June 25th – 27th

June 25th – First day of work!

What an eventful day! I am happy to report that my work situation was able to work itself out, and I was able to fully plan out my time here with Keghah. This morning we went into town to buy a new printer, some umbrellas, and wine for community leaders; all to prepare for my work. Before I start surveying people, I must ask the community leaders’ permission.  Keghah told me we need to bring gifts to the community leaders, but that he would get non-alcoholic wine so that their brains aren’t addled, haha. After lunch I went to 2 of the communities that are located at Mile 4 Nkwen. They are called Mbelewa and Mbesi II. Nicoline, one of Keghah’s 4 employees, joined us. She will help me facilitate my surveys for the next 7 weeks and I could not be happier to work with her! In order to meet the community leaders we first went to meet Mata, a teacher and social worker in Mile 4, who introduced us to the leaders. She told them that I was a Peace Corps volunteer and asked them permission for me to do my work in the communities. When I explained to her that I was just a student, she told me it is all the same to people in Cameroon. Both of the leaders were very kind and welcomed me into their communities. The community leader of Mbesi II had 2 little kids who started shouting “white man, white man” when they saw me. I tried to explain to them that “no I am ‘white woman’,” but they didn’t listen :]  I will start interviewing households on Thursday in Mbelewa and then will move on to the next. On the way there and back we rode on motorcycles, my first time ever! Other than pretty terrifying with nothing to hold on to and no helmet, it was actually much smoother than going in a taxi.

June 26th – Preparing for research

Because I start surveying tomorrow, I was able to spend today typing up my background, hypothesis, and methods sections for my report, along with mapping out my goals and results section. This is my first scientific/anthropology report so I will be asking for input from my GPP advisors back home. Other than that it was a relaxing day. Mama made me plantains and an omelet for breakfast and friend fish pies for lunch; you would think she wants to fatten me up! When I am hanging around the house I help her shell beans and seeds outside while we people watch. For photos of the home and around town click here: https://www.facebook.com/julie.scrivner.31/media_set?set=a.10151749330363125.1073741831.676568124&type=3

Fish pies! 

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Are you ready to help Mama harvest corn in two weeks? I am!

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June 27th– First day of field work!

At 9 AM this morning Nicoline and I took the taxi/motorcycle ride to Mbelewa. We were able to survey 10 people in 4 hours, our daily goal. The vast diversity between the correspondents and their economic and physical well-being astounded me. Just from walking half a mile we talked to decently well off plantation owners, small farmers, call box workers and struggling single moms. I must say the most surprising thing to me has been how many parents have passed away when their children are still young; it’s not something you experience very often in California. From all of our surveying we learned that some of the land had recently been sold to the city by the fawn and for 3 months now city waste has been trucked up the road and dumped in their community. All of the trucks are causing a lot of noise, air, and ground pollution, and the waste plant is filled with harmful chemicals from the city that run off into water sources when it rains. This affects the water supply, which is already minimal because of a decrease in the rainy season since 2009. I am spending the afternoon typing up and organizing all of the responses I received. I am intrigued by all of this information and I am looking forward to 3 more days in this community!

All of the motorcycles! 

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One of my interviews:Image

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June 22nd – June 24th

I apologize for the incredibly long posts, I am working on shortening them down :] this is, after all, my first blog experience!

Saturday, June 22– Clothing in Cameroon

While I was outside with Regina this morning a woman she knows came by and tried to talk to her about them selling clothing together. I learned that many individuals in Cameroon will buy large sacks of clothing that are imported from America and Europe and then resell them. The sack she brought over was filled with little kids clothing. There are very few textile industries remaining in Africa because their prices cannot compete with the cheap prices of resold donated clothing. When you give clothing to Good Will the best items will stay in America while much of the rest is shipped over to Africa. When the woman left Regina told me she does not want to do business with her because she is argumentative, I believe I have a very smart Cameroonian mother. For dinner, we all had a small glass of Irish Liquor to celebrate my birthday; very low-key and relaxing.

