Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mourning Abroad

Hello internet world! I know that those of you following from America are expecting pictures and stories from Cameroon. While I do have pictures and stories from here, there is something much more important and much more consuming right now. For those of you who don’t know, my grandma (aka Grandma Me) passed away on Friday after she lost her battle with cancer. While I rest assured in my grandma’s steadfast faith, I have been riding a roller coaster of emotions the past few days. So this post is dedicated to Grandma Me.

Some of you have met my grandma, but many of you have not. For that, I am extremely sorry because she truly was an amazing woman. Growing up, we would go to her house every summer, but it was never in the same place. She moved from state to state to work for various Girl Scouts councils. As a child, I always thought that she had the greatest life, especially when she lived in Connecticut (There was a pool there!). It was only recently that I learned that my grandma was actually RAN these councils. How amazing is that? I cannot even imagine the number of lives she impacted during her career. She also started taking classes online and finished her master’s degree when she was sixty-eight. She was what I like to call impressive!


Grandma Me also cared deeply for everyone around her, especially our family. I was constantly encouraged by her relationship with my mom. They would talk multiple times every day about everything and anything. Every time that I called my grandma, she had another interesting tidbit to add to the conversation. What truly amazed me about the way that Grandma Me showed love to others was that she would be truly interested in what they are interested in. She would talk to me about social justice issues, especially issues concerning refugees, because she knew that I cared about these issues.


For now, I am replaying the memories of my grandma in my head, wishing I could be home to comfort and be comforted by my family.

Even here in Cameroon, I have visible reminders of my grandma and the beautiful sunflowers she loved so dearly.

 

 Thank you for reading, my friends. From Cameroon with love, Beccah

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Yaounde for Today

So today is our brief respite in between travelling. We went to Kribi, a coastal beach town, last weekend. The purpose, for those of you wondering, was not to swim. Rather, we went to meet with groups of pygmies (otherwise known as Baka or Bagyeli). We walked through the forest on the way to one pygmy camp. And when I say forest, I mean a lush, tropical rain forest. Here is a picture of my friend Charlotte walking through the forest:

Here is a picture of me standing in the forest:


And here is a picture of the canopy of the forest because it's beautiful: 


Also, just so that you know what the Kribi beach looks like, and perhaps to increase your jealousy, here is a picture of the beach:


Tomorrow, we will be taking the night train (a new and exciting experience for me!) to Ngaoundéré, a city in the Adamaoua province (north of my current location). We will be studying Islam and a little bit of Fulfide (a language) there! I also hear that they have beautiful fabric there, so there will probably be pictures of that coming up soon! Be prepared!

Until next time, internet friends,
Beccah







Friday, October 11, 2013

As the Seasons Change


My favorite time of the year in Indiana without question is autumn. When I decided to study abroad during the fall semester, I lamented not being able to see the leaves change from green to a mixture of oranges and reds and yellows. I dreaded not hearing the crunch of newly fallen leaves under my feet as I walk to class. As I type, I can only imagine how beautiful Butler’s campus looks at this moment. Here in Yaoundé, the seasons are also changing. The end of the rainy season is coming, which basically means that it rains more often and the rain lasts much longer. It has definitely been a change for me to get used to the frequency, but there are many ways that it is soothing. I love the sound of the rain. There is something beautiful about the constant rhythm of raindrops hitting a tin roof. There is something comforting about looking out over the city and knowing that the rain will eventually stop. There is something amazing in knowing that these droplets of water will bring life. There is something beautiful about the rain.


video
 This is a short video of the rain. It is not the highest quality, but at least you can experience a little bit of my daily reality here in Yaounde. 

Here is a picture during the rainstorm in the video. The amazing thing about rainstorms here is that the sun still shines. It is a beautiful combination!

Besides weathering the weather, I have also had some absolutely, overwhelmingly amazing opportunities since my last blog post. We left Dschang, made a stop in Bamenda (which is in an English-speaking part of Cameroon), and came back to Yaoundé. Below is a picture of me with the chairman of the Social Democratic Front (the leading opposition party in Cameroon) at his residence in Bamenda. Just marvel with me for a moment—the chairman of the SDF. Can you even imagine meeting the highest authority of a political party in the United States? It is still amazing to me that I had this opportunity.

John Fru Ndi (the chairman of the SDF) and me. 


Now that we are back in Yaoundé, we have started to meet with different development organizations. We had our first meeting with an organization yesterday. We met with the founder of LAGA (the Last Great Ape Organization). The NGO is a self-titled “law enforcement” organization. LAGA works to enforce the animal protection laws in Cameroon and in other Central African countries by finding traffickers and alerting law enforcement. It was truly a unique perspective on the world of development and the organizations that work towards it. This afternoon we are meeting with an organization that is working for the maintenance of mother tongues in Cameroon. More organization visits are coming next week!

Peace and blessings, 
Beccah

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Update and Some Pictures

Hello, everyone! I hope that you are all having great days or nights, depending on your time zone and when you actually read this. Today is my last day in Dschang. After this we go to Bamenda, which is in the Anglophone part of Cameroon. We will be learning about the issues that Anglophones face in a predominantly Francophone country.

Here is the update on what we have done in Dschang! We have been learning about a particular ethnic group called the Bamiléké. To learn about traditional culture, we went to a chefferie (the place where the chief’s palace is along with other parts of the compound). That was so interesting! The structure of the Bamilékés’ government is so fascinating. It was also amazing to meet the head of a traditional village that pre-dates colonialism. It is hard to explain just how unique and amazing of an opportunity it was. We also went to Foumban to visit the Bamoun sultanate (a sultanate is similar to a chefferie in case you were wondering). We also went to a monastery. After living in busy cities for a month, it was a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively) to go to the monastery. We have also been learning about women and their role in traditional and modern life here in the West Region.

