same des temps en temps, insha’Allah.

again, i pray for motivation, confidence, peace/serenity/tranquility, guidance, patience, blessings/baraka, and faith... ameen ya Rabb [amen O Lord]!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

non-denomination

1/12/2002:
Natalie and Kerri are here... we had a quaint dinner. showed them around Wum. they’re playing scrabble now. happy they’re here. Dr. Isaac came past, as well... i’ll get to that in a moment.

i cleaned. finished organizing my room, too. Muazu was my only other visitor but he came and left... didn’t even really come in. saw i was busy cleaning. Dr. Isaac, on the other hand, he came and didn’t leave.

he came with a friend, Brother Marion. walked in with sharp suits and carrying bibles... knew i was in for it then. can’t say i was angry, not even through the 2 and ½ hours we “talked” religion. surprised, yes... a bit. mainly b/c i couldn’t figure out why Dr. Isaac [who i know] came here like that. to proselytize.

not sure how i would've reacted if he wasn’t there. as it was, i was civil... even polite. especially to him. to Brother Marion i was blunt and curt at times, yet not impolite. i’m sure i frustrated him, but he did the same.

anyway... it has passed. i’m tired. need sleep. need to do some work! going to Lake Wum tomorrow morning. also have the MSU [muslim students’ union] meeting... God helep!

by the way, Dr. Isaac and Br. Marion’s “non-denomination” is Voice of God. William Branham is their Prophet of God... and the Pope is, more or less, the Anti-Christ. ashia for Catholics!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

gotta cut the hair



1/11/2002:
it’s almost 1am... at around 11:30pm i started cleaning and organizing my bookcase and trunk. you know, on account of the ton of stuff mama brought and i never arranged. i am a perfectionist and thus, after an hour and a ½, my room is still a mess.

it doesn’t look good for this weekend. in terms of accomplishing things. it’s market day tomorrow... but i can’t afford to go. need to wash clothes and clean the floor. plus all the other surfaces now in the living room and kitchen.

i may be getting visitors. natalie and kerri said they may trek over from Fundong. and i’m sure others will visit. as for me, i’d like to see Pa Wango down at SDO [senior divisional office(r)] junction. sorry he didn’t get a chance to meet mama... vice-versa, rather.

Kenneth and Adamu of people to see are also on my list, but i’m not sure i’ll get that far. and i can’t forget school work, of course! LORD!... time management and the weekend. makes you not look forward to them at all. the weekends, that is.

last note... been thinking 'bout shaving my head. hair and shower time are getting too long. as i was talking to the Imams near the mosque today these 2 ladies at the salon kept interrupting, asking me if i wanted to come in and do my hair! it was ridiculous, for two reasons:
  1. b/c i was talking to those 2 men - the imams - and the hairdressers were seriously interrupting our conversation.
  2. b/c they were being just a little facetious and i was totally not in the mood.

gotta cut the hair main... gott cut the hair.

Friday, October 3, 2008

all of me here

1/5/2002:
back in Bamenda. at the Hotel Mondial. got a couple of emails and several letters from home. i miss home. can’t wait for my next visitor. was telling Mike that earlier... can’t wait for the summer break. then the winter holiday again. Mike pointed out that i just want to be on vacation.

yup... i just don’t want to go to school. i don’t want to be a poor teacher. and i’m afraid thus far my heart really hasn’t been in it. and i won’t say “we’ll see” b/c i want to say “we’ll do”... i’ll just say insha’Allah.

you know... i’m happy here. things, many things keep me here. may God keep mere here. all of me.

off to Yaounde

1/4/2002:
last night for mama here in Wum. another long day. they’ve all been long this past week. was losing patience today... too much to do in 1 day. not all had to be done, though, i guess.

my journal (this one) broke... tore actually. the front cover. was afraid of that (see page 2, entry #1).

well... off to Younde this weekend (via Bamenda)... more shopping! :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

present, patient peace & freedom

wum to yaounde was my last Peace & Freedom journal (PFJ) entry... i made it to Yaounde, then Kribi (where i saw many of my stage-mates at IST) and passed my journal on to Traci. it then went to Kay and ended with Natalie. her last entry in my PFJ is on May 13th, 2003.

to recap... my PFJ was a story within a story of sorts. moving much more quickly then my own personal journal b/c there was an entry per week, as opposed one every day or so. so we fast-forwarded through my second year, ending just shy of 2003.

what comes next? here's a preview: IST in Kribi, my trip to Egypt to visit family, and then a return to my last semester at the failing GTTC Wum and, what would ultimately be my last 4 months at post. happy and healthy? not always. in fact, there are 2 medevacs involved.

