Saturday, May 31, 2008

algebra of infinite justice

here's something i thought i would share. i remember reading this in an email that floated around shortly after 9/11 when i was in camerooon... can't remember exactly when, though. it's Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things, on the events of september 11th... in an article in the Guardian entitled The Algebra of Infinite Justice.

it's not short-short (~4000 words) but really worth reading... or re-reading now, in hindsight. a lot of what she writes i also find in my journals. but in a much more refined and tempered way. i need to admit here that i've been editing much of my entries in response to 9/11. there's bitterness and anger in there that i don't like reading/sharing, even if i know why it was there.

more than that, though... there's also less of a sense of oneness amongst all people (especially b/w my american and muslim sides) than i now feel and live. it's as if i buy into Bush and bin Laden's "us versus them" rhetoric... even though i saw myself on neither of their sides, so to speak. and, as roy points out in the article, i often see them both on the same side.

what i'd like to end with is where i'm at now... which is closer – though certainly not fully there yet – to not seeing sides. not Arab or American or African... nor Christian or Muslim or "Animist"... not even Human or Animate or Inanimate... just being. existing. i won't say much more... just thankful that my 2 years in cameroon got me a little closer to this. a little.

dragonfly dreams


i dreamt of dragonflies not too long ago. at least i think i did. not sure if it was my dream or someone else’s that i’m confusing with my own... or if it was even a dream.

anyhow... they’re here. the dragonflies. a lot of them. a strange sight b/c i’ve never seen that many of them. they’re not swarming or anything, but still... who’s seen more than a couple of them at a time? at least i can’t remember. it’s great though. having them as harbingers of the dry season. it’s here, too... though not in full.

it’s been almost 2 days without rain. the road is already pretty dusty and the grass on the hills is looking a shade or 2 less green, as well. the weather has been pleasant. that may change. thus far i’m digging this transition between seasons. kinda exciting. i guess b/c it’s new.

speaking of new. just finished my 1st Mambo Bar here in Wum. kids went nuts! like they’d never seen one. they’re wild sometimes. as for the chocolate... i forgot how rich it was.

Friday, May 30, 2008

grasshopper harmony

finished re-reading The God of Small Things. hopefully that means i’m also finished procrastinating from school work. we’ll see... i’ll try not to pick up another novel... but i don't know that that’s the answer. nor do i know that i’m any closer to know what to say about the book now that i’ve reread it.

strange. that i did that. still a great book. the style. the symbolism... rich and still a little unclear. the themes. “LOVE. MADNESS. HOPE. INFINITE JOY.” the children. the adults. the children as adults. the children in adults. and, the worst part, the adulterated children. or maybe the adults without children in them is worse.

strange that polarity. the world of children and the world of adults, as they appear in the book. 2 totally different worlds. with totally different rules and laws. they cannot be harmonized. you cannot live in both. sorry, i’ve lost my train of thought...

1 more thought...

on Muslims, crickets (grasshoppers, too, i guess) and harmony. on at least 2 occasions yesterday i witnessed a Muslim here not wanting to harm one of the countless crickets collecting around us before the dry season. while cleaning the mud outside the mosque... the insect was picked up and placed elsewhere.

and while sitting inside the mosque, the cricket lay on a man’s knee... it was left there, undisturbed. compassion, consideration and harmony like that is beautiful. serene, and somehow much more of a show of strength than the cruel brutality of crushing or torturing the little animals.

a humble strength. that knows its place and its limits. that reflects harmony with nature and with our ultimately small part in all of it. not like the cruel brutality that lashes out against smaller, weaker things to assert its tenuous control and power over those things. that’s what i saw in that cricket on the man’s knee.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Mohamad A. Chakaki
December 25, 2000

I went in to speak to Professor Yeide last Friday. The semester went relatively well but I owed him several (ummm ... seven, to be exact) papers. You know, the short 1-2 page responses due every week. To be honest, I did the reading ... with the exception of Paul Tillich's Systematic Theology. I attended all the classes and contributed significantly. To that Professor Yeide attested himself. Anyhow... I was worried Yeide would either force me to complete these papers or not give me a passing grade. The idea of either of these scenarios playing out scared me.

