Tourou is one of my favorite Cameroonian towns, like a little Swiss mountain spa resort (but minus the running water, electricity, cell phone network…) It’s peaceful and beautifully tucked in the mountains, and one of the closest towns to me. The two PCVs posted there are also, fortunately for me, really cool. Matthieu works in Agroforestry and Cara in Community Health. (That’s a link to Cara’s blog over there on the right, “The Cameroonian Caper.”) I really enjoy collaborating with both of them. I went to Tourou earlier this week supposedly to work with some women’s business groups, but also to watch a meteor shower, and eat sushi. :)
(That’s millet, the grain of choice here, growing around the huts.)
The road up to Tourou snakes along the Nigerian border. In case you weren’t sure which country you’re in:
I also got this text (in English!!) from MTN, the major cell phone provider, “MTN wishes you a safe and productive stay in
Kids, as always, are plentiful and cute. Upon arriving, I was first greeted by these little guys, Matt’s neighbors.
The kiddie on the right is sporting the jersey of
Being in Tourou reminded me of visiting my grandparents’ houses in the country. There is lots of space for frolicking, and Matt was working in his garden. He’s getting hard-core with some kind of grain press here, crushing soybeans to feed the livestock.
Cara supervises. (She’s good at that.)
Animals (and animal’s noise) abound.
Matt keeps bunnies. It's very manly.
And Cara keeps goats. She named them Bean and Beignet.
Since Tourou is the country/America circa 1884, we decided to make our own guava juice. The process is actually really simple. First, Cara picks guavas from the tree in her back yard. Then, we slice them up, throw them in water and boil them for half an hour. Finally, we mush it through a strainer to gets out the really crunchy seeds.
Cara au travail:
Add water and sugar and tadaaaaaaa! Your finished product:
Tip: guava juice: good with whiskey sachets! It was so tasty I want to try this with other fruits.
In case you weren’t sure you are in the country, here’s a little reminder/reality check. The first time I ever went to Cara’s latrine, I couldn’t find it. The whole in the ground that serves as your Tourou toilet is covered with that pot lid. At least the lid keeps you from falling in. You also get the added bonus of having Cara’s pervy goats stare you down as you try to do your business. Thanks, goats. Hope you liked that.
Just in case you were wondering, this is my toilet. I ♥ ceramic!
(I’m one of the slim minority of volunteers in the Extreme North who has running water in my house, so it’s like my birthday, every day!)
Cara’s mom is notorious (in a good way… as long as Cara shares) for sending overwhelming care packages. I can’t complain, cause living not far from Cara, I often get to reap a few benefits. This time around, her mom had shipped the makings for sushi and tempura. It was FABULOUS. But since we’re only so skilled at performing the Japanese culinary arts by candlelight, the sushi rolls turned out more like burritos. Sushitos, we christened them. Here’s our gang enjoying the Japacan/Mexanese feast. (And that’s my postmate Thea, making her trademark I-lived-in-Japan peace sign!)
The next day was Thursday, Tourou’s market day. Tourou is unique in that it’s remained cut-off enough that some folks still practice local animist ways. For years, the road to Tourou was so bad that a moto up from Mokolo (my town) took almost 3 hours. The population is equally cut-off linguistically. The language in Tourou is Hdi, spoken by only about 40,000 people along the Cameroonian-Nigerian border. In all of Tourou, there are about three women who speak French, and a few more guys who speak it—mainly the elite of businessmen, teachers, and government employees. The road to Tourou is smoother now, only about an hour on a moto from Mokolo, and a truck makes the trip up once a week, on market day. But traditional ways remain intact. For the women, this means that your little calabash hat (not proper anthropological term) indicates your marital status. A metal spike through your lip or nose indicates which number wife you are in a polygamous family. On market day, the calabash ladies are out in force, sporting their shiny red helmets. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the metal spike through this lady's nose.
Everyone here is gathered around a calabash of milk. Milk is new to the Tourou market.
Over to the left of the photo below, you can see the lady dressed in yellow and pink fabric. She’s go the baby on the back, calabash on head, and a package on top of the calabash!
One clever woman we’ve worked with isn’t animist, but she knows how to make a profit selling these calabashes to the trickle of tourists that comes through Tourou. She shines them up with oil so they gleam in the sun, ensnaring the innocent tourist.
Yes, Cara, that’s a good look for you.
You too, Abdu. (Matt’s counterpart.)
Once upon a time, I used to wear this outfit to work in DC. (Neck down. minus the chacos.)
Elsewhere in the market, you’ll find piles of millet.
Piles of beans.
And more cute/dirty kids.
Cara negotiates for her favorite leaves. She makes a mean leaf sauce, which I am always happy to eat.
Thea thought this was neat—you get to pick your haircut like you’d pick your dish in a Korean restaurant. To the untrained eye, I recognize that these styles all look, well, wildly similar. Don’t you worry though, that is exactly why Peace Corps gave us three months of training.
Thea has a degree in Fine Arts and also likes to photograph chickens.
So, can you tell I just replaced my old dead camera and got a little snap-happy? Hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of another of the Extreme North’s finest! Remember, for your next spa resort vacation… And thanks to Matt and Cara, my generous hosts and Leaf Sauce Delight chefs!