Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Off to the South West

I am posted to the South West region of Cameroon. It is hot, humid, and rainy. Extremely rainy. In another two weeks I will go on a site visit and have much more information about the region, because currently there are no agriculture volunteers in the South West. Myself and another trainee Joe will be the first agricultural volunteers in the South West in many years. I am opening a new post near a decent sized city. The South West is considered the bread basket of Cameroon and contributes heavily to the agricultural exports of the country. There are a lot of assumptions I can make about how the South West climate and culture will differ but I will simply wait and find out on my own. Site visit is in two weeks where I will be with my counterpart (A native Cameroonian who I work directly with) discussing goals, projects, and getting to know my site. From what I gathered I will be focusing on agribusiness projects such as farm to market analysis, income generating activities, and working with small business groups called GICs. Of course this is all premature and I could come to work strictly with farmers in the field if the demand is higher for that. I will know more in a few weeks.

This past weekend the agro-forestry trainees went on a field trip to the West region. It is at a higher elevation than here in the Central region, thus it was a bit cooler. This was great until I got back from the field trip and proceeded to sweat profusely. The only good thing I can think of about how much I sweat is that it appears to be an effective bug repellant. I have not been bitten nearly as much as some of my fellow volunteers. I digress, the trip was a blast. We explored the night life of a city in the West which was awesome. We simply sat out on a crowded street and ate kabobs of street meat and drank beers. Street meat is interesting here because it is like playing a lottery. You could be getting beef. Or it could be rat. Or monkey. It is hard to tell, but thoroughly enjoyable. Other trainees opted for the safer option of rice and fish.

As for the learning portion of the trip we visited several volunteer projects that gave us an idea of what we actually might be doing when we get to post. These included bee keeping, tree nurseries, work with an NGO, work with a local group to create a bakery, and some agricultural farm plots. Good stuff.

There are some things I will try to write about later this week, like food, biking around, getting lost in translation, religion, diarrhea, and much more that I have forgotten. Being here is like being lost in a book.

Pictures will likely follow.  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Moving Along

One morning I grabbed my bucket and walked out to the well to get some water for my shower. It was early and I was still a little groggy. Perhaps this is why I did not notice the snake that was in the second bucket I drew from the well. I dumped him into my shower bucket and then noticed him. I jumped back and felt a burst of excitment and fear. But the snake wasn't moving, so I picked him up and tossed him out. I thought he had drowned, but as it turns out he was still alive and slithered off, albeit slowly and almost drunkenly. What a lovely start to a day. Everything is out of the ordinary here.

The past few weeks have gone by quickly. During training we are taught about different agricultural topics such as seeds, fallow, soil, crop types, as well as hands on work in our own nursey and a group demo plot. We have weeded and planted seeds in our nursery and demo plot. In our nursery the trees are planted and grown for only a few weeks and then transplanted to a much larger nursery (ours is 1 x 1 meters). Basically we are learning different agricultural techniques that will leave the soils better off and richer than they were before. A lot of farming practises in Cameroon can be detrimental to soil health and my job will be to create demonstration plots and convince farmers to use healthier farming techniques. The rest of training is French lessons, usually two or three hours a day.

I now have a bike to get around. It is a decent Trek mountain bike which will be my primary mode of transportation at post. The roads are full of pot holes and bumps so riding them is dangerous but fun. To get around the country itself I will use bush taxis and motos. In my spare time I play a lot of soccer or teach softball or american football to the Cameroonian kids. The rest of my time is spent at the bar hanging out with other trainees until curfew when it gets dark.

Training is almost half done and later this week I will find out my post. Before I know it I will be on my own in the country.

My cell phone number is but you have to dial the international code and then the country code which is 011 and then 237. Use calling cards or buy credit on skype to call me (or perhaps you have cheap international rates?). Just remember the five hour time difference between the East Coast and here, as well as that I might be busy or have my phone off. You can text anytime, but you probably will want to email me to set up a time to call.