July 25th- July 26th

 Thursday, July 25th– American Friends!

Today I had the pleasure of going out to lunch at Prescafe with Karissa and Caitlin Jackson, another Caitlin, and Jonathan. Karissa and Caitlin are the daughters of Chris Jackson and both grew up in Cameroon. The family moved to Cameroon when Karissa was one to do mission work Karissa is my age and goes to Bioka University in Southern California. Caitlin is currently being homeschooled in Bamenda, but plans on attending an American University. Jonathan and Caitlin are from the states and are here this summer doing mission work. They are all very interesting, passionate, and fun people, so I had a great afternoon getting to know them better. The lunch was delicious; I got to have pasta and vegetables, along with a mango smoothie (with guava nectar). I also had the chance to explore downtown from the tourist eye since Karissa and Caitilin took us around shopping. Can’t spoil the present surprises yet, but I did get a very cool handmade wooden map of Cameroon for myself :]

Friday, July 26th– Cameroonian Birthday!

I was able to finish the first draft of my project proposal for reforestation in Mbelewa and Mbesi today. It includes a calendar, full budget, and a log frame- my pre-practice class prepared me perfectly for this work (we had to do a similar exercise for our final project). The project includes forming 6 women farming groups and 4 environmental clubs in schools, teaching participants about climate change, reforestation, water, waste, and soil management. They will be trained on reforestation techniques; CAEPA will set up 10 nurseries, one for each group, and in the end plant a total of 5,000 trees in the community. There will also be an event on the World Environmental Day, along with a memorandum calling for Bamenda City Council to treat waste before dumping it in Mbelewa’s hills. The total cost of the project is only $11,500, and we are only asking $9,000 from an outside donor. Roger and Nicoline will start researching donors who would be interested in funding the project. I am looking forward to hearing about how it goes through! I wish I was around to help implement it, though.

This afternoon I went to a Cameroonian birthday party, it was supposed to start at 2, but of course started at 6. They have MCs for birthday parties, and he started the party by reading the program. They then had an opening prayer. The VIPs or birthday boy and family were called into the room one by one and we cheered for them as they went to sit down. There were then a few speeches (very short) by the birthday boy and his brother. The MC then called a few guests up to play a few games to get the party laughing. Even though I don’t know the birthday boy personally at all, they called me up, of course. I have it admit it was mortifying, I couldn’t understand what they were saying and the MC kept referencing America and pointing at me (one of the things I really dislike about Cameroonian culture). However, once we were able to eat a little bit and they started playing music, I was able to become more comfortable. I was called up one last time to slow dance with a random guy at the party along with several other couples. We got home at 8 and it is pretty scary walking through the quarter that late, something I would never do alone and don’t plan on doing again! 

July 17th- July 20th

Wednesday, July 17th– Farm work!

Today I was able to accompany Mama and Titus to one of Mama’s farms. The farm is about 25 by 50 meters; 75 by 150 feet. From 8-11 we worked harvesting corn, which entailed breaking the corn off the stalk and then breaking the stalk in half to show that we have already been to that one. By the end I was soaking wet from all of the water in the crops! It was pretty enjoyable work because unlike farming in California the day was cloudy and I didn’t have to bend over to do the work! The locals were pretty surprised to see a white girl getting dirty working in a farm; they stared even more than usual when walking by. One woman told Mama in Pigeon that it was good that she was teaching the white man how to work, so that I can go back to America and teach all the other white men how to work :p Another man told Mama that she will give me to him as a wife… I wonder if these individuals know that I can understand them when they make these comments!

Thursday, July 18th– Last day in the Mboro community

To be honest, this week was pretty tough. The cultural differences in the Muslim Mboro community are very foreign to me now that I am used to the farmer communities. It did not help that the questions I was given to ask them did not allow them to talk about issues that they are facing. This community is close to town, but most of the men own cattle back in their villages. They pay cattle herders to take care of their cows. The cattle herders are the ones directly suffering from the decrease in rainy season because there is less pasture for the cows to graze on. As a result of the decrease in wealth in the cattle business, many of the owners in this community are moving towards driving and business to make up for the loss. Therefore, many of the women and men alike did not know how to respond to or understand my questions about how they are affected by climate change. When I went back to discuss this with my supervisor, we decided that he will go in to the field with me in two weeks and that we will  go directly to a village where they herd cows. That way he can help translate and phrase the questions so that the villagers understand better what I am asking them.

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Saturday, July 20th– An adventure of a lifetime!

Yesterday I traveled for a second time to Zang Tabi to visit the Ticha family. Today, Stanley and Celestine took me on quite an adventure up to the Mboro community in the hills of Zang. Zang is made up of 8 quarters, the Mboro community being the 8th. There is no way to get there except to trek, and we trekked for 4 hours from the Ticha house to get to the top, through the rain! I felt like I was back in Peru hiking the Inca trail, except that there were no well paved paths. Instead, I was constantly slipping from the mud and the rocks; I must admit I was very worried I would break my leg a couple of times. In the Mboro community I had the pleasure of meeting the fon of the community, the traditional leader there. This Mboro community is very different from the one I visited this past week. They don’t leave the area except to travel down to the market once a week with their cattle. Most of the women have had no education, and it is only the boys that make it to primary school (elementary), and sometimes secondary school (high school). On the way out I bought some raw milk from them, which I get to try tomorrow after we boil it! I also got to have my first warm bucket shower after the long trek, what a treat!

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Sunday, July 21st– Moto galore

Stanley’s co-worker, Divine, accompanied us this weekend to Zang on his motorcycle. Therefore, I got to ride around on his bike as we traveled to the other communities in Zang. We visited the Health Care Center in a neighboring village and made it to the second half of church. I then got to eat lunch with the Health Care Center’s staff who treated me to some chicken and cocoyams, yum! The driver that took us to Zang was supposed to come and pick us up again, but never showed up; we even waited until African time—an hour after! To get home we decided to ride the motorcycles until we could get to a bus. I went on Divine’s bike and Stanley went on his brother’s bike. It was pretty cool to get up to 50 mph on the freeway on a motorcycle, something I would never have had the chance to do in America. But don’t worry mom and dad, Divine gave me his helmet to wear before we left!

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July 13th- July 15th

Saturday, July 13th– Downtown Bamenda

Today I was supposed to go to the farm with Mama Regina, but because a toothache kept her up all night :[ I ended up going to town with Titus instead. Downtown Bamenda is Commercial Avenue where you find the largest market of goods and foods and many different stores, banks, restaurants, etc. We ended up trekking there, which took us about an hour, and then walked around for an hour. The market place is jam packed with little shops selling anything and everything including plastic tubs, baby supplies, kitchen supplies, spices, fruits, chickens, clothes, fabric, imported goods, etc! I also passed many different furniture shops on the way downtown where they display their handmade or imported couches right out on the roadside. On Commercial Avenue I stopped by Prescraft, a Presbyterian Free Trade store my American acquaintances told me about. Although a little shabby looking on the outside, stepping inside transported me to a chic store in Los Altos. The store is known for its pained pottery items, but they have local masks, flagons, kitchenware, jewelry and more. If I had my way I would buy everything; thank goodness I have a budget!

 

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Best hair cut ever:

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Sunday, July 14th– Mbororo Community

Tomorrow I will be starting my surveying in my third community, which is a stationary Mbororo community. Mbororo communities are primarily made up of Muslim farmers; since this one is stationary they do some agriculture, along with taking their cattle further into the bush for grazing. Right now Muslims are in their month of fasting, so I will have to make sure to eat a big breakfast to avoid rudely snacking in front of them! My survey questions will be slightly different for this community. Here are some of the paraphrased questions:

How does the grazing method work? Who is involved?

Have you experienced any environmental changes over the past few years? Since when?

Are there differences in the rainy/dry season?

Have these changes affected your grazing, agricultural produce, livelihoods, or daily life?

Are these environmental changes aggravated by particular social structures/issues?

How do you cope with the consequences of the environmental/climate change? With regards to grazing, agriculture, social/economic impacts?

Have you adapted your grazing or cultivation methods? If not, why no changes?

I am sure it will be very interesting to learn about their grazing methods! In other news, I am almost all done with my two reports, which are 7 pages each; I feel like I am back in school!

 

July 15th– Culture shock!

The Mbororo Pastorlist population is one of the marginalized minorities in Cameroon. The community I am going to this week is called Ntambang and only has about 60 households in it. To get there I have to take a taxi for 15 minutes and then hike up to the hills for about 25 minutes. The Mbororo community is more “civilized” than other ones because it isn’t migratory. The population either herds cattle and/or farms. The most prevalent environmental concern that the herders face is a decrease in available grazing land with the increase in population near Bamenda. As for the farmers, they are greatly concerned by the distinct change in rainy/dry season; since the seasons are no longer predictable the farmers are having difficulty planning for planting and harvesting.