Sunday, June 23- Religion in Cameroon

This morning I went to church with Regina and Sama. Regina woke me up at 5:17 and we went to the 6 AM catholic mass. The walk to church was only 8 minutes and we had a bit of light to help us on our way. The church is massive, probably 2 times the size of VPC (my church in Portola Valley). People were dressed in anything from nice jeans and a shirt, to simple dresses (with knees and a few shoulders showing!), to traditional Cameroonian garb. Mama Regina wore her normal Cameroonian dress but went home to change when she was scolded for not wearing her outfit for the Association of Catholic Women in Cameroon. As it turns out there is this association at every catholic church in Bamenda and 3 times a year they meet at a different church to discuss women rights in the church. Today it is being held at Regina’s church. She was going to skip because she did not want to leave me at home, but I told her it wasn’t a problem. As for the mass, I am happy to report I only got lost once this time when we walked up to the front to give money to the church! Barbary and Raf, the choral directors at my church would have loved the music here, the choir and drummers played throughout the entire 2 and a half hours. In addition, the priest would sometimes sing his prayers. During the announcement time the priest scolded the church members for sometimes showing up 2 hours late to their own weddings, how it is different here! On the walk home it started sprinkling and luckily we made it in before it stormed. I have a feeling I will be inside the rest of the day!

 June 24th – Mile 3 Nkwen 

Today was supposed to be my first day of work, but unfortunately there have been some complications. I am working with my advisor at UC Berkeley and my contacts in Bamenda to figure everything out. However, I am still safe as can be with my Cameroonian family! Sama took me on a tour of the Mile 3 Nkwen living quarter (where I am living) and I was able to talk to him a lot about Cameroon. He told me that since Bamenda is still a developing city (with 1 million people, and still developing!) they are less likely to get resources than Yaounde, the capital, and Douala, the money capital. This is greatly demonstrated by the lack of paved roads here, only the main roads are paved, and poorly at that. In Yaounde and Douala even the roads in the quarters are mostly paved. As for the tour, almost everyone grows corn if they can, to feed their family and sell the excess. As always, everywhere was very green thanks to the constant rain in the summer! 

Until next time, 

Julie 

June 21st

June 21- 22nd 

To update you I thought I would tell you about a typical day in Regina’s household with details from today. First, I was finally able to clarify the relationships in the family I am staying with! Regina has 5 children: Titus, Sama, Laura and then a boy and a girl who are off studying in the UK and Yaounde, respectively. Her husband and their father passed away 8 years ago. The four little kids Regina calls her children who are in Yaounde for the summer are her sister’s children. However, Regina is a mother to everyone and calls me her American daughter.

For a typical day Regina wakes up around 6:45 and goes outside to start selling her food and clothes/ suitcases. Titus and Sama wake up a little bit later, especially if they have gone out the night before. There is no such thing as a dining room table here, and each person eats their breakfast on their own. In the morning they immediately turn on the music channel on the television and usually listen to American rap. There is some station that they listen to that is all raps written by black artists. Sama knows all the words to all the songs, which I make fun of him for, and he plays them loudly from his room as well. (I have a feeling the familiar music will keep me sane if I get bored or homesick). In the mornings Regina hangs outside preparing some sort of food, such as stripping off leaves of lettuce for lunch, or some sort of garden work. Today Regina was casually hacking at the weeds in the front yard with a foot and a half long machete. Mind you this is also a woman dressed in long dress and sweater with only her slippers on beating up her lawn with a huge knife. I must say I was quite impressed. Regina and Laura then went on do to some groceries and to refill their gas for the stove. Their walk to do these chores was only 7 minutes so I tagged along. To take the gas back up to the house Regina hailed down a motorcyclist and she climbed on the back with the large container. The streets in Bamenda are filled with taxis and motorcycles, very few people own their own cars. I learned that taking a motorcycle is more expensive because they get you to your destination quicker and can go places that taxis cannot. But of course, there are no helmets to be heard of! As for the taxis, one person may start out in the taxi, but on the route to their destination, more and more people will pile in, because the taxi slows down next to anyone who waives it down. The people being driven will then tell the driver where they want to exit and pay for their ride without needing to ask for the cost! At times there will be 5 people piled into the four seats and the driver will even tell someone to move over to let another person get in. I walked up back to the house for lunch and found everyone inside. In the afternoon, everyone in the household tends to drift inside and stay there for the rest of the night. The television channel switches from music to whatever Nigerian movie or soap opera is going on at that time. For lunch today Mama Regina made up some sweet rice and a sort of fish soup, all of which was very delicious. So far the food here has been fantastic, the only thing I have a hard time getting down is plain mushed corn since it is so thick. For lunch we all sit on the couches or chairs in the living room and watch television-it seems to be the center of entertainment here. During the afternoon they only exit the house if there is someone who comes to buy something. Other than that they hang out in their rooms or nap in the living room. Everyone eats some sort of dinner at around 8:30 around the television again. 

June 22nd 

For my birthday this morning they sang me a three part song starting with happy birthday, then how old are you and then some form of many more! It was the best. So happy to have been able to celebrate with my American and Cameroonian friends! 

Love,

Julie 

This past week!