Neither did. He said it would affect my grade but he couldn't see any benefit of my writing the papers after the fact. In usual Yeide style he didn't just send me on my way. Always took the time to talk and ask me how things were. This time, however, he had some insight for me. Something he'd observed and felt concerned enough to share. I've spoken to Professor Yeide on several occasions. Taken this Religion 101 class twice now. He's read many of my papers and heard many comments/questions from me in class. As such, Professor Yeide was comfortable sharing his diagnosis: very bluntly, he said I was a perfectionist.

I must say, I was at a loss for words. I tried to put together a sentence. A few sentences. None of them came to fruition. I tried b/c to be silent was too awkward. How did he know? The man hit the nail on the head ... squarely on the head. That is one of my most overarching weaknesses ... revealed. I am a perfectionist. How many times did I try to toil through one of those responses? Just one to two measly pages... that's all it would take. Some of the papers I even have complete outlines for. Some I half started. I just couldn't half-ass them. Why do I feel like pouring my heart and soul into my work is the only way to do it? Wait... is there something so wrong in that? Do it right, or don't do it at all.

Yeide said that part of becoming an adult is realizing that there isn't enough time to do everything as we'd like to. How jaded. He said I have to learn that often just adequate work is called for... not excellent work. I don't know... sometimes I do just adequate work. Or are those endeavors that fall short of even attempting excellence? More often than not I begin with elaborate, overachieving outlines... they rarely come to be. Time or energy wane and my plans fall to the wayside. Disturbing b/c this pattern manifests itself in my life in general: aim high, fall short. I am a perfectionist. Am I an idealist though? Not enough of a realist? That's not what Yeide was saying, was it?

I don't see anything wrong with idealism. As a young adolescent I detested the bitter realism of adults. How jaded. I pride myself on being more of kid at heart... idealistic in that regard. I don't know... maybe I haven't grown up. Maybe life isn't meant to be ideal... just real. Reality isn't innocent or childlike most of the time anyway. Most of the time it's bitter and jaded. But back to perfectionism. Yeide was talking about aiming high, falling short, and then not having anything to show for it... much reading, good outline, no paper. That's where adequate work comes in. It gets the job done. Maybe it isn't an accurate reflection of how great I can be... but it's better than nothing.

But at the same time... every job is a reflection of the person performing it, right? I don't want people to judge me by a half-assed job. Sometimes I feel like my work is an extension of my character... if it's good I take pride in presenting it, if it's bad (or even just going to be) I'd rather not present it at all. All or nothing... a favorite expression of mine. An all to accurate representation of my personality, I'm afraid. That's what Yeide was talking about. The extremes... great work or no work. It shouldn't be that way. Yet it can't always be great work. Yeide said that as well. The balance is b/w great work and adequate work. Pick your battles... that's what I said. There's a time for both and there's much wisdom in that.


sent this old journal entry, along with a short letter, to Professor Yeide today. it’s nice to read through now and again... just for focus... still have much to do in the way of implementing all that’s said in here though. in just doing/accepting “adequate work” from time to time. what else to say?...

Monday, May 26, 2008

in the boondocks

the afghanistan posts below triggered a couple responses from friends/readers about their own reactions and emotions during the events of that time. indeed, even the memories from that many years ago are still emotionally charged.

ellen made reference to The Boondocks comic strip and "The Adventures of Flagee and Ribbon" in her comment on one of the posts. i had no idea that Aaron McGruder, the artist/author behind the boondocks, had taken such a stance. here are some articles on the issue as it unfolded:

-a short essay with images of the cartoons, both the boondocks and adventures of flagee and ribbon.

-respectful disagreement and disapproval from the editors of the Daily Mississippian.

