Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Cows.  There are just so many of them.  All the damn time.

Crossing the road.  (That is a road, promise.)
As far as the eye can see.  (Goats too.  I like them less.)

Even when you go visit your buddy.  There to great you.  Fucking cows.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Soy Time

People gots ta eat.  In the Extreme North, they need to eat better.  I seem to focus a lot of my work on nutrition education, particularly for mothers and children, but really everyone needs it.  One of the things I want to get going in Bogo is soy.  It's relatively cheap and definitely so when considering the nutritional value.

Plus, turns out, it can be delicious.  On paper I'm trying to help out people.  In reality, I'm just hungry and will lose my mind if I eat any more damn massed up millet.

Now making soy into an edible product is apparently difficult and an all day affair.  Which is exactly why I need to teach other people how to do it for me.

STEP 1:  Soak the beans for a bazillion hours (or twelve).  OK, easy enough, wash 'em and throw out sticks or twigs or whatever, then toss 'em in water over night.  Now they absorb water, so make sure there is plenty.  Else you end up with the top HALF moldy by morning.  Whoops.

STEP 2:  Grind those suckers up.  The trick here is getting other people to do that for you.

Didn't even pay them.
Above is the manual method.  DO NOT RECOMMEND.  The second time I managed to find a guy with an electric powered grinder.  Sure there was no on/off switch and he just used rocks to hold the exposed wire together, but this is Africa.

STEP 3:  Mix the ground soy with more water and then squeeze the liquid out.  Basically spoon it into a porous tissue and really wring it out.  Discard the rest.  Pretty sure you can dry the rest and do something with it, but I don't actually know.

That strainer was worthless and so was the rag.  My neighbor gave me her head scarf and it worked perfectly.  Really should buy her a new one...
 STEP 4:  Boil the liquid.  Voila, that's soy milk.  Let it boil for ten minutes and you can drink it.  Well, let it cool and add sugar, chocolate, whatever.

STEP 5:  Cut the fire/stove down to low and toss in vinegar.  It should congeal; let it keep doing that for like 15 minutes or until you get all of it.  Now you got yourself some tofu!  The strainer is useful here to collect the chunky bits that you want.  Mash all that together with some spices.  MAGGI all the way in Cameroon.  Now you've got taste.

STEP 6:  Pile it all together and find a big rock.  Some people have boxes or whatever to shape it.  I had a chair and a rock.  You'll leave it so all the water drains out and it becomes hard.  This can take awhile.  It'll be spongy and sold.  Cut it.

Advanced soy smashing device.
STEP 7:  Get ready to cook it all.  You toss the chopped up pieces into oil and fry them.  Mmmm good.  You can eat them just like that OR, and I highly recommend this, you make yourself some delicious sauce.  I went the tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, spices route and it was divine.

This is where the magic happens.  Kitchen magic.

STEP 8: EAT!!!

I have made SOY!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Road to Tchabawol

So I managed to load a video online.  It is incredibly short and of pretty poor quality... but look what I can do!

We'll call it a test.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Greatest Moment

A little while ago I was exploring Maroua.  Someone told me of a tiny shop that sold some things imported from France.  I'm sure you can imagine what I was hoping for... and I found it!  CHEESE.  And not that silly laughing cow crap that tastes sorta but not quite like creme cheese.  Now they only had two kinds, but one of them was GOUDA (the other was a brie sort of something).  I may have spent what I make in a day and what some people here make in a week (or year, depending), but I bought myself some damn cheese.

What did I do with that cheese?  Anyone who has had the luxury of spending a late night after a few rounds with me knows that my favorite thing to make in the world is grilled cheese.  Or a quesadilla, same thing.

Yes, that is mayo.  If you aren't using mayo, you are doing it wrong.
Just a couple of other ingredients that are relatively easy to come by and we were off to a good start.

You can almost smell it.
Baguettes are not ideal for this sort of work, but beggars can't be choosers as the saying goes.

Look at how happy I am!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my finest moment yet in this lovely country of Cameroon.  I just felt that I needed to share.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Let me tell you about the time I brought a prostitute home.

I went to a spiffy dance.  Actually that may not be an accurate description.  It was far too much like a high school dance.  Or with the way kids are growing up today, maybe it was more like a middle school dance.  Except no one showed up on time.  We got there about two and a half hours late and were basically the first to show.

No one danced for probably almost two hours, which was odd because it was clearly a dance floor and they were blaring dance music.  The chairs were all lined up around the walls leaving a gapping floor clearly meant to be danced on.  Eventually, they did some speeches honoring whoever was supposed to be honored and then they lined up some honorary men and paired them off with the few women who were there.  There was an incredibly awkward slow dance that lasted maybe thirty seconds before being broken up.

Then, finally, real dancing began.  I'm in super conservative ville, so there were an slim number of women about.  I'm not sure that would have mattered much as in the south I ran into very similar numbers a few times.  It doesn't matter here because men love to dance and they really don't care if there are women to dance with.  They have zero problem dancing with each other and are essentially just trying to show off.  I don't know what it is in me that says I am not supposed to dance unless dancing with a women, but they certainly don't have it.  And it is a fun show to watch.

