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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

sky crying, school sad

sky is crying. we’re more than a week into October and the rain shows little sign of letting up. rains much at night. which is, in itself, a sign of seasonal change. but it’s still raining during the day. and often heavily. road is bad. people still taking “tippers” (sand trucks) back and forth from Bamenda. paying 2,500 cfa [compared to the usual 1000 cfa].

on another note, tomorrow wil make a month into the school year. and that makes me cry. state of affairs at notre ecole is bad. it's sad, really... time-table still not finalized. students sparse. teachers sparser. administration is somewhere between incompetent and apathetic. i’m ambivalent.

we can’t even hold a staff meeting! one was scheduled for today but less than 1/3 of us showed up. we waited 2 hours. taught little to nothing in the mean time. 2 and ½ hours after scheduled starting time the meeting was canceled. postponed until Thursday. we’ll see who’ll take this next one seriously. c’est dommage.

i didn’t want to write about all of this... guess it’s still on my mind. i’m tired. as usual. got work to do. PEACE. i pray all is well with wunna.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

the prophet

and his soul cried out to them, and he said:
sons of my ancient mother, you riders of the tides,
how often have you sailed in my dreams.

and now you come in my awakening, which is my deeper dream.
ready am i to go, and my eagerness with sails full set awaits the wind.

only another breath will i breathe in this still air, only another loving look cast backward,
and then i shall stand among you, a seafarer among seafarers.

and you, vast sea, sleepless mother,
who alone are PEACE & FREEDOM to the river and the stream,
only another winding will this stream make, only another murmur in this glade,
and then shall i come to you, a boundless drop to a boundless ocean.

-Khalil Gibran, The Prophet (1923)


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

NW. SW. US. peace.

well... i didn't take this book along to Yaounde with me. back in Wum. mama is here. we're both safe and sound. the Bamenda-Wum road was bad. muddy. very muddy. luckily, a friend helped us out with a ride. Yaounde was all right... same ol' same ol' when it comes to these meetings.

hmmm... what to say? i was hoping to not just babble this time. earlier, a thought or 2 – about being a volunteer, action vs. words, etc. – came to mind. now i'm not sure i want to go there. was just thinking about all the things i want to do, said i would do, thought about doing BUT didn't.

again, and appropriately enough, i won't go there. not tonight. i'm tired. i pray all is well with all of you. in the NW. in the SW. back in the US. peace.


Monday, September 8, 2008


one week left in september, subhan’Allah... “time slips away without warning, but freedom day will come...” all is well. a little frustrated because i JUST realized someone spoiled the sunflower i’d planted in my front yard. probably one of the kids or chickens???

what a fowl mood something like that can put you in! the thing is snapped at the base of the stem. hanging on to life by a fiber or 2. maybe it’ll live? how many xylem/phloem cell junctions does a plant need to survive? we go see...

like i said, all is well. i’m falling into a routine: sleep. exercise. eat. school. eat. sleep. work/read. eat. ...and plug prayer in there 5 times a day. can you say quotidian? mama will be here in less than a week. no routine then. and nothing is quotidian with mama around. God Bless her!


Sunday, September 7, 2008

only 5 of us left writing...

OK... it’s just about past my bedtime, but i need my Peace & Freedom fix. i’m trying to keep myself disciplined... trying to fall into a routine here. ride these next 9 months out in style... right.

i mean that i’m trying to stay focused, keep busy, be productive AND, of course, stay happy and healthy as well. i’ll spare you the details of what all that entails. suffice it to say that – well, nothing... ain’t much to say. probably up to the same sh@$t ya’ll are up to or in. excuse my français! :)

did i tell you my mother is coming? yup, it’s official... she’ll land in Yaounde on Sept 30th. i’ll be there for the EE [environmental education] meeting anyway. she’ll be here for 3 weeks. won-du-full!!! no, seriously... it is. i’m glad she’s coming.

i'll let you know how it goes. but hopefully in someone else’s journal. i'm tired of writing in mine! there are only 5 of us left writing [kay, nat, traci, robert and mohamad]... did ya’ll know that? hmmm...