-finally, an article in the Nation recapping the whole issue in early January of '02. here's an excerpt from the article quoting one of the boondocks characters (huey freeman) saying thanksgiving prayer that november:

"Ahem... In this time of war against Osama bin Laden and the oppressive Taliban regime, we are thankful that OUR leader isn't the spoiled son of a powerful politician from a wealthy oil family who is supported by religious fundamentalists, operates through clandestine organizations, has no respect for the democratic electoral process, bombs innocents, and uses war to deny people their civil liberties. Amen."

2 thoughts on afghanistan

2 thoughts on this situation in Afghanistan. just 2 thoughts... b/c i still don’t want to go there completely. mainly b/c my thoughts aren’t complete. also b/c i don’t know how to bring all the thoughts and emotions in my head on paper properly. anywho... here are my 2 thoughts.

one... more and more groups (i’m thinking mostly sports teams) are refusing to go anywhere where the is a Muslim population. for fear that there would be anti-western protests/riots/attacks. places like Pakistan and Israel are not surprisingly places people (mostly westerners) don’t want to be. but even those so called moderate Muslim countries like the UAE . what to say?

two... American troops are now using psychological strategies to win over support from Afghani people. civilians, troops, whomever will listen. the Psych-Ops branch of the US military is flying planes low and blasting propaganda... pro-American. they’ve even taken over the radio and dropped radio sets to the station they broadcast from.

all this so that the Afghan people can hear how the US doesn’t want to colonize Afghanistan. does not want to attack the Afghan people’s faith. but only wants to deal with these people who are disrespecting the Prophet Muhammad by their actions. HOW DO I EVEN BEGIN TO DESRIBE MY REACTIONS TO THAT?!

people keep assuming that muslims' issues with what the US is leading, this war on terrorism or Islamic Fundamentalism or whatever... has something to do with our support for “Mr. Bin Laden.” instead, it has to do with our suspicions and fear of the west when it comes to our faith. justified or not.

we don’t want to see America extend its war on terrorism to any other countries... b/c, invariably, it’ll be another Muslim country. and, invariably, it’ll be more innocent civilians dying when a “smart-bomb” misses its target due to human error.

Afghanistan now. Iraq tomorrow. Syria later. will it end? that’s why i didn’t want to go there. still so much to process. so many questions that i don’t know who to ask. let alone how to answer.

Lord, make things clear...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

and afghanistan

also 10/14/2001:
i have one more thing to say about the trip to bamenda. about how our meeting with the CD went... basically, it just went. no surprises. nothing i hadn’t head before in terms of safety and security protocol, "being vigilant." we observed a moment of silence for the victims of September 11th... i had an urge to add “for the innocent victims in Afghanistan, too.” but not sure that would’ve been appropriate or appreciated. so i kept my peace.

spoke to the CD afterwards. tried to say something about how i felt. wasn’t sure what i wanted to say. it didn’t come out right. said something about wanting to vent. wanting to speak to him. to let him know how a person in my situation, with my vantage point, feels/thinks. i suppose i wanted to give him (someone in a position of authority) my 2 cents.

i believe it came out sounding like (and he saw it as) me wanting to be counseled. comforted. a “diversity issue” is what he labeled it. i guess it is in one sense, but it’s not just that... it’s also me no longer wanting to bite my tongue or keep my peace about thoughts, perceptions and actions that bother me. the stuff coming out of the radio and coming from his mouth, as well. but i sure didn’t convey that.

i want to have just one conversation with him. not so much as a PCV to CD. but i feel compelled to let him know where i, as an arab muslim peace corps volunteer, stand. i feel he needs to know. maybe he won't want to know... maybe he will. who knows?

no working blues

OK... it’s morning. the lights have been out for a couple days. spoke to Paul. the water issues are due to recent plumbing work. new meter put in yesterday. 2 problems. meters got switched. paul has mine. i, the new one... and with that, extremely low water pressure. dirty, too. no big deal, though... no complaints. i have water. some don’t. Kay, for example. the trainees coming to Babadjou at the end of the month as well.

