Wednesday, February 25, 2009

fasting focus


fasting today. glad i did. felt a bit week in the afternoon. all right though. amazing how one is used to this feeling... hunger. and what it does to the mind/senses.

felt a little less than spiritual last night. out of focus. guess that's why i fasted. for focus. and it is all about that, fasting = focus.

got a little gift from God... a taste of honey, while i was cooking. i slipped and forgot i was fasting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


i use the phrase a lot... so this is what insha'Allah means to me.

achu and mushrooms


cinco de mayo:
finally, fourth... today's plan: wanted to clean the house this morning. but i'm waiting to go out to Ardu [Fulani Chief] Sule's to visit Buba. then, around midday, i'm looking forward to to achu [pounded malanga] and mushrooms at the Nshu's place.

small words, big points

cinco de mayo:
third... kenneth and his wife came over last night–no, yesterday afternoon. we talked. ate burnt-corn and fried groundnuts [both burnt and fried here refer to roasting]. corn and legumes are a great combo in any combo! we played scrabble. they beat me badly... not sure about their counting technique. still, they're good. small words, big points.

don't know why it didn't occur to me to ask about hours at GBSS [govt bilingual secondary school] before. turns out they have only 2 bio teachers there. Mrs. Galaga and Tita Alex. more than 18 hours each. and, if i decide to help, i could have forms 1 & 2 bio. why didn't i ask before? anywho... next year or beyond. insha'Allah.

lake ilum

cinco de mayo:

second... we trekked out to Lake Ilum yesterday. nice day. hot, bright sun on that bare road. nice to walk the [ring] road though. would be nice to walk the whole thing... instead, i'll accept Nkambe-Wum. a little burned and beat (not to mention thirsty) by the end of the trip.

the GHS [govt high school] hill never seemed so long. anywhooo. trek was worth it. got lost after getting to the Lake area... but then found our selves, protocol appropriate, at the compound of the Lake's [traditional] caretaker. so we took permission, gave a donation and moved on.

adjectives on the lake: frightful. serene. beautiful. pacific. enchanting. isolated. ominous. powerful. spiritual... really a crater lake. looks as if people just can't get to the shore. and o the stories we heard about the mystical character of the lake.

it was Manka, William, Nelson, Vida, another female student, Paul and me.

the headmaster

cinco de mayo:
i'll take up the points from my tired outline above one at a time:

first... while holding a small debriefing at GPS [govt primary school] with our 3rd years a crowd of kids brought a bloody-faced class 2 student to the HM [Headmaster] Takwi Matthew. the man calmly asked to be excused as to take care of the situation.

he cleaned the boy up... who had a nasty cut on his forehead above the left eye after falling and hitting a pole. applied some iodine and bandaged the wound. he got some papers together and sent the boy to the hospital with his teacher.

unlike many others there, including teachers, the HM was calm, cool, quick and professional. really a pleasant surprise... and in sharp contrast to the nervous, confused and a little inept character of the teachers around. thank the Lord for leadership.

oh... rain came down HARD during our post-[teaching practice] conference there at GPS later that day. from 12 noon to 2pm. RAIN! actually missed Jum'ah [Friday Prayer].

Sunday, February 22, 2009

don't feel writing

i'm tired... don't feel writing right now. maybe i'll outline:
  • 1st Aid @ GPS / post-conference rain
  • Lake Ilum
  • Galaga and GBSS forms I & II
  • Ardu Sule and mushroom achu
...tomorrow, insha'Allah.

mangoes in the moonlight

one last thought, 5/3/2002:

walking back home last night, i looked up and saw mangoes in the moonlight. can't help but think of jewels when i see that sight. pendant pearls in that soft, cool glow is what they look like.

i think how beautiful, how enchanting, how magical... and on a night when the moon is full, its glow bright and places surreal... like walking through one of Picasso's blues... seeing mangoes in the moonlight i think of paradise.

...and that keeps me here.

finding time

finished The Thief and the Dogs yesterday...

did my laundry last night. actually quite an accomplishment in terms of motivation. unfortunately my ambition fell short of writing a few letters... to mom, omar and the kids. unfortunately, this [mechanical] pencil is running out of lead.

i'm at GPS [govt primary school] this Friday morning. nice morning. we have a post-[teaching practice] conference around noon. then prayer, for me. social call @ Maggie's with Ibrahim and Muhammadu. i want to play ball. write. read. relax. and maybe even find time to eat.

...remind me to write about 'Mangoes in the Moonlight.'

