Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

on the ill cliff

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

~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.

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

-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!

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


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


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

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

...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

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


“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

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

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


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

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

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

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! :)