I have not written to you in a while, and I am sorry for this. I have meant to many times, but every time I think about actually doing so, I am overcome by exhaustion and the impossibility of sitting quietly with my thoughts for an extended period of time it seems like too much for me to handle.
That being said, here I am now, hoping to make amends for this lapse in time by writing a thorough, or as much as I can muster, summary of my where abouts and doings of the past few weeks.
I live in a two bedroom, one shower room, and a large salon house in the Mt.’s of The Mandara Mt. Range. The town is composed of approximately 1500 inhabitants and is nestled between Mogode to the North, and Rhumsiki to the South. I wake every morning to the sound of donkeys crying and frogs singing. There is a constant choir of insects that lasts most of the day, but increases in volume as soon as the sun begins to set.
I wake everyday at the same time, 6:00am like a clock…I no longer use my alarm clock, I couldn’t see the point anymore.
My months are currently filled with waiting to get my next paycheck. These are small but important milestones to me; every paycheck signifies another month gone by. At first I was excited by the opportunity to live in a small community, I had been told, that volunteers in the bush were better equipped to save their paychecks, since there is nothing to really buy, restaurants to go to, bars to drink beer in, or night clubs to distract one from their work. I have quickly learned that I was not entirely informed of the situation with living this far from the city.
I have borrowed 50,000 FCFA from a good friend due to my lack of funds at the moment, and am amazed at how much the other volunteers have accumulated in the short time we have been at post, mostly because I am now -50,000FCFA, which is a little worrisome. I spend almost all of my money on transportation and food, but for every tomato or onion I buy, I am spending ten fold in transportation to get to said onions and tomatoes.
I would like to say that I am happy here, but as of now, I guess I am a little sad. The problem started with my counterpart not moving to my town leading to me becoming somewhat, or entirely a hermit in my giant compound. I feel that it is a necessity for a volunteer to have this liaison between them and the community, ultimately, I just want someone to hold my hand everyday. With this, the association I am associated with has yet to open an office in my town leaving me wondering when I will be able to start work with the association that I have not heard from since site visit (July).
On the upside…!
I know the above is kind of a downer, and I am not trying to purposefully bum anyone out so bare with me a bit longer.
I have been able to successfully make many loaves of various kinds of bread, mashed potatoes, tortillas, salsa, and in the near future I will be producing my own cheese!!
As you know, I am an avid cooker and being able to entertain myself with these little projects gets me through each day with a smile on my face.
I currently fill my weeks by searching for foods at local community farmers markets, although the selection is limited; there is always a plethora of people to talk to and a multitude of languages to encounter. I have, since my arrival, visited the markets of: Rhumsiki, Mogode, Mokolo, Maroua, and my home town Gouria.
*As a side note: Gouria only sells locally made millet wine and manioc roots…this was not told to me my first week and I patiently waited for “market” day, only to be left all too hungry. I ended up walking down the road of my village, after having not ate for 24 hours, looking for somebody to help my. Luckily my landlord found me and drove me the 1 ½ hours to the market in Mokolo where I was able to find food, and lots of it.
My days are currently filled with apprehension and fear. This sounds worse that it feels, but I think this is the best way to describe it. I am pretty much terrified of my community, and not in a “I think they are going to kill me” kind of way, but a “why are they all glaring at me” kind of way, again, I think having a counterpart would have assuaged my fears and I am making small steps towards coming out of my compound to meet people.
Now, I have a short story for you, I hope you like it.
A man pays me a visit about two weeks back. The man is a friend of another volunteer and is really only stopping by at the request of this volunteer. I answer the door and in my misinterpreted French have no idea who he is and do not know who he is friends with, but he is nice. We chat for a bit, blah blah blah, and he says he has to go but he’ll be back later. I am thinking, damn, I think I am done with visitors today, but I don’t want to be rude, he also says, if it is too late, then c’est la vie and I’ll see him around, he won’t come back.
About two hours later, he shows up with his niece. I answer the door, passively say it is too late for visitors, that I am in the middle of eating dinner, and that I am getting up early the next day for whatever. He and his niece say, Bonne, and walk in. Oops. We sit awkwardly in my unfurnished living room, me on the ground with a bowl of instant noodles and they in two of the three plastic lawn chairs I have scattered throughout my house.
The topic turns to university studies, different areas of interest and the like and somehow or another, the topic of the internet comes up. And it become apparent that I am the sole community member in the village with an internet key and working internet, slow internet. The niece very forwardly moves the topic of conversation to her needs as a student at the university and the demanding schedule imbued upon students, all of this leading to, can I borrow your internet key, I have work that must be done.
I laugh awkwardly and say, Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know right now (what a bazaar question). We all sit quietly for maybe 30 seconds to a minute. At this point I notice I have not even touched my dinner, and I am sitting Indian style on the floor, in a dark room with a cold bowl of soup in front of me and…she’s waiting for my response.
OH! Sorry, no…
Then they leave and I never see them again.
I should add a few lines here about why I am still here and what I am excited about.
Business Class Collaborations
Grain and produce storage facilities
Electricity to neighboring villages
These are all of my proposed preliminary ideas of things I would like to accomplish in the next two years. They, for the most part, are attainable, and are keeping me going.
I am learning how to be patient :)
my body is not used to not getting to eat fruits and veggies by the truck load, my only source of protein is eggs, when I can get them, and powdered milk and I think this may be the source of my constant tiredness, as soon as my weight stops fluctuating, I think I will be in better spirits.
I write this blog to share with you where I am and what I am up to, so please, don't worry. Over all I find these small difficulties as a necessity to my service here.