Field Notes, Story Problems

(Halfway) Around the World in (800) Days: Another Interview with Myself

Okay, year two. I’ve realized I have been slacking on the blogging front for the past half year, but I would never forget my Cameroonaversary and in order to celebrate: here’s another interview with myself! (Also I need the practice with a future job hunt looming around the corner…)

How do you handle stress and pressure?

Lots of tea drinking. Running and yoga. Reading. Coloring. Not much has changed since last year.

How do you handle failure?

Shrug. Followed by the classic “on va fait comment?” clap. And then some more tea.

Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it

In an incredibly feat of solidarity, my entire village decided to boycott our health center because prices were too high. Lacking a voice in the matter, I redirected my focus on relationship building and other projects.

Transportation: 1) Any coaster ride that I have been on that has lasted over eight hours (looking at you Banyo-Bafoussam road). There really wasn’t much I could do besides sit. 2) Also the train. I always thought it couldn’t get worse, but then it did. It always did. I think there is a lesson of gratitude somewhere in here…

Have you grown?

I hope so–I certainly feel older at the least.

Have you changed the world?

No, and if you thought that was my job, you have been seriously misinformed for the past two years.

That said, there have been plenty of small acts on both mine and my village’s end. Maybe one of them will reverberate–who knows?

Have you made any friends?

Yes, and once again I am at the point of leaving them again, but I have started to realize how meaningless the in-between times of seeing people can be once you are back together. Then again, reuniting with volunteer friends seems highly probable; however, I am still trying to wrap my mind around the concept of the much smaller possibility of seeing people in village again.

How is the second year different than the first?

Less trainings, more work (sometimes), a greater capacity to communicate in Fulfuldé and some Gbaya (tikiti tikiti). Also my emotions seem much more in check: things are less “new and shiny,” which can grant me less patience on some fronts and plenty of stir-craziness, but the flip side is that things are less drastic when they do go wrong.

Oh and I have finally figured out what exactly my family has been feeding me. (Not mentioned: the cow foot I ate a month ago.)

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Greatest is difficult, but here is a highlight reel of the past year:

Created a dry season gardening group in village with some inspiring women


Successfully introduced my village to burritos

Painted a mural in Fonfuka (and have another one in the works–stay tuned…)

-Presented on my gardening project to the new Health stage at their IST


-Bought petite Jess her first pair of shoes (sorry no pictures)

Survived being stung by a scorpion

Slaughtered, gutted and cleaned a chicken

Participated in the first girl’s camp (aka Camp FORTES) in the Adamawa

-Studied for and took the LSAT


My life for 6 months.

–(and then enjoyed Paris for a bit)


Went to the exhibit on contemporary African artists and found plenty of new favorite artists including Cheri Samba.

-Made it to COS conference in Kribi, a feat that seem eons away when I started.


Family photo with staff.


Silly face. (I’m looking at the eclipse, in case you couldn’t tell.)


Adamawa squad (minus Diane).


hilton happy hour

The expected Hilton Happy Hour to celebrate. (Alternative caption: one last hurrah all together for some time.)

What really drives results in this job?

Either the other participants’ goals are aligned with its goals or there is another form of motivation (be that money, food, or me bothering people with reminders).

Are you ready to go back?

Yes, but I am starting to feel less ready as the last several weeks are starting to slip by–suddenly, there is no time left.

Are you sad to leave?

Bittersweet would be a better word. To be very cliché, I am sad this chapter is ending, but I am excited and feel ready to start the next.

What are your goals for the future?

Some travel. Not to have to fill out SO many applications before I find a job. (This may be wistful thinking.) And to get into school.

What are your salary expectations?

Upward of 200,000 XAF/month.

What can we expect from you in your first three months?

Me eating lots of cheese.

Do You Have Any Questions?

What are you people doing over there? (RE: Trump, Charlottesville, DACA, Health Care, etc.)

And how am I supposed to live in it?

(BONUS: Why did I just learn about Ta-Nehisi Coates? Shouldn’t everyone be reading him?)


Camp FORTES, Ngaoundéré, Adamawa Region

Photos from the first annual girls camp in the Adamawa region. As there were over 500 photos taken, I’ve decided to post a few and focus on the ones of my counterpart helping me teach our two sessions on STIs and HIV/AIDS. Slightly out of order, but on fait comment?



