Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Social Life in Yaounde

Moving to Yaounde from Los Angeles required an adjustment in social activities. In Los Angeles, I went out a few times each week after work. My friends and I would listen to poets speak about their anger, take a cappuccino at the local coffee house, or shake our hips to salsa music. In Los Angeles, I always ran around from one place to the next.

In Yaounde, the social scene is opposite. I don't find myself running around and doing as many things as I did in Los Angeles. The other day I had dinner with a German woman who complained about many things in Cameroon, including the lack of social activities. I agree with her, in the lack of offerings. Unlike her, it has never been a huge problem that I find the need to complain about. A place is what you make of it.

I have gotten to know many people here who have either invited me into their homes or taken me out to an event. Last weekend my friend, Vivian from Tanzania, invited me to a fashion show of a local seamstress. I would have never known about this event otherwise. It started late, but ended with a great showing of wonderful designs. I actually can't wait to have an outfit made by her (maybe in the fall).

This week is the l'ecran noir African film festival, where a host of films from South Africa, Niger, Cameroon, and other nations are shown. Last night, a friend and I watched Max and Mona, a South African comedy about a professional funeral mourner.

So, my point? Well, Yaounde has become what I have made of it. I have gone out and met people. I have found things to do such as the events above, drum lessons, and french lessons. And, I don't sit around bored waiting for something fun to drop on my lap.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Learning to Cook

Yes, you read correctly!! This weekend I tried a hand at cooking. Those who know me, know that I dislike being in the kitchen. I much rather eat out every night than cook. One of my Cameroonian friends took me into her kitchen and showed me how. I had have a lot of fun preparing ndole, one of the traditional foods of Cameroon made from bitter leaves and peanuts. We added fried fish to the dish. In the picture you can see me trying to clean the fish. Yuck! I’ve never cleaned a fish myself. When I started the task, I just assumed that the fish came clean. Oh how wrong I was! I found myself tugging, cutting, and washing the insides of this fish. After squirming and making funny faces, the fish was finally clean and ready for frying. To accompany the dish we also fried plantains.

And, the most exciting part was that it actually tasted good!!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Random Shots Around Town

This is a shot of the supermarket, Mahima. It's on the way to work, so I often swing by to purchase items that I need for the house or school.

A shot of the city, well, part of the city.

I really like this picture of one of the main traffic circles in town. Even after living here for 10 months, I still don't know the rules for entering and exiting. Luckily I haven't been honked at too much.

A shot of downtown. The circular building on the right is the central market. Downtown Yaounde is a bustling place filled with taxis and pedestrians.

I took this picture last night from out of a window at a restuarant called Espresso Bar. This is the main intersection when passing into Bastos.

A butterfly that I've seen flying around school.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Mbalmayo Forestry School

The third and fourth grade classes went to the Mbalmayo Forestry School last week. This happened to be our first field trip of the year. The students really wanted a trip before the year ended. Next year, I will start earlier with field trips. I feel now that I have been in Yaoundé for a year that I am more familiar with different places.

The trip started off later than expected. As we drove through the city, we did not anticipate blocked roads. However, a lot of the main roads were blocked by military and police personnel who were practicing for the National Day (May 20) parade. The boys were especially excited to see uniformed people with guns.

The Forestry school is located in Mbalmayo, which is about a 45minute drive from Yaoundé. When we arrived we were eagerly greeted by the staff and given a brief history of the school. Around 300 students attend the school and after completion are prepared to work in any job that relates to forestry. There was a lot of talk about the deterioration of the school since the economic crisis in the 90s and with the departure of the Russians. This was evident as you walked past abandoned buildings, molded and crumbled walls, and an insufficient library.

Despite all of this, the campus is truly beautiful as it is surrounded by amazing vegetation and water life. The students not only took a tour of the school itself, but were able to walk through the tree plots and learn about trees such as the ebony and eucalyptus. The students had fun hiking through the forest and collecting leaf and bark samples.

By the end of the trip, the students were exhausted and hungry. They had a lot of fun while learning a lot too!!! You can’t help but be amazed by the natural beauty of Cameroon. I’m always astounded by the varying landscape. I think the students were just as impressed.

Yellow Mowambe. When boiled, can be used as a natural medicine to treat yellow fever and malaria.

Eucalyptus trees imported from Australia. The forest on the school's property is used for academic purposes. They have an amazing forest that includes many variety of trees.

Ebony trees (Ebene in french).

A walk through the forest.

The students learned that trees have differnt leaves. And, a person may use leaves to classify trees.

A picture of the conference room. I really like the artwork on the walls.

Some of the girls listenting to the directors give a talk about the history of the shcool. The school's library is in the background.

A shot of the military preparing for the National Day parade. They had so many preparations for the parade including placing the Cameroonian flag on light posts, painting the roads, and planting flowers. The downtown area looked beautiful. I believe beautifying projects should be consistent throughout the year instead of just on special days. National Day celebrates Cameroonian independence and nationlism. January 1, 1960 was when French Cameroon actually gained its independence.

Here is a shot of the back of the Mbalmayo Forestry School. The top two floors are the dorms. Students can pay a small fee to stay in the dorms. Other students choose to live in town. The bottom two floors are staff offices and classrooms.

Friday, May 12, 2006

International Night

International Night

It's great to get the community together to have a nice night out. And, International Night was one of those wonderful times. Everyone gathered to celebrate the various cultures represented at our school. For entertainment, we had a percussion group, a Congolese dance group, and many vocal acts from the school community. I enjoyed watching the Congolese dance group. It was nice to see a different dance from another African country. Even the diverse cultural groups in Cameroon have different movements and dress. The food was great and having fun with friends was fantastic.

Monday, May 01, 2006


My second trip to Kribi was so much more relaxing than the first. Since, I had problems getting specific documents for my car (in hopes not to get stopped as much as the first time) we settled on renting a school van. So, Ginger (the school nurse), the two student teachers, Jennifer and Katie, and I set off to Kribi. The trip was stress free with a driver named Fabian and a school van rental. We took in the sun, ate fresh fish, and even marveled at a late night thunderstorm out in the distant horizon

The first day out to the beach, we waded in the water and for some reason or another began a discussion on jellyfish. When I began to tell a story of when I went swimming in a jellyfish filled lake while visiting Denmark, one attacked the back of my leg. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit. Maybe its best to say that it lightly grazed the back part of my knee. With a quick brush, I knocked it off and quickly ran out of the water to inspect my leg. The part where I was stung was slightly raised and stinging. Shortly after, I developed an odd-shaped burn mark. My paranoia went wild. I thought my leg would fall off or a poisonous substance would run through my body. Needless to say, I was scared to enter the waters for the next few days. I would tiptoe into the water, float a bit, and then run back out. Three weeks later I have a mark from the sting and a nice little rash that itches like crazy. I think my paranoia is still lingering because after the rash developed (two weeks later), I consulted the World Book encyclopedia to self-diagnose my symptoms. So, I didn’t learn anything about my particular case, but I did learn that there is a deadly jellyfish, called the sea wasp, found in the northern part of Australia, that when it stings may kill a person within 3 minutes. A coworker had a worse jellyfish sting a few weeks before mine. The sucker was wrapped around her ankle forcing her to grab it and yank it off. She even had the tentacle marks! No need to worry, I’ve been applying anti-itch cream and things are looking better.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

This is a picture of a crow sitting out on a log. I enjoy looking at these birds because they look as if they are wearing a white vest. The sound they make is impressive.

A view of our hotel, St. Benoit. This picture was taken down on the beach looking up.

Katie, Jennifer, Ginger and I in Kribi!!