Friday, June 7, 2013

a fallen hero

The story below is a true one; names have been changed to protect the identity of those who were involved. 
This is a story about a fairly good friend of mine and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, Jean Jacques.  Jean Jacques will henceforth be referred to simply as Jacques for the sake of this story as to help ease the heavy burden of the writer.  Jacques arrived in Cameroon early June 2011 and was part of the Small Business/Education training group for incoming volunteers.  For three grueling months he was put through rigorous language, cross-culture, security and technical training all of which he passed with flying colors.  At the end of the three-month training period, Jacques was sent to the Extreme North region for a two-year assignment as a Business Advising volunteer. 
Jacques integration into his new host community was quick, painless and quite frankly unparalleled.  He was often seen giving casual low fives, fist bumps and charismatic finger points to passers-by.  After a few short weeks, the movie-reel paradise that was Jacques life quickly took a turn for the worst.  On a very sunny and hot day Jacques realized that he had a cut on his ankle, not a very big one just a little guy, the kind that easily goes unnoticed for a day or two.  He probably got the cut while delivering a baby or rescuing hurt savannah animals or something like that, we will never know for sure.
Being an extraordinarily clean and hygienic person, Jacques treated his small cut immediately and often.  Despite his painstaking efforts to keep the open wound wrapped up and sterilized, it still got infected.  Unfortunately for Jacques and everyone else who had to see it, the infection kept getting worse.  After a couple weeks the wound had grown much larger and deeper forcing Jacques to travel to the capital city, Yaoundé, and seek medical treatment.  When he arrived in Yaoundé, some very unfortunate news was given to Jacques, this was not just a regular infection but was actually a very rare and dangerous flesh-eating bacteria that was taking over his entire ankle. 
Jacques was forced to stay in Yaoundé for a couple months for regular hospital visits and medication, the wound was too serious for Peace Corps to allow him to return to his post in the Extreme North.  Several weeks after becoming a regular at the hospital, he went in for a scheduled check-up.  To his surprise a new nurse was working that day, one that he had not met yet.  As usual, Jacques had a large and very apparent bandage on his right ankle which was made even more obvious as it bulged out of his crock. 
The doctor entered the room and spoke briefly to the nurse explaining to her what needed to be done.  He told her to take a swab of the infection on his foot so they could then test it and monitor the progress.  The two medical professionals spoke very quickly and in French so it was difficult for Jacques to follow.  When the doctor left, the nurse confidently asked Jacques to remove his shorts.  Confused, he reluctantly complied.  He slid his shorts off and was standing in front of the nurse in only his boxers.  She looked at him and said “no, everything”.  Again, Jacques was very confused, he came to the hospital to get a routine swab of his foot something that he had done many times in the last few weeks and he had never been asked to remove his pants.  He thought to himself, “hey, this is a hospital, they must know something I don’t” so he went with it.  Jacques, dropped his boxers and the nurse pulled out a long q-tip.  Fear filled his eyes and his heart started racing, Jacques tried to explain to the nurse that there was no problem with his man area and that the problem was strictly with the foot.  She was unrelenting; before he knew it she had shoved the q-tip inside of his member.  At this exact moment the doctor walked in and was in shock “what are you doing” he yelled to the nurse. “J’ai dit pied, PIED!”  (“I said foot, FOOT!”)  Bummer for Jacques, it ends up that the word for foot in French “pied” (pee-aye) can sound a lot like the word penis “pénis” (pay-nee).  It was all just a small error in communication.  The nurse took the q-tip out, shrugged her shoulders and casually tossed it in the trash.  Infuriated, Jacques looked down at her and said “Really, you’re not even gunna test it?”  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Room Number 5

