Sunday, November 18, 2007

Landslide, Lake, and Workstuff

November 13, 2007

Yikes! I just looked at the date of my last entry. If there’s actually anyone that still checks my blog every week, I’m sorry. I’ll try to write more often, but you were warned from the beginning that I felt like I might have been biting off more than I could chew saying I would write every week (Reminder that I can take incoming calls for free on my cell phone. Email me for the number). Part of the problem is that I don’t feel like I have any coherent ideas to write an entry on. Sure little stuff happens here and there, but it’s not enough to fill up a blog. So this one might jump around a bit, but I figured it would be better to get something out.

Three or four weeks ago, there was a landslide in between Kekem and Bafang. The road was completely taken out. This is a big deal because this is the road between Douala and Bafoussam, the first and third largest cities in Cameroon. Nkongsamba, my post, is also on this road. The day it happened I got text messages on my phone from different Peace Corps employees saying that any travel plans should be rearranged. I already had plans to go to a credit committee meeting in Bafang the next morning. I decided to meet my counterpart first and see what he said. After talking to him, we decided to see how far we could get. Most of the cars were already taking alternate routes so we had to find cars that were going short distances, just to the next town. After three short trips we made it to the landslide. It was pretty serious. The road looked like it just dead-ended at this monstrous pile of dirt. There were people everywhere – Some just came to look, others were crossing over it, and others brought their market goods to sell because there were so many people gathered. There was also a new market for boot rental as some areas were extremely muddy. We started to make our way across and after about 20 ft. decided we needed the boots. It cost us the equivalent of 50 cents to borrow the boots and have someone walk with our shoes behind us. It seemed like a lot to pay by Cameroonian standards, but we ended up paying it so I guess the demand was high enough. When you first got to the landslide, you couldn’t tell how wide it was, but we ended up walking for about a quarter mile before reaching the other side. When you got to the road on the other side and looked back, it was about the same – a road dead-ending at a huge pile of dirt. But on this side there was a palm tree perfectly transplanted by the landslide to where it looked like it had always been right in the middle of the path where the road would continue. We made it to the meeting, albeit a little late and had a story to tell all of our friends.

Last weekend the new group of Agro and Health volunteers who are in training had their site visits and so were let loose in the country for a week to see where they would be working for two years. Yune and Ben and the volunteers replacing them, Abby and Dan, came over to Nkongsamba along with Tara on Friday for a hot shower and another one of our soon-to-be-famous “enchilada nights.” It was a full house and we all stayed up playing Suggestions late into the night. The next morning we woke up to find that a small lake had formed in the house. My entryway and hallway were flooded – some areas weren’t bad, but others were up to your ankle. Instead of a sewer system Cameroon has concrete channels about a foot and a half deep on both sides of most the roads. The one right outside my house had gotten clogged and all the rainwater from the storm that night had come flowing in right under my front door! I did all I could to get as much water out as possible, but the stream also brought with it a lot of dirt. It was a mess, but when my neighbour came over to do my laundry, she also helped my by cleaning all the floors and even doing all the dishes from enchilada night (no small task by itself).

I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating recently on what my role should be in working with ADAF, my host institution that supports and audits all the surrounding microfinance banks. I’ve started to realize that the work I’m already doing now and what I’m learning how to do is essentially the work of an ADAF employee. That’s not why I’m here. I’m supposed to be building capacity – that is, making the institution function stronger when I leave then when I came. If I’m working just like an employee, not only am I taking the work and possible salary of a Cameroonian, but they’d be worse off after I left not having anyone to do my workload. After talking to my APCD (Assistant Peace Corps Director) and counterpart we all agreed that ADAF didn’t need much help with capacity, just the huge workload. So my first task now is to see if we can get another employee in the Nkongsamba office (right now it is only me and my counterpart). Beyond that I’m looking for more work to do in the community, which I’m finding somewhat difficult. I’ve already started teaching a management class at the Girls’ Center in Baré but beyond doing that I don’t feel like I’m meeting the kind of motivated people that I want to do any other work with. I’m beginning to think that starting another management class for entrepreneurs in Nkongsamba would be the best way to start meeting those people. We’ll see. I’ll keep you updated on what my “professional life” turns into.


No comments: