Friday, February 4, 2011

bah bah, bah bah (this is the sound of settling)

Mercredi le 2 fevrier

Sunday: I went to mass with my host family…in English! the monastery! What a coinkydink. It was cool because the front wall/doors just sort of disappeared, and there was additional seating flowing out. Seemed a little unnecessary, because those were full while the front was empty, but Magnus said everyone has their usual spots, so maybe a lot of people were just missing. People definitely trickled in quite late. Manuella made friends with everyone, walking around the whole time; meanwhile Magnus read the first reading.

Great new food? Sugar cane. Yummmm.

That afternoon seemed like an impossibly long stretch of time to sit in front of the tv, so I disappeared into my room for awhile. Pretty sure I took a multi-hour nap. I felt kind of bad about that; on the plus side, I actually did my two-a-day (shower) as expected.

Cutest thing ever? There’s generally quite a bit of noise outside, but suddenly, I heard a lot of laughter mixed with shrieks. I peeked out the window, and there were 20+ kids playing across the road where they’re building a new apartment building. Some of them had made a makeshift slide out of a board and a pile of dirt, but most were occupied with a pulley on the unfinished building. They were taking turns pulling each other up. Granted, I was pretty worried, because this looked dangerous, but they were having SO much fun!

Monday: First day of classes (8-4:30)! We had a debriefing session regarding our homestays—interesting to hear about the variety of hosts!—and culture shock before starting our French classes. The French classes are nice and small; there are four of them, and we cycle through professors throughout the semester.

For lunch, the two Cameroonian grad students who sit in on our classes with us showed us which restaurants in the area have meals for 1500 CFAf or less (‘bout 3 dolla), which is our daily stipend from the program. I joined some kiddos in eating in the boulangerie in the supermarket (“Dovv”); bread/sandwiches/pastries are so much cheaper here than in France! Love it!

Monday I started understanding the flow of my household better
-when we eat: at 4:30 right when I get home, before Therese leaves for her night classes. I never knew that eating so much could legitimately be a struggle, but I’m not used to having lunch (1:00) so close to dinner, and there’s no turning down food here; I’ll adapt.
-what to bring to do in front of the tv: homework; novel (I’ve started reading The God of Small Things)
-what Magnus really likes to talk about (which is important because 1. if anyone talks at dinner, it’s him 2. We spend the whole evening together): church, current events (Egypt!), his newspaper, anything contrasting the States/Europe with Africa, history.

Tuesday: Class. Started our “Field Study Seminar” course which is preparation for our ISP. This and our “Thematic Seminar” (what I like to call ‘all things cameroonian’) are taught sometimes by our academic director, but mainly by outside lecturers. For example, our prof today (and for the next two days) is in charge of training peace corps members placed in Cameroon. Sweet. We also watched the movie ‘Mister Johnson’, but unfortunately it was sort of lame.

For lunch I went with three others to a little restaurant next to Dovv. “Little” is probably not the right word; I mean this place is a little shack that seats maybe ten. It also included a small bar, which is where (I think) the food (lots of fish and lots of rice) magically appeared from. Good thing I learned how to eat a fish at lunch, because I (sortof) then knew what I was doing when I went home and had it for dinner! Finally tried cassava (staple here), which I didn’t really care for (BUT people eat various parts of it, so maybe I’ll have better luck next time.) I was also put in charge of peeling/cutting a mango for ‘dessert’ and largely succeeded; I’ve decided mango is really delicious.

Tuesday TV Time: Played with Manuella and her little toy keyboard. Also, I was even left home alone with her for a few minutes, which I’ll take as a compliment. Also, she took a few steps without holding onto anything!! She is simply adorable. Magnus gave me a plate of honey to eat. A PLATE. I gave up on that and was going to sneakily wash it down the sink, but discovered that our water had been cut off. Shucks.

Wednesday: Minor Crisis. I woke up about 2 am to the sound of rushing water; after laying there for a moment, I freaked out, realizing that the water had come back on, and thinking that it was my shower that was running. So I jumped out of my mosquito net and ran to my bathroom, but my shower wasn’t on. Duh. (It had no reason to be, but I tend to be pretty groggy in the middle of the night.) Nope, instead, I realized that BOTH the hallway bathroom sink AND the kitchen sink were running full blast. AHH! The bathroom sink was drinking as quickly as it was running, but the kitchen sink was not and was spilling all over the floor. Apparently when I had tried both of the faucets the day before—not realizing the water had been cut—I had accidentally then turned them both all the way ON instead of all the way OFF. Whew! Lesson learned. I cleaned up the mess and scooted back to bed without getting caught, thank goodness; let’s go ahead and call that a small miracle—I have no idea how I woke up to that.

At 7 I was up again to get ready for class. French. Field Study Seminar (how to prepare for/conduct interviews). Thematic Seminar; the first two weeks of this are focused on ‘development and history’. Tough questions of the day: what is development? Can “underdevelopment” end? Do people really want poverty to end? If so, who does? Tough statistics of the day: 46% of people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1 a day (extreme poverty line); 80% of Cameroonian forests have been exploited by Europeans; 3% of people in the world control 97% of the wealth; less than 56% of people in Yaounde have running water; the average life expectancy in Europe is 30 years more than that in Africa.

For lunch I went with kiddos to this little restaurant about halfway between the office and my apartment. By “restaurant”, I mean 3 benches surrounding this man who cooked spaghetti and beans for us. Yum!

Good night at home! Magnus can be really quiet (okay, and kind of intimidating), but he also gets really excited when he’s talking about a subject he loves. We talked a lot tonight! He talked about unemployment in Cameroon, general difficulty of life in Africa, corruption in the government here, rising prices, and how Africans show “I love you” instead of say “I love you”. Oh! And apparently he buys real-estate? And owns the apartment building we live in? And would like to teach a class starting in 2013 about how to make money? Wait, and he’s written two books? What? And one of them is about how he grew up in a polygamist family? He whipped it out, and I read it on the spot. Like I said, it was an interesting evening!

Bed time now! ‘night