Friday, September 30, 2005

Yesterday, I went out to watch everyone play Ultimate Frisbee. It was nice to get out and see people I hadn't seen in such a long time. It wil be quite a while until I am able to get out and do any type of sport. It has been three weeks since I hurt my knee and it is still slightly sore. The swelling has gone down, but at times I have a slight discomfort across the front portion.

The adjustment to life in Cameroon is big. In Los Angles, after school my friends and I oftentimes go out to live concerts, go bowling, sip coffee at a coffee shop, play video games, or some other entertaining activity. Here in Yaounde, my week usually consists teaching, preparing for the next day, and then sleep. Since, I am unable to play sports I have decided to keep myself occupied through other activities. One of my desires has been to learn to sew (yeah, I know some of you are laughing) so I can make my own clothes. When my knee heals, I will hopefully find someone who will give me sewing lessons. Also, I am looking into possibly learning how to play an instrument, either the piano or guitar. Actually, tomorrow I have my first French Language tutoring session (well, technically, it should be my third, but I have missed the last two Fridays). I am very excited about learning some new phrases. I have a book that I use at home, which has helped tremendously.

Thank you for sending me all of the kind words and thoughts. I have read all of the encouraging comments and they have raised my spirits. All of the comments, whether from family and friends or from people I do not know, have encouraged me throughout this tough time. I do appreciate it.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bad Beginnings...

mean good endings. These are the words spoken to me by one of the school workers. It is hard to see the future in such a positive light, when your present situation reminds you otherwise.

On Wednesday morning I woke up with a fever, stomach and muscle aches. I arrived at school and began having chills. Because of my condition, I was taken to the downtown clinic to have a blood test done for malaria. I was tested for three different types of malaria, all of which turned up negative. Although, the test proved negative, my doctor explained to me that I could still have a mild case of malaria. She prescribed anti-malaria medication (which consisted of taking 24pills over a 3 day period) and antibiotics in case I also had a bacteria (which could have explained my constant upset stomach, fever, and chills). I took off Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from school, and spent these days in bed.

These days more than any other I have missed the comforts of home. I feel that if I were back home, I would know exactly what the problem is with my knee, I could order delivery, I don’t have to deal with the mice or cockroaches running through my house, and I probably wouldn’t feel as bad if I was unable to get around like I am unable now. To top it all off, I have a leak from my bedroom roof. Don’t get me wrong, I can deal with these things, but it’s these things on top of the fact that my knee is hurt and I have either malaria or bacteria in my stomach!! I am beginning to become homesick. Lying around in bed all day probably does that to you. It seems as though everything is happening to me at once and I can’t handle it.

I want to mention that on Friday night there was a reception at the house of the Ambassador from Saudi Arabia. Although, I wanted to attend, I did not because I needed to rest. However, over the weekend I did finish watching the first complete season of the series 24.

I hope those good endings come quickly because right now they seem to be coming very slowly, if at all.

Monday, September 19, 2005

More pictures

I had a few more pictures that I wanted to add to the posting. A couple more of the museum and a few from the dinner party we had on Saturday. These posts are short, but I'm tired and have work to do. But, do enjoy the pictures!! Oh, do you like the way I cook sitting down!!!

An eventful Weekend

This weekend was quite eventful. On Friday, I attended a wonderful concert at the French Cultural Center. We listened to the sounds of a group named Gueyanka. The lead singer is a female who had an amazing voice, which echoed throughout the whole auditorium. The group is from Northern Cameroon and play upbeat and uplifting music from the area.

Saturday, I went to the National Museum where they have artifacts from different cultural aspects of Cameroon. From the photos you will find typical thrones that chiefs will use and family compounds. It was a wonderful museum and I will return again. A friend then took me to the food market, where we bought food to cook dinner for the night. The markets here are filled with people, foods, sounds, and so much more. We took the food home, and along with others cooked a wonderful dinner.

