Year in Review

One day, I went to go fetch water from the well just outside my compound. This is part of my daily routine and I use the water to bathe, fill my water filter, and wash my clothes, dishes, and floors. Once it’s dirty I use it to flush my toilet. It’s a pretty efficient system. Except on this day, I hoisted up the bucket by the rope tied to the handle as I had countless times before and pulled up only a handle. The bucket remained filled with precious life-giving water 5 meters down a well.


In many ways this is a metaphor for my time in Cameroon. Just when I think I have a handle of things, in this case I literally had a handle, something unexpected happens to disturb me. Trying to be positive though so I won’t go into the unending list of things that don’t work the way they ought to.


After those moments, or days, it’s helpful to focus on the little things. Whether it’s a morning spent with coffee and crosswords, an impromptu play session with the rag tag band of toddlers (my stash of balloons has brought us a tentative peace), women cheering me on when I yell at men yelling at me, or a man asking me to help feed his children and then turning around and buying me some avocados when I told him I had nothing to give. Maybe I have a rare successful activity in my classroom (it’s probably 1.5 out of every attempted 6) where I get to see my kids engaged, collaborating, and expressing creativity. Sometimes it’s just watching my cat play in the grass outside my home. All these things make me appreciate my village and the opportunity I have to live here in Cameroon.


When I started this journey I honestly had no idea what I was signing up for. I romanticized the idea of teaching, imagining a classroom of kids who would start out nonchalant and uninterested but as we formed a more personal connection would break out of their shells of indifference and apply themselves, wowing me with their academic growth (thanks a lot Freedom Writers). I imagined a kind of spiritual renaissance. Living a simple life, my free time would be devoted to the pursuit of literature, music, and art. I could ponder the bigger questions of life with my neighbors while watching a heard of elephants disappear into the setting sun. Okay maybe I wasn’t that naïve but I’m still holding out for the elephants.


Like volunteers before me, I often wonder if my being here serves a purpose. It’s taken the better part of a year to strip away all the big projects I dreamed of and to realize that my service here won’t be defined by a new library or science fair but rather the culmination of interactions I have with my students and neighbors. Hopefully, I can help one teacher figure out that they aren’t chained to writing notes on the board or help one student pass their national exam. Who knows if the projects I’ve done will continue to play an active role in the community in a few years time? But I would bet you 500 CFAs worth of baton grille that my students and my neighbors will remember me.


FOMO is oh so real and as hard as it is missing out on weddings and birthdays and holidays I also consider myself lucky. Not everyone has the chance to travel and learn about themselves outside of who society tells them to be. To be frank, not everyone has the chance to make it to their 22nd birthday. So I count each day as a blessing and look forward to the surprises it has in store. Having another year (technically 15 months but who’s counting) to go is a daunting prospect, but it also provides a much-needed chance for me to improve. To try more new things and drink in more life experiences here. To grow.


Really in the grand scheme of things what difference does it make when I lose my bucket down a well? I’m fortunate enough to have a community who will go down the well and get my bucket.

Here are some of my fav pics from the year:


Destination: CAMEROON

A few weeks ago my adventurous parents took a few weeks out of their busy, jet-setting lives to pay me a visit. As excited as I was to see them, I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about how to make them comfortable while they were here while at the same time giving them a true sense of what my day-to-day life is like. I asked them to write about their experiences to offer a different perspective on what’s now normal in my life. They arrived in Douala and made the trek up to Banwa where we stayed for a few days in my village before meeting my homestay family and then hitting the beach for a few days. There were a few bumps along the way but no one got hurt or contracted a life threatening illness so I would call that a success!


Having been born and raised in a third world country, I’d like to compare Cameroon with my homeland, the Philippines. I’d like to start with the flight from Orlando to Douala, Cameroon, which was 21 hrs total travel time and seemed longer than the average total travel time to Manila of 26 hrs. The airport in Douala is not as nice as the Cebu International Airport. Porters at the airport are like those in the Philippines because once they have touched our luggage they expected us to give them a tip. One guy who acted friendly and was speaking English suggested a tip of $20 even if he didn’t help with our luggage and all he did was talk and talk. Scott gave this guy a tip of $2 which was fair.