i got a bunch of letters from loved ones in Bamenda... often they’re bitter-sweet. so glad to hear from them and to know what they’re thinking/going through. yet so sad to read pain or sadness or anxiety in the letters and not be able to help... with at least a hug or kiss or just being there.

i was asked why my letters lacked detail about my living conditions. was i pampered? did i have a flush toilet? shower? electricity? i remember having a conversation with Greg about that. whether our “peace corps experience” was somehow less of one b/c we had amenities. many. our common opinion was that it’s not just about electricity and running water, or lack-there-of. there’s still the emotional tribulations, cultural frustrations and the work.

still, i can’t deny that going through all that in a mud hut, no electricity or water and inhospitable climate makes it... different. and yet i won’t accept someone telling me that i had it easy. but why am i looking to justify things like that to myself?

the same goes for my workload now. seeing and speaking with the other PCVs, and realizing how many more hours they have, had me feeling a little inadequate. some have 20+ hours! some are teaching in 2 schools. not just 2nd year PCVs, but my stage mates as well.

i’ve got 4 hours now. i do little work. soon i’ll reach 8 hours. i still find myself procrastinating from lesson prep. as little as there is. like right now, i’m writing here and rereading The God of Small Things. at least i’m not sitting around here idle and vegetating, right? i told several folks back at the slum that sometimes i feel more like a homemaker than a teacher. cooking, cleaning, washing, etc.

Mike says it took him until January to get used to / feel comfortable with the teaching thing. patience. of course. but i wonder whether i should look for other things to do... clubs, projects, more classes. whether more work will get me more involved and have me motivated to prepare more??? i don’t know... patience.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

back to wum

just made it back to Wum. it’s Saturday evening. for a second i thought i’d forgotten this journal back in Bamenda. wasn’t sure how i was going to handle that... it was found though. hamdillah! [thank God]. lights are out here. must’ve been the case for a while... water is out, too. i’m tired. not so much form the trip but b/c i stayed up pretty late the past 2 nights at the slum.

folks from the west and the NW crew around. it was nice to see/speak to them. even if sleep was sacrificed. i’ve a lot to write about in terms of learning about other people’s schedules. how much they and how little i teach. also about our EAP [Emergency Action Plan] meeting. got a ton of mail. stuff to say about that too. but, again, i’m tired and this lamplight isn’t helping. tomorrow, insha'Allah...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

4 languages

i'm in bamenda (all of us from the NW province, actually) for a meeting with the CD. more on that later. just wanted to mention my visit to the mosque today. it’s located in the Hausa Quarter, in Old Town. the mosque is spacious, clean, with some calligraphy here and there. some carpeting up front as well. there was one of those pre-khutba [sermon] lectures. to make up for the sparse/light/terse and untranslated formal khutba, i suppose.

the lecture was great!... in 4 different languages. 4 men up there. 1st, this masri sheikh [egyptian preacher] giving the talk in short bursts of Arabic. 2nd, a Hausa man on his right then translates from Arabic to Hausa. 3rd, a Fulani man on the sheikh’s left translates from Hausa to Fufulde. 4th, a man on the Fulani’s left (another Hausa, i think) translates into pidgin english.

the masri sheikh says a few words, often no more than an incomplete thought, then there’s 3 translations. the fact that i understood the original and the last language (arabic and pidgin, that is) and could thus note any deviations (and there were many) had me smiling from ear to ear. just seeing all 4 men up there and hearing the barrage of interrupted sentences was quite a scene!

not to mention observing how one phrase in Arabic would turn into a discourse in Hausa, then a few sentences in Fufulde and just a couple of words in Pidgin. Lord... i wish someone from back home could’ve been there to witness it. Omar, Alredha, Samer, Salime... anyone! i’d like to know a little more of each of these 4 language before i leave, insha’Allah. even Arabic.

i should mention the lecture’s topic. after all, it wasn’t just a show... i did learn something. raising children was the focus. the sheikh explained the hadith [a saying of the Prophet Muhamamd] about raising children in 3 stages: 1-7 years, 8-14 years and 15-21 years. stage one, you pamper and play with them. stage two, you teach and guide them. stage three, you befriend and council them.

after that they’re on their own... no longer your responsibility in terms of guardianship or accountability for their actions. but, the sheikh added, if you want to seal (ikhtem) your work with them well, you need to make sure they marry early. that's not part of the hadith, though.