This post is short because I am off to do work for school. However, I wanted to post something about the weekend.I hope everyone is doing well. I hope you enjoy the pictures!!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Still Recovering

Hello, Hello, Hello. It is officially Tuesday (I wrote this on Tuesday, but posting on Wednesday), and just to let you know, my knee is still sore!! I can’t believe this is my fifth week in Cameroon and I already have an injury! The doctor told me there are no broken bones or extremely torn ligaments. As a souvenir for the visit, he let me keep the x-rays (which is great because I wouldn’t want them wasting away in the pile with the others). I have decided to keep off of my knee as much as possible for a minimum of six weeks. I hope to stay away from further injury. It has been tough, coping with the fact that in my current state, I cannot participate in sports. Also, it is very difficult to stay completely off of the leg because of the nature of my profession. You should see me moving around campus with my crutches, it is a funny sight. I must realize that things could be worse. I am happy to have great health and to be alive. Like they say, each day is not promised to you.

One of the students made me laugh today. We stood outside on the playground and he asked me what happened to my leg. I told the little boy the story and he replied, “I have played sports all my life and I have never gotten hurt. I think you got hurt because you are getting old.” I laughed at his comment and told him I didn’t agree, but he then reassured me that my old age is why I hurt my knee.

I think I have mentioned several times how crazy driving can be here in Yaoundé, especially when driving at night. We left the school this evening rather late. The sun starts setting around 6:30pm and we left this evening close to 7:00pm. I haven’t quite figured out why it is so difficult driving at night, but I think I have come up with three possible reasons:
1.) There are absolutely no reflectors on the streets. What they do have, though, are painted white lines, which by the way have faded through the years. Also, cars usually don’t bother to stay in their lanes on their designated sides anyways.
2.) There are many streetlights. However, the problem is that every single one of them is out!! It seems as though I am driving down a never-ending pitch black road.
3.) People drive with their brights on!! I have to squint and keep my eyes towards the right side of the road to keep from complete blindness. This task is quite difficult, especially if there are several cars in a row coming towards you.
Those are only a few theories. I think they are good ones though. I’m not complaining or saying that this is totally wrong, merely saying that driving here is quite different than the fast-paced hustle and bustle of the 405 in Los Angeles.

I sent a total of 13 boxes (filled with teaching supplies and household items) to Cameroon. The container is scheduled to arrive today sometime. I am very excited, although, I cannot quite remember what I packed since it was so long ago.

Tonight, at school, is Back to School Night. I have posted some pictures of my classroom. The border around my classroom is painted blue. I asked to have it painted because I didn't like what was painted before. The school workers did an excellent job! I have also posted one picture of a bar we went to this past weekend (yes, eventhough I have a hurt knee I can still hit the bars eventhough I probably shouldn't).

I hope all is well. Talk with you later.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Visit with the Doctor

I stated, in my last post, that this weekend would probably be uneventful due to my knee injury. Well, that is totally wrong!! I can at least tell you about my visit to the doctor’s office here in Yaoundé.

Well, at first I decided I wasn’t going to go to the doctor’s because I wanted to wait a few days to see if the injury would heal on its on. I figure, if I rest a bit, then maybe it will go away. Then, after talking with several people, I decided to go see the doctor. I figure I can find out what is going on, that way it puts my mind at ease. So, the office usually sends its employees to a doctor named Pierre. I can’t remember if someone told me he was French or if I assumed he was French from his name. Either way, I thought he was a French man.

So, one of the school drivers takes me out to see Pierre, the doctor. I have to hobble up one flight of stairs to get to his office. As I am waiting, I browse through some magazines that are all in French (most of the pictures are of American celebrities!). After a few minutes, a woman comes up to me to ask what has happened. I explain the situation. She then becomes more personable, asking me how long I have been here and what things I have done around the city. She asks me to wait a few more minutes.

After a few more minutes, I go to see the doctor. What an experience this was!! Does it surprise you that Pierre doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak French and that our communication is done mostly with our hands?? Well, it shouldn’t surprise you. And if you have been keeping up with my posts, you should know that I once again said my favorite French phrase (just a side note, I do know more French phrases, like how to ask for ice, where is the toilet, and how much). So, here I am explaining the situation, slowly, in English, hoping that he understands. He nods his head, makes some hand gesture. I say Oui (yes), not having the slightest idea what he is saying. He finally walks towards the door, to get his wife (the lady who first spoke with me) to translate. And guess what? He tells me that he only speaks French and Spanish. What a coincidence, I speak Spanish as well!! We had a huge laugh at this knew found communication. He asked me once again, in Spanish, to explain the situation. I did and we fully understood each other. Not only did we talk about my knee, we talked about the fact that he is from Haiti (not France), the problems in Haiti, the tragedy in Louisiana, living in Cameroon, and where he met his wife.

