Thursday, February 5, 2015

Future Volunteers of Mbakaou, Cameroon or Bogo, Cameroon

My work in Cameroon is done, but I wanted to leave something for those that follow.

Bogo, Cameroon was closed off to Peace Corps Volunteers and many other foreigners because of the actions of Boko Haram.  I have a few documents relating to my time there that may be of use to any service worker venturing there..  I also wanted to post a few documents from my time in Mbakaou.  I know one thing that was frustrating for me was finding any resources on work done prior to my arrival.  It's not much, but perhaps someone will find it useful.

Mbakaou, Cameroon:

Mbakaou, Cameroon - Post Book - Oct 2014
This is a document that I wrote for my successor in Mbakaou.  It was meant to be casual and humorous while hopefully conveying some information about living and working in the village.  If you are looking for any interesting bits about life in Mbakaou, you'll find it here.

Mbakaou, Cameroon - Malaria Survey - Mar 2014
This is an Excel document for a survey on malaria in Mbakaou that I conducted.  I went to a number of households and asked the head of household (or usually the oldest woman) these questions.  There is a summary page that I threw together of some interesting stats based on information other volunteers were gathering.

Bogo, Cameroon:

Bogo, Cameroon - Community Needs Assessment - 2013-01-09
This is a document I wrote up after a few months in Bogo.  I gathered information from a variety of sources and compiled it look for areas where I believed I could work during the rest of my service.

Bogo, Cameroon - Post Book - Nov 2012
I take no credit for the creation of this document.  It was given to me when I first arrived in Bogo and compiled by volunteers before me.  The date is that which I received it.  It was of course the basis for my own Post Book that I wrote about Mbakaou.

Other Materials Created by Me:

This document was created by myself and Caitlin Howe, the greatest partner in crime ever.  It's in French and supposed to be used by Cameroonians to assist them in outreach for HIV/AIDS prevention.

Finally, if you made it this far, you might be interested in knowing more about what I actually did during my time in Cameroon.  This is the official report of my service.

If anyone has more information or documents that you think would be beneficial for future service workers in Mbakaou or Bogo, please feel free to send me a message or comment below and I'd be happy to host them.  Good luck.

Oh and my future blog is located here: Welcome to the Daleverse

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Next Step

I want to thank everyone who followed me over the years.  I particularly want to thank everyone who sent care packages.  I seriously won the lottery in that.  I mean I got some good stuff... yea.

Since Africa has come to a close, I figured I had to move on from the whole "Dale does Africa".  Not to say I'm done with Africa, but I don't plan on going back for awhile.  At least not for a hefty pile of cash.

I picked Africa instead of something more specific because I didn't even know where I was originally going.  That was fortuitous as the first place, Mali, got closed down before I ever showed up.  Then I spent three months of blogging about an awesome time in Charleston and a month in Nicaragua.  Even after I finally made it to Cameroon, Africa I didn't stay put.  I spent a couple months in Bokito near the capital for training, six months in the deserts of Bogo in the Extreme North before  Boko Haram shut us down, and only finally settled down in Mbakaou in May of 2013.  That was over a full year after I started the blog.  Luckily I spent a whole year and a half in my lovely river village.

Thanks Mbakaou!  (and AES Sonel for providing me with delicious electricity)

What's next?  No idea.  But in keeping with my luck of broadly named blogs...  Come check out The Daleverse!  You may have noticed that I actually just changed the url for the old blog and then recreated this one so if you followed my old blog or anything like that, you ought not to have to make any changes.  But let's be honest, you only ever got here via Facebook anyway.

Thanks again.  And for me most loyal, I leave you with this:

Me and my little brother Riz

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Return

I'm back.  The vast majority of you likely know that from facebook or the like.  I hope you enjoyed this adventure.  I wanted to entertain you. I think I've done at least that.  I hope too that you learned something.  I wanted you to have a glimpse of what it is to live in Cameroon.  In Africa.  As Americans a lot of what we have comes from the news or commercials begging for dollars.  The news shows war and the commercials show poverty, but there is so much more.  I hope your ideas about Africa were broadened. 

