Sunday, May 31, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

the center of the world

in Wum again. getting up here [from bamenda] took 5 hours! we had a [volunteer] house meeting this morning in bamenda. our last one. and our last party in the slum last night.

it was traci's birthday. we made pizza and cake. good to see everyone. hang out. talk. with various people. on a variety of subjects:
i think that's it... though many more people were there. in fact, i slept on a chair in the living room. a more forgiving spot on my allergies.

at one point this morning... b/w talking to courtney and mike i had a little revelation. about Africa... how much happens on this continent. how it could easily be the center of the world, so to speak. the most dynamic place, at least.

sooo much going on. all interesting and intriguing. one could never leave the continent and find it all. what is "it?" i don't know... this revelation was mostly me thinking I could never leave Africa and be happy. what a thought!

early matin, apres-noon

rode out to Eric's farm this morning with Maggie. that man is always working. always on top of things. turns out he's been putting his eldest child through school with the njamma-njamma [greens] he grows from them! no joke... bags of the stuff in exchange for school fees. he even had a balance of 12,000 cfa that the school owed him at the end of the year! won-duh-ful wondas!

i'm fatigued now. was debating – well, no real argument – whether to get out of here and get over to the delegation. need to try and talk them down into a more reasonable project, at least for me. b/c if they're expecting me to come up with the funds, then things gotta be smaller. but my brain just couldn't convince my body to leave the house. let alone walk to the delegation.

i'll do so first thing demain matin [tomorrow morning], insha'Allah! i'm gonna nap now... my nap yesterday apres-midi [afternooon] went way over! today, we'll see...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

the road less traveled?

also 7/22/2002:
bought an MTN mobile SIM card. great reception throughout the house. spoke to Rama. waiting on mama to call. she sent me this Robert Frost poem, along with the big package i got in Babadjou.

Rama says mama's been on this spiritual/poetic/oratory kick. i don't mind. the poem was nice. i like it. always have. seems all the more relevant now. the road less traveled...

said seminar

good morning. in Wum. got in yesterday afternoon [from Babadjou via Bamenda]. off to run an errand or 2: post-office. market. SNEC [national water utility]. DDEDUC [divisional delegation for education]. hospital. the last 2 to do a little research on the 1st Aid Project.

tomorrow... Binjam [a small village not far from Wum] for the day with Ibrahim and Maggie. gotta find her today!

it's still raining. i'm eating. w/out Maggie, though... i think the rain held her up. today passed fine. spoke to Pa at the Delegation about the 1st Aid "seminar." that's what we're now calling it.

i'm trying not to let it get too big. small is beautiful (though i've yet to finish that book)... more tomorrow. about said seminar. Binjam also, insha'Allah.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

go in search of your people


Go in search of Your People:
Love Them;
Learn from Them;
Serve Them;
Begin with what They have;
Build on what They know.

But of the best leaders
when their task is
their work is done,
The People all remark;
"We have done it Ourselves."

-Lao Tzu?

the wise words above are from a book [David Werner's "Helping Health Workers Learn"] that Traci used to end her training session today. her session with Mike. went well. funny–no, interesting that we, as volunteers, do truly take a vested interest in the concept of development; studying and discussing it, as well as working in it.

i'm listening to Youssou N'Dour. famous Senegalese singer. done a lot of work with international artists like Sting, Wyclef, etc. "How Come?" good stuff, West African music. i asked Sandy earlier today on the phone if she fell in love with West Africa? of course. me, too. was she down about coming back? of course. me, too. is she staying [here in Cameroon]? of course. i miss Sandy.

talked to Rama. all is well, relatively well at home. all is well with me, too. i should be happy. i am. tired, but smiling toujours.

a family dinner

just came back from chez Tchouffo. chez nous [our place], that is. Tim, Sherrie and i, and the rest of the family. we all ate a wonderful dinner. pomme pile [sp?] and spaghetti. it's all about the company! and it was as close to a family dinner as – well, yes, a family dinner. jokes. smiles. laughs. jesting. kids making noise. AND even some awkward/dysfunctional moments.

i am much more comfortable know... in homestay. amongst Cameroonians. with myself in this culture/context. part of it is language. i speak french better. part of it is confidence. part understanding. i speak my mind more. yes, indirectly... through jokes and suggestion. but it's better than nothing, and getting better insha'Allah.

