Friday, October 25, 2013

(Not-so) Rapid Integration Techniques: African Hairstylin'

A solid group of girls cut their hair before they came to Africa, generally for very practical reasons: it's hot, it's humid, hair is a pain to wash via bucket bath, etc.

Then there's the crazy girl (me) who decided, I should make my hair twice as long and twice as thick!! Sound impossible in addition to unwise? You'd be wrong.

This Sunday, I got my hair did, African style. I went over to my friend Calla's house because her home stay mom is a hairstylist. I had warned her ahead of time, so she got my weave at the market before I arrived - blond, brown, and purple weave, to be precise. And it's not even weird here to have purple hair, people do it all time. So I hung out with Calla, and her mom, and her 2 young home stay sisters. Our other PCVolunteer friend, Lauren, even stopped by for a bit. We talked about life, we talked in French and in English, and I even got a late lunch of my favorite Cameroonian meal: couscous and legumes. If you're thinking it sounds like I was there a while, you'd be right. Go ahead, ask me how long! I'll tell you. SEVEN hours. From 11am to 6 pm, I did the equivalent of letting small children pull my hair. Except I did it by choice, and the person pulling my hair was a professional adult. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cameroon: Bigger than Bafia!

Every day of every week, I wake up for training from 8am to 4:30pm. It often feels like high school all over again, with class from morning to evening and no playtime at recess. It is so structured and information-heavy that often it feels like being babysat, but by the not-cool babysitter who makes you do homework instead of playing Candyland or watching movies. 

If that sounds like whiney-whining to you… it absolutely is. BUT, the point is, I ESCAPED! Last Wednesday, all the trainees got to flee Bafia and the repetitive structure of training to go on site visit. We were split up into small groups to stay with volunteers in nearby regions: West, Southwest, Northwest, and Central. 

I travelled with 3 other girls (Anna, Lianna, and Lauren) to Bafang in the Western Region. It was awesome for a multiplicity of reasons:

Mexican Food Night
1) I escaped Bafia.

2) We made tons of food that I will never get in my home stay, namely pizza (I put onions and pineapple and basil on mine, it rocked) and fajitas (including tortillas from scratch, guacamole, pico de gallo, sautéed onions and peppers, and meat). It may not have been gourmet by US standards, but believe me it was heavenly in Cameroon.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rebecca at the Well

So yeah, that’s a biblical reference. But it’s relevant to my life in Cameroon in not one, but two ways…

(1) It amazes me how often I tell people my name here, and they respond with much excitement: oh, a biblical name! People here are often very religious, and I feel really lucky that I’m not atheist or agnostic; it would just make life here harder. Instead, I love it when people tell me that they like my biblical name, or that it’s their grandmother’s name. I’m like: your grandma has a great name!

On the other hand, unlike the French, Cameroonians are totally okay with the nickname Becky. In France, the conversation went like this:
  • Je m’appelle Becky.
  • Becky?
  • Bé-kiii.
  • Becky? C’est quoi, Becky?
  • Rebecca.
  • AHHHHHH! Rébecca! C’est beaucoup plus joli. 
Here, it’s like:
  • C’est Becky.
  • Ah, Becky! C’est très cool! Très Americain!
Personally, I think it’s hilarious when I can fool people into thinking I’m cool. So this is great!

(2) This particular Rebecca IS at the well -- everyday. It’s part of my daily routine to go to the well to get my water for bathing, drinking (after filtering, boiling, or adding bleach), flushing the toilet, cleaning cloths, and all the other things for which we normally just turn on the tap. It’s amazing how much more I find myself appreciating water when I need to throw a three litre plastic bucket into a well, then tow it up with a knotted rope--over and over and over. Honestly, it makes washing hair totally not worth your time and effort… Bye bye vanity!

After I get my day’s water at 6am, I usually go for a little morning walk or run then shower (and by shower, I mean use a bucket and cup to wash myself and ignore my hair) before breakfast. After breakfast, I go to school for a day of training. Training usually involves how to communicate in French, how not to die of malaria (or other health issues), how to stay safe, and how to develop the youth. Most of that is a grind, except the youth develop-y part where we are taught by super cool Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) about community needs assessment, how to teach classes on HIV prevention or other issues, and all sorts of other stuffs!

Post-training usually means integrating…and by integrating, I mean non-integrating with other Americans at a local bar playing college-y games like Never Have I Ever. After speaking French all day, it’s really nice to just speak English, relax, and do something simply because you want to. But other days, I love hanging out with the two host brothers I’ve met and their friends (also at the bar), exploring town, etc. 

Every day ends with family dinner around 7pm, watching the Brazilian soap opera “Clone” dubbed in French (hilarious. epically hilarious) at 8pm, and bed before 9pm (so early!!). 

Samy, Me, Papi & Donald