This little computer is a saint. Considering how heavy all of my other things are, it helps that this valued item can fit easily into my purse. This is my fourth day in Cameroon, and it has been a whirlwind to say the least. To update you on my past week, I landed in Douala at around 6 pm on Tuesday. The 3 flights over had been a crazy process. On the first flight to Newark we were rerouted to Connecticut because of lighting storms. After waiting an hour there we flew on back to Newark and I was convinced I would not make my connection. However, my saintly mother had called up United and gotten them to wait for 15 minutes because there was a whole group of us on the plane needing to make the connection. My Brussels group and I ran for 5 minutes with our luggage to get to the next gate, looking absolutely ridiculous. However, I made it and ended up sitting next to a lovely girl who worked at Vanderbelt college and was going to Uganda to work in a village for a month with a mission group. It amazes me how easily we can travel half-way across the world to help a complete stranger. After talking more with this woman I realized that the trip was very much for her, to help put her life in perspective. This interesting concept plays into the idea of Voluntourism, a main topic discussed in my minor. For those of you who haven’t heard me rattle on about this before, the idea is that individuals from first worlds will pay money to go and volunteer and experience the third world. Regardless of the individuals intentions, the morality of an industry of making money off of volunteers is what is debated in my classes. However, I look at myself and I am doing the same thing. Although I am seeking to avoid voluntourism by doing research, I am paying money to go and have an experience, which I can assure you has already started. The plane flight to Douala was very lovely, and I had a Spanish young man sitting next to me who was going to Yaounde for some meetings regarding the mining his company was planning on doing in Cameroon. He is a hydraulic engineer who helps build the mining equipment that his company designed. For this particular project he his company was hired by a group of American investors, one of which included some brand names. He was very easy to get along with and joked about how we were on different teams, but his most interesting remark was that he “doesn’t understand why they trust us to do this.” However, his company is paying the Cameroon government a lot of money for the permits. In addition, his company attempted to apply for long term VISAs since they have a building in Yaounde and travel there often, but was rejected. Maritus, the Spanish man, speculated that it was because every short term VISA costs them 80 euros, which goes directly into the government’s pockets. For those of you who don’t know much about Cameroon, the government is highly corrupt. You can look up more on Wikipedia, but since their independence in 1960, governmental elites have used resources poorly and supported many programs, especially in the agricultural sector, that although have increased money in the short term, has hurt the general public in the long term. (I will talk more about this in a later post). To finish up my trip I landed in Douala, was picked up by my supervisor, Keghah, and spent the night at a lovely Baptist hotel. The previous post is a what I sent to my mom to upload for me because I could not get on the blog on my phone. Overall, it was a very tiring but interesting 30 hours!

Wednesday was another day of travel. It was also another day of worry. Cameroonians are known for their tardiness, as I have been warned. However, I had spent the night at the Baptist Board House alone, and Keghah said he would show up in the morning because our bus left at 10. I needed to clear out from the room at 10, and Keghah had still not shown up. Starting to completely worry, I went online and spoke with my correspondence in the UK who has previously worked with Keghah. Although he was able to reassure me, somewhat, that Keghah would show up, Keghah did not  come until 11. (I also managed to use up a bunch of my roaming data because I had forgotten to turn that off, coming out to an atrocious cost of $140. My saintly mother, again, helped me out by calling up AT&T and getting me a plan.. so for all you future travelers, beware and avoid my ignorance! ) We took a taxi to the bus and the bus ended up leaving at around 12. The 8 hour bus ride to Bamenda covers 3 different territories; the south, the southwest, and the northwest. At every entry we had to stop at a check point so that policemen could verify the buses papers. The check points were guarded by patrol officers, but the actual gates were only a stick on a log that someone would lift up real high to let us pass. Outside of Douala is where I started to experience the real third world in Cameroon. Little shacks line the roads, and are especially concentrated at these checkpoints. Women, men, and children are outside selling food which includes meat, various types of fruits and vegetables, nuts, etc. I can’t say that I remember any of the names but I was especially delighted by the bananas which were still on the stalk. The landscape in the south was also incredible, and jungle like. However, what I at first thought was wilderness, I quickly learned were palm and rubber plantations, all foreign owned. Keghah explained to me that land grabbing is a big issue in Cameroon, especially by foreign companies. At the second checkpoint we unloaded for a rest break and for everyone to buy groceries and lunch. Mind you, I am the only non-Cameroonian person I have seen since the airport. So, I am also the only white person, which makes me a bit of a celebrity in a way. Keghah told me that when someone sees that I am white their ultimate goal is to get something from me. I had bought food before getting on the bus, but unloaded to stretch my legs and everyone was hollering “lady” at me to come and try and buy their food. In general they were still very respectful though and much nicer than the street vendors in Douala. When we got back on the bus a little girl I had met at the beginning of the trip decided to join me and Keghah for the next leg of the journey. Her name was Fotos and spent her time examining my face and slapping both me and Keghah. She told me that I have a very tiny nose, an American girls dream come true? She was very funny and even shared some of her TOP with me, which is a Cameroonian juice—but actually more of a soda. On the bus ride everytime we stopped or slowed down vendors would run up to us and try to sell us food, the woman in front of me bought bananas through the window! I avoided trying too much for fear of sickness, but had some delicious tangerines. It gets dark at around 5 here, and we arrived in Bamenda at around 8. As we traveled down the mountain to Bamenda we went along a very well paved road with nice houses on either side and Keghah told me this is where all the government officials live. Down in the valley was where the 1 million residents of Bamenda live. When we got off the bus the muddy roads were running since it had been raining all day and Keghah got a porter to put our stuff in a trolley so that it wouldn’t get wet. The taxi ride to my new home was fine except when we reached the junction of st paul john to get to my house the roads were all mud with deep rivets and the taxi actually stalled at one point. But finally, after my two day journey, I made it home.