Monday, May 19, 2008

con artist

this young man introduced himself to me yesterday (quite bluntly, i may add): “Mark,” he said as he pointed at himself, “i’m an artist.” “of course,” i thought, “aren’t we all?” anywho... he’s Francophone. says he works in Bamenda. also says he’s been around and that he has an “American babe.”

right... so he came around again today (as promised) to show me his work. “Jesus on the cross” on a T-shirt. nice image actually. quite cubist. cheap T-shirt. was trying to sell it for 5000cfa. instead i brought a bracelet and necklace off him for 2000cfa.

he wanted to sell anything and i wanted him to leave. so we really didn’t bargain. i’m an artist, too... art of tasreef [over-spending] is what i’m working on. but as the jewlery i bought was/is totally not worth 2000cfa i guess Mark’s the better artist for now... con artist.

i let him know, not in so many words, that i was too busy to entertain him so he left right after the transaction. it rained, heavily, shortly thereafter. maybe he got wet??? cruel to think so. maybe i’m bitter??? just was not interested in humoring him any longer. i'm sure he won't be the last "artist" i meet here.

oh... got my 1st bill today! from SNEC [water company] for 2,210cfa. thats approximately 1 bracelet, 1 necklace, a door-to-door ride from home to work and one of those long, rolled-up groundnut things! but who's counting???

Sunday, May 18, 2008

peace corps blues

quick note: here's more from my former peace corps director on the peace corps "losing it's edge" in assisting developing countries: NPR audio interview.

afghanistan attacked #2

listening to the BBC again this morning. more of the same. seems Bin Laden has given interviews on Jazeerah satellite TV. it’s based in Qatar. one Arab commentator, in that great thick/heavy accent of ours goes “the Americans want to kick butt, but i don’t think there is any butt to kick there.” referring to the lack of any real substantial (or as the US would like to make them out to be) military targets, especially the now infamous “terrorist training camps.”

on the American end they’re calling this an operation of “bombs and bread.” on account of the food rations they’re also dropping on Afghanistan. to which International Aid organizations respond saying it’s blatant propaganda. just token gestures to keep everyone on their side. and across the Muslim world (Palestine, Afghanistan, Indonesia, etc.) people are in the streets rioting. protesting American action. in Gaza a couple of people were killed by the government troops dispersing the crowd. what to say?

Friday, May 16, 2008

afghanistan attacked

i’m sitting here at my desk in my bedroom and i’m listening to the BBC reporting on “a 2nd night of attacks on Afghanistan.” in and around both Kabul and Kandahar. US led and with Great Britain's cooperation. no civilian casualties reported from Western point of view, a couple dozen according to Afghanistan. this is an attack on Bin Laden’s people and camps. also an attack on the Taliban now and will end with the installation of a “more moderate, representative government” there.

this is disconcerting b/c it has the potential to morph just as easily into a “War on Islamic Fundamentalism” everywhere. the US is already declaring that they may have to extend this war on terrorism past Afghanistan. a war, they say, that may take years. i’m tired though... i wont’ go there. just wanted to document the fact that the attacks began last night, 10/7/2001. according to our CD we are now in “bicycle” of our EAP [Emergency Action Plan]. standfast that is. we have a meeting with the CD in Bamenda about all this on Friday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

wum MSA

yesterday afternoon i got an invite to a MEMSU meeting. Menchum Muslim Students’ Union. an MSA here in Wum! it was a strange hybrid of Cameroonian protocol and good ol' MSA culture. it also took forever... set for 11am, began at noon. broke for prayer. came back. i left at 3pm and it was still going.