Friday, February 20, 2009

never here...

still May Day...
still have to go out to Kenneth's place. rain is falling though. here's a thought: i've got all of late May in Yaounde! PST [pre-service training, for the new education volunteers]. a week or so here. then Mali. then Limbe.

yet there are so many things i'd like to commit to here. excursions. planning an EE/HIV camp. basketball tournament. farming... our own plot, with Maggie. or others' farms like Mbong Eric's. the library with MSA. etc.

it's like i'm never here. i want to stay... but the sands of Mali and Limbe are calling.

eric's farm


May Day. Labour Day. 13 days to my birthday. a few days since i've written... all is well. teaching practice. classes. weekend excursions. 1st and 2nd year are opening up... well, actually, i'm opening up.

last Sunday Maggie, Paul and i went out to Lake Wum with the students. talked about eutrophication. good trip. big turnout. probably due in part to the award given to Chia Robert the Friday before, 5000 cfa. and also b/c our last trip was successful. this week we go to Lake Ilum.

today, Maggie and i went out to Mbong Eric's farmstead. 16 hectares: with live fencing, alley cropping, improved pasture, apiculture, fruit / medicinal / timber trees, etc. the works when it comes to agroforestry practices!

nice place, good guy. so easy to be around. intelligent yet uncomplicated. hard-working yet practical. family man... brothers, sisters, kids. living off the land. always in the process of improving.

unfortunately, my bike chain chakara [broke or busted in pidgin] up the hill to eric's place. my fault b/c the gears and chain are so dusty/dirty. we ate fufu at his place. loaf and 1/2. with cowpea [leaf] njamma-njamma. good stuff. fufu is better early in the day.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

int'l arbor day


4/26/2002: International Arbor Day
...talked to and planted seeds at the GTTC, GHS and GTHS EE Clubs. funny how the less you plan the more you seem to accomplish. suppose it has to do with keeping your expectations low. not necessarily a good thing, but you do get pleasant surprises that way.

this was all yesterday. right now, we’re in a Guarantee bus going to Bamenda. Maggie, Abigail and me. Abigail got in the day before yesterday. she’s from PC Gabon. been around the ring road. anywho... gotta go. write later.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009



Meeting at the Senior Divisional Office

-discussion of watershed committee, community and caretaker responsibility vis-a-vis the water catchment area.
-what is a water catchment area? defined as the appropriate buffers around a spring or stream
-importance of trees to water catchments and consequences of bush-fires on such areas. thus, the importance of preventing the effects of bush-fires on water catchment areas.

-one of the delegate's [for agriculture and rural development, i think] and a representative of local graziers warned that land-grabs in the name of protecting water catchment areas from bush fires could encroach on the graziers' way of life.

-the delegate called for "cultural sensitivity for the sake of common development." communal grazing and bush-fires are long-standing land tenure and management system for these people. still unsure whether large cattle population can be sustained on improved pasture.

-hmmm... these are farmer-grazier tensions thinly-veiled behind discussion of bush-fires vs. water catchment protection.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

talking trees

teaching practice all month. out early. busy all day. at schools. practicing schools. my school. at meetings. EE stuff w/Maggie. lesson note marking. work in the evening. all this and, yet, somehow not too gratified of a feeling at the end of the day. tired, yes... gratified, not so much.

tomorrow Maggie and i will start visiting the schools to plant more seeds and talk trees:
  • GTHS & GTTC [Govt Technical High School and Govt Teacher Training College] tomorrow...
  • GBSS & GHS [Govt Bilingual Secondary School and Govt High School] the next
  • and the nursery school, too... MAYBE.
i'm gonna talk importance of trees, in general. Maggie will do agroforestry:

in the field


good day today. excursion in the morning. maggie, me and 1/2 a dozen students trekked out to a water catchment area on the hills behind my house. 2 catchments, to be exact. one on each side of the hill.

great view. light climb. a little wet on the ground. no rain. really very informative. a few grumbles b/c of the terrain. but i believe everyone learn something. even me. a lot. all in all, a success. got a drink at Flo's place afterward.

next week, Lake Wum insha'Allah! we'll talk lakes, run-off, eutrophication, etc. maggie really did a good job today... she's great with people out in the field. we make a good team! we talked about doing tree stuff next week with the different EE Clubs. more seeds. quick presentation on trees; uses of and agroforestry.

other potential excursions include other catchments (like Ukpwa's), Lake Ilum, Menchum Falls, Mbong Eric's farm, etc. insha'Allah this keeps going well.