He decided to take an X-ray of my leg. So, I propped myself up on what looks like a shaky, wooden table. Behind my head is a bed piled with papers and x-rays. I assume that there is no efficient filing system (or maybe that is efficient enough for them). In front of me is another pile of papers on a chair. He takes the x-rays. I go back for the results Saturday morning.

Knee Injury

It has been a few days since my last post. Nothing too exciting has happened. I feel that I should tell you that I have injured my knee. On Wednesday, we went to play ultimate frisbee. I always look forward to this day. It is a time to have fun, exercise, and meet new people. The game was going well, with both teams equally matched. Towards the last part of the game, I went for the frisbee in the end zone and I landed straight on my leg, which caused my knee to strain. I fell to the ground and grabbed my knee. After awhile, I needed to get up. I sat down on a bench for some time, while I rested. I am not exactly sure what I has happened to my knee. Maybe I hyperextended it or it could be a sprain. Since, this day I have limped around, trying not to put pressure on my knee.

I spoke with our music director, who not only has a doctorate in Music, but is also a medical doctor. She has told me that I need to take ibuprofen and rest. She doesn’t think it’s that bad because I don’t feel excruciating pain and I am able to move around with ease. On Thursday, I became slightly depressed because this means I will need to stay off my leg for a while. Many of the activities outside of school revolve around sports, such as tennis, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, and running. I can’t even go on the weekly Hash House Harriers run!!!!!!! I will not be able to participate in these activities until I am healed. For this weekend, I have checked out two movies. I will pretty much stay in bed and watch movies.

Last night, the teachers and staff at ASOY were invited to attend a reception at the ambassador’s house. How amazing is that? We talked and dined with the staff of the embassy as well as several Cameroonian officials. The ambassador’s house is gigantic and definitely well guarded. I have heard great things about the work he has done so far. I can imagine you, Terrenda, in the same position one day!! During the ambassador’s speech, he recognized the wonderful work teachers do and thanked us.

School is going well. I didn’t walk around much the last two days because of the knee problem. The students were very helpful. A few of them went down to the Canteen (cafeteria) to get my lunch and a bag of ice. We are currently reading the book In the year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, completing a research project on the planets (which one of the students suggested we do) and they are completing a 3-D model of their homes for Monday. So, as you can see, there are a lot of exciting things going on.

Well, I wanted to add a post to let everyone know what’s going on. I’m not sure if I will do too many things this weekend. So, don’t be shocked if you do not see a post with some fantastic experience. However, keep checking back at the site. I really do appreciate everyone reading the blog and staying on top of the things I am doing here in Yaounde

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Jungle

Let me start by saying yesterday’s run with the Hash House Harriers should properly be named a hike.

To get to our running destination, we drove to the outskirts of the city, bumping over dirt roads with caution. We finally arrived at a more rural area that lay outside of the city. It had rained earlier that day, making the red earth turn into mud. We began our run down the main dirt road as children smiled at us, dogs barked, and adults stared. About two minutes down the road we turn into the bush that lined the road. We pushed through trees, bushes, branches, and vines. At one point, we went the wrong direction and had to backtrack.

As we went further and further into the brush, I was wondering if we would ever get back to the road to run. I would later find out that, the run would be nothing more than a hike through the perimeter of the jungle! We pushed through the bush, and arrived at a clearing. Out in the distance and down the hill a bit, spread in front of our eyes were huge green trees. That was our destination! To get to these trees we essentially had to carefully walk down (remember it was raining so everything was slippery) the slope that led into the jungle. Once we entered, it was a most amazing adventure. We passed through mud that came up to our ankles leaving our shoes emerged, we jumped over fallen trees, and we pushed through tree branches and vines. Looking back, it was quite an adventure, but to be honest with you, I could only think of one thing and that was the possibility of a parasite or some sort of worm entering my body. Every guidebook talks about these parasites and worms. The books tell you to stay away from standing water and mud. And here we were, trekking through these things. We saw millipedes, caterpillars, and various types of plants. As we passed through some of the jungle, Amy cut her leg on a thorn. Her leg began to bleed. A lady, who ran with the group, took some leaves from a bush, ground them up with saliva in her hand and rubbed it on Amy’s leg. Amazingly, her leg stopped bleeding and stinging. I was quite impressed.