About one year ago my post-mate, Eriika, and I left our town to visit our closest volunteer neighbor, Richard, who lived in a small village called Bamena, not to be mistaken for Bamenda the regional capitol of the North-West.  Another volunteer, Lindsay, was in his village that same day so we decided to make a nice little night of it.  We were going to make some chili, drink a little wine and maybe play some board games. 
Seeing that this was the first time any of us had ever been to Richard’s house, he was obliged to give us a tour.  His house was very simple but also quite large, there was a long hallway that ran along the back of the house with doors to several rooms.  He opened each door showing us the mess of stuff he had accumulated over his two years here.  For some strange reason all of the doors in Richard’s house were numbered, we finally got to door number 5 - but it was locked.  Richard explained to us that the house was vacant when he moved in but a Cameroonian couple had lived there some time before that.  The husband of this couple passed away in his sleep one night in room number 5 and the room has still to this day not been cleaned out. I asked Richard if he had ever been inside room number 5 and he pensively responded “yes”, when he first visited the house before he moved in the landlord opened the door for him and told Richard to never open it again.  He was confused but obediently obliged.  Richard told us to not think too hard on this but to get back to what we came there for, making chili. 
Eriika and I didn’t exactly heed Richard’s advice, while the others were finishing preparing the meal we were nosily trying to pick the lock to room number 5.  Just as they finished setting the table to eat we got it, the door swung open.  I had anticipated a certain level of creepiness before opening the door but for some reason I felt a much eerier feeling than I thought I would.  There was a large unmade bed with blankets positioned as if someone just woke up, several pictures framed on a desk, a book on the bedside table and even a giant life-sized portrait of the man propped against the wall.  The whole nine yards when it comes to creepy dead guy rooms.  Lindsay quickly skipped over to the door to see what we were awing at but Richard called us back to the table to eat. 
As you could imagine, our dinner conversation was dominated by the contents of room number 5.  We talked about how strange it was that the landlord never cleaned it out and we came up with crazy ideas of our own to answer this question.  Just as the conversation began to evolve and we started thinking about other things we heard the creaking of a door coming from the long hallway, we fell silent.  No more than 15 seconds later the candle on the table blew out and the dim overhead light began to flicker.  Our senses were heightened as we sat there silently for what seemed like an hour trying to detect whatever was around us.  Richard eventually tried to ease our tenses by saying “it sometimes gets a little drafty in here”.  He re-lit the candle and we got back to eating our chili. 
The meal was done but scrabble was just getting started.  If I remember correctly Eriika gave Richard the easy lay-up for the first win by pointing out “a good spot for anyone that has a Q”, I was livid. We played a couple more games and then decided to figure out the sleeping arrangements.  Richard only had one bed so we set up some nice looking makeshift sleeping piles on the floor.  We were all sitting around on the floor talking before bed when we first heard it. 
The harsh sound of metal meeting rock and the incomprehensible mumblings of an old Cameroonian woman are rare even in village, especially at this time of night.  Richard rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders, a real what-now kind of expression.  He quietly walked to one of the windows and opened the shade; these windows had bars by the way.  Thank God.  We peered out the window and saw a middle-aged woman attempting to dig in Richard’s front yard with a shovel that was nothing more than a wooden stick with a couple worn down blunt inches of metal on the end.  It looked like she was upset and had been in tears.  I was a little nervous at this point but couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of this situation.  The Cameroonian woman failed to see the same humor I saw, she heard my laugh and wide-eyed limped towards our window with a face now empty of all expression. 
“What the…”

She inched closer and closer at a pace that would have made a snail look like a torpedo, her back was bent from what looked like years of hard work, her body seemed to be asking a question.  She got to the window and we retreated to the middle of the living room huddled together bound by fear.  She started yelling through the window “Macat, Macat” in a high-pitched shriek.  We immediately recognized what she was saying, “Macat” translates to “White Man” in our local dialect and is a word we hear each day while walking down the street.  
This Woman was persistent, she proceeded to approach each window and peer inside while whaling the name “Macat” her voice sounded troubled and desperate.  After several minutes of this Richard finally called his neighbor, he arrived in seconds and aggressively forced the woman to leave the yard and not come back.  Before he left he asked us one question, “Why did you open door number 5?”  We tried to talk to him further but he insisted that we go to sleep and he would explain everything in the morning.  