Thursday, today, was when I got to properly meet everyone in my house. Regina, my Cameroonian mother, and Sama and Titus, my Cameroonian brothers. Both Sama and Titus are my age or older, and Reginas 4 little children, 8 and under, are in Yaounde for the summer. My room is huge, and the house is very big, all of the rooms have lights, except the bathroom. There is also no running water. I have a misquito net I sleep under, but I got up last night and must have let some mosquitoes in because I have about 7 bites, but don’t worry, I am now wearing DEET repellent and haven’t forgotten my medications at all! Keghah came to pick me up and we took a taxi into town to buy me a cellphone. A main topic that Keghah and I have discussed other than the research I will be doing is money. Since I am only the 10th or so volunteer, or maybe less, I am not sure, he has not gotten all the details worked out and many of the costs have been more than I expected. However, he is a very reasonable man and I told him that he must explain to me why he needs money before he asks me for money. Also, we were able to sort out all of the costs and I now don’t owe him anything. For food, I decided it would be best to give money to Regina and have her feed me. She makes very delicious Cameroonian food and knows how to safely cook for my weak American stomach. Actually, here in Cameroon I feel weak in every sense, my skin is pale, my eyes hurt from the sun, and my stomach doesn’t respond to everything, it’s a good thing I have sunscreen, sunglasses, and Pepto-Bismo to help me out! Once I got the cellphone, which I can sell back at the end of the trip, we walked through town. I have a few photos for you, but in general it is always constantly busy with people doing their work or sitting around but still working by selling things. Everyone is very nice to me in Bamenda, and I feel very blessed for ended up in such a respectful town. I was back home at 11 and took a 4 hour nap, which I mentioned before. After my nap I took my first hand bucket shower. As I said, there is no running water so to flush the toilet you pour water down, and to shower you lather then rinse off  you scoop water from big tubs with a handy yellow bucket. I am now in the living room watching  Nigeran soap operas with my family. It is pouring rain outside and I am clean, well fed, and content, so don’t worry mom! I was going to go into town to upload all of this and send some emails but it started pouring rain at 4. My brother Titus just told me that it starts raining at 4 every single day and they don’t go out after that because it is too wet. There are many tricks of the trade I must learn in order to survive in Bamenda! I am learning more and more every day, or I guess hour to be realistic. This evening we had visitors! Two young gals named Eveline and Laura. I didn’t have the chance to talk much with Laura since she went out with Titus, but Eveline was very friendly and curious about my school work and what sorts of things we do in America. Eveline is currently a university student studying to become some sort of business woman. She brought over a very well used notebook, and was going over how to drive stick with Sama. From what I gathered she had taken a class and had written down all of the instructions. It was very humorous to see Sama act out her instructions while sitting on the couch. Of course the first step was enter the car and close the door firmly behind you. In Eveline’s own words, “people forget this.” Looking at Eveline’s notebook I realized that throughout all of the shops I’ve been to or walked past, there is a very limited set of things that are sold. Electronics are everywhere, new or used computers, cellphones, etc. In the west there is fruit sold everywhere, but in Banenda the fruit is shipped in, so in downtown you are more likely to find it in the market. In addition, clothes and shoes are sold in many places. Regina, herself, has a little shop outside her house (you can see from the photos) from which she sells food and clothes. I asked her where she gets the clothes from and she said that friends in the United States send them over to her, and they are all in pretty good condition still. American apparel is everywhere in Bamenda. Regina herself sports a little cardigan with some sort of Raul Lauren-like logo on the side, Sama has a Winne the Pooh sweatshirt he wears, and Eveline was wearing a New York sweatshirt. As for books, I haven’t seen them sold anywhere. As a thank you for having me I gave Regina some dish towels and some books for her little children. She was very grateful and told me that she was looking forward to reading the books before her children. For the rest of the night we sat in the living room watching Nigerian soap operas, so much for getting away from television :p and then later on watched an international soccer game. I have a feeling that I am going to become a soccer fan while over here, for those of you who don’t know soccer is HUGE here. Around 9 Regina, Eveline and I all went to bed while Sama stayed up and Titus was still out.

