This post marks one month since my arrival in Foumbot and two weeks since my previous post, give or take I’ve had two failed posting attempts. Turns out a lot can happen in two weeks.
To start, a couple weekends ago I was nonchalantly eating my breakfast around 8 am when my father came in telling me I to call another trainee Alex because we were going to a funeral in the next town over. He said we would be leaving at 9:30 which gave me plenty of time to get ready. Until he called my name 15 minutes later saying he would wait for me in the car. So Alex and I, our chiefly fathers, and another man who could have been another chief drove to Foumban not even half an hour away. Foumban is renoun in Cameroon for its grand palace and having a famous festival in October. We later learned it was the OG kingdom of Cameroon. During the car ride our fathers informed us the funeral was for a man who was 120 years old, although we both found this hard to believe sans the birth certificate. The funeral was huge. Alex and I mostly sat to the side watching an long line of elaborately dressed men praying while simultaneously trying not to offend anyone through cultural faux pas. Our fathers then tooks us around to meet the widow(s)* and we saw birthday posters from year 110. It was pretty fascinating to be in a place with so much history and seeing more of Cameroonian culture.
The next week of training we had site visit. Via a poorly orchestrated game of charades, I found out my site for the next two years will be in the west region near the town of Bafang. Site visit is supposed to coincide with your region so you have the opportunity to stay with a volunteer and see essentially a day in their life but this is not always the case as my site visit was to a town called Jakiri in the northwest region. Jakiri is a small town nestled in the lush green mountains of Cameroon near the ring road. The morning of our departure we packed 7 trainees into a minibus and braved the unpaved roads for a bumpy 3 hour ride. So bumpy it broke my laptop screen in my bag. Tanya and her loveable dog Oliver, our generous hosts for the visit, welcomed me, Thomas, and Liz into their home. We got to know each other a bit better over black bean burgers and mashed potatoes. I should also mention site visit is our first taste of freedom since we arrived in Cameroon. We have 5 blissfully unsupervised days where we got to hang out with other volunteers, eat some amazing food reminiscent of home, and really just have some fun. Jakiri was the first time I was allowed outside at night and that night sky took my breath away. Never in my life have I seen so many stars that shined so brightly. The Milky Way is clear and stunning and I can’t wait to take in this view over and over again. And we ate pizza!!! And mac and cheese!!! Of sorts. But it was good enough for me. This was such a welcome break from training which mostly consists of what sicknesses we’re exposed to in Cameroon and every possible scenario in which we could be attacked. Debating how I’m going to make it though the next 6 weeks.
The day we returned to Foumbot was Eid, the last day of Ramadan. I didn’t know much about Islam before I came here so here’s a brief synopsis for ya: Ramadan is a month of fasting and very intense praying in an effort to cleanse your body and soul from what you do during the rest of the year. On Eid everyone gets all decked out and visits each other and it’s a day of partying and feasting. I’d like to state a disclaimer stating I misunderstood anything it was probably due to my less than stellar French. It was a lot of fun being able to celebrate with my family when I got home!
Please enjoy this photo at Green Care where we were serenaded by a group of men when we visited one of the few environmentally friendly businesses I’ve heard of in Cameroon and sampled their delicious honey drink.
Wish me luck for my second half of training! Next week we start model school and start taking off our teacher training wheels.
*if I haven’t mentioned it before polygamy is legal and fairly common in Cameroon. Although there seemed to be one mainly grieving widow.