Leaving Mbakaou was hard.  I wasn't prepared for it.  I was prepared to leave my country, my friends, my family.  Prepared to learn a new language, a culture, a lifestyle.  I knew working in harsh conditions and in an unknown environment would be hard.  And trying to make friends with so many differences between us could never be easy.  But all that was survivable.  Even failure in those things wouldn't destroy me.  I just told myself it was only for two years.  Really, you can do anything for two years.

But leaving my village for good…  Am I going back there one day?  Can I?  When?  It is a hard thing to explain to people who never really go that far from home.  Who go on a trip and are so excited to be away from home that they call almost everyone while to tell them about it.  Africa is far.  And expensive to get to.  Two weeks of vacation won't really cut it; specially if you want to go home for the holidays or travel somewhere else.  I don't know when I'll be able to visit again.  It was a very… definitive goodbye.  Not an easy thing.  I will miss not just my village, not just my friends, but a way of living.  A lifestyle.  And a home.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Project Escape

What follows is likely the most important news you will hear in coming months.  Possibly years.  Or even your lives (depending on how central a part I am and how little else you have gong on).  I officially finish my Peace Corps service on October 24th, 2014.  That's right, ladies and gents, I'm coming home!

Now, I don't actually have a flight back yet.  Sure they'd book it for me, but they told me they'd give me two grand and let me do it myself.  Gotta be able to get back for less than that, right?

It's been a good service.  Lots of ups and downs.  I'm currently writing a draft of a document summarizing it all.  Apparently this document will stay on record with the US Government "as long as the Union stands".  Kind of intimidating, specially as my once clear mastery of the English language has diminished over my long sojourn here.  (I misspelled three words in that last sentence!)  I'm super ready to go home, see friends and family, get a job, continue with the next step of my life, and otherwise bask in all that is amazing about America, but it's hard to leave too.  It's a very poignant goodbye when you know you really may not see someone again.  When farewell is forever.  There is also a very marked sadness in those you leave behind.  No one comes here to stay.  They meet plenty of foreigners, but they know them for a time and then they watch them go.  What does that say to you about your home?  To you, the left behind?

I want to thank you, whoever you are, for reading this.  For sticking with me even when I wasn't entertaining or left you with long lulls of nothing.  I want to thank everyone that supported me.  Whether with an email or the rare phone call.  Also, super props to everyone who ever sent me a package.  You guys are kings of kings.  I've a list and I'll never forget (on account of said list).  Nice spacing too, I pretty much had something to snack on my entire service.  Based on the length it takes a box to get here though, I'll be rationing the last batch till the bitter end (got three last week though so no worries; I'm sitting pretty).

As for my lack of updates… it's complicated.  In part, I got a lot busier.  In perhaps a more meaningful part, I forgot what to say.  This place has become my home and I feel almost at a loss when thinking about what to tell you.  How to relate.  A strange thing I'm like to explore all the more when finding my way back in America.  Reverse culture shock going back to my Red, White, and Blue?  Suppose only time will tell.

Oh, as to what happens when I return to those blessed shores?  Haven't the foggiest.  But you'll be sure to know when I do.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Photo Blog: People of Mbakaou

This is just a bunch of pictures of the people of Mbakaou.

Djaro Beupere which just means chief father-in-law.  Mostly because he asks me when I'm coming to pick up my wife from him every time I see him.  Also he's one of the two chiefs.
Getting a shave.  These are some of my friends I sit with every day.  The man in the chair in the back is the Imam.
Some of the guys I hang out with by the call box where I buy credit for my phone and never call you with it.
My buddy Kajiri.  He's decided I know enough Fulfulde (I don't) and keeps trying to teach me Houssa.  Behind his is the main drag into town.
Caitlin visiting me with her friend Joe who came all the way from the Extreme North.  In front of our grand village plaza.  Looks better when there is actually an event of some kind.
My back courtyard with my friend Assa.
The Prince of Mbakaou, none other than Alhadji Awal.  My best bud.  This is actually in Tibati, I just like that the moto is packed with furniture. 
Elie here, one of the few guys from Mbakaou to discover my blog and download pictures.  He demanded that I post his.  Behind him is the village garage.
On the right is The General whose actual name I discovered was Dale... Weird.  There are practicing for choir.
Drinking homemade beer by the road on the way to the market.
And of course me.  Being awesome.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Going Native

