Sorry for the delays in posting. This is an entry from the second week of the trip.
Written June 3 (Mon)… Week 2
Here’s to another week full of multiple projects. In fact, it’s going to take some serious concentration for me to recall everything that we’ve been up to in order, but I can say that this week was full of presentations, youth activities, demonstration gardens for the seed multiplication project, and preparation for our Youth Camp. For the most part, we follow a schedule, but honestly, the concept of time and punctuality is different here. Today, for example – we woke up to rain. It rained for hours, so we decided to delay our departure to the gardens in Simonkoh. We said “let’s leave between 11 and 12”… and we ended up leaving at 1:30 J
So, today (June 3) we sent two of the team members (the organic farmer, Joan and me –UNM’s student) out to Simonkoh village along with Castro (our guide from the local council here) and 7 interns from a university in Bamenda. The others stayed behind to work on preparations for the Youth Camp, as I said, and are now very excited. Once the two gardens with an elderly group and a women’s group were set up, the team returned back to Elak.
(Prep for the Youth Camp)
Yesterday (June 2), some of the group went to church, and in the afternoon we all went to the field near the Community Center in Elak and played several games with the kids here as part of CamAAY’s “All kids should play” campaign. We tried several things – from Duck Duck Goose to tag. But it was hilarious to watch the kids reverse the objective in tag… we tried teaching them, but there always seems to be a bit of a language barrier… so instead of running away from the person who was “it”, they all ran towards Aubrey. The throng of children tackling the lone “white man” was spectacular J It definitely reminded me more of American football. But we all had fun.
(Playtime = photo cred. Aubrey)
Saturday (June 1), Maxie went to the radio station at the crack of dawn to do a Q&A with curious callers about what we’ve been up to. I’m glad she was willing to represent us at such an early hour! She also advertised for our presentation that afternoon on Sports and Fitness. We had some technical difficulties setting up, but we presented information about the benefits of sports and prepped for some demonstrations in the field. The local women’s handball team and the soccer team were there. We also introduced sports jerseys that Aubrey’s high school donated for the community to use. It was great to see everyone’s face light up and to connect with everyone via common clothing. Once we were all dressed up, we went to the field for the demonstration portion of our presentation. OSU’s Maxie, Grace, Abby, and Aubrey led warm ups, conditioning, cardio, and cool-downs in a big circle. I loved the feeling of community we had, and I’m so pleased that the women were so willing to do the (probably crazy-looking) exercises they prepared with us. Plus, the footballers (or – the paid soccer players) stuck around to give pointers and even ask questions on certain stretches.
(Community Sports Day = photo cred. Aubrey)
Friday (May 31), we went to Jigijem village to give presentations on violence against women and group building. Joan was sick, so we postponed the seed sharing and demonstration gardens for later this week. We had some big delays though, due to the people expecting us later this week, and then the electricity going out. So, before we presented, we ended up doing impromptu activities with the local children. We danced and played until the community was ready to receive us. Then we gave the presentations and distributed pens and notebooks. This time around, there seemed to be more trouble between language and cultural differences – especially when it came to the perceptions on rape, but Castro translated everything into Oku and we tried our best to answer questions. After the presentations, we served food to the group.
(Jigijem = photo cred. Maxie)
Thursday (May 30), we also did presentations, but this time we did them in the council center in Elak. Before we began, we met with a women’s empowerment center funded by the government that offered trade classes. We talked and did a needs assessment. Then we went next door to the council’s hall and overcame our technical difficulties to present 4 different topics along with Oku translations: group building and dynamics, violence against women, ecofeminism + climate change, and seed saving/organic farming practices. It took several hours, but in the end, the message seemed to be well-received and we served food. The goal is to get hard copies of all the presentations to distribute to all of the groups we’ve talked to. The seed saving instructions are vital, so we’ll work on making that information especially clear.
Wednesday (May 29), we were still in Mbam. The OSU portion of the team worked with local schools to plant thousands of seeds in “polytine” bags for pre-germination. All of the trees will be planted into one of the sub-division’s major water-catchment zones that have been affected by deforestation. Joan and I went to do a demonstration garden nearby and one on the top of a mountain. We met a nice herbalist and had to ride 3 people to a bike to get to the top. There, we worked with another women’s group to plant the 15 seeds.
So, tomorrow (June 4) we’ll head to neighboring villages like Lui to meet with the communities and do some more demo gardens.
Hopefully you’ll hear from us again in about a week. Our internet hasn’t been working properly for the past few days, so if I really do manage to post this on Tuesday, it’ll be a job well done! Beating the odds, for sure.
I’m not exactly sure what our focus for this week is, but I can tell you that we are almost done here in Elak-Oku. Our next destination is the sub-division (I think) Batibo. We’ll leave for there on the 9th!
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