Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Twin Day

This week is SPIRIT WEEK at school. Each day we have a certain theme. We are to come to school dressed for the part. My students are really getting in to it. Here is a picture of my student, Windie, and myself. We dressed alike for twin day. Not only did we have the same outfit on, but we had the same nail polish color, the same jewelry, and the same hairstyle. Here is a picture of us.

The things I learn when cleaning!!

I have an extra bedroom, which so far has served as a storage room for boxes I have yet to unpack. It is also used to store my suitcases and as an area to iron clothes. In one of the closets, I have my bed quilts.

This weekend I decided to place one of the quilts on my bed. As I searched through the closet, I saw a huge number of brown pellets on the shelves. I figured out that I had a mouse (or mice) living in the back room. Florence, the woman who helps to clean my apartment on Mondays, gave me a hand at clearing out the backroom and emptying the various boxes. Obviously, the mice had been in the boxes by the sight of all the poo poo pellets at the bottom. You should have seen me cleaning out the boxes!! I handled each item with care, touching them only with my thumb and index finger, scared that a mouse might pop out at any moment. It was as if each item from the box was covered with toxic waste and I had to be extremely careful.

Anyways, I’ve talked about mice and cockroaches before. It just happens to be a fact of life. My whole point to this post is how wasteful I felt while cleaning out my boxes with Florence’s help.

I had sectioned the items into three piles: school, orphanage, and trash. This post is about the third item. The trash pile. When I’m moving or cleaning (which is rare), I will throw anything in the trash that I don’t want to deal with, whether it is useable or not. So, I began throwing away clothespins, bent multiplication cards, children’s play blocks (ok, I threw these away because I thought they would be contaminated with poo poo pellets), seashells, and the list goes on. Florence began going through the trash boxes. She noticed all of the things I had thrown away and asked what I intended to do with them. She was both shocked and happy that I was throwing things away because she asked if she could search through the boxes to find things that she could give to her children or the neighborhood children. And of course, she selected the bent multiplication cards, the seashells, the clothespins, and the various other things that I was unwilling to deal with or that I found no use for.

When she selected these items, I realized how wasteful I could be. There I was, throwing good things away. There she was, happy and proud that she would bring home great toys to her children. I took note of the useful things I have thrown away recently and realized how other people can benefit from these. It reminded me of last week, when I threw away a bunch of bananas because they were covered in ants. Cameroonians “reuse and recycle” many things. For example, when I take out the braids from my hair, I always throw away the fake hair (Cameroonians call it mesh). A few months ago, when I took out the mesh, I told the hairdresser I would throw it away and buy some more the next time. She asked for the hair and said that she would wash and reuse it. Most of the women here wash and reuse the mesh. I never thought in a billion years to wash it and save it for a later use. This obviously saves money!

So, this Friday, as I reorganize and sort the materials in my boxes, I will think about a beneficial use for the items. I can give them to children who would otherwise not have any toys or even donate them to a local school. I’m sure the children would enjoy it!!

Monday, March 13, 2006

International Women's Day

Last Wednesday, March 8, was International Women’s Day (also my Dad’s Birthday). It was a day to celebrate the achievements of women all over the world. When I drove to school, I noticed that the main road in Bastos looked abandoned. Then it dawned on me! There were no women selling soups, bananas, or taking taxis to work. Almost none of the daily functions were taking place. Since it was a holiday, women had the day off work and many participated in the women’s day parade. It was evident, even from such a short drive down the street, that the Cameroonian women have a great impact on the country.

Women dressed in bright green and pink fabrics, which advertised Women’s Day. Check out the picture with first grade student, Ramona, and her teacher, Ms. Nkwain! Many women wore their Women’s Day clothes to celebrate their day. I had a shirt made from the fabric, but it was not ready in time for me to wear. Maybe next year! The women held a parade in downtown. I heard many held posters and signs stating that they are being mistreated, but these were taken away from them before the filming of the parade.

After work, I celebrated Women’s Day with some coworkers. We enjoyed a nice cold beer (Castel) together. We chatted about everything under the sun. In the evening, the women filled the streets and bars to celebrate. It was a great day to celebrate and reflect on how far women have come and how much further we have to go.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Kribi Beaches

I enjoy the varying geography of Cameroon, the jungles, the grasslands, the mountains, and even the beaches. For our three day weekend, I headed to the South Province ( I've been in 7 of the 10 Provinces) to the town of Kribi. We had a wondeful time swimming in the Ocean and observing the Lobe waterfalls ( which flow into the sea). It was great to get away from the hectic city to a small beach town. The people who live in Kribi were extremely friendly. It was aslo interesting to see how much the ocean influences daily life. Many people offered to cook us shrimp and fish, yet the majority of the people swimming in the beach were either foreign or Cameroonians with a lot of money. I've read that the water carries a relationship with the people.

Enjoy the pictures.