As for my culture shocks, I was pretty caught off guard when I saw a girl of 13 years nursing her child in the community today. It is even more common in the Mbroro communities for the girls to get married and have children at this age. I am 20 and can’t even imagine having the responsibility of taking care of another human!

One of the families I interviewed:

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After work today I also got to see Titus slaughter a chicken and I helped mama pluck it clean. I have to say it was pretty neat to see Mama take the chicken apart and show me all the parts; it brought me back to AP Bio! 

 

Our Dinner! 

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July 10th- July 12th

Wednesday, July 10th

I apologize for not clarifying my research here before! During my 7 weeks here I will visit a total of 5 different villages around Bamenda. I will survey 40 people in each community, meeting around 10 individuals a day. Since the communities are so small, around 700 people, I walk house to house and randomly ask community members to participate. As for the surveys, I ask them:

What the main environmental challenges the community faces?

Are they caused by inside the community or outside?

Do other communities experience the same problems?

Do these problems affect you daily? (Health wise/economically)

How do you cope with these challenges?

Do you think the community can cope with these challenges on their own?

Who do you think should protect the environment?

Have you received any outside help?

For all these questions I usually need to rephrase them, or even ask them specifically about the weather, water, waste, and tree felling, since many community members are uneducated about environmental challenges. They are formatted to be open ended so that participants can elaborate. These questions are accompanied by a household survey that gets specific information about their age, occupation, household size, etc.

So far I have finished with Mbelewa and Mbesi and am working on the reports with the help of my friend Anna from home who is a genius at helping me make my papers sound better!

A quarter leader’s children! I taught them to call me Aunty Julie: 

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Definitely overwhelming to interview one person with this many people around me!:Image

Thursday, July 11th- Soil Lab

Today I went with Eveline, a family friend, to her soil lab in Bamenda where she is training to become a lab assistant. They showed me around the compound and explained all of the different tests they do here and how they are performed. The research body that runs the lab is hired by different companies to test soils near the companies’ facilities to see if they are good road building material. They take soil from nearby the road, run tests on it to find out how is fares under different weather conditions and if it is a good material to mix with cement to build a road. If it is they suggest using the soil from around the area to build the road. If not, they recommend transporting in different soil to build it. They have about 6 different trucks because they are hired by companies all over Cameroon. It was very interesting to see all of the tests they had to do manually, and all of the graphs they had to draw by hand; most of which is computerized in America! Takes a lot more time with a lot more room for error!

The other trainees, Eveline is the only female: 

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Their lesson for the day! :

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Friday, July 12th- American friends!

At the CAEPA conference on Tuesday I met Yakubu, a herder from near Mile 5, who put me in contact with the Jackson family, an American family living in Mile 3. The Jacksons have lived in Cameroon for around 19 years now doing mission work. I texted the father, Chris Jackson, and he kindly invited me over for their Friday Pizza Night. Who would have known that when I showed up that there would be 10 American students from a southern California University on a 5 week mission trip, several Peace Corps volunteers from Bamenda, and several other American friends from around Cameroon who are here in Bamenda on holiday! There were about 20 of us in total! I had a great time meeting everyone and was able to get some of their contact information to meet up with them in the weeks to come. I have got to say it was really nice being able to speak with people who understand the cultural experiences I am facing and understand my California accent! Plus I got to eat cheese, my first dairy product in a month :] Side note, 2 of the university students have malaria, they say it is like the flu here, they just take the antibiotic along with their normal pill to treat it. 

July 7th – July 9th

Sunday, July 7th– Eagle’s World

This morning I went to a small Pentecost church called Eagle’s World near my house. I had been invited by a gal who works at the internet café I go to regularly; her name is Rophine and is 24 years old, one of the first women I have met around my age. There are over 50 different churches recognized in Cameroon, so I won’t be surprised if I end up at a new one every weekend! The pastor was incredibly enthusiastic jumping up and down and shouting and preached for 2 hours straight. He knew everyone’s name in the church and kept us laughing with his references to daily life situations (he reminded me of my pastor Mark’s sermons!) After his sermon members could ask about certain bible verses, which he would clarify. The entire shebang went on for 3 hours, and he said he had ended earlier than usual! At 12 I went over to Rophine’s one room apartment for lunch with her friend from church. She served us a yummy spicy rice and fish dish, a Cameroonian favorite. On the walk to her place, Rophine asked me if I might know anyone who would be interested in having a full time nanny in the United States. It is very difficult for Cameroonians to get US VISAs and this is one of the ways that makes it possible to travel there. I told her I would reach out to my contacts and let her know if I get anyone who might be interested!

