Friday, March 19, 2010

... Into a pea soup dust storm

The ridiculous heat of the past few weeks ended abruptly yesterday. I woke up to find a morning haze. At first I thought that it was imminent rain, it had stormed in Garoua two nights before and it had been overcast in Kaélé for the better part of the week. It had even smelled like rain which was an otherworldly experience after the dry heat we had been having. But rains in March, a rare occurrence as it is, is just unseasonable. As the day progressed the haze grew in intensity and everything got covered with a fine talcum powder. I am not using “everything” lightly either. Even indoors all objects and surfaces are filmed with this cream-white dust, me included. I can see my fingerprints and footprints so clearly that I get the impression that my home is a crime scene. Everyone is saying that the dust is going to bring a plethora of illnesses and I do not doubt them. My nose and mouth are caked with dust and anybody with breathing problems is going to have a fine time. People in town walk with handkerchiefs wrapped around their mouths and noses, giving the impression that we are in the wild west and that the bandits have come to stay. Sore throats will abound, I am sure. Eyes are getting irritated but you can’t really rub them. I have noticed how useful eyelashes are in keeping most of the dust out of your eyes. It really is a bizarre season and everyone is anticipating the first rains with relish.

On other news my business classes started this past week. Though there are not as many participants as I had hoped for, the classes themselves are fun to do and they put me in a good mood. More and more people have been arriving, so with hope next week we should have 15 to 20 participants. Some of the students have enough experience to understand a lot of the concepts I am throwing at them while most are struggling to see where I am coming from. It is those students who I am more concerned about. All the women are in that group and they are shy and meek amongst their male class-mates who, in good Cameroonian fashion, will not hesitate in bringing down their self-worth. So far my strategy is to engage them more in the classes and to give them positions of responsibility in group activities. But that has not seemed to work yet, I will have to devise another method of getting them to speak up and speak out. If anybody has any suggestions, tell me! I could use any help available at this moment.

The partnership I had with a local NGO broke down last week. Though I did my duty and taught accounting to 51 GICs I left immediately afterwards since I have no interest in doing any further work with them. It all came to head in a final meeting before the date of the formation. Teaching modules, which were supposed to be completed and ready for printing, were not finished (presented at midday the day of the formation, halfway through the seminar). Likewise the schedule was changed and changed again. The budget was out of control and in all honesty I do not know if the NGO made a profit or not and I am sure that they do not either. It is principally the frustration of watching a group unravel all the planning ahead that was done 3 weeks in advance by simply continuing to do things their way, even though the agreement was that my post mate would be overall in charge and I would take care of the budget so that we could show them how a training seminar is organised efficiently and effectively. My opinion is that if someone does not accept your offer of help then you look for greener pastures; I am not going to waste my time with people who are unwilling to heed my words.

On a completely different note the new Peace Corps Country Director for Cameroon visited Kaélé this week. The Country Director position is the head of the Peace Corps in a country, so basically the new boss is in town. She was very engaging and was also very curious as to how things worked in Kaélé, what work I was involved with and what life in the Extreme North is like. I wish her all the best in her new role.
On a sadder note my cat died about a fortnight ago. I will miss his black and white cow splotches and his crooked tail. He was a fun little creature.

Hopefully the next time I update this blog the dust will have cleared but I doubt it. It will probably diminish somewhat and be accompanied by scorching heat until the first rains arrive. That may be May or June...

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