Hello again, everyone! Sorry for the torrent of recent blog posts, but we’ve had a couple of relatively free days this weekend for the first time, so we’re trying to catch up! Our projects are all going well and we’re having a lot of fun here at the house (as you’ve read in the other posts!), but we’ve also had a bit of a chance to keep ourselves busy with several other adventures outside of our projects. We had two big trips (we went to Bamenda, the region capital, to complete a bit of shopping and to see the city, and then we also went on a day hike on motorbike (and foot) to a crater lake, a tea plantation, and finally some place we played with monkeys! These were our two big trips that we have in between our projects, but we’ll devote a whole post to those later on. This post is instead about some of the random small things that have been going on outside of our projects…
So, when our Cameroonian friend Hilary told us that we could walk to a waterfall in 10 minutes, it’s safe to say I was skeptical. I was expecting one of those miniscule “waterfalls” that is really just a stream that drops down a couple of feet. So as we winded our way through the streets of Fundong (many stores, curious children, the mosque, and an underground hotel along the way), none of us were expecting to come across this site.
Here we had some fun climbing down a steep and muddy hill. Abdallah, another volunteer who recently arrived from Egypt, was with us and successfully slid down most of the hill.
One of our more unique cultural experiences so far was a burial that we attended at a place uphill from our house. This was on our first Sunday in Cameroon. Simon, the director at BFF and our neighbor here in Ngwainkuma, is a pastor and took us to the Full Gospel church service with them in the morning, and afterwards everyone was heading up to the funeral. We climbed through personal cornfields and steep, muddy inclines to finally get to the top. We originally felt a little out of place since we did not know the man who was killed at all. As it turned out, however, that isn’t an odd occurrence at these burials. In fact, many of the people whom we talked to also did not know the man who had died: the entire surrounding community would just come to show support for and respect towards the grieving family. When we arrived, we saw a group of men carrying the casket in and set it down on a well-decorated table. People were sitting all around, some on benches and some on crates that were around the side; many others were merely milling in a large crowd. Some men pried open the casket, and people gathered around to look at the body (not including us). The grief was displayed in a much more raw and emotional way, and it was a very powerful experience. There was a woman who was chanting and yelling with a large wooden pole who was dancing to ward off the rain until the burial was done (we asked what would happen if it did rain, but they said that wouldn’t happen (and indeed, it didn’t rain until right after the burial was completed).
Falling for Cameroon
On the last day that our friends Joe and Rodrigue were in town, we all decided to meet in the evening right after dinner to celebrate. As it is the rainy season here in Cameroon, we decided to call some motorbikes, our most common method to travel relatively long distances, to take us into town instead of walking the 30-minute, water-puddle-ridden, dark road. We loaded onto the bikes, Morgan and Luke on one and Atika and I on the other. We were winding down the roads when our bike began to pick up speed. If you haven’t picked up on the foreshadowing yet, our bike slid on a slick patch and fell over: our first (and hopefully last!) motorbike accident. Luckily, the road was muddy instead of concrete, but that definitely didn’t stop the bike from landing on us. Atika spun off the back of the bike and rolled a bit, landing on her side and hand, while I fell under the bike a bit and hit my leg and arm. After the initial surprise, we rolled over, took one look at one another in our previously-nice-now-mud-doused clothing and burst out laughing. Luke and Morgan’s bike pulled up and saw us. As they saw us laughing, they joined in the fun and took some lovely pictures. We hobbled back on the bike (now with increased skepticism) and finished the drive back. Stephen was pretty upset about it, but we found some buckets full of rainwater and washed off the worst of the mud and blood from our skin (unfortunately, there was no hope for our clothing at that point, so we definitely got some funny stares that night). Luckily, we spent that night at Stephen’s house, and Stephen has a lovely shower complete with hot water, so that was our one consolation. Luckily we are improving each day; we both managed to mess up our wrists a bit, making us a bit less useful at the water project, but luckily it was time to turn our attention to the marriage seminar, so we had good timing at least!
Still falling for Cameroon…
We have begun going to the Fundong orphanage a couple of times of week as a side project to just play and read with the children. The first time we went, Alena, Joe, Hilary, and Rodrique were all with us. All of the children were so much fun, and we were all stumbling around, playing Sharks and Minnows, Red Light Green Light, and soccer (until that is, we popped the ball). The outside was muddy enough that none of us got through the hour of play without wiping out spectacularly (except for Luke; to make up for it, we carried out a version of our Pomona fountaining tradition and threw him into the mud – this was a celebration of the fact that, that day, he received his bag that had been lost on the airplane!).
Alright, so we have been eating pretty well here in Fundong. I think Luke wrote about our own cooking adventures, so I’ll instead write about some of our others eating out. Perhaps the most classic dish here is Fufu. Fufu is a lot like polenta, perhaps a bit less grainy and a little thicker. It is eaten with huckleberry leaves and, if you’re lucky (or, rather, if others are lucky – I’m vegetarian), with chicken (called kata-kata, but you have to do it with this special emphasis that is CAHtà – CAHtà). Luke absolutely loves this, I like it, and Morgan and Atika will eat it when needed, but they aren’t huge fans.
However, there is one food that we are all huge fans of: BEANS AND PUFF-PUFF (or at least puff-puff, in the case of Morgan – she has a fear of beans and a very funny story to explain why, if you ever get the chance to ask her about it). Puff-puffs are essentially just fried pieces of dough (like a beignet, but without any sugar) that a lady serves every afternoon, starting around 3 or 4, with delicious beans. Stephen buys one every evening as a little snack, and we have quickly adopted that eating schedule. Absolutely delicious.
Ok, we have to get off to work soon – we need to finish up a bit of laundry before going up to the BFF office to work on washing the walls before we paint them (it’s a pretty new office and we’re going to paint it for them – it should be fun!). Then we’re going to the orphanage later on today.
I hope you’re all doing well! I know we’re all having a blast!
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