Monday, July 8th– Football galore!

One of the women I interviewed today had formed her own CIG that teaches farmers the best trees to plant to increase soil fertility and water catchment in the area. I was able to record her interview and hope to make it to one of their meetings this Friday. The educated individuals I have interviewed so far mark deforestation as their largest environmental concern. However, the majority of the respondents do not understand what environmental problems are and immediately talk about water scarcity; but even the decrease in bush water is linked to deforestation as well. I look forward to learning more about this women’s CIG and what type of trees they recommend for replanting, hopefully I can incorporate them into my report! After work today I ran into Bison (a nickname for Hansen for his football skills), the friend I hiked up to Upstation with last week with Titus. He invited me to come and watch a football game (soccer for all your Americans :p) in the quarter. I went with him after lunch and watched two games. He explained that there are around 9 teams in this tournament and that games will be going on in the quarter for the next month and a half. The crowd was very enthusiastic and I was one of three girls there watching, most of the spectators are on the other competing teams and they are all male teams. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon after work and I plan on going to other games during my time here.

There will be way more spectators as the week goes on! 

 

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The team Bison is going to join! Image

Tuesday, July 9th– Tubah Chimpanzee Conference

Although today was my longest work day yet, I didn’t do a bit of work! Instead, I attended the conference CAEPA put on to launch a Chimpanzee Conservation project in Tubah, an area neighboring Bamenda. The conference I am sure was very interesting, but it was all in Pigeon so I only understood parts! I ended up journaling for most of it and writing letters. Afterwards, my boss’s friend told him that I was intently taking notes… that made me laugh. I didn’t get to eat lunch until 2:30 and I had to wait until 5, 3 hours after the conference finished, to go back home. Surprisingly, I wasn’t bothered! I must be getting really good at fasting and being patient :] 

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July 4th- July 7th

Thursday, July 4th– American Independence in Cameroon!

I had a great day in the field this morning, and then took the rest of it off to celebrate and explore Bamenda. Titus took me to Upstation, the highest point to look out over Bamenda (which has a population of 1 million). Although he said we would take a taxi, once he learned I like to trek he decided to have us walk up to the top… a total of 2 hours on the way up! His friend, Hansen, joined us along the way and after the taxi ride down I got to hang out in town with him for a bit while we waited for the rain to pass. In the evening I held true to my country and bought the family beer and listened to country music on the porch outside the house. Overall, it was a great 4th, but I must say I did miss the fireworks over the Delta!

There are waterfalls everywhere in the hills since it is the rainy season! Image

 

The view from one side of Upstation, this is only a small portion of the city!

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The first sidewalk I’ve seen in Cameroon! Image

 

 

 

Friday, July 5th– Sleepy, sleepy Julie

I fell asleep at 8 pm last night. I swear I have become the biggest grandma while here. I can barely keep my eyes open after 7 and force myself to stay up until 9 pm so that I won’t wake up earlier than 6:30 in the morning, which I now do naturally. I will have to get back to my normal midnight bedtime to survive school next semester!

Saturday, July 6th– Ndawara Tea Estate

Titus took me on an adventure to the Ndawara Tea Estate this morning, the one tourist spot in the North West Region. We took a taxi to a neighboring quarter, and then squeezed into another one with 6 other people. Who knew a 5 person car could fit 8! We passed a police control, where they are specifically supposed to check that the car isn’t over capacity, but there was no problem so I guess 8 is the limit? The view was spectacular as we climbed up the mountain and on the other side we took an hour long motorbike ride up to the park, my abs were killing me by the end.. It’s like riding a horse since it is awkward for me to hold on to the stranger driving the bike in front of me. At the checkpoint before the park they took down all my information and that happened two more times, a little nerve racking because I had only brought my driver’s license! We got a whole tour of the tea factory, very cool, and when I left they gave me a gift of 8 tea boxes to bring back to America and share (my roommate at Cal is going to be very happy :] )! After that they walked us up through where the workers live (this is high in the mountains so the workers live right next to the factory and make up the estate) to the small zoo-like area. I got to see a huge snake, ostriches, peacocks, and even hold a chimpanzee named Billy! 

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Tea!

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The little town:

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Animals!!!

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Meet Billy! 

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July 1st- July 3rd

July 1st- Creatures of the night!

