Monday, December 29, 2014

Wiehnachtsmarkts!

Noch mehr Fotos.
 
Koblenz:

 

Wo die Flüsse treffen.

Weihnachtsmarkt



Räucherlachs

Rost!






  
Kurfürstliches Schloss und Schlossvorplatz (electoral college and garden)







Penasol is in Germany. 


Jetzt Saarbrücken:



Hah, Greta.

Pere Noel
 
 






In der Dome. 


Endlich Trier.


Wiehmachtsmarkt



Ungarische Spezialität











Sunday, December 7, 2014

So....Deutschland

Jetzt ich wohne in Deutschland und ich mache einen Masters in Umweltwissenchaft. Alles ist gut! Hier ich habe viele fotos ich genommen.

Diese sind von Borg Cochem. Sehr schön! Ich bin zum Cochem während internationaler Ausrichtung gegangen.










Und hier sind Fotos aus der Nähe von meinem Campus:





Das ist mein Campus zwei! Es war ein altes Französisch.Krankenhaus. Ich habe meine Klassen hier.






Ich machte amerikanischer Erbsensuppe für meine Finnische, Britisch, Französisch, Deutsch, Italienisch und Ukrainischen Freunde. They loved it and the Finnish girl said it was better than traditional Finnish pea soup. And yes, that is an African wooden penis bottle opener on the corner of the table ;) Danke meines Bruder.





Enfin, c'est ma ville. J'habite a Trèves et c'est une belle et ancien ville.



 Der Weihnachtsmarkt! C'est comme le marché au Philidelphia...je pense. Alors J'oublie.

As me and my Ukrainian bud Rost call it...Puta Negra (Its name is Porta Negra, a 2000 year old Roman gate).



Happy holidays and cheers!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

5000 CFA for Three Weeks


A few months ago I settled the issue of my lease with my landlord. Most volunteers settle this issue when they immediately get to post, however since my first six months of rent were already paid for I figured I could get away with putting it off. Also when I first arrived I could hardly understand my landlords pidgin and I didn't feel like navigating a lease with her. Now I can gather pretty much what her generally meanings are even if I don't understand every word.

In pidgin words can blur together and even though much of the vocabulary is the same as English, it can be pronounced completely differently. For example, early on my landlord approached me and said something that sounded like “wata bee don com” in phoenetics. Wata means water, which I understood. The rest sounded like a blurr, especially since she said it so fast. I thought she was asking me if I had running water but she shook her head. She tried a few other things or minor variations like “wata bee der todey” or “na wata bee der”. After a minute or so we were getting nowhere so she called for her daughter who repeated “wata bee don com”. However this time she made a gesture with her hand; she rubbed her thumb against her index and middle finger as she said it. This is the universal sign for denero. It finally dawned on me that she was saying “the water bill has come”. I asked “ha much” and she told me 2000 CFA. So I paid her and that was that.

Back to the rent issue. After six months at post my landlord asked me to pay for the next six months. I decided it was time to fill out the lease and see if the Peace Corps could start paying me rent. Due to an error in paperwork the Peace Corps had paid me rent for  my second six months during my initial moving in and I had spent it. I could have paid better attention to my accounting but I didn't think anything of it. The monthly allowance is ample and you can survive well enough without spending much of your money so I never bothered to pay attention to the accounting statements. They had given me five of my next six months rent already and I had spent it moving in without realizing it.

I contacted the accountants of Peace Corps Cameroon and they informed me that I had already spent the bulk of my rent for the next six months. They also no longer will pay several months of rent in advance and volunteers must pay rent monthly and turn in monthly receipts. I think this is a silly amount of work since to send in reciepts you either have to wait for a volunteer to pass by on their way to the capital Yaounde, or take your chances via snail mail and have your reciept arrive in two to twenty weeks. I spent the majority ofmy next monthly living allowance and paid her for four out of the next six months and promised to pay the final two the following month.

Unfortunately a “wata bee” and “light bee” in addition to medical costs reduced my wallet to 5000 FCA with three weeks before the next payday. Like I said before, to turn in my medical reciepts and get reimbursed it could take anywhere from one to twenty weeks and there is a risk of your mail never arriving. So I decided to lead a simple life and see if I could manage.

