Wednesday, July 30, 2008

limbe peace & freedom

Omar’s birthday today! wrote him a letter. i’d like him to come here. Limbe has relaly changed my outlook on Cameroon. realized how much i took the country for granted and how much i have to be grateful for. down here, up North and in Wum. i want people to visit. omar and a friend or two... still, i know, it’s intense. but if mama can do it, they can too.

...we just did Peace and Freedom here. at the Hotspot. amazing how quickly we jumped back into it. like old friends, it takes no time at all to realign, so to speak. it’s a beautiful thing, Peace and Freedom. how comfortable and free we are with our emotions. how open and receptive we are to each other. no judgments. just listen. empathize. understand. support with a presence... even when apart.

the bond there is so strong... and amazing in such a diverse group. a testament to how open-minded we were and continue to be. i think that keeps many of us here. me included. i love my stage... people i know i’ll never forget. good people. people i love for who they are inside. no judgments. on my part or theirs. acceptance. affection. sincerity. it’s beautiful.

limbe relax

early morning. just after fajr [morning prayers]. t-shirt weather in the morning. beautiful. gonna soak up as much relaxation and contentment as possible here this next week... then bring that all back to Wum with me, insha’Allah.

spoke to omar yesterday. miss that kid. he'll be 20 tomorrow. no longer a “kid,” i suppose. hope to see him soon... hear from him sooner.

Monday, July 28, 2008

eid in the tropics!


30th day of Ramadan. off to IST with moms (over-packed, of course).... bisalaamah insha’Allah!

12/16/2001: Eid day, in Limbe!
kul ‘aam wa-nahnu bekhair! (may ever year find us in goodness). sitting in the Hotspot Cafe at the Botanic Gardens with mama. gorgeous view! the rhythm of the tide has brought some serenity down upon me. the low afternoon sun reflecting off an endless placid Atlantic surface is quite a sight.

indeed, everything since Baffoussam has been such a contrast to [the dryness of] Wum. ahhh... the tropics! God i miss plants. trees. nature. Wum town is so lacking in that regard. i came to Africa realizing i wasn’t going to the desert-sahel but thinking the tropics wouldn’t/couldn’t be bad. and they aren’t, but i’m not there!

no complaints... no, i am complaining. but still grateful for what we do have up there in Wum and Bamenda. but right now i’d trade in amenities, email and all else for the peace and freedom that trees and tides could give me.

the drive in from the high grasslands of the Northwest Province was something. not spectacular but so interesting in the gradual transitions b/w all the zones. and there’s a PCV in about each one. the dry season stopped Up Station in Bamenda. it even rained in Bamenda last night. from the West on it was so lush. so green. so fresh.

the plantations in the West and Littoral Provinces were a sight. banana/plantain, coffee, papaya, rubber... the endless rows and patterns along rolling hills and a backdrop of mountains. the plantations made me think of Apollonian order. the epitome of it... in a Dionysian jungle [references to The Botany of Desire].

i’m looking forward to a stroll through the gardens this week. early morning or late afternoon. i’m going to ask God of one thing... to keep my heart here for this next week. i mean not to let it go fluttering away and get entangled in the tall trees, lush foliage, beautiful flowers and the roll of the ocean. b/c i need to go back to Wum soon. and my heart needs to come back with me.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

arab & african culture


“jirahatu as-sinani laha ilti’aamun, wala yaltamu ma jaraha al-lisanu.”
What (sharp) teeth wound will eventually heal, but what (sharp) tongues wound will not heal.

mama came up to school yesterday. watched my 3rd year EE class. nothing special. we sat and talked in the staff room a bit. the proverb above came up... i can’t remember why exactly. funny how rich our and African culture are in words. ours written, theirs oral. though ours wasn’t always written. many other commonalities.

mama has been highlighting these commonalities for all our guests. we’ve had a ton. just about 2 or 3 every night. she’s been a gracious host. great food, company, conversation... couldn’t ask for more. for me or my guests. Allah ya’teeha al-‘aafeeya wa y'khaleelna yaha [may God bless and keep her].

and i’ve been trying to be nothing but grateful, patient and affectionate... can’t be anything else as she deserves no less. tomorrow we leave for Bamenda. then Limbe for IST. a week or 2 of rest and catch up on letters home and reading for pleasure. as when i come back there’ll be much to work on.


in the staff-room at the TTC [my school, the Teacher Training College,]. this place (the room, that is) has been putting me to sleep. maybe it’s getting hotter. maybe i’m more tired... the fasting, the lack of sleep, the afternoon classes.