Now, onto the next topic: Food! I have been occasionally documenting my meals as we go throughout the program. Now, I will grace your eyes with a compilation of my meals in Cameroon. Enjoy!

 This is beans and plantains.
This is sweet potatoes (they are white here!) and beans. Also, my water bottle :) 
 This is a dish called ndolé (which is a vegetable similar to spinach mixed with sauce) with a side of plantains.
 This was the delicious lunch/dinner that we ate at the chefferie. There are beans, potatoes, beignets, rice, carrots, bread, and pineapple for sure. Beyond that, I am not really sure what I ate.
 This was my special weekend breakfast of carrots and bread!
This lovely dish is called couscous maïs (corn couscous) and gombo. In case you were wondering, that is a whole fish just chilling in my gombo.
This is me eating the meal.



Friday, September 20, 2013

Goodbye for Now, Yaounde

Hello, blogosphere! I hope that you are all doing so well wherever you are. Tomorrow, I will be leaving Yaounde (the capital city) to go to Dschang (in the Western Region). This has been a crazy three weeks of adjusting to a new country where they speak other languages. Here are some of the things that I have done in the last week:
  • On Saturday, we went to a gorilla sanctuary where they bring rescued monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees. It was really amazing to see the animals so close! I would also like to add the disclaimer that it was a park. There are not primates just roaming the streets of Yaounde. Just so you know. 
  • I went to mass with my sister on Sunday. I did not understand all of it, or most of it, but it was still a really great experience. I stood when the people around me stood, and tried to say the words back when I was supposed to. It is not as easy as it looks, folks!
  • We visited the University of Yaounde I on Wednesday and met some students. It was really great to be back on a college campus after taking classes in the SIT office. Their campus is definitely bigger than Butler's. Some fun facts for those of you viewing from home: it is the largest and oldest university in Yaounde. A bachelor's degree is called a licence because a bacc is the equivalent of a high school diploma. It takes three years to get a licence, two years for a masters, and three years for a doctorate. Now that you are properly informed, I shall move on :)
  • My first essay is due today. Don't worry. I already finished it. I am not that bad at procrastinating when I'm in Cameroon. 
  • Also! I did my laundry for the first time in Cameroon this week. Let me tell you, it is a work out! I am so good and wringing out clothes now. So, if any of you need help when I get back, I am your girl. 
I will try to post again when we are in Dschang. Until next time, people of the interwebs. 


Here is a panorama of Yaounde that I took. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

So This is Cameroon

Hello, everyone! I hope that America or wherever you are at is doing well! Know that I miss and love you all so much. So I haven't taken very many pictures because it is not necessarily safe to just take my camera out in public. Also, I try not to look too touristy when I am here because I am not a tourist...So alas, there are not very many pictures. But I wanted all of you to know that I am safe. To prove that, my friend took a picture of me with my fearless bulldog mascot cutout. There are also pictures of the mountains and my classroom here in Yaounde. 

Now, for the update! I moved in with my host family in Yaounde a week ago today. I have a Mama and a Papa, a grandma, and six siblings, so it gets pretty chaotic sometimes. I will try to take some pictures soon for you all to see. Both of my parents are teachers, which is great because that is basically my life at home. Thanks Josh and Matt for that :) I have eaten a lot of fish and beef and rice and plantains, which have literally all been the best meals! Pictures will follow! If you have any questions for me, let me know, preferably via the Facebooks! God bless, friends! 

Until next time, 
Beccah 



Friday, September 6, 2013

For those of you following from home, there is no need to fear. I am definitely alive and safe in Yaoundé! It has been a whirlwind so far. From the minute I stepped off the plane, I have not had a moment where I wasn’t learning something new. We had a few days of orientation while we stayed at a monastery (Le monastère du Mont Fébé). We learned about culture and rules and academics and food and other essentials.
On Wednesday, the culmination of this stage of orientation was a drop-off. This is basically an activity where you are dropped off at a random place in Yaoundé with 5000 Francs CFA ($10 dollars for you curious folks) and given a list of tasks to complete. These included using a cyber café, going to the University of Yaoundé I, and finding the neighborhood of the SIT offices. It was definitely an experience! Before anyone becomes too worried (including you, Mom), we were dropped off in pairs. The two of us walked off in our semi-confidence, prepared as we could be, to conquer our list. We were off to a bit of a rough start when we tried to put minutes on our cell phones. We did not understand the woman, and she clearly did not understand us. Finally, we just left and said we would deal with it later. Then we went to a cyber café. This was less tragic than the first adventure. The main problem was that I had no idea how to use the French keyboard. The letters were in different places. Instead of typing Yaoundé, I would type Yqoumd2. It was definitely a learning experience! Then we took our first taxi ride. A word to the wise: do not ever drive in Cameroon unless you grew up here. All driving rules here are like speed limits back home: they are merely suggestions. We made it to the University of Yaoundé I without any problems, and a nice man helped us hail a taxi to get us to the Institut Francais. Another interesting tidbit, most taxi rides cost 200 Francs CFA here. For you math-minded people and the generally curious, that is just under $0.50. We made it to the Institut Francais and moved on to find a textile shop. We were pointed in every direction, but we eventually succeeded! It was definitely a joyous occasion. My new goal is to buy fabric from that store and get a dress or skirt made. It is going to happen. Just wait America! A fashion intervention via Beccah is headed your way! Finally, we went to a supermarket in Bastos (the neighborhood where the SIT office is). It was great to see the city. It was nerve-wracking and very difficult, but I now have full confidence in my ability to get wherever I need to go.
On Thursday, we met our host families. I am very excited to get to know them and see how they live. So far, they have been amazing! I can’t wait to see what this semester holds.

Until next time, my friends,

Beccah