The drive from the airport to our hotel at around 2 am was scary to me because I was scared that someone would stop the taxi and rob us as the taxi windows were open due to let in the air. The cab took a lot of side streets through not impressive areas which made me more frightened. I was so thankful to arrive at our hotel with no bad incident from the airport.

While at Douala, we went out to eat breakfast and that was my first time to observe this 2nd largest city in Cameroon. It is like Divisoria and Tondo in Manila. I had to look down most of the time while walking down the streets because of so many open drainage with stagnant dirty water. Traffic is chaotic and a lot of pollution because of motorbikes and mostly old cars. Hotel and food in Douala seemed pricey for the quality.

The 4-hour drive from Douala to Banwa (the village where Katie lives and teaches) in a private car was similar to the drive from Tacloban to MacArthur via Buray 50 yrs ago. There were several check points where the military guards would ask the driver for some papers and maybe money. As passengers, sometimes we had to present our ID cards. The scenery along the way was very tropical as there were lots of banana trees, mango trees, avocado trees, papaya trees, pineapple plants and cassava plants among many others. I also noticed a lot of Catholic churches along the highway in small towns.

In the village of Banwa, it reminded me of GMNAS and SSAC in Eastern Samar due to the red clay. There is really no big store as it was hard to use a 10,000 CFA bill ($20 or 1,000 Php) in any of the stores as no change was available. The stores were also small. The secondary school where Katie teaches was damaged from a storm so floors were flooded and the hard-working students had to clean up first before the start of the class. Classrooms are not as nice as the classrooms I used 50 years ago in Samar. The students in Banwa wear school uniforms which was a pleasing sight. One of the students asked Katie, “Madam, are you going to share with us the food that your parents brought from America?”. This student who asked must have seen us unloading boxes when we first arrived in Banwa.

Scott and I visited the St. Andrew Catholic Church in Banwa and met the priest, Fr. Carlos, who acknowledged us right away as he remembered Katie mentioning to him that her parents were coming to Banwa. I would say this church is much nicer than a church in a barrio in Samar. The everyday mass starts at 5 am because most parishoners go to their farms after church. It also has a school with damaged iron roof.

After 4 days in Banwa, we hired an SUV to take us to Bafoussam which was a 2-hr drive. While passing by a lot of villages and cities, I noticed that the names of most of these places start with a letter B like Banwa, Bafang, Bafoussam and many others that I couldn’t remember but with B as the 1st letter of its name. Cameroon’s favorite letter must be B! I told this to a Filipina I met at the Douala airport as she was from Bamenda. Bafoussam is as busy and maybe as big as Tacloban city in Leyte and hotel was expensive but nicer than hotels in Douala, Cameroon.

In closing, I rate Cameroon as country that still has a lot of development ahead of it and the Philippines as a developing country. Not because I am a Filipina but based on infrastructure, the way residents live, the comforts, safety and conveniences for visiting tourists, that a nation can offer. I can hardly wait the remaining 18 months that Katie has to endure of such a hard way of life. Please help me pray that she will always be healthy, safe and smart.


Here are a few of my observations on our trip to Cameroon. Let me start out with the positive. Cameroon is full of natural beauty, kind and friendly people, and, surprisingly to me, good food (more about that later). I would not recommend Cameroon as a tourist destination except to the hard core traveler. Here’s why:

Even in the larger cities, it seemed dirty, smelly and somewhat dangerous. We did stay in hotels in Douala and Bafoussam that had all of the necessities, but at a fairly high price. By time you get to Katie’s place there are not a lot of the comforts we are used to. Just a warning to family and friends who are thinking to visit her. What I mean is, no running water, no air conditioning, no refrigerator, no shower, no washing machine, plenty of diseases to catch, 45 minutes to the closest grocery store, etc. All the more I admire what our daughter is doing there.

