As of tomorrow, I will have been in Cameroon for two months. As of tomorrow I will also be getting a roommate to live with me in my little house. I don’t know much about her except that she is Québécoise and she seems very nice according to her Facebook profile. She is smiling in almost all of her pictures! Yes, I creeped her just a little bit. She also e-mailed me before she left for Cameroon to ask me if there’s anything that I wanted her to bring from Canada before she left, so that also tells me that she’s a pretty considerate person and wants to make our living situation as enjoyable as possible (so I’m glad it goes both ways). Tonight I’ll be prepping the house for her and by this I don’t just mean cleaning.
I will divide up the keys so that we each have a pair and we know where the extras are, I will rearrange my stuff in the bathroom to make a little space for her, rearrange my shelves to make some space for all the stuff I’ll be taking out of the bathroom, and I’ll rearrange the kitchen so we can fit in another mini fridge. I will also probably have to make some space in the living room because right now I am just using whatever spaces I want to suit my daily habits (motorcycle helmet on the table, and my backpack gets a whole chair to itself everyday).
Despite all this rearranging, I am genuinely looking forward to having another woman in the house. Life here is not boring, but (as you might have noticed in my previous article “Habituation”) it has fallen into a routine and there are pros and cons to that. I think that one of the major cons of falling into a routine is that it might make me less motivated to try new things, and for what other reason did I come to Cameroon than to try something new? I have noticed in the past couple weeks that I have been slacking when it comes to expanding my French vocabulary. This is probably because I feel comfortable enough to have conversations in the language now, but I am definitely not at the level that I want to be yet. I think I will be happy once I can understand the Radio or some podcasts in French without too much difficulty. Anyway, once I realized this I decided to once again prioritize practicing French in the evening along with my usual morning session, and I hope I can get into that accelerated phase of learning again that I was in at the beginning of my placement.
At the office we collectively haven’t been able to do much work in the past couple weeks. Last week the electricity was fluctuating so much that many of my coworkers had to turn off their computers to protect them against the chance of a power surge. This week the situation hasn’t improved much because the office Wi-Fi is straight up not working, which makes it impossible for Blondine to do work on the Internet. Luckily, I can tether my Internet connection from my phone to my computer so I am not faced with this inconvenience #firstworldperks. It is also a little frustrating that I still haven’t received my colleague’s choice for which webhost she would prefer I move Cam-Eco’s website to, and now she has left for Kribi with a couple other colleagues for the rest of the week so I am unable to do the migration once again until next week. I may sound really sour right now but I am actually not too bothered by this because, if Cameroon has taught me anything so far, it is to go with the flow.
Because I really don’t have any other imminent work aside from the website, I have started another project. This week I began working on compiling all the informational documents that we have in the drive into one organized manual on different programs here in the office. It’s been really satisfying so far. I hope to finish it by the end of the placement so I can give a beautiful, easy to use and updated site to Cameroun Écologie, along with a guide for how to use everything from Google drive, to the social media pages, to the website. I will also include context describing what each tool would be used for and why. I think that it will be good for them to have this guidebook, but I also hope that it remains just that: a guidebook. I don’t want my colleagues to always need to be referring to the manual because I would rather they understood how to do everything on their own by the time I leave. That is exactly what the workshops are for that Blondine and I have started planning, and we now have three of them planned for the duration of my placement here. Hopefully the website will be migrated by the first one so I can start teaching people how to use it.
This past weekend Blondine came over (as promised) and we made pasta together! I also downloaded a French film called Incendie for us to watch afterwards, but we ended up talking through most of it and she left my place completely satisfied and a little tipsy from the wine that I had paired with dinner. We also split a beer. Blondine also showed me the section of the UN website where I can take a free online course to learn about climate change and their initiative called “REDD+”. Cam-Eco includes the REDD+ framework in one of their five principle programs, so I think it will be really helpful for me to take this course once I eventually sit down to do it. Fred does a lot of work with REDD+ in his position here too; he has hosted five workshops with Cam-Eco and our partner organizations to teach them how to integrate the initiative into their business structure. In fact, I was working on an informational poster for REDD+ with Fred for the past couple weeks that we hope to distribute by the end of his placement (which is in two weeks!).
On Saturday I got up as usual and did my housework in the morning, then later on went to the market with Tatiana. I really adore buying clothes here because they are so freaking cheap, and many of them are also prettier than those in Canada. I think I will just buy a bunch of nice clothes here and leave some clothes from Canada that I can’t fit in my suitcase back here in Cameroon. I’m sure Tatiana would be happy to take some off my hands. At the market I bought a really nice casual long dress for the equivalent of about $10.
The next day after church I visited Nathalie, Fred and Juste (another colleague). At first we all just hung out in Fred’s living room, but then we went out back to what is practically a mini-orchard to help Nathalie harvest her cocoa fruits.
I’ve never seen cocoa fruits in any other form than their final form as processed chocolate, and I actually got to try one raw as a bonus. That night Patricia came over and I made her some potatoes and rice with a bunch of herbs. It was a really nice visit and she confirmed what Blondine said that I’m a good Cameroonian host. I’m glad my hosting skills translate well to the new culture; it was something I was worried about before coming here.
When I first started to write these blogs I wrote about how impatient I was to be able to do things on my own and have people understand me. Now, as I launch into the second trimester of my placement, I am specifically proud that I can go to the market on my own, take a motorcycle like a taxi on my own, and be able to express myself in French. Shout out to my dad who my mom says is pretty worried about me taking the motorcycle on my own. Just to clarify, I am not actually driving the motorcycle, but riding it as a pillion passenger. I will be sure to get a picture of this soon enough. I would also like to add that taking the motorcycle is the safest form of transportation here in Edéa, and I am lucky because I have my helmet (which I wear everyday when going to the office). So don’t worry dad, I’m staying as safe as I can in Africa. Anyway, what I am most grateful for this week is that I have a hell of a lot more autonomy than in the beginning of the placement, and I have a great support system of people here that stuck with me even though I’m sure it was annoying for them to have to babysit me so much at the beginning. À la prochaine!