Seven O’clock could not have come any sooner, the knock on the front door that we had waited all night for jolted us up from our half-sleeps.  Richard quickly opened the door and invited his neighbor inside.  His neighbor sat down on the couch, not comfortably, and prepared to tell a story.  Judging his body language, slow talking and deep exhales you would have thought he was going to tell a group of children that Santa Clause did not exist.  Over the course of the next 15 minutes he told us this:

Some years ago a married couple had been living in Richard’s house, they had been eagerly trying to have children for many years but were unsuccessful.  Just when it seemed impossible, the wife became pregnant.  She went through a full 9 months of pregnancy and fell into labor.  To her husband’s grave disappointment on a day he had been awaiting for many years, his wife delivered a still berth.  This was too much for the wife to bear; she just couldn’t allow herself to believe this truth.  The following days the new mother cared for her dead child, nursing it, singing it to sleep, tying it to her back as she confidently walked through the market.  The other women in the village who knew the truth about the baby began calling it “Macat” because of its pale lifeless complexion.  The husband, not knowing what to do, went along with this for several days for to not break the heart of the woman he loved.  After nearly a week he had had enough.  In the middle of the night one evening he woke up, grabbed the baby, a shovel and headed outside.  He gave the baby a proper burial and returned home.  When he walked in the door his wife was waiting for him, she too had awoke in the middle of the night.  She demanded for her baby and the husband realized he had no choice but to explain to his love the grim reality.  He told her that he buried the dead child but would not reveal to her where.  Weeks went by and the wife would not leave her house, she spoke no words to her husband and cried herself to sleep.  She could not find it in her heart to forgive him.  One night while her husband was asleep in room number 5, the wife quietly entered the room and killed him.  She fled the house taking only with her the shovel that her husband had used that dreadful night.  It is believed that she spends each day and night searching for her lost infant, digging holes along the mountainside.  She has been seen as far West as Bafang and as far North as Bafoussam, digging holes and muttering “Macat” over and over again.   As for room number 5, it is kept shut and locked to contain the spirit of her husband who leaves the room each time the door is opened to find his wife and bring her back to the spot of the burial.  His guilt for burying the one thing his wife loved more than he stayed with him to the grave. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer, thus far

I apologize for the scarcity of my blog posts.  As usual, a lot has happened since my last blog entry, which was several months ago.  Here is a little recap of the summer:

In Cameroon, particularly the West region, summer means the beginning of the rainy season.  We waited a long time to see our first rain of the season this year, I was told by locals that the extended dry season was due to climate change, normally, rainy season begins in April, this year it began in May. It was a relief to everyone to receive that first substantial rain, all the dirt and dust that covered the sky during the dry season was forced to the ground by the rain, slowly seasonal coughs went away and lushness was restored to the landscape. 

In addition to the rain, May also brought along my twenty-fifth birthday and the beginning of June marked the one-year anniversary of my arrival to Africa, both of which were large milestones and occasions to celebrate.  A new group of volunteers came into the country in June and I had the opportunity to help with their training.  I was given the immense responsibility to help out with “MBT” (Mountain Bike Training) which meant I gave a small presentation on bike safety and maintenance and then presented each volunteer with the bike they will be using over the next two years.  I also helped out with teaching a model business school and hosted the new group at my post for a one-day field trip.  Overall, it was a great opportunity to meet the group of volunteers that will soon be spread out all over the country and share with them whatever perspective I have formed on Peace Corps service up to this point. 

Summertime is often a slow period for Peace Corps volunteers here in Cameroon, education volunteers simply get three months off and us business volunteers try to correlate some of our time off as well.  A couple weekends ago nine other volunteers from all around the country came to my city for the second annual live fantasy football draft.  We spent one day doing various competitions to determine the draft order and the second day we drafted.  It was fun seeing some of the people I was in training with a year ago and it was the first time we had all been together since last December.  

More recently, I found out that weekly basketball games happen here in Bangangté every Wednesday and Friday, it took me an entire year to learn this.  I went and played yesterday for the first time and after we had played for a bit we broke up and played small games of one-on-one.  The basketball court is at a high school and even though its summer a lot of kids still hang out there playing sports and what not, while I was playing one-on-one a crowd of high school students gathered around to watch, probably the most people that have ever watched me play basketball.  I must have been the first white guy they had ever seen play the sport because the whole thing turned into a spectacle after a couple minutes.  I’m not sure if these kids just had a little Olympic fever or if they really felt hostility towards white folks but the entire crowd was relentlessly heckling me the entire time I was playing with things like “Les Blancs sont faible” (White people are weak) and “Les Camerounais sont plus solide que les blancs” (Cameroonians are stronger than white people) which may actually be true but that’s not for them judge… The heckling inspired me to play my hardest, I mean I absolutely left it all on the court.  I opened the game by going up 3-0 on my Cameroonian opponent, 2 straight drives to the hoop and one fluke jump shot.  The fourth shot, my overconfidence took over and I bricked it off the rim, with cheers from his fellow countrymen my competitor snagged the rebound and took the ball outside.  What happened next was unbelievable; this guy sank 5 straight jumpers in a row to win the quick match.  I never even got another chance with the ball.  Despite my loss, my competitor was a great sport and I'm sure I'll make a point of going back out there to play again.

