Sunday, July 5, 2009

4th of July

Happy Independence Day!

It was a muggy Saturday morning and the mud was little drier than usual. We had been organising the day’s events for a week in a manner that felt more like organised chaos than anything else. Unfortunately the education trainees have left for site visit so it’s only the Business trainees left in Bangangté. We still had hamburgers planned though. Some people went into Bafoussam to buy cheese since it is not available here. 4.5kg of beef, onions, garlic, pepper, bread and condiments were brought on the day. Caramel peanuts, cake, and fries were supplied in ample quantities. Once classes were finished people started cooking and preparing the food. After 5pm people started coming in so Emmanuel’s was busy with people coming in and out for drinks. Our Cameroonian teachers also came along, so there was some exchange of dance styles between the 2 groups. By 8pm we were playing charades (anybody have any clue on how to act out a sexy german?) and things were winding down bearing in mind that our curfew had been generously extended from 7pm to 10pm. All in all, it was an enjoyable 4th of July especially when considering I’m in West Cameroon and thousands of miles away from the U.S.

Other things have been going on aside from Independence Day celebrations though. For example: My host mother served me sardines for breakfast the other day, which was a little too much for me. I had to make it clear that first off, I have never been a fish person (though that is slowly changing since I have arrived) and that if anything, I prefer sardines after midday. Aside from that, food has been great. I already have some major preferences. Sanga is a sauce made up of fresh corn and a type of cabbage with which you pile loads of sugar on. It’s my new comfort food. Pommes pilés is a mash of potatoes, red beans, pepper and garlic that is the favourite of kids everywhere. Likewise peanut sauces are everywhere. Fish is usually added to it and on a bed of rice it’s great. So basically after some interesting experiences involving bush meat and pasta with fish heads things are no longer fazing me too much.

Classes lately have been great. We started getting into more technical subjects the other day, starting with accounting. Considering that the last time I took proper mathematics lessons was in year 11 (sophomore year in high school) I was a little apprehensive of what this would be like. I worried for no reason: we would be teaching people at post how to set up a cash book (or stock book), so we would be teaching accounting at its most elemental stage. I believe even I can deal with that (past experiences in Africalia will help out immensely also, though I certainly hope Cameroon will not fall into a hyperinflationary environment). We also had a session with a representative of the small and medium-sized business ministry which was very informative. The ministry’s job is to provide resources for expansion of these businesses. It can also provide loans between 10 million to 100 million CFA (between 2,000 or 20,000 USD) for technical assistance and professional formation. An example of this is a company that dries bananas and mangos without any preservatives to export to Switzerland. He had some of these products with him and the mango was exceptionally good. All in all it was a very encouraging session.

Things with my assigned company are OK. There is not really much that I can do. Tomorrow I am going in to see their accounting practices, but I get the impression that the methodology they use will be sound. I still have to head out with their technical team to see their personal service. Likewise I want to see the map the team uses to record their cable wires. I believe that the map would provide some insight into what the feasible expansions in town are. In any case working for a cable company in Bangangté was not what I expected when I joined the SED programme nor was working for a local monopoly. If I do not find any other avenues for work with the company my teachers have suggested looking for another one. Since I find out where I will be posted on Thursday the assigned company is not my priority at the moment. So for that news watch this space next week!

On a last note it took me 5 days to find out that Michael Jackson died. News takes a while to arrive here or I am too busy to give it the proper amount of time per day. So if any reader takes pity on me send newspaper clippings or old magazines (rather than throwing them out!) to:

Nick Bourguignon,
Peace Corps – Corps de la Paix
B.P. 215 Yaoundé

Cheers in advance.

It has been storming again so I am sure that the bou (mud) will be thick on the way to the cybercafé. But such is life. I will try and write up my post on Thursday or Friday before I head out to visit it next week. If not, speak later rather than sooner.


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