Shannon's Travel Blog

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Funny every-day realities of living here that would totally fall under “Conditions of Hardship” but really just make me laugh

HoKay so. Here’s the earth, chillin…. Get ready for a series of blogs in the coming weeks, pending a working computer. Right now I am actually sitting by candlelight typing this because the power has gone out. It goes out about once a day here. Sometimes for a few hours, usually for a whole night. AAAaaanyway, ruling out my computer completely crapping out on me, I am going to try to make sense of my last few weeks and present it to you in amazing literary Technicolor. I say completely crapping out on me because my screen light seems to be no longer working. My computer is fine, but the only way you can see my screen is by shining a flashlight directly at it where you can barely discern the graphics there. Yep, I’m sitting here with a fully charged computer typing by headamp because the back-light-main-light, whatever has gone out on my screen. Love Africa. I’m actually really stoked by the headlamp/flashlight discovery though because now it means I can sync my ipod and write to you, however labourously.. So please forgive any typos or lack of clarity/continuity. I can’t see clearly enough to edit, just to get a word document open…. Yeeeeaaah, love Africa.  At least now I can be grateful to that awful dean’s office job that taught me to type with my eyes closed?

So lets see, since I have already spent a paragraph dedicated to my dying computer, how about we theme this blog “Funny every-day realities of living here that would totally fall under “Conditions of Hardship” but really just make me laugh.”  At the top of this dubious list would be my stove top. Ovens here are very expensive and very rare, so everyone just buys a gas stove-top, the kind you would take camping. The stove came with a meter-long plastic tube that connects the stovetop to the huge gas take I’ve placed under my sink. UNFORTUNATELY, my plastic tub for some reason likes to catch fire at the joint between the stove and the tube. I know, I know, You’re totally freaking out at this point thinking I’m gonna blow myself up, which is probably true. But when it caught fire last night all I could do is quickly turn off the gas, swat at the burning tube til the little flame went out, and laugh really hard. Why? Because Dis Is Africa, Man! DIA. You have to laugh or you’d freak out, and it’s exhausting to freak out all the time.  Don’t worry though, I’ve stopped using the burner that is next to the tube and will be buying a metal, non-flammable tube at market tomorrow.

Next on the list would be my house. Yup, the WHOLE house. It’s actually an apartment that’s connected to another apartment duplex-style. It’s in a nice little fenced-in compound with the owners just across the way, and a paved courtyard that cuts down on the dust (dust will be next on the list). It’s very pretty until you go inside. It’s quite small which of course isn’t a problem but there is not a single straight line in the entire house. Seriously. Someone was VERY drunk when they made this house. My room is a trapezoid, there is not a single area of level floor (I looked, doing yoga on a slant is HARD) and the walls and doorframes bulge and receded in extreme willy-wanka fashion. It’s amazing. Everything is also covered in spider webs, empty silver-fish eggs, and dust. I’ve gotten rid of most of the cobwebs and eggs in my room and kitchen but there’s nothing to be done about the dust and grime. The average paint here is not oil-based. It’s basically the tempera paint you used in elementary school so I can’t wipe anything off without ALSO wiping off paint. So I’m repainting everything with nice, shiny, EXPENSIVE oil-based paint! I’ve currently painted most of my room (which THRILLED the landlord, I just doubled his property value) and hope to start on the living room in a couple of weeks. It’s a good project for now, but I’m REALLY looking forward to when my house starts feeling like home. Which will be a while since I have to commission a custom bed frame to fit in my tiny trapezoid bedroom. Right now I’m sleeping on a mattress in my small sitting room, well away from the walls and spider webs. Love Africa.

Next would be the dust and roads. APPARENTLY I’m in the beginning of the dry season right now and the dust is actually livable right now. That makes me VERY nervous for the future! So I live in Kumbo, a GORGEOUS town in the hills of the Northwest. Seriously, it’s impossible to walk out your front door without incredible, heart-soiaring vistas. I love it. It actually looks a lot like Tuscuny. But insteady of red-slated roofs, you have tin roofs that happen to be red because they are covered in red DUST. See, there are only about five paved roads in Kumbo, a town of 200,000 that experiences heavy traffic. The result is that during the dry season, when there is no rain to tamp everything down, there are huge billowing clouds of red dust that are kicked up by every passing motorcycle, car, and massive cargo trucks. It’s BAD. It’s a very lush area but all the vegetation near the road is covered in the  film of dust so thick, you actually can’t see any green. A WHOLE bush of big green leaves and all you see is red. It’s amazing. Unfortunately, this dust drifts over the whole city and gets in your mouth, hair, clothes, eyes, everything. It’ works it’s way under door seems and coats your floors, it coats everything in your kitchen requiring to keep dishes and food always covered. It’s EVERYWHERE. LUCKILY, the dust is ROUGHLY the same color of my hair, which means I still don’t have to wash it everyday, despite house ratted and matted it gets from the dust. But I STILL have to wash the thick film of dust from my body everyday, which brings me to my last item on the list: COLD.