Luckily I had recently bought some eggs and oats. I already had a supply of noodles and cooking oils as well as spices. I ate oats with milk powder and honey for breakfast. I splurged on these little fake cheese wedges and hot sauce for my eggs for lunch. Noodles or rice and beans were for dinner(rice and beans costs 200 CFA for a plate that will fill you up from the wonderful food mommas). After some of these things ran out I resupplied but it was pretty easy to spend absolutely nothing for two of the weeks. A few of my farmer friends occasionally stopped by with some fruit so I also had that too. Buying more eggs and oats ate up 3800 CFA but by then I was almost done with the three weeks. One day I checked my bank account and discovered the accountants paid allowances. To celebrate I grabbed a beer and ate some street cow meat for 1000 CFA.  

The 5000 CFA translates into roughly ten bucks for the three weeks, though purchasing power certainly is different here than in America. Unfortunately a similar situation happened the following month after I spent a little too much money reuniting with some volunteers and then paying for travel deep into the bush for work(I had to pay off the other two months of rent as well). The second time around it was fun and I had a bit more money to boot. Funny enough, before and after these little setbacks in my wallet, my diet already consisted of primarily oats and honey, eggs and cheese, fruits, vegetables, noodles, rice, beans, and with money the occasional fish and beer.   

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Road Home

The Road Home

After a week of work in the bush I was ready for home. It was a long and cold hike to get to Bermin. Then it was a week of living in a bush village with no electricity or running water(we filtered our water with Joe's portable filter). Tons of biting insects and rain that seemed to go on for infinity. Thus, it is no surprise I wanted to find a quick ride back to my post. It would save money and a lot of time. So I took the chance when a cocoa truck arrived to transport the harvest back to a city for export. I was lucky enough to be the only person desiring a ride back to the city, so I hopped in shotgun and hoped the ride would be quick and smooth.

The first problem we came across was a large tree that fell across the road. Storms had raged the previous night and this did not bode well for traveling on the terrible dirt roads of the South West region. The driver and the worker hopped out of the truck and then trekked back to Bermin to get help. After about a half hour of waiting a group of villagers arrived with machetes and an ax. They hacked the tree up and we continued on our way.

At various points I had to exit the truck while the driver tried to make it up various steep and muddy hills. Luckily we did not get stuck for more than a half hour at a time. It is not uncommon for trucks to become permanently stuck in the mud. We continued our journey on a muddy dirt road that did not let up until we made it out of the bush. Their was one more hiccup before we got off the bush paths. Well, I wouldn't exactly call this a  hiccup but more of a close call. A few hours into our ride we came to a bridge. We had already crossed several bridges so this was no bid deal. Bridges in the South West range from small wooden planks that span a chasm ten feet deep to larger river bridges that are composed of shaky planks(actually all of the bridges are made of shaky planks). These wooden bridges generally have solid foundations but the planks that you actually cross on are usually quite shaky. So there are large bridges that cross big rivers, and small ones that cross creeks. This bridge was of the latter type. It was maybe ten feet off the ground over shallow running water. It was maybe fifteen feet long. For whatever reason we had a difficult time getting onto this bridge. The worker riding on the back of the truck hopped off and gave instructions to the driver so that he would get his tires onto the correct planks. We got onto the planks and began crossing the bridge. Just as the front tires reached the other side and we were almost off the bridge, the left plank snapped causing the truck to lurch back and to the left. We were falling off the bridge, so the driver slammed on the gas and we flew forward off the bridge. For a brief moment the driver did not have control and we almost crashed into a ditch. However he hit the brakes and the worker hopped on the back and we continued. A truck pulled up just as we were driving off, took one look at the bridge and turned around.  

The rest of the ride was uneventful but long. It took a total of ten hours to get back home. Rainy season in the South West region destroys the unpaved roads but it can make for some good adventures. Overall the trip to work in Bermin was one of my favorite trips. The scenery was gorgeous and the work was good. It was quite the memorable and amazing experience. Well worth it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bermin II

A great thing about friends is learning from them. Joe had brought a birds of West Africa book and knew quite a bit about the various birds we saw. Right outside the training building were a couple of widowbirds. The female looks rather plain but the male has vibrant dark colors and a long tail with which to attract the female. The male we saw was dancing around in the air and trying to impress a female. It is incredibly interesting because the male was having a difficult time hovering with such a long heavy tail. The length of the tail increases chances at mating but decreases the chance of survival(due to increased weight and thus decreased agility). The males with longer tails can attract mates easier but make for easy prey. Its a give and take.