Monday, May 25, 2009

dr. babila

Dr. Babila
Upper 6th Mathematics
Lesson: Differentiation i'm not even going to pretend that i understand the #'s and symbols being put up on the board here [in the santa model school]. will also not copy them in here. just keep them on the board. at a distance

Dr. Babila is working with minimal notes. in fact, he wrote them out this morning, b/w 7:45 and 8am. the man has a brain on him! masha'Allah.

what an interesting mind it must be. not just the powerful, logical, mathematical foundation but also what's built upon that... culture, spirituality, mythology, sociology, psychology, etc.

it makes me regret my math ignorance. would be nice to see the world that analytically or have a mind that thinks things through with logic that sharp/clear... or maybe not? and maybe he doesn't?

maybe the math isn't the foundation. just another aspect. maybe one of the other fields – any of them – are a foundation? maybe all? maybe none?

Dr. Babila just made a joke about something no longer being mathematic after a certain point but "Chinese"... LORD! all this might as well be Chinese.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

1st Aid


1st Aid Session (Tate & Eli, in Babadjou)
  1. Story
  2. Intro: Purpose, Goals and Objectives
  3. Activity: Heimlich Maneuver and Abdominal Thrusts
  4. Scene Assessment
  5. Patient Assessment and Triage
  6. Splinting: Hard, Soft, Anatomic; Sling and Swathe
  7. Log Roll & Carry (moving a severely injured person)
  8. Cross Culture (expectations vs. reality)
  9. Q+A
...hey, EE training session went well! smooth. engaging. informative. good evaluation. i'll do the post-eval write up, insha'Allah.

1st Aid Session [outline above] went well, as well. i paid close attention for future reference. they spoke about the accident to close the session. powerful, moving experience.

i'm still ill.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

a day or 2 in the life...

it's been a long day. in fact, 2 long days. we've not accomplished everything on our site-visit agenda, but came close. here and there, a little bit at a time. i'm comfortable saying lisa and mark experienced a day or 2 in the life of a PCV:

lisa seems to have learned much about the TTC [teacher training college] program. which is good, b/c thus far it's been vague in PST [pre-service training]. we saw the school. met administrative staff. our principal, included. even a fellow teacher. quite informative.

we also visited the delegation [of education]. met many a teacher. and, of course, my friends around town. unfortunately, paul isn't around. up in Bali [his hometown]. too bad. they would've learned much from him.

mark may not be as satisfied with his 2-3 days here. i cannot really relate to secondary and high school info... we passed the GHS, but did not meet or speak with any teachers. should've arranged for that. he's been sick, too. stomach issues. a good sport, though.


both mark and lisa have been such good sports on this trip. both such nice people. glad they came! both bright, motivated and positive people. already patient and understanding. a 7-hour Bamenda-Wum journey will do that!

we walked a lot yesterday. today, too. yesterday, to school and back... in the sun. today, out to Lake Wum and back... through the market and up to Maggie's.


we had ice cream on both days, vanilla and strawberry! good stuff. they were impressed. tuna salad and corn last night. pesto tonight. more good stuff.


glad they met Maggie, as well. she did most of the cooking this evening. Lisa helped, too. Muhammadu and Ibrahim came to visit.


Mark and i are still small sick... he with those stomach issues. me with what we all think but don't want to say is malaria. we'll see tomorrow.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


back in Wum. with Lisa and Mark. my 2 site-visit buddies... future PCVs. both very cool. in fact, their whole stage [training cohort] is a great group. i'm impressed... especially b/c i kinda underestimated them on teaching experience. they can teach. know their science and math.

it's been a looong day. met @ 6:15am in Babadjou. went to Mbouda. then a bush-taxi to Bamenda. then it took us 7 hours and some change to get here [to Wum]. bad tire... first we fixed a flat. then all the bolts fell off the hub! but we were all patient (especially Lisa and Mark), and we got here.

tomorrow we sleep in... i'm a little cold/fevery/achy (c'est normale?). then we do protocol: the Delegation [of Education]. GTTC/GHS and Auntie. the market. prayer for me. pesto for all. insha'Allah...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

back in Babadjou

in Babadjou. got a "guest room" at the staff house by ADP [the local bar/restaurant]. good to be back here... stepped out to get bread and couldn't stop smiling. WOW!... 1 year. back in Babadjou.

talked to Jean for a little. just he and Pa Simon [peace corps drivers] here. Francois, Michelle and Jeane [peace corps trainers] upstairs. PCT's [peace corps trainees] at home... in bed?

finally got my package. a lot of music from OMZ. including his 2 singles with T. kinda cool... though i can't here it well. he's got a smooth/funky style. kinda funny... Omar Curly rapping!

by the way...