So Cameroon is F-ing HOT. Averaging 120 in the north and 98 in the center and south. So I, thinking I was quite clever requested the hills of the North-west region where it is about 75 every day and in the 50’s at night. Smart huh? WRONG. It may be 50 at night, but I don’t have any way to heat my house (I don’t even have a WINDOW in one room, just bars, and there’s a good half-inch of space under my front door). So most nights I’m huddled under the two blankets I can afford right now in my wool shirt and wool hat I brought to hike Mount Cameroon. That is seriously the exent of warm clothes that I brought to central Africa. F-my-life. Of course this is TOTALLY livable (I’m quickly adjusting back to the cold after the heat of bafia and think I will be quite happy here) if not for the baths. I have a shower which is AWESOME, but it supplies FREEZING cold water that I must use to wash the thick film of dust off of me before I get into the bed that I am valiantly trying to keep clean-ish. Thus I avoid washing my hair every day because really, there is only so much cold a girl can take! Not to worry though, After I pay for my trapezoid bed and new windows that actually close tight with my next two paychecks, I will definitely be investigating the feasibility of a hot water heater. Until then, try hard to hear the squeal of a gal jumping into a freezing cold shower all the way in Africa.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Hey all, people have been asking me for pics of my life here. I don't have a TON cuz i try not to take out my camera much, but here are a few...


Cool band we went to see in Yaounde in our second night in Cameroon. Aerie, the guy in white was the drummer I was telling you about.

Waterbottle! I promised Aerie that I’d take a bunch of pics doing cool things with my waterbottle. This is my first day of school, wearing a traditional dress that my host mother gave me. It’s beautiful, but INCREDIBLY hot. 

On My Way to school


Cooking for my mom’s birthday! Mmmmm Fried Plantains. All the cooking at my house is done on the back step and with a cooking fire. They have a gas stove inside, but they only use it to reheat stuff. It’s cheaper to cook on the fire, even if it takes a LONG time. It’s kind of nice tho. The other night all the work was done and we were just waiting for the meal to finish cooking on the fire. The power had gone out throughout the town, so we just sat on the back step, watching the fire and the fireflies and the lightning rolling in, and listening to the thunder. It was like camping and was really serene and pleasant.

 Mmmmm, Plantains!!!!

My mom and Arnold. He helps me with my English.


The two neighbor kids that come around for treats. The first time I took a picture of the boy and showed him the pic on my camera, his eyes totally bugged out like he had just seen someone fly. It was hilarious.

Me at the Birthday Party...

My sister Adele. I adore Adele. She is so kind and helpful and LOVES to sing. She sings all the time. She is 20, does all the house chores and cooking and goes to school full time and is still always cheerful. She likes doing sports and loves designing clothes. She is all around awesome.

My  host-sister’s friend Yolanda with the Birthday cake. I LOVE Yolanda. She’s super nice and a REALLY hard worker. She greeted me on my first day here cuz my mom and sister were both at school and work so she let me in the house and showed me my room. Then she asked me about Obama. He and Michelle are SUPER popular here. It was funny.

Danny, my neighbor. She speaks really good English and helps me with my French. I really like her :)

My Mom! She's awesome. She is a youth worker as well.


I'm totally a bike Mechanic Don't Ya Know?!

There are lots of pretty bugs here, like this bad-ass grasshopper. Also gorgeous birds and flowers. And totally kickass lizards that are big and VERY colorful but they are too quick and too shy to get a good pick of them.

 View from my back porch

 View from the back of the school

The classroom where I have my French Lessons (I have to speak exclusively in French at the center and at my home. I can only speak English during 2 classes (Youth Development or Health) and when I’m at the bar. Otherwise it is ALL French ALL the time. It’s a bitch but I’m getting pretty good!) The place where we have training is a half-finished building with not doors. It’s been wired for electricity but the wiring isn’t finished so there are tubes and wires coming out of the floor and ceiling. And we have to flush the toilets by dumping a bucket of water into the bowl. NBD. I LOVE it though cuz everything is open and it really helps keep it cool.

Classrooms where I have my technical training. The brown room has a birds nest being built right above where the instructor speaks. Often the bird will come in and chatter and work on the nest while we are having class. It’s pretty great. (sorry the white room is sideways. It took me 3.5 hrs to upload these photos so I'm not gonna re-upload >_<)

Aaaaaaaand the training center where I spend all day every day. Hoooray!!!!!