We did have a really good time though, we had plenty of time to visit with Katie, see her village, meet some of her wonderful students and fellow teachers and try some of the local food. The food was very good when we went to eat in the bigger cities, but I was thinking I couldn’t eat the local fare. I was wrong! Even though it seems the local food is not too healthy, I really, really enjoyed the spicy red beans with the local bread (gateau) and beer (Dad was a big 33 fan, see pic). And we had breakfast in one of the local shops which consisted of fried spaghetti/egg omelet (SPAGOM) that was deep fried in oil, yummy. I enjoyed the weather, it was fairly cool with a few hot days mixed in, Katie has a really cool cat named Zoey who seems to love Katie and got rid of her mice problem, and her place was comfortable and reasonably safe. The worst thing there, by far, was the transportation. That 45 minute ride to the nearest store is by motorbike on a one lane dusty dirt road. Katie wanted to make sure we got the real travel experience so she let us ride on a few buses and a thing called a bush taxi (actually a coaster). That’s a euphemism for lets see how many people we can cram in to this oversized van without air conditioning, actually a little scary considering we had 30 peoples luggage on top of the thing and we scraped every speed bump we went over, for four hours after a six hour bus ride. I will never again complain about a cramped airplane seat with a screaming kid sitting behind me. Did I mention the lady almost sitting on my lap was rather large and sweaty, a ride I will not soon forget! Thank you Katie for being a great hostess, your mom and I thoroughly enjoyed out time there and getting to know about your daily life. I hope we can visit you there again.


If any other “hard core travelers” would like to give my parents a run for their money I’ll be here for the next 17 months!


15 Ways to NOT Ask Someone Out

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to all of the men who have proposed to me since I’ve arrived in Cameroon.


  1. Don’t tell someone you love them before you know their name.
  2. Don’t walk up to strangers and ask them if they’re married.
  3. Don’t tell them it doesn’t matter if they’re married.
  4. Don’t visit someone’s house during “village sexy time” and try and trick them into letting you inside.
  5. Don’t ask someone what their approximate worth is in livestock, land, or money.
  6. Don’t ask someone to marry you in a drive by proposal. Seriously how will you ever find them again??
  7. Don’t ask someone out by asking them what they will make you (referring to yourself as their husband) for dinner that night.
  8. Don’t ask to do something or buy something, say you want nothing in return, and then expect something in return.
  9. Don’t tell someone they need an insert adjective here
  10. Don’t ask someone if they know how to birth.
  11. Don’t ask if you can impregnate them.
  12. Don’t poll the general population if mixed babies are the best babies.
  13. Probably just don’t mention babies.
  14. Don’t try and come onto someone when you have a large gun strapped to your body. This comes off as very threatening.


And my last tip for not asking someone out:




In other exciting Valentine’s Day news, I was able to go to a Mr. Leo concert recently where we danced together and he told me he loved me via song and then we dabbed. This is not a drill.

On a more serious note, apologies for my absence on the blogging sphere. My phone broke after a very sweaty run so my internet access has been a bit limited and my techno phone leaves a lot to be desired. So until my phone gets fixed, I’m doing a lot of reading. If anyone has any book recommendations hit me up.

Dry season is in full swing here in Cameroon and I am probably sweating at any given point of the day. To escape from the heat, I’ve taken to napping on my tile floors. I take back every mean word I said about rain, please come back. My quartier’s water has been out too so when I need water I pull it out of a well.

Some of my older students have been asking me to teach them words in my patois (local language) so I taught them how to use y’all as well as the Floridian term for market, Publix.

Stay tuned for next post about my parent’s visit to Cameroon!!!!!!!!!!

The Art of Being Thankful

I write this post as I sit on a bus amidst a very heated Cameroon argument. I’ll spare you the details because I don’t understand them but there’s a lot of “chien” and “se combien manges-tu” floating around plus the occasional claps from thee other passengers so you know it’s intense. On the bright side it’s given me some time to think. 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It focuses on food and family without the pressure of gift giving. Sadly with as many holidays as Cameroon has, I don’t think thanksgiving is one of them. Here it’s just another day. I even went to work. There are none of the usual harbingers of fall on this side of the pacific. No change in temperature, no change in leaves, no cinnamon brooms or pumpkin spice lattes. To be honest I barely remembered today was thanksgiving. Though I’m extremely sad to be missing this sweet time usually spent with my loving family and especially especially sad about my lack of traditional thanksgiving foods, I still find that there’s so much in my life to be thankful for. 