At one point, we passed through a narrow area that contained lots of ants. It was as if it was out of nowhere that these ants appeared all over me. They crawled every direction. I think a few of them bit me (we all had red marks on our arms afterwards). You could feel them all over you. And here I was jumping up and down, yelling, trying to brush them off.

It was great fun though. The group members helped us up the hills and motivated us all the way to the end. One of the guys of the group held my hand going up the last hill to make sure I would finish. It was such an amazing adventure. I have one cut on my leg and am still hoping that I didn’t catch anything. Oh, but that wasn’t the end of the adventure. I was very excited about taking a shower to rinse all of the mud off my legs. But guess what? We had our first water outage! How convenient. In our kitchen we have a huge trashcan filled with water for emergencies such as this one. However, I couldn’t get a hold of any clean buckets so I ended up washing myself with a bottle of filtered water that I hadn’t drank!! It was easier to pour over myself than using water from a bucket!! Next time though, I will have to use the emergency water.

Later that night we went to the Briqueterie to eat soya. Soya is kind of like a meat kabob, which was seasoned and then coated in your choice of pepper or hot seasoning. The man cooked the meat on his grill right in front of us. It was very delicious. The pictures show the soya cooking on the grill and us having fun.

Today, Sunday, is a very good day for Cameroon!! They won the soccer match against the Ivory Coast, making them slightly closer to the qualifier for World Cup 2006. We watched the game at co-worker’s house. It was a very exciting game. I was kind of worried about the outcome. But, they won 3-2. After leaving and driving home, the streets were filled with people dancing, cheering, and yelling because of the victory. The next game supposedly will be played here in Yaoundé. I hope so. And I hope we go. Have a good one.

Bush Meat

Yesterday, we went running at Mt. Febe. We have run consistently for the past two weeks, running usually four to five times per week. On the drive to the top of the mountain (where we park), we saw two men, each carrying a machete, followed by a pack of six dogs. We parked the car in the lot and began our ten minute descend, passing the two men we saw on the way up. They still had their pack of dogs following them. It was a strange sight. They wore boots and clothes with dirt stains. Their dogs were very skinny and stayed close together. After ten minutes, we turned around and ran back up the hill. At this point the two guys had stopped their walk down the hill. One of them stood on the side of the road talking with the passengers of a taxi. As we neared him, we saw that he had some sort of dead animal in his hand! He held it by the hind legs, probably trying to sell it to the passengers. The other man, sat in the grass on the side of the road, surrounded by the dogs. The dogs lay next to him. As we walked by, we saw that the man had taken his machete and opened up the stomach of the second animal. The insides of the animal spewed out onto the sidewalk. It was very disgusting; we run past with our heads turned the opposite way.

Later, we talked with the guard of our house, Johannes. He told us that it was probably porcupine and that the men were hunting for these animals in the nearby jungle. The guidebook tells us that there are many bush meats that are sold illegally in the market, including gorilla and snake. I’m not quite sure if this bush porcupine is illegal or not.

Last night, the police stopped us for the second time. It was the same routine, with several police officers stopping all types of people. He asked for our identification and the registration for the car. He then stated that one of my headlights was out and he wanted to take my registration card. I guess the card wasn’t good enough, so he returned my card and proceeded to tell me that he would take my driver’s license instead. For some reason, he wanted to check the trunk of the car, which he found nothing. After some debating with his colleague across the street, he finally returned my things and let us go on our way.

I have attached some photographs that I have taken around the city, a view from my room, and of the two new adventurous teachers that I hang out with frequently, Amy and Izumi. I hope all is well.