Monday, February 16, 2009

chatting in wum

kay is here. we sat and chatted for a while today. she wan't feeling well... stomach issues. i went out to Upkwa quick in the morning. then her and i talked about homosexuality for quite a while. my views. her views. our experiences, etc. interesting conversation.

she left in the afternoon... belly still ached. hope all went well on her ride back to bamenda. we (kay, maggie and i) all stayed up pretty late last night chatting, ask well. been sleeping in after fajr as a result. not tomorrow, insha'Allah.

on science and seeing whole

a word about science... and with all due respect to this vast body of knowledge (one i've spent a good deal of my life studying), i don't believe that it – in and of itself – has answers to the ultimate questions. the meaning of existence. as suggested in the post on mafouz's the beggar.

science is about limits. isolation. manipulation. control. and i don't use any of those words in a pejorative sense. they are (technical) terms often used in science. this kind of analysis is powerful and productive, no doubt.

but not in isolation. not in and of itself. i've also spent a good deal of my life studying the humanities... literature, art, philosophy and religion. i think mahfouz's point in the beggar is just that: science has its place. so do our other forms of knowing and doing.

the point i'm particularly interested in, however, is being... being present. or the state of presence. that's what tells us that finding meaning in life isn't about choosing between science and art, or religion and science... it's about the whole. and without presence we can't see (or be) whole.
The ultimate truth, then, is in the reality of the world and not somewhere outside or beyond it, and the only thoroughfare to the metaphysical is a physical one, along which travelers should be committed to the well-being of each other and the maintenance of the road.

-Rasheed El-Enany, from Naguib Mahfouz: The Pursuit of Meaning (pp.109-110).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

the beggar

also 4/18/2002:
i just finished reading [Naguib] Mahfouz's The Beggar. he had a few things to say about science, our age of science and where art and philosophy fit in. the book is about a man who no longer feels relevant. a man searching for answers. searching for meaning in his life and, thus, the meaning of life.

he was an artist. he was a philosopher. he was a revolutionary. he should have been a leader. but things changed. times changed. somehow passed him by. art and philosophy were no longer relevant. could not approach, let alone answer, the ultimate questions. the meaning of existence. that was all science now.

and the revolution... he gave that up. was forced to. it came anyway. later. he'd given up by then. was busy with work, family and money. but these ended up being inadequate channels for his expression. diversions from his quest. the quest he'd suppressed. the quest that, for him, he could only follow through with poetry and art.

but that was now irrelevant. and, thus, he two was irrelevant. suppressed. and at a mid-life crisis of sorts it all fell apart. he began searching for answers. not through poetry. not through science. he wandered aimlessly looking for answers... in nightclubs and with prostitutes. looking for the ecstasy of life in sex, love, the sunrise... whatever.

begging people for clues and answers. anyone who seemed happy. at ease. and, in his state, everyone seemed at least more happy than him. more at ease. he never finds the answers to the questions that plague him. he turns inward and loses himself. gives up. on his family. friends. himself. life.

and the book ends with a line of poetry that comes back to him... life asking him, if he truly wanted it, why he'd left it?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

the new approach


at the Nursery School. early AM. have a seminar here, today and tomorrow. the inspectorate of primary and nursery education is holding it. Paul, among others, will be presenting various aspects of the new approach to lesson planning and teaching.

i believe it’s all about critical thinking and more analytically structured lessons. the scientific method, if you will. if that can somehow be applied to subjects like literature, history and writing. analytical thinking, yes. scientific method, Lord!...

moss grows...

not a whole lot to say... still feeling a little restless. a little better though. slowly but surely. that moss grows quicker than i thought.

Maggie and i sat and talked this afternoon again. good to have a post-mate. chatted about “work,” of course. but often all this [our entire peace corps experience] seems like and is labeled work. we talked about work-ethic, tribalism, tolerance, understanding, etc. just chatted, really.

we’re looking to do French [language lessons] 2 days per week; Tuesday and Thursday, 8-10am. maybe at the OFP office. with whom [as a teacher]?... don’t know yet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

rude awakening

April 15th... sent my tax stuff in to Rama today. too bad it’ll get there like a month from now. anywho... just a quick entry here. more or less back in the swing of things at post. still a little restless, yes. sat and chatted with Maggie this afternoon. good to have a post-mate. nice to have Maggie here.

i haven’t been here in what seems a LONG time... everyone tells me that. and it has been a month, more or less. like i said, it’s got me restless. gotta settle down and let some moss grow, as Maggie so adequately put it.

had a strange dream – not even a dream – this afternoon. woke up from my nap confused and unsettled. looked around and thought to myself “where am i? this isn’t my house (i.e. my house back in the states)! why am i still here?” Lord... what a rude awakening. REALITY CHECK!

need to shitdown fayn fo’ dis place small [sit or settle down in this place for some time]... wussai my peace & freedom dey? :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

why am i not there?

