Friday, July 10, 2009

Dermatological dysfunctions, travels, and lots of projects

My face

I’d like to first take a moment to describe the interesting artwork/dermatological dysfunction currently decorating my upper right cheek. I think a blister beetle shat on my face while I was sleeping the other night. It was at another PCVs house, stuff like this doesn’t happen chez moi, I swear! The freaky little blisters it left are oddly arranged in a shape that resembles none other than a paw print. I think it’s the ghost of Thomas Clemson, or whatever his name was that founded my university, exacting revenge for my distinct lack of school spirit by branding my face with my school’s logo while I live in Africa and nobody here even gives a shit about school spirit anyway. (I did once skip a college football game to watch a Chinese movie with subtitles instead, all by myself.) Hopefully I won’t have a scar for life. But if I do, it would at least be a good conversation starter. And then I’d never give money to Clemson! Maybe more unnerving though, is that since this swollen red mass is directly under my right eye, I can see it out the corner of my eye. I’ll be talking to someone, then get distracted by it, and end up staring at my own cheek in a mildly stupid cross-eyed manner. As if they don’t think nassaras are odd enough already!

Note: I’ve just been informed (since there is no lack of commentary on the explosion on my face) that the French word for the blister beetle is the bombardier, the bomber. Now isn’t that poetic?


Other than nefarious bomber beetles stamping pawprints on me, I’ve been having lots of fun. I’ve been on the move, all over Cameroon, and returned only yesterday from weeks on the road.

Congratulations to me, almost a month ago now, was the Camerooniversary—one year in country! I went down to Yaoundé for our mid-service conference, which basically consists of lots of poop-in-a-cup activities. The guys in my group really got a kick out of this, lining up their little fecal samples on a prominently displayed shelf in the Peace Corps house in Yaoundé. There are some things about my friends that I just did not want to know. Since apparently, fecal matter seems to quickly be coming a theme of this blog entry, I should also mention that these samples had to be transported by share taxi to the lab across town in Yaoundé. Cameroonians, if you see a heard of young white folks carrying mysterious and oddly-smelling little brown paper bags around your capital city and desperately trying to get a taxi, just keep on driving.

It was great to see old friends one year in. I can’t believe I’ve got only one year left and I’m very optimistic about it. Right before leaving Mokolo, I was up to my ears teaching the business classes, and stuck in a mini-funk of my first bout of homesickness (and finding no comfort from the added threat of a stolen vagina.) But basically, the hot season here was kicking my ass. Fortunately, seeing my fellow volunteers in Yaoundé recharged my batteries, gave me some good ideas for projects, and forced me to remember the reality that I only get to do this for one more year before whatever form of Americana and reality hits. Plus, the heat is pretty much gone now (yippee!) so I have no more excuses.


After mid-service, I went to the gorgeous Northwest province of the country to do some research at another branch of MC2, my host microfinance institution. When I told my mom that I was doing research, she said, “Ohhh! Are you looking at bugs?!!” No. Since when do I know anything about Science, Mom? “Research” just sounds a lot better and is more concise than saying, “I’m going to ask a lot of questions and follow some bank employees around for a few days to see if the donor-financed programs they have at their branch are profitable and can be replicated at my MC2, minus the outside donor funding.” So, my “research” was very informative and hopefully can be useful to my branch. It can be hard to break through the bureaucracy of my MC2 to implement a new idea. The President of our Board of Directors is shameful, has never even set foot inside our office because he’s a high-level government employee who lives in Yaoundé. (So much for grass-roots level development!) I hope to work more closely with my counterpart Bouba, the bank’s Secretary-Treasurer. (This is typical: people love to assign a big-wig or a family member to run a project, even if he doesn’t have the qualifications or motivation required. It’s a main reason why many volunteers have left their MC2s to work independently in the community, outside of the formal institutions, and are doing excellent work there.) I haven’t given up on the MC2 though, so we’ll see where this project goes—wish me luck!

After the research and before heading back to Mokolo, was the Extreme North’s provincial meeting, auspiciously placed on the 4th of July. :) The meeting attracted nearly all the PCVs from the EN and North provinces alike, with satisfactorily inebriated results. I was very happy to have a fête organized for the 4th because at this time of year my family engages in the noble triumvirate of croquet, card-playing, and feasting, all to excess. Simple pleasures that I miss sorely when I am not there to partake. But apparently, I lead our team in the national anthem, tackled a fellow volunteer, and practically got in a fight with a plant, all of which I minimally remember, to commemorate our great nation’s birth. And I played volleyball for so many hours that my wrist is all bruised greenish blue now, four days later. God bless America.

As fun as the travels were, it’s good to be back home in Mokolo. Thea and I are organizing a girls’ camp next week where we’ll do lots of fun kumbaya activities around leadership, peer pressure, sexual health, and I’ll throw in a budgeting activity or two cause I am a SED volunteer (Small Enterprise Development.) It’s very different from most of the work I do here, but truly, these issues are so rarely addressed or discussed in schools or any other venue that I hope it can be eye-opening for the participants. I had the idea for the camp during the week that the power was out, in between cutting my hair out of boredom and maniacally pacing around my house in the dark. Wish us luck as spend some quality time with Cameroon’s youth!

1 comment:

Siobhan in Cameroon said...

ashia about the blister beetle!! hope to see you soon, maybe up your way.. i'll keep ya posted.