I’m sure some of you have read through this blog hoping to hear about some of the projects that I am working on while here in Peace Corps, after all, your tax dollars don’t pay for me to play basketball and do fantasy football drafts.  This summer I finished up a 12 week business class at the local prison (I posted pictures on facebook a couple weeks ago) it was an excellent experience to share some of my knowledge with people that hopefully can really use it to better themselves when they get on the outside.  Of 11 people that started the course, five ended up receiving certificates.  Additionally, my primary project has evolved a bit, I am now spending most of my time working with a Women’s group that produces shea butter.  As a Community Economic Development Volunteer (business volunteer) I have seen a large opportunity for growth with this group.  The primary purpose of this Women’s group is to improve the quality of life for its members, allowing them to be financially independent and autonomous.  As a means to reach this end, they collect, process and sell shea products and other natural bath products.  In the coming months I hope to help them with a gps-mapping project of the naturally growing shea trees in the area as well as improving their production processes by acquiring some basic machinery to grind and mix the nuts.  The president of this group was awarded a ticket to travel to Washington DC during the month of August to be a part of a Women in Development conference.  An agricultural volunteer before me had applied for her and she was accepted, the returned volunteer, Richard, was there waiting for her at the airport.  It must have been an amazing moment to reconnect with someone he worked so closely with during his time here in Cameroon. 

Anyway, I hope that gives people a little window into what I’ve been up to over here recently.  Also, I’d like to say Congrats to my Cousin Mike and his new finacé, Kim, to my Cousin Marcie and her new husband, Derek and to my buddy Rishi for getting into grad school in St. Louis.  Way to make me feel like I’m missing out on everything guys…


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some Shorts

I picked up some custom shorts made from traditional African fabric last week, but this blog entry has nothing to do with that.  This is a compilation of short grumblings and observations.

African Mornings

Mornings here in Cameroon are probably not so different from mornings in most developing countries, or even rural areas for that matter but anyone that has ever spent more than one day with me knows that I’m not what people call “a morning person”.  Here is a list of things that my half conscious sleep-state and pillow smothering battles with each morning by 6:00am:
•  Roosters crowing – an obvious one that plagues billions of people worldwide.
•  Dogs barking – I don’t know if it’s the incessant crowing of the roosters that triggers this but it is particularly bad whenever I look at my watch and realize I only have one more hour of sleep.
•  Goats screaming – I’m not sure what the noise a goat makes is actually called but these goats scream.  To make matters worse whenever I’m half asleep it always sounds like they are screaming my name as if I need to get up and talk to them. “Mmmmaaaaaaatttt Mmmmmaaaatttt”
•  Ducks quaking – just tack it on to all the other animal noises
•  Car and/or Moto engines revving – This is tough to explain but it seems like throughout this country every small neighborhood doubles as a mechanic shop.  I guess people have trouble starting their vehicles in the morning...
•  Trash trucks blasting their horns – *Disclaimer* only on Thursdays.  It took me nearly four months to realize what this sound was.  Every Thursday is trash day here in Bangangté and the trucks go out in huge numbers.  To display their dominance on the roads, each truck was equipped with a horn that sounds like a mix between a tornado siren and a river barge.  Foundations shake, babies cry and the sun shines a little less bright…
•  Crows on my tin roof – This is the Big Mac of all my morning enemies.  There are battling civilizations of crows living on my tin roof.  Wars are waged each morning for territory and power.  Crow Generals may come and go with the battles but the fight maintains.  These flying beasts march feverously on my tin roof with their heavy raptor-like talons, when they land it sounds like bowling balls being dropped on my roof.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they used such weaponry.