whatever it is, i’m feeling quite unproductive. have done almost no marking of the 300+ tests i have. partly unmotivated b/c i know the marks will count for NOTHING! [my subjects are not part of the core curriculum]. partly been procrastinating by keeping mama company.

anyhow... my mind done scatter. all over the place. letters home. letters to organizations and contacts for books. meetings with the Muslim students. guess it’s not that much when you put it on paper.

there’s more in my head, though, and the million other things that come up in reality (untimely visits, lazy afternoons, unmotivated mornings, etc. etc. etc.) that aren’t reflected on paper. but i’m being overly dramatic or kaslan [lazy]. i’ll end there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

the richest PCV

back in Wum now. mama and i just ate. fasooleeya b'zyat [green beans with olive oil] and tabouleh! sitting in the living room. i’m just about the richest PCV in Cameroon now. all consumer goods aside, i’m richer b/c mom is here. wa al-hamdulillah.

i pray there’s nothing but goodwill and love b/w the 2 of us this entire trip and beyond. gonna really miss her when she leaves. i just know. i’m already venting to her in so many ways. it’s great that we can talk about so much.

i’m also missing home a lot more with her around though. God I miss home. the family. the house. DC. will have to sit down and write a heartfelt letter out before she leaves. to her and the family. may God bless and keep them, insha’Allah.

mama's here!

at the Ayaba Hotel in Bamenda with mama. Saturday morning. did some shopping yesterday. not too much. a bit more today. we ate couscous (moroccoan style!) with Liz at the slum. mom cooked. Liz was great company. mom brought a ton of stuff from home. a ton! 4 bags. will flop [pidgin, for fill up] a Vatican bus back to Wum tomorrow morning. chairs, mattress and 4 bags being the big items.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

shocking dream

OK... the other day i took an afternoon siesta. was tired from getting up too early for suhur [pre-dawn meal] and sleeping late after taraweeh [evening prayers].

it was Saturday afternoon. i had a bad dream. seemed like i was in the house here in Wum. mom was in the kitchen. cooking, i think. i was just outside in the living room trying to iron something.

for some reason, there was water on the floor. i knew that. still i reached for the outlet to plug the iron in. i was thinking to myself this isn’t such a good idea. but i went ahead. and it happened. i felt the buzzing in my head. even my body shook.

but my wits stayed with me. i tried to ground my feet to the floor to no avail. i wasn’t cursing or screaming but i can’t remember if i invoked God’s name. the dream ended as soon as the current seemed to stop running through my body and i realized, at the very least, i was alive.

Monday, July 21, 2008

World Cup 2002

World Cup Drawings 2002:
- Cameroon / KSA / Ireland / Germany
- Nigeria / Argentina / Sweden / England
- Senegal / France / Denmark / Uruguay
- USA / South Korea / Portugal / Poland
- South Africa / Spain / Paraguay / Slovenia
- Brazil / Turkey / China / Costa Rica
- Mexico / Italy / Croatia / Ecuador
- Japan / Russia / Tunisia / Belgium

...anywho, Cameroon has a 33 in 1 chance of winning. more interested in KSA vs. Cameroon. gotta get on all the Saudi fellas back home before/after that match.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Salaam Imam Ali

bism Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim
a few thought-provoking things i came across during ramadan reading. worth looking into...

{wa Allahu yad3u ila dar as-salaam wa yahdi man yashaa’ ila siraatin mustaqim}
Yet Allah calls to the Abode of Wholeness (Dar as-Salaam) and guides whom He pleases to a way that is straight.
-Qu'ran, Surat Yunus (10:25)

Kalimaat mukhtara min hikam Amir al-Balagha, Imam Ali bin Abi Talib
Selected Sayings from the Wisdom of the Prince of Eloquence:

-Loss of loved ones is exile.
-If the mind is sound the speech is little.
-Expand your notion of the Creator and it will belittle your view of the created.
-The passage of time will not betray the patient, even if it takes its time.
-He who keeps his secrets is free to make his own choices.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

cleaning house

can’t remember whether mama is arriving in Yaoudne today or tomorrow? i'm sure she’ll call. i spent all day cleaning. did laundry right after fajr. then helped clean the mosque. then came back to clean the house. pretty dusty.

i had to wait for the painter before i cleaned mom's room, but he showed an hour and forty-five minutes late. missed the MSU meeting on account of that. after he left i cleaned the entire house, put mom's bed together and the curtains up.

my back is in pain. really wasn’t watching out for it today... lifting, bending, etc. no stretching the past couple of days and little exercise during Ramadan. i’m tired and thirsty. bye.

remind me to write about the dream i had yesterday afternoon. shocking!

