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I feel too displaced for my annual review. I'll have to sit down when I get home and think a bit about the year to come. It will certainly be a piecemeal of different phases as last year was. Maybe that's why it's so hard for me to reflect back. The ups (some real highs) and the downs (slow and drawn out) sliced the year in odd pieces. I'd like this next year to be more seamless but there are too many open-ends ahead of me. May I rest calm and cheerful through all the choices I need to make.
The departures changed all our moods and patterns. We put Liz and Maya on the train this morning. I spent some time cleaning up all the vacated space and moving my things into another bedroom. Cathartic process; organizing, vacuuming, sorting. We went shoe shopping for Dad and then saw Harry Potter. Magical. It's been ages since I've been to the movies and enjoyed the big screen.
Dinner lead to hours of discussion about my future - decisions to be made and how such life decisions should be made. Now the stillness of my upstairs room enfolds me while my mind rattles
I woke early, it was dark outside and the house was still so I crawled back in bed. The short winter days have thrown me off a bit.
We took the Christmas tree down - first undressing it of all the ornaments, striping it of lights. Finally Dad cut off all it's limbs and I stuffed them in garbage bags. Putting away the holiday decorations after most of the family has left is always a slightly depressing difficult chore (and one I have not had to do in years) but working together the three of us got it done rather quickly.
I'm still in Brussels but my thoughts are returning more and more to Cameroon. While talking to family over this vacation I've realized how systematic corruption that I've come to understand in depth is hard to explain, the concepts do not translate easily. Cameroon is no longer in the top 5 most corrupt countries in the world but that rating measures corruption for international business and NGOs. It does not measure the corruption that an average citizen has to put up with. As a foreigner there are some bribes that are not asked of me.
We saw the Constant Gardener.
I've packed my bags and feel ready to return. Sad, excited, nervous - an odd little cocktail of emotions. This little vacation has relaxed me, time with family has revived me. I'm hoping to start back on solid feet with a happier attitude in a more productive atmosphere. I'm looking forward to leaving the cold weather behind but not looking forward to what the heat & my sweat will do to my skin. We went out to a very nice old Belgian restaurant for a farewell dinner. Many courses but not too heavy, it was great food and an enjoyable evening.
When we arrived at the airport at 8am it was still dark. I checked in quickly and traveled generally well. I knew two people on the flight. I got a taxi to Omnisport easily. I beeped a dozen people from the taxi to announce my return. My phone started ringing as I arrived at the caz. Roger arrived soon after. We shared news at the Left bar and he has a new outlook and approach for 2006. We went out to Oasis for grilled fish with Jessie and JC and then drank some whisky at the cold bar. Indiscrete paintings.
I've just bathed and washed the insecticide off my limbs. I'm happy to be back home chez moi, tired relaxed. This morning I hung out at the caz with some of the new volunteers before closing up my bags and heading to the bus station. We stopped along the way for the chauffer to treat an overheated radiator. A wedding party was dancing in the street and the groom made me dance with him in the road as they passed. Magloire, Alene, Levy and I went to Le Notre's new bar and I had some pork that was surprisingly good.
It is heating up as the hours pass this morning. I've unpacked everything onto my bed and I'm slowly getting settled back home.
Later - Juliet came to visit and then I went to visit Solange. Her father died last week. The baby sleeps all day and wakes in the night. She's tired. Bienvenu eventually updated me very generally on office news (some bits and pieces I'd already collected from Magloire and Juliet) then we went out and met up with Marius and Materne. Now Magloire has called for me to meet him again at Le Notre. I won't stay long.
Chantal is here cleaning my floors. I'm trying to get my bag together for a week in Kiribi. I hate traveling again right after returning from a trip. I'll pass by the SAIMED office before taking the bus to YaoundÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â©. Pat and I need to determine the content of the sessions we are to give together.
Today and tomorrow are public holidays "Fete des moutons"but not everyone is respecting the holiday.
I didn't see Dr Pat yesterday and he said he has lots of news.
My sinuses are bothering me and I have not yet readjusted to the heat.
When I'm away from home it's hard to keep up with my words. From the 10th -17th I was in Kiribi and YaoundÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â© and only kept short notes on my activities and thoughts. In an effort to finish the month, I offer you my notes for the following 8 days:
Upon my arrival to YaoundÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â© yesterday, Pat (a PCV from the west) and I worked out notes for the sessions we'll give together at In-Service Training for the newest group. Then we hit the bar. Roger & friends joined us. Out late.
Today Roger, Pat and I traveled to Kiribi.
Swam in the morning with Roger enjoying the empty beach. Pat and I gave a good afternoon session on setting up business school classes in the community. We succeeded in getting high participation from the counter-parts and passing on practical information to the volunteers. After class we all headed to the beach. It was the first time swimming for one Cameroonian who tried to learn to float. No gas at the station in town.