My Love for Dogs

Is waning.  I think I’ve mentioned the guard dogs in my compound before on this blog and how I thought after my first couple months they would warm up to me.  It’s been six months at post and the situation still hasn’t changed other than the fact that I’m just more careless with my entry and exiting of the compound.  Last week I entered the gates of my compound and was greeted by the two dogs, all seemed fine.  I kept my alpha male dominance face on and proceeded to walk to my door.  The female dog, who just had pups, started barking uncontrollably, her usual move despite the fact that she’s cool with me petting her when she’s by herself.  When she freaks out barking like that it fires up the male dog.  As I was walking to my door he ran and charged me, typically it’s a fake charge and he stops a foot or two in front of me and shows his teeth.  This time he came in hard and latched on to my shoe.  He didn’t bite too hard but kept the kind of grip and growl going that said “I could freaking rip your leg off right now if I wanted to”.  Panicked, I took a small Jif to-go peanut butter container out of my pocket that had just been gifted to me by my wonderful post-mate and threw it into his cage all while screaming “Vien Ici!” (Come here).  I was yelling at my neighbor/owner of the dog who was standing 15 feet away on his porch, he did nothing but laugh...  The dogs ran into the cage after the peanut butter and I quickly locked them up.

Any dog whisperer advice would be cool…

In Closing

I haven’t written on this blog in months so it was difficult to choose something to write about, a lot of worthy bloggable stuff has happened since my last entry.  Instead of choosing something, I copped out and wrote about stuff I deal with everyday.  To name a few things that have happened: I went to the beach for a week and met up with all the volunteers in my training group, had an awesome Christmas at my house, great New Years Eve in Yaoundé, went waterskiing and sailing on a nearby lake with the mayor of Foumbot (forgot I was in Peace Corps for an afternoon), great MLK day celebration at a nearby volunteers house, started teaching English and Computer classes at a local NGO/youth space, started working with a women’s group that produces and sells shea butter, been introduced to a couple other groups in the community I can work with further, had many lonely nights at my house, been yelled at from people on the street to return home because of the color of my skin, have also been thanked for being here, met many more amazing people than shitty people and overall have been having a blast during the first quarter of my Peace Corps service and I wouldn’t trade one day of it.

Much love folks, hope it was an okay read.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving and some stuff before that

What’s up everyone?  Sorry it’s been a while since my last blog update.  A lot has happened since the last time I wrote on this.  I will briefly go into some of the cooler stuff.  After being here for about six months I have been having less and less “Whoa, I’m in Africa” moments that was until I met Franky.  Franky is a tribal Prince in Bangangté and lives about a 15-minute walk from me by trail.  The Chefferie (where the chief lives) is situated in-between my house and Franky’s, there is another trail that veers off to the Chefferie.  It is very important to not take this trail because you will enter the sacred forest and technically speaking the chief can have you killed.  It’s pretty doubtful that would actually happen but it’s definitely better to respect the traditions.  It is impossible to pass by the sacred forest en route to the Prince’s house (which is basically a tree-house by the way) without having a “holy crap I’m in Africa” moment so in the spirit of Thanksgiving I will say that is definitely something I am thankful for. 
Franky is very well connected in this region of Cameroon and has taken myself and some other volunteers on some pretty awesome Saturday day trips.  My first outing was to go visit the White Queen of Bangangté, a French woman who was raised in Cameroon, moved back to France and then back to Cameroon where she married the local Chief.  She has played a large role in promoting awareness to issues facing Africans globally.  She has written several books and was extremely interesting to talk to.  Feel free to google “La Reine Blanche de Bangangté” for more information on her.  My second outing was to visit the Sulatan of Foumban, unfortunately for us he was busy that day so we bummed around the artisan markets there and what not.  My most recent weekend excursion with Franky was to a crater lake in Foumbot (different city than Foumban), it was one of the more breathtaking places I have seen, I felt like I was in a Planet Earth episode.  We hiked all the way around the rim of the crater.  I will try my hardest to post a picture below but I haven’t been able to successfully do that yet due to insanely slow Internet speeds.  To top it all off Franky volunteered to host a Thanksgiving party for the volunteers in this area.  There were about nine or ten of us that prepared food and went to his house.  He had a giant bon-fire set up and offered us all sorts of fruits from his gardens.  On a side note Preston Vaughn, another volunteer, and I killed chickens and gutted them ourselves, it was damn rewarding to eat those birds afterwards…