the fact that there is interest, motivation and effort to do the things they want to do is great. makes me happy. cleaning the mosque. going out to schools to fill the gap in “Moral Instruction” class for Muslim students. working on building a urinal for the area around the mosque, etc.

still, some things worry me. it’s strange that the same frustrations we faced back in the US seem likely to come into play. complacency among members. fundraising. getting bogged down in details and seeing an ugly side of people. even worrying about government perception... all the more so here since even our little meeting today, which we didn't have official permission to hold, would be considered an “illegal gathering.” how iron curtain!

but i won't even go into that... my thoughts on the matter of perception of Muslims right now are somewhat bitter and emotionally charged. so i’ll keep those caged up for now, if you will. let them simmer down and process... that’s another entry in here all its own. waiting to come out. to be released. with ease, insha'Allah.

anyway... i introduced myself to the group, told them i was sincerely happy to see this Association coming together, answered a few questions on MSAs in the USA (again, in many ways the same as here it seems... for better or for worse) and i pledged my support and assistance as much as i could offer.

honestly, i just don’t want to over-commit. like back in college. that frustration. endless meetings and anger/annoyance with colleagues and a community that won’t respond. i want to come out for general meetings. an executive meeting every now and again. give advice when and where i can. help in the projects. i guess i just don’t want to lead. is that wrong?

i kept my mouth shut at the meeting today. just spoke when they asked me to introduce myself. the community needs leaders, but i don’t feel as if i’m the man for this job... not here and now. it's not like they’ve asked me to run the organization! but i know how it goes. commitment.

i just hope my intentions are pure and righteous in this case. i don’t want to think that i’m shying away from service just because of how muslims are perceived in these times or how others would perceive my involvement. ahhh... God bless and guide.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008



i’m laughing out loud right now! just ran into that little man Hamza at the beignet lady’s roadside shack. no hello from the little man. no good morning. just a stern, angry face and a few smacks on my leg. he’s still angry at me from yesterday. i sent a few of the kids home. they were bugging me about groundnuts on the balcony. Hamza had a knife with him... God knows why kids his age can walk around with them??? i took that too so he got extremely vexed. the kid can wail.

every time i remember that expression on his face this morning... just a few minutes ago, actually... i crack up. little big man, Hamza. the kid has issues, but i like him. he’s got character. a rough, child-sized dignity about him. wish they’d put him in school though. he stands outside every morning alone (when everyone’s already away at school) watching the kids at the nursery school across the street play, sing and learn.

he plays, too. sings along every now and again. but he doesn’t know all the words. it’s quite a contrast. all of them across the street, clean, in uniform, singing in rank-and-file. him alone. dirty-faced and ragged. free to do as he pleases i suppose. every now and again he joins in. late and with the wrong words.

the god of small things

“Smells, like music, hold memories. She breathed deep, and bottled it up for posterity.” -Arundhati Roy, from The God of Small Things

it seems like every Wednesday it rains. in truth, everyday it rains. but on Wed and Friday afternoons i look forward to playing ball and i’m usually disappointed. the rain. come dry season it’ll be too hot or too dusty. i’ll be fasting, too. we’ll see... as always.


QUICK NOTE... just finished reading The God of Small Things this morning. wonderful book. so creative so real. how she wrote it with the freshness of a child and the wisdom of a grand old mother, simultaneously, i don’t know. but it spoke to me on so many levels. i’m thinking about recommending it to Rama. i’ll try to react to the book in more detail after it settles for me. driven by a quote from the back cover i finished the last page and flipped right back to the 1st. it’s that good. that full, rich and intricate. so real.