Thursday, September 4, 2008

we, too, are america

September 11, 2005

Senator Joseph Lieberman
One Constitution Plaza

7th Floor

Hartford, CT 06103

Dear Senator Lieberman:

My name is Mohamad Abdullatif Chakaki and I, too, sing America. I am a resident of your state, a graduate student at your alma mater, a proud Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and your former neighbor at the Hillendale in Washington, D.C. More importantly, I am a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. The words of Langston Hughes I alluded to above express, all too well, the situation I find myself in as a Muslim Arab-American in the U.S. today. We are the darker brothers and we are sent to eat in the kitchen—or, in my case, the back room of my own country’s international airports—when company comes. I am writing to you, Senator Lieberman, to help me change that.

I am tired of being treated with suspicion and contempt upon arrival to America’s modern Ellis Islands. I now know better than to expect a warm welcome home at places like Newark’s “Liberty” International Airport and New York’s JFK, the scenes of my most recent and decidedly unwelcome experiences. The racial profiling that occurs at these airports is a disgrace to the notion of liberty and to the memory of our late President. Moreover, the fact that this profiling targets Muslim and Arab-Americans—yes, U.S. citizens—and finds us, in particular, as “something interesting” (to quote the officer who handled my case at Newark) is intolerable.

Senator Lieberman, I cannot express to you how humiliating and degrading it felt to be confined to that back room at Liberty International Airport for over an hour. It was not because I felt uncomfortable among my many African, South Asian and Southeast Asian brothers and sisters who silently suffered the racism along with me. Instead, it was because I was the only U.S. citizen among them and the only U.S. citizen who was not whisked in and out of the back room and apologized to vehemently for the inconvenience. As far as Homeland Security is concerned, I am no American. I belong in the back room. This is not an isolated incident, either. This is how I am made to feel every time I come home from overseas travel. I want this to end, sir, and I would like you to help me.

Allow me to close, if I may, by offering you what I believe is fresh insight into this situation of racial profiling as it concerns Muslim-Americans, and their names in particular. A tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) states, “The best of names are those with hummid (i.e. Muhammad, Ahmad, Mahmood…) and ‘ubbid (i.e. Abdullah, Abdul-Jabbar, Abdul-Malik…).” These are the very same names that land people in secondary security stations and the back rooms of international airports in the U.S., as I know all too well. If racial profiling is a part of homeland security measures that we are not prepared to give up, then we have a case where our national policy is at odds with the values of an entire people, including this nation's very own people, born and bred. This needs to end. We, too, are America.


Mohamad A. Chakaki

i, too, sing america

i, too, sing america.

i am the darker brother.
they send me to eat in the kitchen
when company comes,
but i laugh,
and eat well,
and grow strong.

i'll be at the table
when company comes.
nobody'll dare
say to me,
"eat in the kitchen,"

they'll see how beautiful i am
and be ashamed--

i, too, am america.

-langston hughes, 1932


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

guests most welcome

a little later than Tuesday afternoon... early AM on Thursday, actually. all is well. a lot of guests passed through here [wum] these past few weeks. a lot. PCVs: Todd/Tate/Robert/Shannon and some HCN [host country national] friends: Saidu (Shawn’s housemate) and my host-mother mira and her two kids. these last 3 most-welcome guests are here right now. they’re all most welcome. you, too!

check this out, speaking of guests... saidu was looking at the pictures on my wall. family, friends, PCVs, etc. he picked my mother’s photo off the reed mat on the wall where they’re all hanging [with the photos inserted between the gaps in the mat]. that’s the only one he choose to look at up close.

later that night, while i’m sleeping, i hear this noise above my head... a flutter of some sort. i recognize that it’s coming from the wall where the photos are. i realize a photo must’ve fallen off. they often do as the mat is beside the window... the breeze does it.

anywho... i go back to bed. in the morning, i wake and roll over to find the very same picture of my mother lying right beside me. not very unbelievable as a coincidence. strange, though, because the wall is at an oblique angle to my bed. i told Maggie the story and she’s like “ha! your mom is coming!”

i laughed. she called last night. my mother. she’s thinking about coming here to visit again. phone line got cut off, though. guests... they're all most welcome!


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

somber sky

quick and dirty peace & freedom, if you will... all is well. school around the corner. kinda just bumming around. sleeping. reading. eating. sports... a little planning for the upcoming academic anné. hmmm... what else to say? sky’s been crying these past few days... all day. really gets me in a somber sort of mood.