Friday, July 18, 2008

December 1st

December 1, 2001: World AIDS Day
...haven’t done much in the way of HIV/AIDS work/education here yet. some thinking on the topic only. here’s to getting something/anything achieved by this date next year, insha’Allah.

this morning i had suhur [pre-dawn meal] out at Sufyan’s chop-house. bean omelet, bread and tea. moon was so full. so bright. so prominent in a clear sky. didn’t set until much past 6am. prayed fajr at the masjid. would like to keep that up.

i took several photos of the moon and the grassy meadow below the hospital. it’s in full bloom. experimented/fooled around with the camera (flash/no-flash), so i hope some of the shots come out all right. oh... the furniture is slowly arriving.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

special place in my heart

she says “i shouldn’t have to tell you that you have a very special place in my heart.” and that should be enough for me... for so many reasons and in so many ways.

funny how the heart and mind can seldom be coordinated. not necessarily in conflict but running on 2 different wavelengths and often interfering. or at least all too often not coinciding.

you can tell yourself you will just stop thinking. and maybe you will. but the heart beats to a different tune and it’s one that drowns out thoughts.

so i think of her. with my heart. not incessantly. but enough. enough to make me wonder what it is i want? and why it seemed so clear then and so clouded now?

i know the answers. in my mind i know the answers. but my heart is ignorant of or ignoring all those thoughts. b/c no matter what my mind is saying, i know she has a very special place in my heart.

Monday, July 14, 2008

keep me here

11/26/2001: later that evening...

there are things that keep me here

like dusty roads in the cool moonlight
closing my eyes and filling my heart with happiness
and my lungs with queen of the night

late afternoon breezes through rustling grass
a setting sun silhouetting a stately tree
before dipping away behind western hills

children struggling with buckets of water ½ as big as them
and bearing beaming smiles even bigger

and letters from home that make me wonder why
it takes distance to bring people closer together

and short little memories i didn’t know i had
to make me appreciate what i had and hadn’t

those things keep me here
so may God keep them coming

on gender and culture

Monday morning. back in Wum. the meeting with our APCD went relatively well. i.e. short and painless... we’ll see how fruitful it was come IST. i sent the health APCD an email regarding the HIV/AIDS session. that we’d like a session geared specifically to how to combat myths, preconceptions and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS, condoms and sex education. we’ll see... maybe i was asking too much.

the session on women’s issues (suggested by kay) would also be nice. think we’d have to run it though as the trainers were just looking at us with blank faces. it would be nice to address issues like some of the female PCVs face at post. discrimination and insensitivity on the part of men... knowingly or not.

this is tough only b/c we’d be trying to address something so entrenched in culture. some may hesitate to bring up the issue, fearing that it’s not our place to even attempt to change such things. i think it’s anybody’s place. it’s not just a 'western' notion of feminism and women’s lib... it’s about respect, equity and justice.

i don’t for a moment buy the cop out that such gender issues are cultural. that we’re better off saving ourselves the trouble of confronting it. maybe we can’t (i’m sure we can’t) change an attitude like that with one session at IST or even 2 years here. still we need to try and should start somewhere.

if the ladies can share some experiences and enlighten us on situations that made them uncomfortable/angry... ones we were/are totally oblivious to. we need to learn to be a little more aware of things said or unsaid that we ought not condone or be complicit in.

and this is'nt just for their sake but other women around us (Cameroonian too, of course) and our sake. kinder, better, less ignorant, more righteous people. but it shouldn’t be an issue of West vs. East b/c it’s not.

again, i don’t for a minute buy the notion that this is how an entire culture treats its women and, thus, something that cannot be addressed for fear of impinging on cultural norms.

ahhh... you know, who am i kidding? this is a very complicated issue. i need to talk to kay and adam about it. we’ll see what we can come up with for an IST session.

Friday, July 11, 2008

praying for peace within


“Don’t force a journey.”
-written on the rear-bumper of a taxi here in Bamenda.


at the slum. pretty full. even Kristen came in from Mamfe. looks good and is doing well. we’ll be feasting today. THANKSGIVING! 1st... we have a meeting with our APCD about IST [In-Service Training]. 9am. PC Car will come pick us up.

i did maghrib/iftar/taraweeh [sunset/break-fast/night prayers] with a few Hausa shabab [young men] yesterday. that was nice. Muhammad from the mosque in Old Town Bamena. the one who translates Sheikh Muhsin’s Arabic into Hausa. well versed young man. there was also a young man whose folks live in Wum.