Monday, May 12, 2008

think again: the peace corps

In the eyes of Americans, no government agency better exemplifies the optimism, can-do spirit, and selfless nature of the United States than the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, it’s never lived up to its purpose or principles.

think again: the peace corps... an article in foreign policy magazine by my former country director, Robert Strauss. it's worth reading. like the recent NY Times op-ed, too many innocents abroad, he's extremely critical of the peace corps on a number of points: the quality of volunteers, their placement, the agency's lack of strategy, etc. and like the op-ed, this article has generated a range of responses from the peace corps community. some positive, some negative.

i won't respond to strauss' article here. suffice it to say that i think he's doing this with good intentions. i.e. wanting to see the agency change for the better. i recall him saying that he came back to the peace corps b/c he believed it could actually make a difference, and he wanted to be part of that. i believed him when he said that. this is what strauss has to say at the end of the article:

[Peace Corps] must go out and recruit the best of the best. It must avoid goodwill-generating window dressing and concentrate its resources in a limited number of countries that are truly interested in the development of their people. And it must give up on the risible excuse that in the absence of quantifiable results, good intentions are enough. Only then will it be able to achieve its original objective of significantly altering the lives of millions for the better.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

driving into a pole, explained...

found out that it actually wasn’t a stolen car the night before last. some high-ranking civil servant (forgot who exactly... the chief of gendarmes?) just wrecked his car... drinking, perhaps. speeding like that at that hour and in those conditions. it’s been raining so much recently. but it’s October and soon that’ll stop.

this morning i did a mini-round of protocol. the Commissioner of Police and the 2nd Assistant DO requested i visit them. the Commissioner is a muslim man from Foumban... where the Sultan’s Palace is in the West. he’s a prince/chief there. big man... literally and figuratively. the 2nd Assistant DO is also Francophone, from Bambotous actually.

seems he wants me to help him with his English. it isn’t that great for a man in his position, i suppose. everyone wants my help in language! i need help in language... trying to speak French to both men was rough. my French is horrible. don’t know when or how to get started on working on it???

taught a lesson on insects today. went well... actually prepared ahead of time. group work. live specimens. teaching and learning aids. lecture... all that. gotta start testing them though. next week, insha’Allah. i need more gelatin for the hectograph.

not sure if i’m going down to Bamenda this weekend. i do want my mail and a few things (PB, blender, books and to see a PCV or two), but Teacher’s Day is Friday and that means i’d have to travel Saturday and return on Sunday. no weekend here. short time there??? we’ll see...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

driving into a pole

also 10/1/2001:
another note... yesterday, just before midnight. an apparently stolen car came racing down the road and hit an electricity pole across the street. right outside my window. they tried to restart the car and go but failed. just abandoned it. Gendarmes were on the scene in minutes. towed the car away. no real sign of it now. i’m out on the porch looking at the site. skid marks and scratches on the pole. Wum. interesting place... armed robbery at the post office down the street in broad daylight the other day. and now this.


subhan-Allah... it’s already October. Autumn in America. it seemed like Spring just yesterday. i left home just yesterday. i left a more-or-less quiet America. no real or immediate indication that we’d be bracing for all this. what is all this? i wish i knew exactly. even with news from the BBC and VOA i still feel totally disconnected. an outsider. not sure exactly how or what people are thinking back in the states. whether they too feel like we’re “at the brink of war” as some dramatic news broadcasts say. World War III, i’ve even heard.

i don’t believe (or don’t want to believe) that. especially since it isn’t all too clear exactly who "the enemy" is being made out to be. this morning i listened to a broadcast by one Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN)... a conservative Christian station out of Santa Ana, CA. a man gave a long, detailed discourse on Islamic Fundamentalism, Yasser Arafat, Saddam, the events of September 11th and the current political ramifications. quoting all too liberally from the Qur’an and having no qualms about blurring the lines b/w terrorism, “Islamic Fundamentalism,” and Islam. indeed, he may just as well have said that Islam is the enemy...

i’m not even sure he didn’t call muslims the enemy. it was tough following his logic sometimes. suffice it to say that we’re a blood-thirsty, murderous people aimed at toppling democracy everywhere. Israel and the US being the primary targets. i suppose i’ve heard all this before. maybe not in so direct and comprehensive an expression. it didn’t surprise or disturb me all that much. maybe b/c there was no undertone or insinuation in what he was saying... he couldn’t of been more straightforward. better to know exactly who your enemy is, i guess... although i don’t like that word, ENEMY.

