Hello again world,
Sorry that it’s been so long since my last post. It looks like I’ll be able to only update you guys once a week. So be patient as my posts won’t exactly be short. Glad you’re back again! It’s so difficult to tell you everything I’d like to tell you guys but I’ll try my best to cover well what comes to mind. It’s your job to ask me questions when I get back if you’d like to learn more! OR you could ask me here.
I’ve learned very quickly that there is a lot of walking here. I’m not that big of a fan of any form of exercise that doesn’t involve me kicking or throwing around a ball so it’s been quite the experience for me. I do feel good about myself at the end of each day so I guess that’s a plus. Despite the fact that I don’t enjoy walking, at least the walks are almost always worth it. We’ve had so many hikes to beautiful places, whether it be to a waterfall or just through forests surrounding the community. The other volunteers and I also have to take a pretty long walk each day to the farm we’re working on. It’s about a 20ish minute long walk, and I’m not that fond of it, but at least the view is beautiful.
I haven’t told you much about the work we’ve started doing here, which is the whole reason I’m here! I apologize since the work didn’t start until after my last post.
Upon arriving at the farm for the first time, we met a very nice old man named Pa Salah. Stephanie calls him Bobe which I find very fitting. He’s the cutest old man ever and we all decided that he reminds us of Yoda from Star Wars. Pa runs the farm we work on and he’s the man teaching us all the skills we are going to take with us to the other plantations we’ll be working on. We have yet to visit other plantations but I hope that I’ll be able to transfer my skills over to the best of my ability. So far Pa has taught us how to marcot, which is wounding a branch of a tree that must point up and wrapping it up with saw dust kept together with plastic to prepare for new roots to grow. This is a much faster method of growing certain fruits and it cuts down the years significantly! Fruits take a long time to grow in comparison to vegetables. So we’ve marcotted a few mango trees already.
On Tuesday of last week we learned to machete down weed plants. But we had to be careful to not cut down any other plants. Basically, don’t cut down anything that’s huge and looks important. Women here don’t use the machete though, something I didn’t like to hear, so I took that opportunity to chop down as much grass as possible. It was fun but I don’t know if using the machete will be something we do much here in the weeks to come. I guess we’ll see.
The next day was when we really got down to business. It was our first real hard day of work. We planted banana plants into the ground. The thing is, this wasn’t just any ordinary flat ground you imagine when you think of our version of plantations. Because we live in the mountains up north, there are a lot of slopes and they aren’t pleasant to work on. The mud here is extremely slippery, but maybe that’s just because it doesn’t fail to rain each and every day. A matter of fact, it’s raining now! But the mud just complicates our trek up and down the slopes. We each planted 6 banana plants and it was quite difficult. I was using a pitchfork, not the best tool for digging, to make holes in the ground. I learned very quickly that my hands would be of better use so I clawed most of the dirt out myself. It was quite a morning but I felt very productive and in the end was glad to help in any way. After our break, Emily and I continued with something much less difficult. We potted soil to prepare for papaya seeds. After a long morning, I appreciated being able to work while sitting under the shade.We all got back home and immediately jumped into the showers! Although the water was freezing cold, I don’t think any of us cared. We were just grateful to get all that dirt off!
Later that afternoon, Anna, one of the women who coordinates the widow groups, escorted Emily and me kindly to the community center where the kids were having Book Club day. We just wanted to observe how their after school programs worked. We met the teacher and asked her how she would like us to help in the future. She recommended that we think of some cool and creative activities that we could bring to the classes. We told her we would do that for the next day but unfortunately we were unable to make it because of the rain. We assumed that it would be canceled but later found out that it still went on. Hopefully we’ll have the chance to stop by this week! I’d specifically like to stop by Thursday’s Music and Art Club.
The next day, Thursday, we were introduced to the community of widows. The women were mainly elderly. The introduction meeting was held outside the community center, the same one where the book club took place. Walking up to the women, all I could see were colorful robes and matching hair ties. I loved to see them in their traditional outfits since many of the younger ones didn’t wear them. Anna greeted me and all of the women welcomed me too with their kind eyes and smiles. Some even waved or nodded their heads. I felt very welcomed in their presence. So the other three volunteers and I sat there as Anna and Godwin spoke to the women. Occasionally they would transition to English so we would know what they were saying. Most of the women there didn’t attend school and their level of English is minimal or non-existent. We were introduced by Godwin and he told the women what we were there for. He then allowed each of us to stand up and say a little something. He translated for each of us but his translation was much shorter than my actual spiel. haha Then unexpectedly the ladies all stood up and started to sing and dance. Godwin told us they were welcoming us. I got it on video! I was really glad to capture that moment because it was a very special one since our time here. Then the women lined up to grab some food – fufu and greens. We lined up against the wall near them and many of them would reach out and shake our hands. They were some of the nicest women I’ve met. We left soon after, but not before we got a little fufu stuffed in ourselves, and waved goodbye to the women. They all smiled and waved, too. I’m looking forward to working with them in the weeks to come.
On Friday we returned to work. We were expecting another hard day at the farm but we only ended up potting some more soil and putting down some plum seeds. That was that and we left around noon! So we still had a lot of the day ahead of us. Friday was an odd day and we had unexpected visitor stop by that night while the lights were out and it was pouring. Pretty creepy. I won’t get into details now but feel free to ask me about it. Let me just say, it was like a scene out of 28 Days Later. haha On Saturday we visited a tea estate in Ndawara. We had to take motorbikes up there. So Ben and I squeezed ourselves behind our driver. From the very beginning I didn’t think this would be a good idea. We’re the biggest of the four nevertheless Godwin paired us up. I was a little frightened to know that we’d be going up steep roads without helmets and I didn’t think the task would be humanly possible for our driver. He did struggle but he was able to manage. I was placed in the middle and it wasn’t very comfortable at all. Ben however had the worst spot in the very back. Our legs were “splayed,” as Ben nicely put it but at least we were getting a good stretch. I had a good time laughing the whole way up every time we hit a bump or when I thought of how horrible it must be for the driver. I apologized to him for us being so heavy and he just chuckled. We finally arrived, in first place too! We checked out the tea factory and tea nursery. The aroma of the tea at the factory was pleasing and we had a nice guide show us around. The nursery was cool too but it was just too far of a walk! At least there were horses and cows a long the way to entertain me and my photo-taking. Later that day Emily and I joined Godwin to Bamenda. I got some much needed cash out and we bought some groceries at the market and on the streets for our Sunday dinner. Bamenda, let’s just say it’s different from Njinikom and the village life.
On Sunday Stephanie and Anita joined us for a nice evening dinner. We had delicious spaghetti and bread. I had two plates of it! It reminded me of home so it was nice. Although white on the outside, the oranges tasted pretty normal. The night was almost over when we were visited yet again by another random visitor. Again, ask me about this if you’re interested. I just don’t know how to explain it really. You had to be there. haha Okay, I’ve wrote waayyy too much. I hope you didn’t get bored. I’ll try to keep them more short and sweet in the future! Thanks again for joining me on my adventure!