My in-service training, IST if you will, is coming up in less than two weeks.  I will be taking my Cameroonian counterpart to meet up with all the other volunteers in my original training group for a weeklong workshop.  I have to prepare a written report and a 15-minute presentation on the city of Bangangté to show my peers and Peace Corps staff.  I have had a lot of support from various members of the community to help me complete this assignment and I am excited to get to show off my new town to everyone.  We recently found out that our IST will be held in Limbe, a beach town in the South-West region.  This couldn’t have been a better location because a lot of us are planning on hiking Mt. Cameroon afterwards, which is only a short drive from Limbe.  I’m sure I’ll have plenty more stories to share when I get back from the beach and the mountain. 
Happy Holidays to everyone and stay in touch.
- Matt

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A little bit of life sprinkled with some politics and frisbee

I’ve now been at post for about a month and a half and have gotten a pretty good feel for my community.  Bangangte, which seemed so new and overwhelming just a few weeks ago, now feels like home.  I have been relatively occupied trying to furnish my place and get comfortable for the next two years.  I finally bought a bed, couch and a table and chairs.  My most recent purchase was a rug, which I must say, really ties the room together.   I’ll post pictures below.
 My life has slowed down quite a bit since moving here, I rarely have overly scheduled jam-packed days like I did when I was in training.  The biggest challenge so far has been staying busy.  I typically go into my host institution about three times a week, there hasn’t been a whole lot for me to do yet besides observe and occasionally help with some computer stuff.  I have also been trying to get exposed to some other people in the area I can work with.  A near-by Peace Corps agro volunteer has introduced me to a couple local groups.  One is a large group of tree farmers that have farms all over this region of the West; I attended their monthly meeting and exchanged contact information with them.  They seemed very enthusiastic and I hope I can continue to stay connected with this group.  The other organization he introduced me to is an agricultural NGO here in Bangangte that actually helps advise the tree group.  The head of this NGO happens to sit on the board of the MC2 I work at and has reached out to me to help me find more ways to get involved.  He told me that he has a number of agricultural related projects I could potentially begin to work on.  The largest industry by far in Cameroon is agriculture so it seems that many SED volunteers like myself tend to concentrate on agricultural efforts.  It will be interesting to see what my role will become over the next two years. 
For anyone that doesn’t know (which is probably most of you), the Cameroonian presidential elections are coming up on October 9, this Sunday.  Paul Biya, the current president since 1982 is running against something like 25 other candidates.  There has been a small amount of tension leading up to the elections because there are some people that think it’s weird for a President to be in power for 30 years.  Apparently there was a standoff in Douala, the financial capitol of Cameroon, between some police and some gunmen dressed in military garb. The gunmen blockaded a bridge going into the city and a shootout took place for several hours.  All Peace Corps Volunteers are in a state of stand fast until the election results are made public which means we can’t travel or leave our posts.  It is still pretty doubtful at this point that anything terribly drastic will happen, I would be surprised if there is a big backlash after the election. 
On a brighter note, there was a North-West vs. West Frisbee match last weekend here in the West.  Apparently this match has been anticipated for close to a year now but took awhile to actually put together.  The North-West was favored for quite some time until the new influx of volunteers came raining down over the West, we ended up making quick work of the North-West squad.  Afterwards it was nice to hangout with a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in a while and get to know some of the volunteers I hadn’t met yet. 
So I couldn't actually upload pictures to blogger but for some reason I was able to upload them to facebook so if you want to see my house now that I have stuff look there.  
As always I hope everyone is doing well and feel free to drop me an email any time.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