Monday, May 11, 2009

a little less than happy

-in the slum and down in the dumps, again...
-in bamenda and a little less than happy, still.
...all is well, though. riding this roller coaster of emotions. it will end. right now, it's just tough being alone. i'm in need of people. a presence. friends. family... i guess that's what i'm longing for. i'm dreaming of home. WHY? WHO?

anywho... i've got work to do. got into town late and the previous page [previous post] of "to dos" remains, more or less, undone. so... b/w tonight and tomorrow morning – b/c i need to get to training in Babadjou by afternoon... let's get to it!

things to do in bamenda

things to do in bamenda [tomorrow]...
  • email: Boniface about 1st Aid Project in Wum, APCDs/CDs about EE work in Limbe
  • letters: Sue Martin [former boss @ USNA], Dr. Yeide and Dr. Wells [former profs @ GWU]
  • forms: quarterly reports to APCD, and EE application [not sure what this is?]
  • misc: pack up stuff at the Slum, gas cooker and food (veggies, basil, yogurt and cheese)
  • talk to Mike & Shanna about EE session! (GLOBE video, evaluation and resource update)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

all is well in Wum

back in Wum. in my own bed. spent most of the day with Maggie. a lot to catch up on! a lot... talked about peace corps, of course (PCV talk). but also family, relationships, motivation and work. so good to see and talk to her. good to be back.

and all is well in Wum:
  • Paul is here and OK. the house is fine. clean. Muhammadu was checking on it.
  • nothing is fixed, though. the caretaker hasn't "taken care" of anything. need to see him... when?
  • MTN is up in Wum. we are now connected! well, not me (i'm on Orange) but we. Wum.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

i am here

at Symbol park [the bush-taxi station]. just did email. wrote to Sue [my old boss], OMZ and Rama. all LONG emails. Mike and Nick showed up at the [volunteer] house this morning. before i left. good to see them both. they're who i need to be around. positive and on. always.

training will be good. kristen echoed that. she was talking to her mom last night... told her i was missing home, stressing about being here. but that she – i.e. kristen – knew i'd be here for another year. INSHA'ALLAH!

i miss home.
i love my family.
they love me...
and miss me, too.
but right now, i'm here.
i am here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

problems seem smaller


in bamenda. 2 nights in a row in the same bed... a recent record! haven't done that or eaten more than one meal a day for the past week or so. all this traveling!

in other news... spoke to family last night. Rama and the kids are moving to Dubai. which came as a surprise. a little sad. talking to OMZ made me lighter, though. he cracked me up. he's doing well.

kristen is here... good to see/talk to her. both b/c it's her and b/c i really need someone to vent to. about a lot of things. she's going home, of course... i'm not. not right now. not for another year, insha'Allah. things i want to do here.

and i also spoke about EE in Limbe... b/w the botanic garden and the WLC there are legitimate and exciting volunteer opportunities. will see if we can help get them connect to PC.

thank God kristen was here! and that i talked to OMZ, mama and rama... they all helped me put my problems in check. funny how problems seem smaller when you just tell someone.

need to go to Wum. back here in Bamenda by Monday. then off to training in Babadjou.


smiles :)

Monday, May 4, 2009

do i finish the thought?


i'm in room 222 at the Holiday Inn in Limbe. alone, with a few key articles of clothing drying in front of the AC. the Limbe [volunteer] house is closed and empty. i did not know this. and i'm not sure where kristen is.

the only reason i didn't leave Limbe this afternoon is b/c i feel compelled to let the people at the botanic garden know, in person, that i won't be working there this summer. WHY?!... i'm not sure. i think throwing myself into work may help. and Limbe may keep me happy here in the tropics.

but that's all academic. no house, no job. besides... i can stay busy and be happy up in Wum, i'm sure. just have to want to. right now, i'm a little less than happy here. in fact, in many ways i don't want to be here. but i know that's a confused/complicated emotion right now.

