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.


Story Problems

“Think Like A Lawyer”

While studying for the LSAT, my book recommends applying all the skills used in the test to real life. So here it goes:

(Answers at the end.)

Logical Reasoning Questions:

  1. Alhadji: I have always wanted to marry a white person and have white babies-we should marry!

What most weakens Alhadji’s argument?

a. I am not interested

b. But you already have a wife.

c. You already have children.

d. I have a rare medical condition that has destroyed my womb and cannot have children.

e. You cannot afford me.


  1. Alhadji: I don’t have 25 CFA to buy water-give me money!

All would weaken Alhadji’s argument EXCEPT:

a. He then buys a chicken for 3000 CFA

b. He is wearing a fancy boubu (~65000 CFA)

c. He owns multiple cows (~10000 ea.)

d. He pays to eat some fish for 2000 CFA

e. He is sitting by the side of the road.


  1. Alhadji: We should marry!

Me: How many wives do you already have?

Alhadji: 4.

Me: Ah! Ah! You’re finished, no?

What is the principle that best supports the above?

a. A Muslim man may have no more than four wives.

b. A Muslim man must have four wives.

c. A Muslim man can have four wives.

d. It is important to check for other wives before accepting a marriage proposal.

e. One should not marry a man with four wives.


  1. In order to justify asking for its annual budget, Peace Corps has recently focused on data collection and implemented new procedures. These procedures involve forms that collect participant’s name, age and other relevant information. With these sheets, data collection will be more efficient and accurate.

A flaw in the argument can be described as:

a. Presupposes what it seeks to establish

b. Overlooks the possibility that many people in village are illiterate and do not know their age

c. Relies on the ambiguity of the term “data collection”

d. The evidence undermines the conclusion

e. Mistakes correlation for causation


  1. Most cars seat only five people. Yet most cars on the Tibati-Ngaoundal route easily transport over ten people each trip.

What best explains the apparent paradox?

a. People do not use seats.

b. The cars drive really fast.

c. Most people sit two to a seat or on each other’s laps.

d. People are really skinny here.

e. People do not use seat belts.


  1. Man on the street, talking on the phone: “Madame! This man says he knows you.” *thrusts phone at me*

Me: Hello? Who is this?

Man on phone: Ismali

Me: ???

Man on phone: Ismali…we were in a car together in December. You do not remember me?

Me: No…

Ismali’s argument follows logically if what is assumed?

a. I was in a car last December with a man named Ismali

b. There is an Ismali in my region

c. I was in a car in December

d. I remember everyone that I meet on public transportation

e. I have a bad memory for names


Analytical Reasoning Questions:

PCV Jess has six activities that can be done today—laundry, cleaning, visiting Jeannette, meeting with the women, visiting neighbors, and eating lunch—within the following restrictions:

Jeanette will be visited directly before any meeting with the women because otherwise it will be impossible to mobilize the women.

If neighbors are visited third, they will give copious amounts of couscous and sauce and so she will eat lunch with the neighbors.

Laundry, if done, is always first.

If she cleans her house, it will be immediately after laundry.

  1. What is an acceptable order of PCV Jess’ activities?







  1. If it rains, forcing PCV Jess to cancel laundry and the meeting with the women, what is an acceptable order of activities?

a. LCE

b. VEJ

c. CEL

d. EJM

e. CJM


  1. What order of activities CANNOT be true?

a. Jess does absolutely nothing all day.

b. She only visits Jeannette and eats lunch.

c. She only visits the neighbors and eats lunch.

d. She only cleans her house and eats lunch.

e. She only does laundry and cleans her house.


Reading Comprehension Questions: 

It is not uncommon to see women breastfeeding in public here in Cameroon. In fact, at this point in my service, it seems stranger that it is so tabooed in the United States, especially after knowing all its benefits.

Although some women do not start breastfeeding the day of birth, this is due to a misconception that is potentially harmful to the baby. The first milk of a woman produces for her baby, the colostrum, may be strange in color—causing some to think it is tainted—but is actually very rich in nutrients and antibodies. The milk is so rich, that some even call it the baby’s “first vaccine.”


  1. What can be inferred from the passage?

a. Breastfeeding is illegal in the United States.

b. Breastfeeding is mandatory.

c. Breastfeeding is better than vaccines.

d. Some women do not give their babies their colostrum.

e. All women breastfeed.


  1. What is the author’s purpose in including the quote at the end of the second paragraph?

a. To quote an expert opinion

b. To emphasize the nutrients in the colostrum

c. To emphasize the importance of the colostrum

d. To highlight the importance of breastfeeding

e. To highlight the importance of vaccines



1. D; 2. E; 3. A; 4. B; 5. C; 6. D.

1. D; 2. B; 3. D.

1. D; 2. C.