I was going to start this another way.
On the way back to Mvangan, the car stopped, and we all got out – not to walk up a hill, change a tire, or wait for a forgotten car part, but because the house planks stored under our feet had to be (removed) for their owner.I sat in the grass with my New Yorker. A man came over. "Oh, la blanche!"I sighed. Ignored him.
"Il paraît que vous êtes très appréciée ici. Tout le monde vous connaît ! Ils disent, quand on passe, " Voilà notre ntangen ! C'est la blanche de Mvangan, qui travaille pour nous ! " " Vous avez déjà mis longtemps ici ? "
" Un an. "
" Oui, c'est qulequechose ! Je suis de Mengbwa, je travaille au poste agricole là-bas… "
( " It seems that you're very appreciated here. Everyone knows you ! They say, as we pass, " Here's our ntangen ! (white) It's the white woman of Mvangan, who works for us ! " Have you been here long yet ? "
" One year. "
" Yes, that's something ! I'm from Mengbwa, I work at the agricultural post there.. ")
I was not expecting this.Not a blanche anymore, but their blanche. The rest of the ride was just a little bit easier.
Coming home…there's power!The road is familiar. My feet go automatically- as obviated by my treks in the pitch-black night.This is home. People to bring things to. People expecting me.
The other morning, when I went chez Alice ("mon amie!" She calls out, everytime she sees me.) for my beignets and bouillie of the early am, a man came up, with whiskey sachet in hand (mmm…Kitoko and beignets…) "Oh, Ntangen!"I ignored him. AGGRAVATED that here, in my safe space – my place – I could be violated like that. A teacher, sitting with his daughter, launched into an angry discourse in Bulu. The man apologized to me. This has never happened.
…not going anywhere for awhile ?
(wish I had a Snickers)
At a meeting in Zoebefam. Here for water meetings, which were supposed to start half an hour ago, but the PTA meeting is going over. Bulu. I'm bored. Two water meetings today because we start construction at the end of the month (! Many thanks to all who contributed).
Zoe's hopping these days. Several boutiques, a restaurant, people selling clothes – this, my friends, signifies 2 things. The start of the school year. And cocoa . Cocoa = big money, a leftover equation from colonial days and mandated initiatives. A PCV friend thinks you can make more consistent money with less work on a plantain plantation (and basically, he's right). But creativity is neither prized nor fostered here. Cocoa = CFA. It sticks. All the work – money, months and years of hard labor – that goes into cocoa leaves Cameroon. The pickups trolling through Mvangan (all the South) these months? The first and second choice beans go to European buyers. The leftovers – dregs, if you will – is bought by Chococam. This is why a country that produces both has neither good coffee or chocolate. Cocoa goes for about 500,550 a kilo these days. (Roughly $1). And it takes a lot of beans to make chocolate.
Anyway. Cocoa season, time when the not-quite-cloying-and-surprisingly-pleasant scent of cocoa fermenting in the sun permeates the air. When people have money. And when the bars…well.
Update on Mvangan – still no power. Three months now.
**update** power came back to about 10% of the village. Basically the hospital and scattered houses. BUT all hospital personnel are "allowed" (by the Doc) to hook up to the hospital, so I have power. And the peasants rejoice.
Idyllic. Freezing, on top of a dormant volcano, looking out onto lush, green, rolling hills, watching the sun rise over the trees, cows and sheep grazing, scattered houses…is this Africa? Is it not Vermont or Switzerland? …Then it's Muslim prayer time and the Fulani herdsman are singing. This is all that brings me back to Africa. Hiked up Friday, spent the night, back down Saturday to a gorgeous villa and time to…start cooking. 30ish PCVs plus some PCV counterparts and other Cameroonian invitees for dinner, but during the day, just ..relaxing, running in/out of the kitchen, around the beautiful gardens, waterfall, etcetera…
We had turkey. The best turkey I've ever had – can't get much more free range/organic than a turkey raised in Cameroon. Killed by PCVs, plucked, stuffed, and cooked in a giant marmite (like a Dutch oven). We'd been planning this for at least 6 months, so every time someone had visitors from the states/went to the states, they brought back stuff for us. So the menu was: cheese and bread and apples, appetizer
- salads (provided by villa staff)
- mashed potatoes
-ginger-garlic green beans
-fried okra and fried potatoes
- pecan pie
- carrot cake
-oreos (from the states :)
I don't know who will appreciate who amazing it is to have these things – and have had the ingredients for them – in Cameroon. Anyway. Another Thanksgiving in Africa. And it was a good one.
Current projects, with brief updates:
Project starting today (as in, November 28). Bought supplies yesterday, the truck's being loaded up and driven down. Many, many thanks to all contributors. More to come when the project is completed, with pictures
Meaning, soy. Fields planted in about 6 villages in and around Mvangan, with a demonstration field at the hospital. It's growing well. Soon, we'll harvest, and the Delegue d'Agriculture (henceforth DAADR, or Essome) and I will do animations on the benefits of soy and how to prepare it and incorporate into local dishes. Baby step one in my malnutrition campaign. What's step two? I have no idea. Yet.
Well, see above. That and the other week when I was alone at the hospital (our HIPC personnel – or all of the hospital/district staff- were in Ebolowa clamoring for their pay. All other provinces got paid in September, and they got paid for a year. The South JUST got paid…after much fighting…and they got paid for 6 months. Have I expounded on corruption yet and on how World Bank/IMF/Global Fund initiatives DON'T WORK on the ground? Another time.) I had fun drawing nutrition posters. This is work, too….in the life of a PCV, anyway.
High school health club. I'm their "conseillère" (advisor). We're planning activities for Dec. 1, World AIDS Day. Their ideas, mostly. Last week they launched a contest for the best AIDS day related drawing/slogan. I was pretty excited about that. We're planning a party for Friday, after a round table discussion..this is the suite to my own "Semaine du SIDA" (AIDS week) that happened in mid-October.
Library! The building is finally under construction. As in they've knocked out all the walls in an old house to make one big room. Next is building bookshelves…This is the Mairie (town hall + mayor) 's contribution. I received books from an NGO in Paris, Les Enfants de Madame Ici. Library opening should be in the next few months.
Follow-up Semaine du SIDA
The AIDS week was a success. We taught about 400 students all week on HIV/AIDS basics, transmission, testing, counseling, prevention, living positively…and some had the opportunity to have a testimonial from an HIV-positive woman. 190 students got tested, from 6 th to 12th grade. Follow up has been the creation of the health club and work on Dec 1 activities. We'll see. This is a much longer story…for later.
…And that's all she wrote, folks. For this time. Happy almost-December.