i miss home. i miss mali. the grass was much greener in West Africa... all my frustration here comes to mind all too quickly and conveniently, of course. i need, as always, to settle down and think. i know i can do another year here... i can do another year here and excel. be busy & happy.

do i finish the thought???... do i write "but..." and go on? or do i make the best of it. as i have been... look on the bright side. find the silver lining. think of the things that keep me here. give them a chance to keep me here...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

do it 'right'

on a plane towards Dakar [then Douala, "direct"] from Bamako. a day late and ~$80 dollars short. that's how much changing the departure date cost... but c'est la vie!

saying goodbye was somehow easier this time. i'm very happy with what i saw/experienced/learned in Mali. happy i came here. questions, yes. those will come to pass... will be answered. no regrets.

people in Mali have this custom. if you think you'll not be seeing the person you're saying goodbye to again you shake hands with your left. you do it "wrong" so that, one day, you'll be forced to meet again and do it "right." there's wisdom in Africa.

'old school'

i was thinking about school earlier today... found reflecting on what i did & didn't like insightful. i chose to take classes i enjoyed. that was good. the reading was stimulating/interesting/relevant and, sometimes, the various fields of study overlapped or reinforced each other. that was great.

i did not like the deadlines. the large classes. the burdensome loads. i'd rather have the time/effort to focus on 3-4 courses, in depth/breadth. to discuss with a professor and/or colleagues on the various topics. to have an advisor guide me, personally, through my studies.

i want to enjoy learning... not rush through requirements. or courses i'm totally uninterested in, with no relevancy to me. i suppose i'm interested in a more traditional education... "old school," if you will. now i know. you live and learn.


wrote an old friend an email today. we updated each other on future plans... grad school, basically. i went off about "sitting down to talk" about things. something about reflecting on the past, without regret, but for insight into what we should be doing / going to do.

a sense of regret, doubtless, brings about this vague sense of duty... what we should have been doing with our time/money/efforts. i guess that's what time alone here does. reflecting on what we did with what we had and what people here couldn't dream of.

and we'll be asked about all that... so maybe we should ask ourselves 1st. we've got a lot to talk about. many of us. a lot we could/should do. will do, insha'Allah.

goûts de culture

Mali to Memphis... a CD of malian music & blues. will tell OMZ about it. bought 4 CDs on the street today [ali farka toure, habib koite, salif keita and youssou n'dour], as well. i'd like to send copies back home.

day 2 in bamako. didn't do much. prayer. a little shopping. ate out. everything here seems lebanese owned. at least all the restaurants. like the good Tex-Mex place yesterday, with the ambiance. seems like there are so many expats here... but if i compare it to Douala, i suppose not.

hmmm... not much else to say. except maybe that i sometimes find myself getting bitter and angry (though not for long) about not being posted in Muslim West Africa. c'est dommage. it's really a shame. someone neesd to hear this...

yummy yassa

Yassa Recipe
-veggie oil and marinated meat
-pepper corns and maggi cubes [w/MSG]
-vinegar and diced tomatoes (in water)
-onions (a lot), mustard (spoonful) and salt
  1. cook meat (not completely) in a lot of oil, adding spices gradually: pepper corns, maggi, tomato sauce and vinegar.
  2. when meat is almost done, add enough water to make it a stew/soup.
  3. add onions and mustard then salt to the stew.
  4. let cook/simmer until onions are fully cooked.

i watched and took notes as the yassa was being made yesterday... yummy! and it seems easy enough.

in Bamako now. at the volunteer house. came in on the train a short while ago. was supposed to leave yesterday morning, but the train was delayed into the evening. 11pm, in fact. probleme tala ["no problem"], though... once we got going, we got going. decent time. 15 hours.

my writing in here has been erratic. long days without much downtime alone. makes for poor reflection. at least calm, collected reflection. still haven't written about the garden. i will, insha'Allah... gotta pray now.

i'm looking forward to eating a cheeseburger tonight! feels like the lack of fresh veggies in my diet here (just rice & sauce) has me craving meat, ironically enough.

gifts from mali



Gifts & Stuff

woven cotton shirts, mud cloth, bracelets, fabric and music (CDs) for...




i'm somewhere b/w Diamou and Kayes. the train has stopped. coming back up from Mahina [SW Mali, photo]. was there for a PCV 'HIV/AIDS Day' event. which went well.

this dynamic theater group that performed last night was great. drew a HUGE crowd! i was very impressed and quite entertained. great music and dance, too.

spent a couple nights in Mahina sleeping outside. still hot, but cooling off. rain not too far off. sometimes falling.

i'll be back (lunch break!) to write about another thought/emotion or two...