i'd like to say a few words about my tone in the PFJ entries... particularly, how it gradually becomes more - what to say? - bitter. that's a strong word. it's slightly bitter, somewhat jaded and much more matter of fact.

read the difference between the entries circa 9/4/2001 and those closer to 11/12/2002, if you didn't notice the difference. i probably turned the corner on this change in my second year of peace corps. which is always a milestone, no doubt. there are personal and professional reasons behind this, too.

it's not that i'm unhappy... just struggling. with being in wum. at the GTTC. and away from home for that much longer. on mediocre days, i'm just coasting... "on the long straightaway home." on bad days, i'm thinking "i can't quit now." on good days, i get glimpses of presence.

we'll be going back to early 2002 now... to pick up where we left off. my mother was about to leave after her first visit. we're in wum. i was asking wussai peace and freedom dey? patience and presence tells me it dey in the day to day. and the little things that kept me there.

wum to yaounde

will write little but probably sleep less. leaving Wum for Yaounde in a few hours. gotta pack. grades not completely finished. will do so in Yaounde. Admin of School wants our 3rd Year students’ marks only next term... i want just to be finished. in Yaounde, insha’Allah.

i’m going to do some Medical stuff. pick up a parcel or 2. run some “errands.” in Yaoudne, that’s funny! and by my tickets for Cairo. then off to Kribi on Sunday for IST. see some of you there. PEACE.

aho!
Mohamad
12/11/2002
WUM
NWP

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ramadan Feast

i cannot see the moon. new moon, that is. but, as i’ve already fasted 30 days, i can fast no longer. tomorrow is the feast. the day we celebrate and break our fast.

some folks broke their fast yesterday. w/Nigeria. i’m sure some will only break their fast day after tomorrow. it’s always like that... keeps it interesting, i guess!

anywho... tonight is the 1st night in a month that i won’t have long evening prayers. i’m sure i’ll miss them, but i also need to start sleeping regularly again. my schedule was shot. especially these past few days. i’ve got papers to mark and things to wrap up within less than a week.

hmmm... what to say? all is well. i hope to be on the beach within 2 weeks. and in Egypt with my family within 3. hope all is well with wuna. especially the married/soon-to-be-married... all the best! CONGRATS! PEACE.

aho!
Mohamad
12/4/2002
WUM/NWP

Monday, September 22, 2008

busier better












i’m up late again. got work. fasting really changes my schedule around. i’m busy. classes. teaching practice. clubs at school. all is well though. the busier the better. Feast of Ramadan is around the corner. next week! then i cruise into my most deserved holiday in my PC experience as of yet.

alliswellasihopeitiswithwunaPEACE.

aho!
Mohamad
11/27/2002
dusty Wum!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

schisto positive














i’m not sure why i’m still up??? it’s 10 past midnight. no longer even Tuesday. tomorrow will be a long day. today was a long day.

i’ll have long days for the next 1 and ½. we’re on teaching practice [practicum for our students, primary school teachers in training]. that plus regular classes, plus fasting... right, why am i still up??? i was writing letters. should’ve been planning a lesson. priorities.

anywho... another question: why do i still have this my own Peace and Freedom journal? will i ever exchange it? haven’t seen ya’ll in a LONG time. i pray all is well. i’m happy and healthy.

hey! i heard Tonya’s getting married this December... GET OUT! GOOD FOR HER! that was news to me. looking forward to seeing her and all of you. soon, insha’Allah.

speaking of December. it’s right around the corner. AND so is the 1st term holiday. 1st one i’ll feel like i really, truly deserve since i’ve been here. i’m going to Egypt to see my family, insha’Allah. after IST in Kribi.

Oh... BTW, i tested schisto positive. nice, n’est-ce pas? our PCMO [Peace Corps Medical Officer] called the other day while i was marking student lesson notes. i was like “Ok, i’ll see when i can get into Yaounde by... maybe the end of the month?” priorities.

all right... PEACE.
aho!
Mohamad
11/20/2002
WUM
NWP

Thursday, September 18, 2008

thank God for teaching













hey... you know what?! site visit with our APCD went well. really well! can you believe that? i still almost cannot. i asked everything i wanted to ask. got answers. sufficient ones, at least. i said everything i wanted to say. he listened. even wrote a few things down! all-in-all, again, a very satisfactory site visit. who would’ve thought?

anywho... i’m in week 2 of fasting. and i must say, i’ve been hungry. not a bad hungry. but hungry. which is fine. that’s how i’m supposed to feel. hungry. school’s all right. teaching getting good. administration a mess. totally. in shambles.

if i didn’t enjoy teaching i can’t imagine i’d still be here. things just aren’t right at that school. if it wasn’t my second year here i can’t imagine i’d still be at this school. that bad. and if i worked at a place like this in the States... i know i wouldn’t be at the place for very long.