I passed a man on the street today.  He was wearing a nice tan overcoat with some sensible casual outfit on underneath.  In my mind's eye he is wearing a long scarf as well, but I can't recall if that was real.  He seemed plucked from a cobbled road in London.  We said "good morning", though in French, as we allowed each other space to pass.  It was then that I noticed how surreal the moment felt.  We were walking in a particularly muddy spot on the dirt road where only one can pass.  It has been a long time since I walked on cobblestone.  It's been a long time since I walked on a sidewalk.  In fact, the only things I've been walking on for any period of time are the muddy dirt paths of Mbakaou.

For a moment I was transported to my daily walk to and from work in DC.  Standing aboveground at the entrance to the metro in Southwest.  I could see the buildings, the streetlights, the cars and roads, and my tree-covered sidewalks lining the way home.  I imagined myself flopping onto our couch in that big house with its huge wall-sized windows.  Lounging in front of our flat screen TV and throwing my feet up onto our comfy ottoman.  One of my roommates asks, "So Dale, how was living in a small village in Africa?"  "You cannot even begin to truly imagine," is the only valid response.

I've been here so long moments like that are rare.  It was been months since I've complained that there isn't a comfortable chair in all of Cameroon.  The seating situation has in no way improved of course, but I've gotten used to it.  No expectation and thus those thoughts have disappeared.  I have trouble writing to my mostly American audience about my time here because it has simply stopped being different.  At first it was astonishing and difficult to live without all the comforts we take for granted.  Living without those things I would have incorrectly called "necessities".  Now those things rarely cross my mind…

Shit, I've gone native.  I need an evac.  Get me the fuck out of here!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Vaccination Refusals

Had an interesting day today.  We've had some  bad press recently since they discovered a possible polio case here.  Considering we report some hundred percent vaccination rates that really shouldn't be possible. Certainly not the first time paper didn't match reality.

I went with a friend of mine today and hunted down families refusing vaccinations.  Things are done differently here than America, obviously.  When they do the campaigns, they just walk door to door and give kids vaccines.  They don't have to ask parents or even check to see if they have been vaccinated before.  Since I've been in my village, we've probably done ten polio vaccine campaigns and there are certainly some kids who have been vaccinated ten times (three doses are plenty).  Hell, probably more if they have parents who actually bring them to get vaccinated.  If someone refuses to be vaccinated that just annoys the people doing the vaccines and they move on.  No one has ever bothered to explain WHY people should be vaccinated.  Adults usually ask to be vaccinated too so that it will "give them strength".

I actually asked why people didn't want to vaccinate.  The reasons were, well, reasonable.  Some said that they thought the vaccinations actually made their children sick.  A lot of vaccines have the side effect of causing a slight fever over the next couple days.  I didn't get down into the dirt as to why that is, because telling them that we were giving them a dead/crippled version of the illness seemed counterproductive.  I did tell them that this was a normal side effect and they shouldn't worry.  I also had to explain to them that just because the kid had a vaccination didn't mean they wouldn't get sick at all.  Explaining that their children could already be sick or get sick with something else unrelated to the vaccination often was enough.  Sometimes I'd explain that we knew it wasn't the vaccine that made the child sick simply because we gave it to tons of children and if it was the vaccine, then all the kids ought to be sick.  Usually this was enough to satisfy them.  Oh the best reasoning that we'd make them sick is that they'd then go to the clinic after and have to pay high bills.  Vaccinations as a money making scheme for the clinics.  Those bills in reality for other illnesses.

I'm not sure if these people will actually now get their kids vaccinated.  Every last one of them told me they would (or at least my translator said they did).  Could be they were just humoring the white man who rode in from lord knows where into their tiny little compounds out in the bush.  Course that might be reason enough for them to follow my advice.  But honestly, I think if anyone just bothered to sit down and explain to them why and how to be healthy, they would at least try.  And these are the people who are at least asking questions.  Would you blindly take medicine handed to you?

I really would like to see these strange interactions from their perspective .  It has got to be the weirdest thing in the world.