I dedicate this day to Rocky Horror Picture Show, since I was visited by the creatures of the night last night. These lovely creatures were mice that attacked the granola bars I brought here. I must say that waking up to the sound of crunching when you are alone in a pitch dark room is one of the most unsettling things. Luckily I was able to clear out all of the food/smelly vitamins and medicines I have in my room and put them in the Mama’s cupboard. Boy am I glad we don’t deal with this many mice at home! Mama Regina said she killed two yesterday, but they are way too quick for me to get!

July 2nd- The dumping site.

At the beginning of my work day, Nicoline and I went with one of the students from Mbelwa, Flenbel, to visit the dumping site up the road. It took us 20 minutes to walk up there. Along the way we passed many Muslim herders who use the hills for cattle grazing. When we got close to the site the smell was putrid and we were immediately attacked by flies. The government does no treatment on the waste before dumping, and they did not even dig a pit to put it in, they just pile it up in a clearing. The heavy rains wash down a lot of the waste into the bush polluting the streams some families drink from. As for the trucks that carry the trash, they are incredibly loud, destroy the road, and dump waste on their way up. I see about a truck an hour and have to wait until it passes to be able to ask my next question because they are so loud.

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July 3rd- Lots of work.

Today we were blessed with a sunny morning and I was able to talk with 12 different families. I was out in the field from 9-2 and didn’t get back home until 2:15, when I was finally able to grab lunch. I am getting quite good at holding out on food! I will be finishing with the first community tomorrow and will turn in my preliminary report to my advisor on Friday so that we can start talking about potential solutions to the problems I have recorded. 

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June 28th- June 31st

June 28th– My trip to Zang Tabi!

I was able to make it to Zang Tabi to visit the extended family of the TIcha family that was a part of my church 4 years ago. Stanley, the brother of my friend Gideon Ticha, picked me up from the house at 4:30. Before leaving town we stopped by the open air market. It was my first time there and when we went into the poultry section I was convinced the chickens were going to be slaughtered before my eyes! But we bought two lives ones to be put in the trunk of the car instead. The traffic was awful in Bamenda, so we took the non-tarred route to Zang instead of the highway. As a result our journey was 3 hours long and the roads were the worst ones I have ever experienced. There were a few times I was worried the taxi wouldn’t make it there! When we finally reached Zang at 8:30, I was welcomed into the Ticha’s house with open arms. I was so happy to see Gideon’s parents again, John and Salome, but in their home land this time!

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We stopped by a waterfall on the way to Zang!

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June 29th– JRCC Seminar

In the morning Stanley and Aaron, who are connected to my church VPC, took me around to see Zang and to see some of the tools that VPC donated to Zang. I was truly in the jungle, or the bush as they put it. I got to hike up the mountainous hill to get a great view and almost slipped and fell a few times since I was wearing sandals! In the afternoon I was able to attend a seminar put on by the NGO that Aaron is the president of, John Retreat Center Cameroon (JRCC), which is only a year old. Many people from around the village attended and I got to see pictures of their projects and learn more about their work. I was surprisingly presented with gifts and awards of my own since I was acting as an ambassador of VPC. Salome presented me with a handmade Cameroonian basket and Cameroonian dress and head wrap which I promptly put on! That night everyone dispersed but those who stayed got to enjoy the plentiful palm wine (natural wine that is tapped from palm trees, many farmers in the region make their livelihoods by selling this) and Cameroonian music. I spent my time playing soccer with the kids, laughing with the parents, and avoiding the mosquitoes!

The view:

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The Guest House (the Ticha’s house):Image

The beneficiaries: 

 

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The Seminar: 

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Gideon’s brother’s children:Image

 

Salome and John!

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June 30th– Presbyterian Church

This morning I got to experience village worship in the Presbyterian Church, one I am used to! Everyone was dressed in their traditional garb making for a colorful event. The service was filled with singing and dancing and was very enjoyable. VPC was formally thanked by the church for their donations to improving the roof and by the Sunday school teacher for the school supplies they gave several years ago. It was a little overwhelming to receive all of these thanks as the VPC ambassador and they kept asking me to share words with the community, or the church, or the children; all I could figure to say was that we are so happy we could help and thanks for having me! For lunch I was able to have bananas, watermelon, avocado, and mango (all I could hope for!) and say goodbye to everyone. The ride home on the tarred highway ended up being an eventful one as well since the car overheated and we had to pull over. I ended up pushing the car backwards for half a mile on the freeway with a bunch of local boys to help the driver start it back up! 

Photos to come of Sunday! Love you all!