we ate at Hajja’s house. an older ma who takes care of them. we at so much, masha’Allah! Muhammad led us in taraweeh. even made a long du’aa [supplication] for witr [last prayer of the night]. the atmosphere was so comfortable for being around people i barely knew. so kind and hospitable.

good people here. makes Ramadan that much more blessed. makes me content. makes my heart a little less fleeting. Allahumma ij’al al-tama’neena wa as-sakeenah wa ar-raha fi qalbi [Lord, let there be peace, serenity and comfort within]... AMEN!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


been a little while since i've written here. guess i’m adjusting to the Ramadan schedule. my APCD came around a week early for site visit. he and our PCMO [Peace Corps Medical Officer]. no big deal. house and yard were clean. mosquito net wasn’t up. the Doctor wasn’t overly concerned about that. said i should get it up though.

the APCD observed my Year 2 EE lesson on Biotic Interactions. no TELE-aids today, of course. no big deal. he said it went fine. it did. i tried to talk to him about some of my concerns but nothing came out or across clearly. GTTC issues. house issues. site issues. they’re not really ISSUES, just things i’d like him to know about. things a good volunteer “should” (?) be critical about. but, again, nothing came out right.

not surprising when i think about it, though. just finished writing a Peace & Freedom entry about it. the APCD only wants to hear that we’re happy, healthy, safe... and working to some extent. all else bounces off his shield of “i’m the APCD, the man with all the answers.” that’s not fair though, b/c i suppose that’s the case with Admin in general. only PCVL Mike has sat and listened enough (and empathized... i guess that’s the key) to allow me to vent with satisfaction. the rest of the PCVs too, of course.

it’s funny how we learn, with time out here, who to vent about things to. it’s sad that the people who listen are only the ones in our shoes and, in many ways, as helpless to do something about the status quo as us. so we learn to bite our tongues and keep all those things we want changed (no matter how trivial or grand) inside... we just say what they want to hear. the easy/simple/clean/comfortable answer. “no, all is well... no complaints.” God forbid we be dubbed complainers.

it’s sad b/c that’s exactly how things don’t get done. how they don’t get changed. strange how we adapt to so much of the culture. even the notion that you can’t change things... at least not with your voice/tongue/words. that’s too bad. b/c it’s a good thing in American society. all the higher-ups need critical, constructive and regular feedback. here it’s not thought of as feedback but complaints. and it’s not wanted and looked into but dealt with on the spot with some half-assed answer. “good, on to the next point.” bounces off people like a dud.

only once have complaints (no i’ll use grievances) been dealt with effectively... our 'gripe-session' at the end of stage with the CD. but you get the sense that he listened and took in the difficult, uneasy answers b/c he could do something about them. would be quick/easy for him to follow up and change things. so is everyone else who has grievances bounce off them just doing so b/c they really can’t change things? or don’t want to go through the trouble of getting the ball rolling to do so?

this has been a journal entry about grievances and the art of accepting/handling them. this journal entry itself is a grievance. not to some higher authority that can change things. but to/for myself. at least i listen. at least i let myself vent. at least i don’t attempt to answer every grievance even when i can’t. at least i can admit that some things cannot be easily answered or realistically/effectively/efficiently dealt with. but i listen and i let myself speak my mind.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ramadan 1st

kul 3aam wanta bekhair [happy new year] and Ramadan mubarak [blessed Ramadan]! Day #1.

my runs are on the run. Thank God. still not 100% though. no complaints. looking forward to a healthy, blessed month, insha’Allah.

i bought a twig for 50cfa today. guy at the mosque assured me it was a miswak... r-i-g-h-t!

oh... and i was the late on 2 occasions today:
  1. Apollo, the plumber, came around at 2:30—no! 2:20—and i was just coming back from prayer. said i’d be in after 2pm. don’t know what he was in such a rush for???
  2. i was also late to the Bio Dept Social. at which we simply ate and watched a Nigerian flick. Chindong, the HOD [Head of Department], didn’t show until most everyone had left. ~7pm. i showed up about 5:45pm. was supposed to be there at 5pm.
what happened to polychronism??? anywho... not making anymore commitments this month... insha’Allah.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pa Wango

11/14/2001: post 3 of 3...
OK... my talk with Pa Wango. i asked about HIV/AIDS, condoms and abstinence. at 1st he wasn’t sure if he could help. said he’d been out of the health field before AIDS arrived at the scene (’85) here. also that he was no expert. turned out he knew more than enough. and i was looking for an elder’s opinion/wisdom, not technical advice. he gave me the former, sage advice.