Roger went back to YaoundÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â© in a taxi.
Drank at the hotel and talked with a PC driver who has been named chief of his village.
We gave a class on collaboration this morning. The PCVs who'd thought that collaboration and/or open communication with their counter-parts are becoming more encouraged and energized. I followed Georgette's session on Gender and Youth Development and made some forceful (possibly too harsh) interventions. We ate grilled shrimp and fries by the beach. One of the new volunteers was feeling exceptionally blissful. We returned to find a World bank conference party in full swing at the hotel bar.
The gasoline transporters are on strike waiting for the announcement of a price increase. Meanwhile gas is rare and taxi fares have increased.
The PC country director came down to discuss the future of the SED program. It was a mixed day of energetic and forceful discussion, some social faux-pas, much reflection on the advantages of applying for a position of being SED technical trainer. The position hasn't yet been offered, the politics too lengthy. The best part of the day was the pizza we had for dinner, possibly the best I've had in Cameroon. The day even ended with a long heated debate at the bar leaving me confused and uneasy. I negotiated a place back to YaoundÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â© in a PC car.
Road back to YaoundÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â©. Hung out useless at the caz. There's a group of volunteers from the North here for mid-service. I don't know them and feel out of place.
I met Roger for dinner of grilled fish near Texaco. His cousin called asking us to meet her at Crystal's Bar. She never showed, I've never liked her.
The crowded bar (very "in-crowd, somewhat of a scene) played "Francois"over&over. A current Ivorian song about a mother finding out her grown son has died. She'd invested in him and had all the hope of the future in him. Total grief.
I met Roger at his 2-0 Sunday morning football match. We headed to visit JC in his new apartment. It's small but central and very clean. JC and I taught his girlfriend and Roger how to play Spades. Time passed quickly. We went out to watch a Barcelona ("Bassa-) football match. Roger and I played pool at Crystal's bar before heading home. We often stop for omelet sandwiches at Terminus before heading down into his neighborhood.
I've spent the weekend in YaoundÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â© because I need to go to the bank and get my mail from the PC office. 99 100
Well it is Martin Luther King day and the PC office is closed so I'll stay in YaoundÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â© for another day.
I worked on Partnership projects, frustrated at the prospect of funds I raised from friends and family being returned. I'll try to work things out with Sylvie and e-mails to Washington tomorrow.
Watched Monster's Ball at the caz.
I visited with Christiane in town at her uncle's place.
JC came by, picked up Roger, brief commentary between us darkened my mood. Back to chez Crystal, a nephew of the president of Cameroon bought us beer which I spilled. Clumsy.
I have more work to do with Sylvie. I called Akonolinga to signal that I won't make the trip into the bush tomorrow.
Went with Jessie to get swarma in Bastos. Witnessed a bar fight that Roger separated. The server expressed her rage at a non-paying customer with memorable eloquence. "Have you forgotten the behavior of a Cameroonian woman working hard to lift herself from misery?"
We left for Crystal's bar.
Jessie also likes the place; seats outside, cool breeze, loud music, pool table, tons of stylish young people drinking whiskey. The night couldn't end without the anthem to FranÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â§ois.
I'm heading home soon to Akonolinga. I've finished writing my PCPP projects and got Sylvie's approval. I'll get signatures au village and send the signed papers back to Sylvie by Inter Voyage.
The sun is very strong today so I'm putting off my departure to avoid traveling in the high heat Christiane called saying she wants to look some things up on the internet with me before I leave.
Many people from Akonolinga (neighbors, taxi-men, co-workers, friends) have been calling or beeping me today wondering where I've disappeared to. I've spent only a few nights home in the past month.
Everyone is en brousse weighing babies for PLAN and giving the training on taking care of orphans. None of their phones pass. I found Juliet at home sick with a swollen breast. I also visited Solange. Bellva sat in my lap, wiggling and playing the entire time. At 4 years old she's already long, thin and beautiful. She still has so much cheer and enthusiasm. Solange walked me most of the way home and we cut some citronella leaves from a neighbor. Then I walked over to MSF for dinner with Pat who had chilled white wine waiting for me.
I found most everyone at the office this morning. They returned from the bush last night after many problems with their motorcycles. They pushed them up hills and left them broken down and took moto-taxis that then broke down. I'm glad I wasn't on that trip.
Chantal has just slaughtered a chicken for me. She is also making citronella juice (artisan) for my new diet.
Kanaga replaced my propane tank this morning.
Bienvenu should pick me up shortly to go to the cyber-cafÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â© and check e-mail.
The Africa Cup of Nations starts tonight. I'm going for a walk before nightfall.
Magloire invited me over for lunch (peanut sauce, plantains). We watched three football games. Cameroon won 3 to 1 against Angola. Eto'o scored all three goals so I knew Roger would be happy. He often scores when he plays for Barcelona but hadn't scored in the last 10 games he'd played for Cameroon. He's regained some credibility.
