Good Morning! I’m want to dust off this blog and start a new chapter. In May, I left for Peace Corps! The application process was one of longest I had ever been through but there was big pay off because I made it. I am a Community Economic Development Adviser in Cameroon.
Cameroon is a bilingual country in Sub-Saharan Africa that has more than 200 local languages. It is also home to some of the most rare animals on earth. We have elephants, monkeys, gorillas, giraffes, lions, hippopotamus and these things called cane rats. Cameroon is called Africa in Miniature because it has such a varied landscape and can have such drastically different cultures, going to the North is like being in a totally different country than in the South. I spent the first ten weeks training with 30 other volunteers in Bafia, a city in the Centre region. While there, I did a homestay and made some amazing friends. I learned French (that’s a work in progress) and sat through classes on things like water sanitation and malaria.
There is also this exotic food in Cameroon called spaghetti omelets, they’re as popular as cupcakes are in the States. You can find a spaghetti omelet in almost every town. It is exactly what it sounds like, spaghetti noodles, MSG sauce (it also comes in cube form!) with a couple of eggs fried with palm oil to be an omelet. You can have vegetables added like beans, tomatoes, pepper and onions, but that would ruin this mean with nutritional value. Once that omelet is piping hot, it usually comes in sandwich form and you can get mayonnaise on the bread if your aren’t sure it will taste good. Now I know you are trying to count how many different kinds of carbs I ate in one meal but you should just stop. Spaghetti omelets are surprisingly good and they cost the equivalent of $0.40. I think it might be like Taco Bell, great drunk food.
One of the three goals of Peace Corps is to share American culture with Cameroonians. I did not think about this goal outside of training classes AT ALL, but those goals can sneak up on you when you least expect it. My first example is that I have been into running for a few years. I would wake up my family to unlock the door three or four times a week at 5:45 so I could go for my run. I would usually come back sweaty with grass and mud all over me looking like I had been fighting nature itself. Little did I know the mama of the house was taking notice! In my last three weeks she asked to join me on our run! I sharing my passion for fitness was a great way to share an experience with someone I couldn’t even speak a full sentence to the first day in our home.
And second, I love Heinz ketchup. Probably more than most people. So when I was in the capitol city, Yaounde, I bought some for my cheeseburger. We had to take our food to go since we had somewhere to be. Later, there was a group of us getting spaghetti omelets in the market, I was sitting next to a gentleman who explained that he is a truck driver and he helped us negotiate things with the chef. I thought he was being exceptionally non-derangy, he didn’t even ask me if I had a husband and I had been there for ten minutes at least! Since I had bought my ketchup a few weeks ago, I thought it was a good idea to travel with it so I could use it if the opportunity arises. When I pulled it out of my motorcycle helmet bag I saw him peak at it through the corner of his eye. I wasn’t sure if he maybe thought I was crazy or brilliant. After gauging the reactions of my friends the vote was in and the American friends unanimously agreed I was nuts but the Cameroonian just thought maybe I knew something he didn’t. So I shared the ketchup with him. He picked up his white bread baguette that was meant for his sandwich with new purpose. Once he realized it wasn’t just tomato paste for white people, I saw a smile creep onto his face. He even nodded his head and looked at me, saying “C’est bien”, chewing with his mouth open probably so I could see the product of my generosity. I gave him some more Heinz ketchup. When he was finished, he said assuredly “nous sommes ensemble”.