...right. bon appetit! actually a surprisingly good meal here on the train. rice & sauce. i prayed a shortened zhur [midday prayer] outside but no time for 'asr [afternoon prayer], b/c the train started moving again!

anyway... the thought was about the garden and this book i'm reading [2 Ears of Corn]. but i'll go there later. the emotion is, of course, about what all my emotions are about right now. and i'll go there later, as well.



been a few days. still in and out of my head. up and down emotionally. but i won't go there b/c i'm not coming back.

i've said a lot... and perhaps changed a little. not thinking as much. but still thinking. accepting. drifting. yet not completely letting go... and i need to. enough.

remind me to write about the garden! Musa & Haider's.

Friday, May 1, 2009

in my head...


rooftop clarity

up thinking again this morning. back in Kayes. on the roof of the volunteer house. amazing how well one can think up here on these roofs.

Senegal just scored!... Kayes erupted. it's 10 to 6am.

diamou relax


in Diamou [Western Mali]. beautiful place. particularly where i'm staying. great view of these prominent cliffs across the river. and it's a short stroll to the river. the Senegal. no lights. no water. very much a typical PC experience. not to take anything away from it, or this beautiful place.

it's quiet and peaceful here. i can see why PCVs enjoy coming down here from kayes to relax. i've spent just a few days there myself and i need to relax. lots of questions. some answered, more some raised. more closure? less doubt? or bitterness... anger? have i let go? i need to. i will.

on rushdie

i finished reading those Rushdie essays yesterday. glad i read them. know a little more about him, his thoughts/views and his book [The Satanic Verses]. he changed my mind on a few points:
  1. the reaction to his book was barbaric and embarrasing. muslims could/should have gone about it differently.
  2. we need to have the faith, courage and insight to question. to critique. to judge. to change. not our faith. but ourselves. we need to not be so rigid/inflexible/intolerant.
  3. people should be free to speak their mind. express themselves. the extent to which this goes (if there is a limit to that extent at all) i will not go into here b/c, candidly, i don't know.
...the problem is that Rushdie can be blamed for doing precisely what he accuses people of doing. e.g. interpreting the Qur'an literally. and failing to understand/respect that having faith can be a dynamic/critical/brave/empowering process. i believe – at least by emphasizing that lack of faith is all of this – he takes that for granted.

finally, with regard to #2 above... i don't think Rushdie is at all capable of taking a bold lead on this. he has neither the insight/understanding nor the credibility/mandate to critique/question effectively or acceptably.

moving on... i'm now reading Two Ears of Corn [download book in PDF]. more on that later.

the goddess

"worship the goddess in rose petal garden. drunk when, bitter after."

after the last sky...


The Earth is closing on us
pushing us through the last passage
and we tear off our limbs to pass through.
The Earth is squeezing us.
I wish we were its wheat
so we could die and live again.
I wish the Earth was our mother
so she'd be kind to us.

I wish we were pictures on the rocks
for our dreams to carry as mirrors.
We saw the faces of those who will throw
our children out of the window of this last space.
Our star will hang up mirrors.
Where should we go after the last frontiers?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air?
We will write our names with scarlet steam.
We will cut off the hand of the song to be finished by our flesh.
We will die here, here in the last passage.
Here and here our blood will plant its olive tree.

Mahmoud Darwish, The Earth Is Closing on Us, translated by Abdullah al-Udhari, in Victims of a Map (London: al-Saqi Books, 1984), p. 13.

[note: i'm pretty sure i read and transcribed this poem from Salman Rushdie's Step Across This Line, as i was reading it in Kayes, but i could be wrong. in any event, the poem and citation above are from Mehbooba Poems & Poetry.]

salman rushdie

i'm reading some essays by Salman Rushdie [from Step Across This Line]. a few on his The Satanic Verses and one on Palestine. interesting, to say the least. i'm asking questions and he's answering many. nevertheless, i don't find him very convincing. on the contrary... full of himself, irreverant and contradictory. i will elaborate further later.