We have been here in Nkongsamba for a little less than a week now and I, Shaun, can already say we are enjoying it much more than we ever did Bafia. Sure, we have had our headaches from time to time with the hassle that is trying to move into a house that is completely empty, and then trying to furnish that house when every vendor in town just sees you as a mark. We have done surprisingly well, all things considered, and I am happy to say that we look like we will be sitting in good shape come tomorrow evening for Mollie’s birthday dinner. We may even have a table to eat it at!
So far we have acquired most of the bare essentials for living here. We have a bed and my homologue just bought us a mattress for it today. He had to go alone to buy it because if our white faces were seen anywhere near the deal, the price would have more than doubled. He was able to purchase the same mattress we had been quoted 55,000 and 65,000CFA by two different vendors for only 23,000CFA today. We have also got a good start on our kitchen and have been cooking our own meals since the second night in the house. The gas tank for our stove is still the single most expensive thing we have had to buy, but there is no getting around it. In fact several people have told us that we were lucky to even get a tank at all. There has been something of a natural gas shortage in Cameroon for several months now. We first heard about this back in Bafia when most of the homestay families ran out of gas and all the meals had to be prepared in the outdoor kitchen. We are very happy to have found gas here right away as our house here in Nkongsamba does not have an outdoor kitchen and even if it did it is not a pleasant way to prepare dinner, especially during rainy season!
Another major victory for us here has been with our landlord. He has turned out to be an amazing guy and possibly a suitable partner concerning CED projects for Mollie. We have learned that he is a buyer of coffee from several of the smaller plantations that surround Nkongsamba and he has his own small roasting operation before selling the beans on to someone else. We do not yet know the details of his operation or where the beans are sold after he is finished roasting them, but we are hoping at the very least we can get a wholesale price on our coffee for the next 2 years, but more so that Mollie might be able to help the beans find better distribution and even possibly become fair trade certified. This is all down the road a ways though of course as she is not even encouraged to do any of that type of work until at least 3 months of being at post. This is so as to better become integrated into the community and have a better understanding of the needs of the people living here instead of us just jumping into passion projects or chasing down ideas that we think up (much like the one I just mentioned) without even first checking to see if the community wants or needs it. For those reasons and many others we are expected to complete a detailed needs assessment over the next several months that we will then present to our project managers in December.
Mollie has also been very pleased with the work of our carpenter who was referred to us by the landlord. You should ask her about this sometime as I am sure she would love to tell someone all about it and for that reason I will not. We are both just so happy to be here together this week as for a while it looked as though that might not be the case. I somehow managed to squeak by with my French level and although I know I still have a long ways to go I am hoping to find a tutor here soon to help me out. It is lucky that Mollie has come as far as she has with her French ability, because it makes the tasks of everyday life here so much easier. She has really begun to excel with her language and I am curious to see what another 2 years in Cameroon does to her French. We both speculate that it might actually get worse, but that’s only because the French they speak here is so bad most of the time.
In other news our work schedules are still yet to be determined as my school has not even begun to set classes yet and the term begins in less than 2 weeks. I haven’t heard from them regarding what type of classes they are expecting me to teach. The last time we talked they seemed most interested in ICT classes, but I would obviously have to teach these in English as my French level is not high enough yet to allow me to teach in Francophone classes. I am very much looking forward to our post mate returning to Nkongsamba so that I might have the opportunity to further explore her connections and the work she has been doing the last 2 years as a health volunteer in the area. I still hope to try to take on something related to health as one of my secondary project, but we will have to wait and see what come from the needs assessment first. I very much look forward to being finished with the work that it is moving into and setting up our house here. I am excited to see what type of real work I will be able to accomplish over the next couple of years. Only time will tell.