BUT, and there’s always a but...
  • i’m NOT in the States. i’m here.
  • this IS my second year. i’m staying.
  • i DO enjoy teaching. thank God!
it’s just funny that as soon as i think school can’t get any worse. it does. but no matter... i laugh a bit and move on. i imagine most of you feel the same way about professional frustrations now. i pray you can do the same with the personal frustrations also. i pray all is well with all of you... PEACE.

aho!
Mohamad
11/12/2002
Wum

losing it, losing weight

this’ll be a little more on the sane side and short [i'm referring here to the entry just before this one in my peace & freedom journal that i'm too embarrassed to publish here... "wacky-vac" worthy!].

no worries. all is well... no matter what the previous entry might reflect. i’m happy and healthy. day 4 of Ramadan. fasting. i will be losing weight. i know it. not good. just can’t eat enough.

anywho... our APCD is coming to visit tomorrow. good 4 me! no, really... i do need to talk to him about a few things. COS [close of service], replacement here and the GTTC. hope that goes well... you know how talking to him can be.

i don’t foresee myself switching this book with anyone soon. i’m staying put here until the end of the month. maybe?! hope i can get a few of you to write in here again before too long. i pray all is well with wunna... PEACE.

aho!
Mohamad
11/8/2002
Wum

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

nothing changes

look at the date. it’s still raining here in Wum. steadily. the road is still impassable except by 4X4s. things don’t change much around here. that should come as no surprise.

i’m alone. saw mama off at the airport yesterday evening. then i took a cab straight to the agency/park. overnight to Bamenda. arrived at 5am. got a seat (actually 2 seats) in a Land Rover going to Wum. we left around 7:30am. got to Wum by 10:30am.

i just slept for a few hours... right. not sure why i put ya’ll through all of that. sorry. all is well. happy and healthy. happy and healthy. nothing changes.

aho!
Mohamad
10/22/2002
Wum

Monday, September 15, 2008

ambitious outline














i’ll begin this today/now just to begin. as usual, i’m tired. i’ll finish tomorrow, insha’Allah (God willing). i’d like to note the date (10/15/2002). the rain. my mother’s presence. her approaching absence. routine. apathy. holidays. home-stretch. among other things. OK, tomorrow...

OK, it’s tomorrow... and that’s quite an ambitious outline above. i go try. i’ll do it small-small:

the date: October 15th, that’s when everybody around here says the rain will end. last week, i doubted that highly. but, i must say, it finally looks like it’s on its way out. the rainy season. mama and i leave for Yaounde in a couple days. let’s hope the rain dries.

the rain: see above... one more note, however. not sure how they rainy season is like for you all. here it seems like on long (very long) and backwards March. in like a lamb, out like a lion. funny how things work here, ne’st-ce pas?

mama’s presence/absence: been great having her around. cooking. company. conversation. i haven’t stepped into the kitchen to make anything yet. and she came just in time for that... i was doing omelette shack specials and chocolate sandwiches all too often.

having mama just around the house is even better. i was getting lonely and homesick. the routine of wake-school-read-radio-sleep was getting tired. quickly. and speaking to mama about family, friends, history, politics, cross-culture... though not as in depth as last year has still been a relief and a blessing.

and now she’s leaving. Lord, the house will be quiet and lonely. i’ll be talking to myself again! in the mirror or in my journal. and cooking (or not cooking) for myself. Ramadan is fast approaching. Mohamad will be hurting in a week. no joke. ashia for me...

apathy/routine/home-stretch: i’ll do those ensamble. the 1st is how i find myself feeling about many things now. i don’t get as worked up. realism? pragmatism? fatalism? what’s in a name?

the 2nd is what i find myself falling into. just to make the time go by. life’s unpredictability is enough (b/w school, classes, roads, people, etc.)... i like a little order in life. although it’s not like me.

the 3rd is what i feel like i’m on. the long straightaway home, if you will. not sure how i feel about that. good or bad? maybe both? i’ll ponder that...

holidays: mama wants me (and the rest of our family) in Egypt this December. big reunion of sorts. i’d rather not. b/c of the 2 points above. how i feel when family leaves (or i leave family) and how i feel about our last few months here. her leaving is bad enough. i’m quite uncertain about going all the way to Egypt, seeing EVERYone and then coming back here. here...

thanks for reading.

aho!
Mohamad
10/15-16/2002
HERE!