Activity with balloons to demonstrate what happens to the immunity system once a person is infected with HIV






Explaining what STIs she contracted in another activity


Explaining the incubation period of HIV to the group



My counterpart Hawa Esther, a champion. (It is difficult to explain all the different ways to contract STIs without someone who can describe oral and anal sex in Fulfuldé.)


Useko dada.


Career Panel-Djanabo, the Peace Corps regional director for the Adamawa region describing how she ended up working for Peace Corps


Becky introducing the career panel


Valerie, a tailor (one of the favorite tailors of the Adamawa region)




Police woman describing her career journey 




Discussion group


Condom demonstrations



Wooden penises: funny universally. 





Sketch on the final day at the graduation ceremony






Graduation day




Wobbling with the girls



Final day speech


More skits


Testing out the photo booth



Field Notes

Ngatt Newsletter: April, May, and not much of June

Maybe you noticed the two month hiatus I took from blogging recently? Or maybe not. Regardless, this is a brief list of recent-ish events in village.

  1. Dry season is over (FINALLY) and now that the rainy season is back:
    •  I no longer have to go to the pump for water. (Although it is a nice arm workout–try carrying two 10L buckets of water at a dead hang for 100 m–drawing water from the well or catching it from the sky is much easier.)
    • Mangoes are everywhere! Unsure as to why I didn’t take advantage of this last year, but this year I eat at least six a day. “Get’em before they’re gone” is my new philosophy towards the fruit.
    • Everyone is back in the fields, which of course means work has once again slowed down.
  2. Petite Jess turned one on April 14th! In order to celebrate, I bought her first pair of shoes. They were a bit big so when we put them on her she refused to move, as though glued or weighted down by the shoes.
  3. Ngatt has started receiving handouts from a refugee program. People are stoked. (Click here for more.)
  4. Ngatt celebrated an extremely belated Christmas when packages from some church group in the United States arrived for all the girls and boys. Unsure how or why, but it has been amusing to go around village and explain different objects to people. (I guess lip gloss, glow sticks and Happy Meal toys are pretty strange if you did not grow up with them. But then again, I was called a genius for explaining the game of Trouble to our village pastor, so maybe I am just really brilliant.)
    • My favorite object though, has been the Legos received by my friend’s five year-old, Ollie. He was absolutely ecstatic when I put together the Legos he received into a car (up-ing his total car count to 4). Since the initial time, I have had to rebuild it at least once every week because he wants it to be exactly the like the picture is and he doesn’t trust anyone else to do it.
    • I also have been trying to teach chess to my friend and her family, but so far it has been difficult for them to remember the allowed moves, so much of the game is reiterating the rules. Slow slow catch monkey.
  5. Eleven kids finished memorizing the Quran, which in a village of 2000 is a huge deal. To celebrate, we all ran around to each of their houses singing and dancing and eating rice and praying with the imans. In the words of a friend I told afterwards: “[I] just ran a 5k for Islam.”
  6. Scorpion season. (See more here.)
  7. Lastly, Ramadan begun. Mostly it means people are just chilling during the day, lots of 3 AM drumming (so you don’t miss waking up and eating before the sun rises) and lots of gari (bouillie) with my family.


Field Notes, Tomfoolery

Where There is No Doctor pt. III: Yarre Toofi-am

One night going to lock up (and having lived in my house for over a year), I decided to not bring my torch.


No torch.

Suddenly…ALL THE PAIN. It was as though the world’s biggest ant bit me. But, it couldn’t be that since the pain continued…


Image of me in pain.

Hopping back to my bedroom, I grabbed my torch and came back to discover…



Quickly, I grabbed my shoe and killed it. Grabbing my handy dandy Where There’s No Doctor, I hopped back to my room, where I consulted the book.

Upon learning that I wasn’t going to die, I then withered in pain for several hours until the pain subsided enough for me to sleep.


Waiting for pain to subside on a moonless night.

Long story short, I survived and learned a few fun facts about scorpions:

  1. I do not recommend being stung by one. Very painful.
  2. After the pain subsided, it will feel numb for at least a day.
  3. Scorpion in Fulfuldé is yarre. A useful word that I eventually learned after someone took pity on me trying to act out a scorpion with my pinky multiple times and taught me it.
  4. Fulani people find scorpion stings to be very painful. Upon hearing about it, my friend’s mom’s reaction was, “now she knows pain,” which says a lot coming from women who don’t wince during childbirth.