Magloire's child Levy is no longer afraid of me. But he's such a solid brutal little boy that his play is like an attack, he'd flail his head and limbs in excitement, grab, pinch, bite, pound. I felt wounded by the new attention.
Precious Sunday morning at home. I've finally put everything away from all my trips. I boiled some more citronella and made some fruit salad. Then I went with magloire to weigh children in the village of Bondi. We put them in a broken plastic sling and hung them on a hook. Some cried from the sight of me, others from freight of the contraption. We weighed 65 children 5yrs old and under. The data will be reviewed for follow-up steps like measures to improve nutrition. We arrived late to Aloys' luncheon of fresh chicken and pork intestines while watching football.
It was hard to get up this morning but then I did 40 minutes of exercise and attacked the day with new energy. An American and a Belgian came by the office to get some economic data to put their Buruli research into socio-economic perspective. I later met them for dinner at the Hotel Chalet where they're staying. Cool couple. I was a little nervous walking home but it's a cool clear night.
A women across the road said "It's Carolyn"
I asked the shadow "Who's that?"
She was a participant in my seminar, didn't bother identifying herself by name.
The day got off to a late slow start but I took the time to stretch out my sore mussels. Bienvenu and I shared news and plans. It was a calm normal conversation. With national changes to the current PCRD micro-finance system, SAIMED (the staff and work) will change a great deal in the year to come.
The young research couple came over and we went to Le Notre for dinner. I may go to Ayos Thursday to visit them and observe their research work. They're interesting, curious, nice people.
I'm going to finish my tea and go to bed.
I've spent parts of the last two afternoons and evenings playing games on my computer. Today I finally put in a program to improve my typing. But Sylvie, the little girl from next door, wandered in and wanted to play. Now she's monopolizing the computer. I guess she's learning something. I'm here for that, it shouldn't feel so frustrating.
Cameroon play Togo this evening in another qualifying match.
I woke to rain this morning around 6am which continued in drizzles until 9ish. A cool morning, everything got to a late start. Glorious rain, it'll suck up some of the dust.
The sun is popping in and out through the passing clouds. It's a warm 70F with a pleasant breeze. Yesterday's rain washed the atmosphere leaving a wonderful, slightly moist smell in the air that reminds me of foggy summer mornings at the cottage. I'm comforted by the familiarity of the smell.
Edou just called. I need to go to his house on the other side of the bridge to look at his computer and help him save a document to a disc.
Bienvenu also wants me to read a document he has prepared for a micro-finance project proposal with PLAN.
Jazz offered me a beer for the new year which turned into a few too many (the sous-prefect passed by, then the old French farmer). I thought I could make amends with Jazz but by the end of the evening things became complicated. I drank and smoked too much last night. Since I haven't been drinking at all in over a week, I really feel the effects this morning. But I'm happy to be back in the social life of the town, mixing in a varied crowd.
I've a meeting in Bondi about a water project before heading to Ayos.
I'm in Ayos. I came yesterday afternoon on moto with Magloire. I spent last night at the hospital with Kone and Elisabeth. Magloire and I visited the bridge this morning. Now I'm with his family preparing for a dowry ceremony. His brother in law, accompanied by extended family is preparing to go to his fiancÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â©'s house on the other side of town with a truck load of goods: salt, goats, a pig, cases of beer and soda, wine, fabric, marmites, sacks of rice etc...Delegates from each family will negotiate. A date for signing papers with the mayor will be set.
We slept in an auberge last night around the corner from Alene's family house. This morning we sat again for hours in a small salon before eating and finally heading home. I road back from Ayos on the moto with Magloire. My butt was numb and I was anxious to get home. I took a nap.
Cameroon played Congo and beat them 2-0. They will now meet Cote d'Ivoire in the quarter finals. So far they're undefeated.
I took Magloire out for a beer for his birthday but I'm so tired and worn out that my heart wasn't into celebrating.
Today was the most productive, encouraging, satisfying day I've had since I can remember!
I followed a meeting of the CVECA presidents in the office.
I wrote a letter to the Director outlining professional training I'd like to give to the staff and what additional information I need to improve management of the PLAN project.
I promised to hold a strategy meeting at the CECA d'Akonolinga Feb. 8th
I visited the construction of the classrooms financed by the US Embassy, many new ideas were exchanged in the process.
Scheduled another discussion group meeting.
Meet with a water and well technician.
I've come to Yaounde with a long list of things to get done (pay rent, hand in papers, send more cc info, see christiane, see roger, post words, send e-mail) I've already gotten most of my list done. So I'll have some time for social visits and then I'll head back home.
I'm worried that something will happen to burst my bubble. I will crash sometime soon. I've been functioning on little sleep recently. But everything is finally clicking back into place. I'm high on life. I feel better, look better.
May 2006 be better, full of enlightenment and enthusiasm.
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