the big move

            Last week I parted ways with my training group in Bafia, I piled into a bus with all the other volunteers heading West.  The journey wasn’t far for us, only a few hours, some volunteers had two days of travel ahead of them on various buses and a train to get up to the North and the Extreme North.  We had heard that after training the Peace Corps leaves the new volunteers to fend for themselves.  A sort of jump in the water and learn how to swim approach.  I didn’t expect to take this literally.  Bangangte, my new town, was the first stop along the road that goes West, the driver stopped at the intersection where you would normally turn to go to my town and told me and the other volunteer going to Bangangte to get out.  Keep in mind this is a Peace Corps hired driver - the only passengers were volunteers, we asked him if he could kindly drive the 5 km. to get us to our houses or even just drop us off at the taxi station in the center of town, a very small favor to ask given the overall length of his trip that day.  He aggressively told us no.  We were left on the side of the highway in the rain with 2 bikes, 2 metal trunks, and all of our bags.  Three motorcycle drivers graciously stopped, they attached all of our things to their motos and took us to our respective houses.  7000 CFA, over an hour worth of work and the need to dry all of our things could have been easily avoided if the driver had just driven the extra couple miles to our houses.  There is a tendency for things to not go as planned here in Cameroon and everyone is flexible enough to deal with it.  A saying that I hear almost daily pretty much sums that up as well as the attitudes of the Cameroonian people, “C’est La Vie”. 
            The city of Bangangte is about the same size as Bafia, but it has a larger feel to it.  Maybe that’s just because I’m new here… However, there does seem to be a little more activity in this city, more people walking around, livelier market, even a pretty energetic nightlife.  This city is undoubtedly cleaner and more well-run than Bafia.  Every Thursday morning there is a citywide cleaning that takes place, many offices wait until 10 am. to open their doors, I even hear that you can drink the tap water here.  The views are spectacular, there are many mountains in the surrounding villages and Bangangte itself is filled with steep rolling green hills.  I think the elevation here is a little less than 5,000 feet.
            I am in the process of furnishing my apartment and trying to make it my own.  I have a way bigger place than I need, 3 bedrooms, 2 running water bathrooms, a giant living/dining room and even a large balcony.  In my living room I have a fire place, I have built a fire almost everyday I have been here so far.  My apartment is the second floor of a house, I share the same compound with a family.  No one lives on the bottom floor but there is another house next to mine.  The family happens to be the family of the President of the Microfinance institution I work at, he is also the Mayor of a surrounding village and owns several boutiques in Bangangte.  At first I wasn’t very excited to be living on the same property as my boss more or less but the more I think about it the more I realize it’s a good thing.  I have already started to build a relatively casual relationship with him and I have no problem calling him for anything that I might need.  The only real downside to my living situation is the dog that lives on the compound.  This is strictly a guard dog and has been specifically trained to dominate people if they come inside the gate.  When the dog is out of its cage I can’t enter my compound or go to my house.  They keep saying that after a couple months the dog will start to warm up to me but I’m not really sure that will happen.  When I walk by his cage he starts freaking out and even bites the metal bars, I have never been so terrified of any animal in my life.  The second night I was here, a few near-by volunteers came over to build a fire, when they were ready to leave the dog had already been let out of the cage, I called my neighbor to put him up but he didn’t answer.  Four of us had to sleep on the cold tile floor that night because I had no furniture at this point (still really don’t) and we couldn’t leave my house to go outside. 
            As far as work goes I am working at a Microfinance institution (MFI).  It is called MC2, its name comes from this formula that I have taken from their pamphlet “Victory over poverty can be achieved provided that the Means (M) and Competencies (C) of the Community (C) are pooled together.  (M) x (C) x (C) = MC2”  As of 2009 there were 78 MC2s in Cameroon, their main objective is to provide capital to people that would not normally have access to it.  They are mostly found in the rural areas of the country.  My role as a small enterprise development (SED) volunteer is not only to work with this organization but also to work with other individuals and groups in the community.  My MFI will be a great resource for meeting people in the community who are trying to launch new projects, it could be something as basic as taking out a loan to buy seeds for their farms.  I am treated very well at my organization; they have given me my own office with a computer that in theory has Internet.  I haven’t successfully gone online yet at the office but I’m sure it will happen soon.  We are told to not propose any changes or start any projects for the first 3 months of service but to simply familiarize ourselves with our businesses, that is tough advice because so many people ask what I will do to help them or how I will improve the organization.  It will definitely take me some time though to fully understand the needs of the organization and to learn all the technical jargon in French.
            Overall I am very excited about my post and am looking forward to getting to know this area of the country well and the people that live here.  There also happens to be a pretty large cluster of volunteers in this region so I will be able to catch up with some of the friends I made in training every once in a while.  I hope everyone is doing well back home and I am keeping my fingers crossed that a new CJ deal gets ironed out soon.  Someone please text me when that happens, I’m looking at you Dad.  

P.S. The internet is too slow at this cafe to upload pictures to either here or facebook, I am in the process of searching for an internet key so I can have internet at my house, I'll upload pics then.