Monday, May 5, 2008



Ukpwa. 9km from Wum, up past GBSS [Govt. Bilingual Secondary School]. 1000cfa moto-taxi ride. very scenic route. again, open grassland... well, in this case just “opening” out into distant hills and valleys. i say just opening because there are trees planted along the road. farms and houses, as well. but that’s all left behind after a short while and it stars to open up into pasture land.

we stopped along the road a couple of times to greet people from the village; folks traveling to Bamenda and some elders waiting for the DO [Divisional Officer or Prefet]. he was supposed to come out and see “native” farmers encroaching on pasture land but he never showed.

the village is relatively new and modern... as modern as a rural village can be, i suppose. there’s been much in the way of development work done out there. the people are survivors of the Lake Nyos disaster so they were resettled in Ukpwa (and a number of other villages) about 13 years ago.

i imagine they got international funding for relief efforts... Mu’aath says the government put up minimal infrastructure and "chopped" the rest. they got 66 houses, cement and zinc roofs but all unfinished. a primary school. water catchment and local water system... rain sourced, of course. grinding mills and land. much land. cattle too, i guess.

they’ve also had much in the way of NGO development work. with international groups like Heifer and HELVETAS, and other local organizations. Mu’aath showed me the fields and pastures. i saw examples of animal traction. bee keeping. grass for preventing soil erosion. grass for cattle feeding. live fencing. leguminous plants. flowering plants. for fields and bees, respectively. live stock enclosures. specifically ones for vaccination. it was all very interesting. i hope all the outside input really helps.

we drank fresh milk. boiled, of course. ate fufu corn and ndjamma-ndjamma. prayed dhuhr there... in a mud-brick mosque. as the issue of farmer-grazer conflict came up (on account of the DO’s visit) i asked a little about that. Mu’aath knows his stuff in terms of the issues and actors in the local scene here.

anyhow... an enlightening visit all around. and i really enjoyed myself! i love that open grassland. i guess its the open space. the big sky... grassy green or sandy desert, they’re different but also the same. i envy the agro-forester who gets to go out into the bush like that regularly. i’m sure there’s much hard work and frustration involved. but it’s beautiful out there.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


i can’t stop eating. the time b/w my meals is ever decreasing. i wonder if it’s the lack of meat? or worms?... the food-food is good. i’m enjoying cooking and eating, but sometimes it’s all just a formality before dessert.

not like that’s some extravagant course here... PB & honey, a banana, tea/coca/milk. that’s “dessert.” i’ve stopped eating Mambo bars. my daily addiction during training. i’m sure they can be found. just not craving them.

OK... i’m going to visit Mu’aath’s village today. we leave in an hour or 2. meet the folks. see the fields. chill. eat. back by 2pm, insha’Allah.

one last point... yesterday (9/28/2001) seems to be the 1st anniversary of this current intifada. i thought it was 9/9/2000 that it all began, but i was wrong. heard it on the BBC news.

Friday, May 2, 2008


made it out to Omaru’s compound this afternoon. after school we walked over. down the road beginning at the moto-taxi park (but we took a "cut-short" right past the nursery school down that path with the log bridge) and way past all the houses, trees, people, over a stream and out into the grassland. what a spot! what a backyard! rolling green hills and valleys. a mini-village for a home. quiet. serene. only the birds making noise. the dogs, sheep and rooster, too, i guess... but that’s not noise. not like out here by my house.

it was beautiful. i wanted to stay out there. i met an endless stream of brothers and nephews, Omaru’s sister and mother. all very welcoming. talked to an older brother who just graduated from Yaounde. history. going to teach. Omaru promised to take me out to see the cattle soon. out into that open grassland that is his backyard. what a view. wish i could’ve spent 3 months of training in a setting like that. peace and beauty. Oh... it’s also the scene for Eid prayer and feast. people from town go up to pray, sacrifice and eat there. too nice. cannot wait.