I’m currently thankful for my friend Kevin and his magical supply of Manila cookies and his never ending hospitality, for the mama that visited me this morning wanting to bring me met de arashid, and for having learned enough french to be able to fix things with my electric company when they turn off my power for “not having paid my bill” (even though I do pay it every month). I’m grateful that I have a roof over my head, even though it has a few leaks, and for being well fed, which does not necessarily mean nutritiously fed. This year I find myself especially thankful for my health. The fact that I am alive and living in a country where each day is an adventure is a privilege I know not everyone gets. 

This thanksgiving I’m also thankful for my past and the up and down journey that brought me to where and who I am today. I’m thankful for growing up in a community that valued education and had teachers that were passionate about their subject and their students. I’m thankful for parents who encouraged me to pursue what I wanted because they believed in me. I’m thankful to have been a part of an amazing sport and an even more amazing team. And finally I’m thankful I have friends who still make the effort to be my friend even though I’m 8,000,000 miles away. 

So here’s a gentle reminder this year to be thankful for the fact that you don’t have to worry about where your next shower will come from and don’t forget to eat everything on your place cause ya know there are children starving in Africa (I’m looking at you Sierra). Aside from that eat extra portions for me and have a #blessed thanksgiving, nay your gravy boats overflow and your turkey not be dry. 

Peaks and Valleys

School has been in session for about a month now. I hadn’t planned on having many more “first days of school” post grad but there I was Monday morning as nervous as I had ever been. My school is at the top of a very very very large hill. So not only was I nervous sweaty I was also “I’m-from-Florida-and-we-don’t-have-hills-who-put-this-school-on-a-small-mountain” sweaty. I got to school about 7:20, 10 minutes before our general assembly was due to start, and there was not a child in sight. In fact there was only one other teacher in sight, who saw how sweaty I was and insisted I sit down and rest. In true Cameroonian fashion, we started about an hour late giving me a full 10 minutes of first period after I fell down a hill in front of all my students. Thankfully, the rest of the day went pretty smoothly after that. My kids are starting to get used to their crazy American teacher who makes them run around to understand the difference between speed and velocity (although they still don’t seem to understand) or gives them different things to hold to understand the concept of mass.  

I’m feeling more a part of the community here as well. The other week I had the privilege of going to a dueil, a part of the funeral process here in Cameroon.  A dueil celebrates the life of the person who had passed away with traditional singing and dancing and of course food and drinks. The woman who had passed away was still fairly young and was well connected in the community. Her dueil lasted several nights with most of the village in attendance. The night I went was also the night we lost power. It was a surreal feeling to be sitting in the dark surrounded by the beautiful voices these women were lifting up to remember their friend. It was also touching to see how the community focused not only on the grief of losing someone but also the joy of having known them. 

It’s really easy here to be alone. It’s easy to let yourself wallow because you didn’t eat any vegetables that day and you haven’t had enough water to shower since the weekend. Or to want to shut yourself up in your home where you’re safe because two drunk guys aggressively came on to you while you were loudly shouting no or  “ne touche pas” in their faces. Or because you’re overwhelmed from a miscommunication with some of your community members and they’ve signed you up to be lead of a project that you’re not sure actually exists. Those are the lows, the valleys. It’s easy to get caught up in them and wonder how you’re ever going to survive the next 23 months. But then something else will come along. A cute little girl showing you how high she can count while skipping over a few choice numbers or a woman giving you a gift just because or even a conversation with someone you miss. The times that give you the peace of mind to say “wow. It’s already been 4 months?” Those are the peaks that give you the strength for the next time you find yourself at the bottom of a large hill.

The New Norm

Training was probably the hardest 10 weeks of my life. It was like getting emotionally beat up every day while being force fed inhuman amounts of oil and mayonnaise. We all thought swearing in would never come. However, it came and went and I’m happy to announce Peace Corps Cameroon has 26 new volunteers! 