LONG day yesterday. can i call it empty? took me 11 hours to get here to Bamenda from Yaounde. took Binam [a bus company] to Baffousam. Mazi [another bus company] to Bamenda. waited long at Yaounde. longer on the road. "patience" [also the name of a bus company]... although i didn’t take them, got me through it.

realized at one point that i could’ve gotten to Florida or Michigan if i was home [in Washington, DC] and traveling for 11 hours. interesting thought. interesting to think just how patient i’ve gotten. with all the waiting. the arguing. the squeezing. bumping. smelling. stopping, again and again. and, yesterday, even the roaches crawling up my legs.

spoke to Rama outside Baffousam. she’s well. working hard again. the company is going out of business. she’s trying to salvage their clients and start a start-up. again. asked her why?... thought she had issues with work and not being with the kids. but work is a must, i guess... “a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.”

she and Omar were gonna sit down and have a heart to heart. about school. that’s also hard. school, that is. i sent him an email for support. asked him to listen to Rama. why am i not there? yeah... i know, because i’m here.

but in so many ways, i need to be there. not huge ways. but the subtle ways, like talking to Rama/Omar/the kids. i should be there. i’m here for me. i should be there for them AND, in turn, for me. because they are me. again why am i not there? not going to ask the other question...


GLOBE Program Conference: (Yaounde)

. . .

. . .

Monday, February 9, 2009

too much travel

at Central Voyages [bus company] in Douala. going to Yaounde. for that GLOBE conference. i didn’t want to go, at first. still kinda blah... but my APCD called. and as he’s expecting me, i should go. i will go.

was gonna go to Nkongsamba [a city in the Littoral province] to see Sandy... that would’ve been nice. will call her. another time... i think i’m seeing too much of this country. at least these parts. too much travel. cities are calling me back. and i have to go back. to post, that is.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

fam-fam well-well

went out to Babadjou today. happy i did. the fam-fam is well-well. Isma was in rare form. baby Rabiah [my newest host-sister] is growing... smiling a lot. Madame Susanee... still working. Mira is fine. Maya, too. Das... good but not working.

they were very kind. another slow Sunday there in the village. we ate a little achu. then spaghetti and white beans. they gave me a goose egg and a bottle full of peanuts. good people. long trip back... not a problem though. patient. quiet. sure i’d get back.

on vas fait comment? il faux supporte...

limbot letter

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a formal letter of application for a volunteer position at

...can you say “procrastination?!”



...went out to the Omaru compound today. as always, everyone couldn't have been more kind, hospitable, welcoming and generous. every family member i've met has been so gentle. and the scenery is beautiful. such a quiet/calm/peaceful place.

i spoke to Haruna for a while about a lot. at one point he brought out an encyclopedia on Africa. read the passage on Fulani people. interesting. they're all over the continent. East, West and South.

they trace their origins from the Senegal area. so the Pular/Fular people i've heard about in West Africa are, indeed, Fulani. anyway... Ibrahim [Haruna and Muhammadu's brother] also passed by to greet me tonight... good family.

Friday, February 6, 2009

follow through

Beatrice (2nd Year)
AppSci = 14/20 ...not 0!
EnvEd = 16/20


seem to have made a boo-boo on Beatrice's report card. she has 0 on her Applied Science mark for some reason. should be 14. will look into it. should also finish those ¼ reports. have to leave the students with some assignments for next week... while i'm in Yaounde again.

what am i doing here? why am i not doing? why am i not following through? being lazy. going through the motions. getting away with as little as possible. why can i sleep at night – that’s kinda dramatic... but how can i accept being/doing what i am out here?

gotta read – really read – that Yeide response. i continue to fail with perfection and, instead of adequacy, accept ½-a$%ed work... or worse yet, none at all. how many times do i have to have this conversation with myself?


ate breakfast at "mommy sick's" [a colleague into natural healing and herbs] place. very nice lady. proud Aghem. don't interact with many Aghem, really. nor do i know much about the language. sounds rough. kinda guttural.

turns out it's tonal and sophisticated. her nephew Nelson (a linguistics major in Yaounde) helped shed some light and much needed appreciation on the Aghem language.

there's even an Aghem language development association (ALDA). and a library they're starting... open afternoon to evening. to cater to students. great idea! i'll be visiting myself.

anyway... enjoyed breakfast. refreshingly atypical visit here in Cameroon, with good company and good food: shakshouka [eggs], friend plantains, soya paste, avocado, bread, lemongrass tea and honey! :)

magic moon

been almost a week since i’ve written... i’m in Wum now. Limbe and Douala were nice. my trip was too long. that week i spent in Yaounde made it so. i took the overnight – a full moon night – back to Bamenda.

the past couple of full moon nights (almost full, i suppose) were magical. especially on the ride up to Wum. winding our way up and out of menchum valley... with the moon glowing as it rose from behind the hills in the distance.

my ear

in Douala. at the cybercafe in Akwa. i’m afraid my ear is getting worse. can’t really hear out of it. not hurting, just clogged... wax galore!