Back to our training schedule we found that many people were simply too busy with farming to make time for trainings. Even the kids were reluctant to show up to environmental education because they were busy with chores and who really wants to learn during the summer? The sessions were generally small,  maybe eight to fifteen people each, however this made it easier to personalize the sessions and have one-on-one discussions beneficial to the group.

During the week we had to hike to the village of Mbang to complete a community mapping project Joe was assigned. The hike was near the center of the South West region which is complete bush. Thick, beautiful jungle surrounded the foot paths we trekked. We crossed several rivers by hopping the stones and never saw the sun due to the thick canopy and overcast sky. Half way through the hike the light drizzle turned into a downpour but the canopy prevented us from getting drenched. A funny thing about hiking these bush paths alone is that you often come to crooked forks in the road where the locals tell you to just keep straight. Thus when our bush path emerged perpendicular to a dirt road we had to make a choice. Usually a flip of the coin suffices, but I decided we should head up the hill. Luckily we choose correctly and arrived at the chiefs hut in the pouring rain. The community mapping went well but the rain shortened things. It was getting late in the afternoon and we did not want to be hiking in the jungle at night.

The chief insisted we take a guide just to get us across the first river which we rock hopped initially. Due to the continual downpour this would not be an option for crossing back. The river had flooded and all of the stones were below three to five feet of running waters. The Cameroonian went first and slowly but surely navigated across the river. Step by step he found footholds on rocks to support his body which was constantly pushing back against the current. At times he was chest deep in the water. He made it back just fine but Joe was against trying to cross the river. I searched a little south and found another entrance to the river that looked easier to cross. We made our way down and the Cameroonian hopped in and found a slightly easier path across. He took our bags across first and then one by one led us both across the flooding river. He stood in front of us and held our hand while taking the brunt of the force from the river. Keep in mind that me and Joe were wearing hiking boots while the Cameroonian was wearing jellies(weird rubber sandals), shorts, and a flimsy yellow rain coat. And he did everything nonchalantly. 

We crossed fine and continued our hike. It was beginning to get dark but we could still see the path fine. Our boots and pants were soaked so it didn't matter how we trudged through the mud. We wanted to hurry so that we wouldn't be hiking by flashlight. We crossed the second river just fine and were almost to the outside quartier of Bermin. Along the way I found a river crab on the path, probably displaced by the floods. I grabbed him and asked our guide if he would eat it. He said yes and as we parted I gifted the crab to him. Thinking back on it we really should have kept the crab and had the chiefs wife cook it for us. It was as big as my hand and I probably won't get many chances to eat the fresh water crabs around here. In the end we made it back fine just as the night sky was turning dark. Sure we were soaked and exhausted but it felt great sitting with the chief for dinner and taking a warm beer.

The rest of the week went well. Joe planned the sessions thoroughly and a decent amount of people showed up. For the environmental education sessions we took a group of kids down to the lake and discussed basic science and ecology while they fished. As the week wrapped up an opportunity arose to grab a ride with a truck back to my post.  This meant I would have to leave two days early, but it wasn't an issue because the last two days were light sessions and Joe was more than capable handling them alone. This also meant I would not have to hike twelve miles back up a mountain in the cold rain. However the road back home would prove quite interesting.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lots to Say

I apologize for the delay in getting more pictures up. It is not often I am in the capital Yaounde where there is fast internet at the Peace Corps half way house. Yaounde is a fun city though expensive. There are plenty of western amenities, chief among them being pizza and burgers. I even went to the happy hour at the Hilton and took two cocktails on the rooftop bar overlooking the city. It can be a real fun city, but having to stay in the Peace Corps half way house can be a drag. The problem is not the people or the house itself(I have no problem living in an Animal House), but rather that you are constantly in proximity of the higher ups of Peace Corps Cameroon and the administration can be indifferent at times. Volunteers love to gossip about their problems but more on that later, for now the pictures will talk. These are from my travels up in the dry and hot northern regions of Cameroon. The landscape and people are quite beautiful.



Prison bus to Ngaoundere. Six hours or so.
'

The Adamawa





Lake Lagdos, North Region


The island at the center of the lake, Madagascar


Misty view of the Lake from the island Madagascar



The Extreme North



Maroua, a truly beautiful city surrounded by the driest heat




Rhumsiki mountain(I think its a mountain), Extreme North Region


The village at Rhumsiki

View of Rhumsiki village from atop a small mountain