le 27 juillet
(grab a Snickers). American marketing is truly amazing. As are American pens (just went to my writing utensils bag to discover it...almost empty? Is this a quasi-veiled plug "please send me pens"? Yes).
I cannot count the number ot times that slogan has flashed across my eyes. Waiting for a bus, waiting on the side of the road for a bus to be fixed, waiting for a meeting to start...waiting. My IPOD has enlivened such times, as have the less-modern books and magazines, but I've gotten amazingly good at staring into space, thinking of nothing, and making the hours *fly* by.
And I've gained an appreciation for Snickers, rare as they are. Nothing like a cold Snickers and a cold COca Light from Deli in Ebolowa...oh, this letter will NOT be solely a product placement. But I do miss products.
Today...I grabbed a banana. This was during a water source/soy bean growing (longer story) meeting in Zoebefam. The meeting had erupted into a 30 minute long high-pitched brawl in Bulu, over the creation of subcommittees within the main committee. (which I mostly understood! victory!)
I wrote the silent scream in red pen on my banana peeel. (For those unfamiliar with my away messages of years past, the silent scream is a -silent- expression of utter frustration during which I channel Munch's painting of same title). I wish you could frama banana peels.
This is when I started yelling at the villagers. "The ONLY IMPORTANT THING is getting potable water for the entire village; the rest is just DETAILS!" Everyone agreed with me, but. Cameroon's culture (damn colonizers? maybe) is thoroughly entrenched in bureaucracy. You can't have a club, a meeting without officers and *titles* for everone else. People like title. THey collect them, like....like away messages on banana peels (I wish). And often, the title is just as empty as the banana's torn skin. In Mvangan, one person (I've been particularly angry with him lately) has been president of the local AIDS committee, community relay for malaria, community impregnator of mosquito nets, and now president of the COSA (health committee, made of community members, runs the hospital). What has he done? Absolutely nothing. NO need to rant now on how I *don't* understand the culture/mentality of continually appointing/electing people to positions when they have shown no evidence of work yet lots of stealing money. (Will PC shut me down for this? Hmm. Dev, please post a disclaimer "does not represent the views of the US Peace Corps." thanks ;) Oh, "not" being a government employee.
The meeting ended amicably with me responding to requests I stay for palm wine with "ma wo'en!" (I'm tired). Left the house at 1:30 pm, left Zoe at...6. The letter Paul had sent informing people of the meeting had only reached some, so we spent 2 hours visiting every house in the village, while he also gave me a deeper look at village social politics. (Have I mentioned he's my erstwhile counterpart- for this and other - and is the head of the lab at the District Hospital of Mvangan? Ok). (It's his village).
Still haven't written in the post book- dammit. Maybe I'll print these for the PCV in Mvangan 07-09. Oy.
Today was also jeudi propre (see previous), so by 7:30 I was at the hospital with me (dirty) hoe. An hour and a half. ANd only 3 of us working.
Today is also July 27, which marks one year since I got my letter of placement from Peace COrps. One year since I started thinking about Cameroon, talking about it, wearing it on T-shirts...and now, and now, it's truly home.
A word on "motivation." In French, it's an exact cognate with the English word. In fact, the word is Franch. In Cameroon...it means money. APparently staff didn't receive "motivation" the last jeudi propre, from the Doc's own pocket, as he's done other times (we're talking 300 F CFA here - 60 cents - to buy beignets). So, most people were en grève today. ANd I'm currently baking banan bread because there have already been complaints that my formation on nutrition/malnutrition (in-service - tomorrow, was going to be today) included no "motivation" or "pause café" (coffee and pastries...which I'll admit was a highlight of those early days of PC in Yaoundé. STILL).
Apple Foster's Clark is amazing, ps. The more "cosmopolitan" PCVs had treied this long ago, but I just found it in Mvangan. (product placement! I can't hide the country of my rearing)
The formation wasn't today because Laure, one of my favorite district nurses, from Nselang, showed up with a case of PFA - paralysie Flaxe aigue, or, in short, suspected polio. In national (and WHO) policy, one case equals an epidemic, in terms of response. (At the time of this writing...well I thought I'd know but I don't know yet. So). I'm not revealing anything the govts of Cameroon, France, Congo, and WHO don't already know - stool samples were rushed to the Centre Pasteur in Yaounde Friday for confirmation, then to Brazzaville, then Paris. THe Doc hurriedly explained all this to me this morning as he waited for the child (23 months) to arrive. Everyone was busy, and my medical curiosity got me - I wanted to see the exam (and I did). Nigeria doesn't vaccinate for polio, at least in some states, and thus endangers all of West and Central Africa. It's *almost* eradicated here. But there have been cases, often of transmission by way of Nigeria. ANd this - well. I've seen a lot of adult/teenage polio victims, but since they started every child campaigns...
Nutrition. Reading through myriad textbooks, I realize I've SEEN pellagra (vit B3/niacin deficiency), rickets (vit D/calcium deficiency), vit A deficiency, kwashiorkor...this in the rainforest where food grows to fulfill every need and children should not be suffering diseases cause by insufficient sunlight (rickets). There is a meeting of all the traditional chiefs of the arrondissementon Saturday. The Chef (mine, of Mvangan village) has asked me to attend, to take pictures (*3 things I'm not - English teacher, computer teafcher, photographer, oh wait...) I'm hoping to use the opportunity to talk about health - all the services at the hospital and especially those that are free.
...finally, I'm doing something that feels like *something*...maybe.
The cat is boycotting dinner. There's something to be said for turning into your mother (eep, father, in this instance). Yelling at a feline "I don'"t CARE if you'd rather have Friskies, tonight is sardines! That's what's for dinner and you're going to eat it!" Well, she can go hunt, unlike myself at a young age.
NO snakes or other reptiles of note, indoors. Though in the last bush taxi I took, there was apparently a live viper among someone's luggage...the chargeurs put a swift, machete end to that, mid-voyage.
...and for this installment, that's all she wrote.