Monday, January 31, 2011


Training progressed much the same as before. Agroforestry formations, language class, lunch, class, then soccer or off to the bar. I made French level and took two weeks of pidgin class which will be useful in the South West Region. Pidgin is hard to describe, but a Cameroonian put it nicely to me one day. He told me “Here we speak Pidgin! No grammar! Talk Pidgin!”. Basically subtract a lot of grammar from English and add a bunch of slang and you have it.

The end of training came, but not well. I was sick. The day before swearing in I had some bad diarrhea. It had started the day before but this day was different. There was nothing left to it. It was just water. Then it became blood. I wasn't hungry. I drank lots of water and hoped this would pass. One day of diarrhea is nothing. Then the fever came. I started to burn. I was getting woozy and could no longer function normally. I hopped in a Peace Corps car and told the driver to take me to the hospital. Luckily  a fellow trainee and friend Caleb wasn't feeling well and came along. Absurd to say it was lucky he was sick too, but I was in a much worse way. We arrived and they took my blood pressure and temperature. The intense heat and fatigue was wearing at me. The doctor wasn't in so they took us to another hospital. Here they took blood samples and immediately after I vomited. I felt much better and then they put an IV in me at my wrist. Some slow drip anti-malaria medicine. Everything seemed better. I was slowly walked into a room and put in a bed. I lied down and stared at the ceiling. Unfortunately the bizarre feeling of an IV in my arm started to get to me. The room started spinning and I felt like vomiting. Then the pain medication kicked in. I lied back in a euphoric state and started counting bugs on the ceiling. The Peace Corps Nurse Anne was there and I joked with her. The Country Director who was in town for the swearing in ceremony came in to check on me. It was very comforting but I don't remember what I said in my delusional state. Some jokes, maybe. Regardless they both made me feel a lot better and well taken care of. They left around 10PM and a doctor showed up. They moved me to another room where I would have access to a bathroom. In my previous room I had a little stool pan. They also asked for a stool sample. This was not hard as I soon had diarrhea again. I went and filled up a small glass jar with mostly blood. The doctor left and I was left alone with a slow drip IV and my diarrhea. Every ten to twenty minutes I had to go. It was always bloody. I had to hobble to the bathroom and attach my drip to the window. It was a slow process and sometimes I didn't quite make it to the toilet. I had a handy supply of toilet paper though, so cleaning up was possible. I didn't leave a mess like a complete invalid. Despite this everything was fine. The worst was over. I hadn't eaten in over a day but that didn't matter. I finally stopped and went to sleep.

The next morning I had made a few runs to the bathroom but I was better. I ate some bananas for breakfast and drank a lot of water. Nurse Anne showed up and I said I could make it to swearing in. I changed and hopped into the Peace Corps car. Swearing in took place in the center of town at the place of celebration. There were many important local figures and even the U.S. Ambassador showed. We were seated under and awning and listened to several Peace Corps Administrators, the Ambassador, and some big shot local authorities make speeches. Then we stood up, took an oathe, and that was it. I was now a volunteer. As soon as it ended and pictures ended I made a bee-line for the nearest restroom.

There was food and a reception for the volunteers and families at the training center. The food was a great mixture of Cameroonian and American. After I went with Nurse Ann back to the hospital to get the results of my blood and stool tests. The doctor stated that I had malaria parasites in my blood and amoebas in my stool. This can not be entirely trusted. But I did have one or the other. I was given two different medications and a multivitamin. The first was an anti-malaria pill and the second was to kill amoeba and bacteria infections. Great. Time to start work.

Monday, January 24, 2011


There are many things that can make a man lose control of his bowels; undercooked food, bacteria, amoebas, drinking cheap alcohol, etc. All of these things are readily available in Cameroon. In every market the food sitting out acts as landing pads for flies. Luke warm food for dinner is quite common. Bacteria are in all the water and must be at least filtered, if not boiled as well. So if you find yourself with diarrhea it could be any number of things. It can be impossible to trace the source. Thus one night after eating luke warm food and drinking a few beers and some palm wine, I found myself in a predicament.

First lets discuss palm wine. Palm wine is made by felling palm trees and tapping them to harvest the liquid inside. This liquid is palm wine and it begins fermenting the second it is tapped. It is put in containers that allow air flow so as to prevent gas buildup. However for this same reason it allows insects in who are attracted to the sweet smell of the palm wine. Over time as it ferments it becomes stronger and less sweet. They call it matango or the white stuff in anglophone regions. It tastes like fizzy, sweet, and sour white stuff. I often found bugs floating a glass or liter and the locals merely said to pick it out. Its normal.

One night, which seemed to be a regular night, I jumped out of bed in a terror. I knew I was about to immediately evacuate my bowels and had but seconds to spare. I waddled around my room, groping along the wall in the pitch black darkness of a village without electricity. After ten agonizing seconds I could do nothing more. I took step from the wall, dropped my boxers, and shit on the floor.

I wiped it all up into a little black plastic bag, tied the bag shut, and dropped it out my window. I bleached the floor and went back to bed. The next morning I went and claimed my bag, then tossed it in the trash pile to be burned later. This is something that is not uncommon for volunteers in Africa. Well, I cannot say my specific case is common, but rather problems with bowels and crapping in the bushes is not abnormal. Some might say my case was a rather absurd extreme. 

Friday, January 14, 2011


Pictures of the future not yet told.

My house. 

My backyard.

View from my porch. 

My bathroom. 

My future kitchen.

My future bedroom.

My hallway and counterpart. 


Busy busy busy. 

My office. 

View from the balcony.

Add caption

Token photo. 

My neighborhood. 

Clouds rolling up the side of Mt. Cameroon. 


The northwest. 

Lake Barombi. 

The rock. 

Boat man. 

Oil refinery at the beach. 

Black sand beach. 


Accommodations for Noel 

My old car. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

After Much Time

It has been about two months since my last post and much has happened. I am now moved into my house in a jungle like village quartier of a small but bustling city in the South West region of Cameroon. But first I must elaborate on the many interesting things from November and December as training wrapped up and I transitioned to life at post.

November went by quickly. Language training wrapped up after I made level for in French and began taking Pidgin classes. Pidgin is a bastardized version of English. First you drop most rules of grammar, then you simplify most tenses into the most basic forms possible, and finally substitute in culturally adapted simplified words and remove most articles. It is bizarre, humorous, and difficult. My ability to communicate in English is diminishing.

Training continued on in much the same manner; technical sessions and language sessions. I gave three 20 minute presentations in November. One in English on composting, one in French on improved fallow, and one on Cameroonian soccer in French. Of course I passed each with flying colors. We traveled to the North West province for our second field trip where we took a tour of an agroforestry center that was started by a PCV about fifteen years ago. At the center we were able to demo and practice marcotting and grafting tree propagation techniques. We also discussed beekeeping and tasted some delicious raw honey that they produced. The North West region was beautiful. Rolling hills of African highlands. Cool weather and beautiful waterfalls spread across the countryside.

Thanksgiving went quite well. Training ended early (no American Holidays for volunteers) and many of the females went to work on cooking some American style dishes for the fete. Most of the guys simply brought drinks as there were thirty six females and twelves males. As for myself I brought a gallon of palm wine (sweet tasting, fermenting white stuff). We bought a turkery and a few of the girls killed it and cleaned it during the morning. Then it was cooked in an improved cookstove that a few of the agro trainees built. The mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, pasta salad, and turkey as well as the many of dishes were all delicious. Then we celebrated at the training center with drinks and music late into the night. Late into the night during training would be eight pm.