The show got more highschooly as the night went on.  Some of the girls actually joined in the dancing.  Where there had been clear separation, the lines were beginning to blur.  At the same time, booze showed up.  People had smuggled it in.  This was the first time I had seen any drinking in Bogo with my own two eyes.  Now we have women dancing and drinking.  I naturally took this opportunity to join in.

I was clearly being set up with this lovely lady in purple.  This was fine with me, as I said, I don't like dancing alone.  And I really love purple.  We danced the night away, though there was a lot of trying to figure out exactly how you dance here.  It's not half way between arms-length high school and booty bouncing clubbing.  It's some weird mélange of the two.  There was literally a guy who would separate couples if they were risqué for too long.  Though he never touched me; meaning I either was following the unwritten rules or they didn't apply to me as is often the case.

To be honest, I wasn't really sure what to do with myself.  From my vague understanding of the culture here, you basically buy a wife and marry her as soon as possible.  My friend would explain it the following day as "you meet her in the morning and you marry her by the evening."  Not exactly something I'm into.  I wasn't really sure how these girls were allowed to be out and at a social event anyway.  After enjoying myself plenty, I wanted to quietly escape and attempted to tell my friend this.  He explained that I shouldn't walk home alone and that he should go with me.  Cameroonians here are super protective of me and also kinda thing I'm a weird idiot who probably wouldn't make it out of my home in the morning if someone didn't come and check on me.

I said goodbye to a couple other people and went to leave only find that he had grabbed Purple and they were waiting by the door.  Not really sure what was going on, but not super mad about it; the three of us walked to my home.  When got there, and they both let themselves in, sat in my living room, and drank water.  And I had no idea what was going on.  People often talk in front of me without me comprehending a word.  They were happily speaking Fulfulde and I was just wondering what the hell was going on.  All the millions of questions were flying through my head wondering what I had gotten myself into.  Particularly there was the question of why exactly was my friend still sitting there.

Then they said goodnight and left.  And I wasn't sure if I was relieved or just confused.

It was only the next day that my neighbors basically sat me down and gave me the birds and the bees chat.  We had some difficulty confirming that prostitute meant what I thought it meant.  There is a small cultural barrier in that I've also been told that any women selling wares in the market is a prostitute.  Well, if she is Muslim; Christian women are allowed to sell things.  Oh and married, it is ok if she is unmarried to sell.  A married Muslim.  I think that's the rule.  There are lots of rules.  Anyway, we established that Purple sells her body for money.

Honestly, I'm still not super sure.  From what I've gathered from all of the people who find this very interesting to talk about (everyone), if you are an unmarried woman and you date men, you are a prostitute.  If you go out at night and visit a man's house, you are a prostitute.  Apparently there are a number of women here who find themselves with a man, don't marry him, but still go home with him on the occasion, and sometimes he will buy her gifts.  These are prostitutes.  It sounds a lot like dating back home, but that's perception for you.  Ladies, how many dinners can a man buy you before you are pretty much obligated to?

The short of it is that I'm going to basically have to be celibate for the next two years, because I've no idea how to navigate that mess.  I'm certainly not sleeping with anyone who could, possibly, maybe be a prostitute in a country riddled with AIDS.  But we can thank the gods that I have such practice and self-control in that arena.  Wait...  Shit.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Gardening for Beginners

I may have mentioned that I really have no credentials to be a health volunteer.  Being outdoors and working with my hands always appeals to me though and so I've often thought that maybe I should have ended up an agro-forestry/environment volunteer.  They hang outside with farmers and live in the woods and work the fields which all sounds kinda cool to me.

Turns out that I probably am not cut out for that either.  Erin, the agro near me, told me to start a compost in my yard.  And I did:

Hooray, giant hole to not tell the landlord about!
Dig hole.  Easy enough.  I know, vaguely, what to put in there.  Organic stuff.  Not meat.  She was kind enough to mention that occasionally throwing sand on it stops the smell.  Since I'm dumb and did it directly under my bedroom window, I do this pretty regularly.  Oh and pee in it.  For the... nitrogen maybe?  Beats me.

Anyway, the hole filled up fairly quickly.  So I needed a new one.  Only I liked that one.  So I moved the dirt to where I imagine I might try to grow a garden (probably just entirely of basil, cause I love pesto and it is hard to find).  Well I dug a hole to put the dirt in.  But then I had the dirt from the hole I just dug.  So I dug another hole.  You might see where this is going, but I basically plowed the entirety of my backyard.

Neighbors came.  They stared.  I was utterly incapable of explaining myself.  This time it wasn't linguistic; I couldn't have in English either.

This doesn't even do it justice.
My whole yard looks like the above now.  It used to be sand.  I found the dirt.  It's deep under the sand.  I don't know why I went looking for it, but I just couldn't stop.

Maybe this will be beginning of my own personal basil farm.  Someone throw some seeds in a box.