There’s no way I could have survived training without my fellow trainees. To have made it this far we have to have way more in common than we’d care to admit. Whether it be a mutual love for tequila or an obscure tv show or even just a shared sense of humor, it’s made all the difference to have a support group of 25 equally crazy and miserable people who understand what you’re going through and how much you need a shoulder to lean on or un bier glace. Not to mention we probably know way more about each other than is socially appropriate. 

So now we’ve been dispersed to our individual posts all across the nation. We’re facing a whole new set of challenges this time without the comfort of having so many friendly and understanding faces around. We’ve navigated hauling everything we own and picking up the essentials (fork, chair, mattress etc.) along the way to our respective sites. Even though there’s many miles between us, it’s nice to know someone is there to complain about the leaks, the hundreds of bugs, and the general scariness of moving in. Despite not seeing each other every day we are together and we are one. 

I’m still getting used to post. I luckily inherited a chair and table from the previous tenant. Unluckily, I have no running water.  I’m still getting the hang of fetching water and not ending up drenched in the water. My neighbors are incredibly nice and have offered many bucket carrying tips. Cooking has proven another challenge, as I suspected from the beginning. On the bright side I’ve managed to collect some spices to season my potatoes with. Our market is every 8 days and anything I can’t find there I’m just a short motorcycle and bushtaxi ride from the city. The moto men are more than happy to literally fight over who gets to drive the la Blanche. 

School starts the beginning of September and I’m a mix of nerves and excitement. I am looking forward to have something a little more substantial to fill my days with besides reading and watching Gilmore Girls. Luckily fetching water every day gives me a good reason to get out of the house, although my neighbors seem to think I drink a lot of water. The language barrier makes it kinda hard to make friends here but I hope people attribute most of my awkward interactions as a part of American culture. 

Finally, it’s pretty surreal to see things happening in your home when you’re living in a different country. It’s eye opening to see such a display of domestic terror. My heart goes out to all those affected by the recent violence in Charlottesville. 

Pls pray for me and my ridiculous amount of bug bites. 

Model School

I was trying to post every 2 weeks but things have been so swamped lately I haven’t had the time/sanity to write one. Here’s what you missed: 

As an education volunteer, we spend 5 weeks of training working in model school. This is essentially a summer camp for students which is exactly like real school. The science teachers spend the mornings teaching a mix of math, physics, chemistry, biology, and computer science while the English volunteers teach the different levels of the francophone section. A select few teach both, and by select I mean most of us didn’t sign up to teach both and someone else made us. Once a week the children are forced to participate in club activities ranging from football (soccer) club to philosophy club, also run by trainees. 

Through model school we’ve gained a lot of insight into the Cameroonian school system. At our only pta meeting a mother used us to verify the alibi of her child. Cheating is rampant, so is corporal punishment, and there’s a section for manual labor in the report cards. I help run the music/theatre club with two other volunteers (tbh it’s mostly them sorry guys) and everything is fun and games until the student improving as teacher pretends to start beating the students. 

There are also the two separate school systems to consider. The anglophone system and the francophone system function very differently from each other. The grade levels are different, the curriculums different, and the exams are different. Take the differences between these two systems and blow it up to the scale of different languages and even law systems in the same country and you can begin to imagine the kind of political conflicts that might arise. 

So far I’ve learned: 1) children are monsters 2) language barriers come in hard with test instructions. My test averages have been about 6/20. Oops. Through model school we start learning how to prepare our lessons and manage our classrooms on top of keeping up with our language(s), our technical training sessions, figuring out how to survive in Cameroon, and whatever else our staffers decide to throw at us. 

In other news, I’ve gone from knowing no french to being able to understand and communicate (most of the time) with strangers. I’ve washed everything I own by hand out of a bucket from my bed sheets to the soles and laces of my shoes, mom insisted. I managed to help prepare and cook a meal which took approximately 7 hours. No, that’s not an exaggeration. And finally, I managed to navigate through my first holiday and birthday overseas. If you’re not tired after reading this post I’d like you to know my mattress sucks and I’m frequently terrorized at night by mice. 

As excited as I am to finish training (understatement), I know I’m going to miss my host family and the comfort of having 25 other Americans living in the same town as me. But for now, all signs point to swearing in.