As for my work, Keghah and I start today on our planning for surveys. Keghah has already done this sort of research with other volunteers in different communities, but he wants me to add to the surveys if I have any ideas. We will be interviewing 6 different communities of 1000 people each while I am here. Next week we will go to each community to meet with the leaders to discuss our plans and ask for their permission. Keghah has an established relationship with these communities already, so there shouldn’t be any issue. After next week we will spend the remaining 6 weeks doing surveys, on week for each community. Along the way we will type up the community’s responses and analyze the data. In each community we will talk to 5 households, which can have up to 10 people, totaling in around 50 people per community surveyed. Many of the residents are illiterate so we will be reading and writing their responses. They also speak Pigeon English, and not my English so Keghah will be translating for me. Unfortunately, there is not Pigeon English dictionary :p Keghah laughed when I joked about needing one! Since I am not here for longer than 7 weeks I won’t have the chance to present to the ministry, but I have to say that it probably for the best. 

 

I have arrived!

7:44am Douala, Cameroon

I have arrived! Well, almost. I am in Douala, the capital and money capital of Cameroon. What I mean by money capital is that everything is heftily more expensive than it will be in Bamenda. I still managed to buy a 1 dollar dinner last night though. Today I embark on a 6 hour bus ride crossing three different territories in Cameroon, there are 10 total. My final destination will be the north-west region. Cameroon, according to the locals, is Africa in miniature, because it has all of the different types of wilderness and landscapes in one country. Actually when I first entered into the taxi with Keghah at the airport he boasted this fact to me. On my drive to the Baptist Guest House there were men pushing rugs on the road, a cow that slowed our way, and countless motorcyclists that zigzagged their way through. Keghah has immediately given me the impression that he is a serious man, incredibly dedicated and passionate for his work. Although his accent and colloquial terms form a language barrier at times, I am sure that after a week it won’t be an issue anymore. Updates on my work, we discussed our 7 week plan for our research and I found out that although we will be working together, I will be taking the lead on the project! After my initial freak out in my head he reassured me that he will be with me every step of the way, but he really wants me to have the opportunity to learn. Many more updates to come, and pictures, but now it is time for breakfast!

T- 7 Days Til Departure!

It is official! I am leaving for Cameroon next Monday at 7:01 AM from the San Francisco International Airport. Before I can arrive in Bamenda to meet my host family, I will be stopping in Newark, NJ, Brussels, Belgium, and Douala, the capital of Cameroon– a 25 hour ordeal in total. After a night at a Baptist Guest House in Douala I will then take an 8 hour bus ride with my supervisor Keghah, who is meeting me at the airport, and finally make it to Bamenda. Wahoo!

Right now I am in the craze of making sure I have everything together; the most difficult part has been figuring out what clothing to bring. I ended up buying my first suit and pair of slacks for my time with the Ministry of Environment and my first pair of hiking boots for all of the surveying in the villages! It is expected to be around 65 degrees and pouring rain in Bamenda, so we shall see how I fare :]

I must extend a huge thank you to the blessing and send off from Vally Presbyterian this morning at church. My family at VPC has been a phenomenal support system my entire life, and I am so happy to still be in their prayers. For those of you who don’t know, I will be visiting our sister church called Zang Tabi on the weekend of June 28-30th. Zang Tabi is a 30 minute drive from my place in Bamenda and became our sister village when Gideon Ticha and his family became members of our church in 2009 and introduced us to the community he grew up in, in Cameroon . I will be acting as a VPC ambassador in Zang Tabi and will bring good wishes from our church to the parents of Gideon Ticha, along with the entire community.

Other than that, I am very much looking forward to finally meeting my supervisor and starting my work! Thank you for all your good wishes and I can’t wait to give you an update at an internet cafe in Bamenda next week!

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