we talked about the stats, the kids having sex, condoms being ineffective, AIDS being invented, St. Paul’s prophecy on societal breakdown, immorality, sexual perversion and, interestingly, how Kabul would be “free” to go that route, too... and, in his opinion, all the more susceptible to HIV/AIDS. interesting twist or perspective.

i must admit that i, too, noted the irony of Kabul’s new found freedom, as the radio put it. but to me it was framed as the US freeing the people from Islam. they could now shave their beards and throw-off the hijab as one reporter described it. huh... Operation Enduring Freedom.

anyhow... it was good talking to Pa Wango. to get an elder’s view on the whole HIV/AIDS issue. and a sound view at that. conservative, yes. but not intolerant or extreme. kids should abstain from sex until marriage. there wasn’t even any talk of girlfriend/boyfriend in his day. an abomination he called it.

he knows a thing or two about the virus and AIDS. picks them up from the radio and conversations here and there. a sharp old man, masha’Allah. i guess i was most impressed by what a good listener he was and how open to new ideas (not necessarily accepting but willing to discuss) he is. he got me thinking more about the conservative side of the coin, if you will.

kids shouldn’t be having sex before marriage. of course, there’s much more to it then that. 1st... they are. so is promoting condoms condoning sex? can promoting abstinence be effective and responsible enough on its own? will they listen? is it going to be easier to re-establish societal morals and values or have kids use condoms? maybe “easier” isn’t the right/proper word.

would like to talk to a local MD about all this. specifically about some stats in Wum or Menchum Division. everyone says we’ve got a high infection rate... don’t know where they get that info from. not refuting it but would like a medical opinion as well as a “pick your brain” session with a doctor.

Monday, July 7, 2008

the run around


11/14/2001: later that day (post 2 of 3)...
...and boy what a day it’s been. long, to say the least. got ready to go out on my bike this morning. lumbar-pack packed and all... only to realize i had a flat as i stepped out the door. scratch that idea! so i walked to see the delegate of MINEF [Ministry of Environment & Forestry] and talked to him about engaging Environmental Education (EE) Clubs.

before going out to GTHS [Govt Technical High School] i sat and talked with Pa Wango out at SDO junction. i’ll address that later. then i walked out to GTHS. where i met the principle. he was quite welcoming and appreciative of the idea. met Mr. KAKUM Theodore there, too. teacher in charge of the EE Club. then walked back toward home.

it was hot out so i took a little break at home. PB/Honey and milk. then on to GBSS [Govt Bilingual Secondary School]. passed by Flo’s place. she’s been sick. gave James a couple of Newsweeks. which reminds me... i also returned the 2nd Assistant SDO’s magazine to him and saw a copy of the Newsweek covering the Lake Nyos disaster with one of our students.

anyway... as i left Flo’s there was a little commotion about a snake down in the ravine by her place. totally out of the way and, in my opinion, in no way intruding. i left the little crowd as they were debating whether to get a gun or throw rocks at the serpent.

i passed by mr. Ndisang’s, he no day [he was not there, in Pidgin]. moved on to GBSS passing a couple of seizure stricken malaria patients along the way. Ndisang wasn’t at school either. met the principal. also most welcoming and appreciative of the EE club support from MINEF.

then i took a moto-taxi back to the mosque. after dhuhur the Hausa Chief invited me to his compound/”palace.” we embarrassingly caught a man peeing outside his place. he was chastised, by the Chief himself, about not using the new urinal.

didn’t know what the chief wanted. figured it was about the camera. it was. but it was also about this mountain of achu and little pond of yellow sauce... w/cow stomach floating inside it! i chopped fine [ate well, in Pidgin]. was even forced to eat a piece of the meat. no palava [no problem, in Pidgin]... as he put it. i told the Cheif moms would come with his camera. he said he go glad when mommy go come. me too.

on to GHS [Govt High School]. teachers were in a meeting there. i did some paperwork at our school. then went back to the GHS and got stuck in this little latrine mishap. aren’t they all??? still, when it was all said and done i came out unscathed... Thank God! something about that achu, yellow sauce and cow stomach at the Chief's just didn't sit well. didn't sit at all, actually.

i finally met Mr. Chindong and Kenneth on their way back to town. talked to the former [the EE club advisor] about meeting with the delegate Monday morning, and with the latter [my landlord's caretaker] about stuff for the house. and that was most of my day. minus the long nap i just woke up from.

note: 2 more instances (with one ready and waiting) for this to be technically definable as diarrhea. the BRAT [banana, rice, apple sauce and toast] diet not sounding too appealing right now, though. lack of caffeine (tea, coffee, chocolate) will be an issue. Ramadan around the corner, too. God willing i go get better.