Baby, it's a wild world

Adventures and Misadventures of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon


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Namibia, Or, That Time we Camped in the Desert with no Tent Poles

From Livingstone, we boarded a big coach bus to Windhoek, Namibia. The bus ride took about 22 hours or so, but it wasn’t as bad as we thought. Our transportation standards were pretty low after two years in Cameroon, and we at least had our own comfortable seats and there were no animals on board. We did stop an awful lot during the day though, and crossing the border from Zambia to Namibia took a long time. We all had to get out on the Zambian side and get our passports stamped there first. Then, we had to walk pretty far to the Namibian border post, where we entered a tent in which a lady with a heat sensor thing checked us for a fever in case we had Ebola, and then it was on to immigration, where we were stamped into Namibia. It took a long time for everyone in the bus to do all this, and then some military guys made us take all the luggage out of the bus and they looked through all of our bags. We finally got out of there, only to stop two minutes later at a gas station that also serves as a bus stop for 45 minutes, followed by another long stop at a different gas station just a few minutes after that.

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A Quick Stop in Zambia: Exploring Victoria Falls

A month late, some final blog posts from our trip through Southern and Eastern Africa!

The third stop on our trip was a quick one, with a couple of days spent in Zambia at Victoria falls. On Tuesday, November 3rd, we took the ferry back from Zanzibar to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, where we grabbed a quick dinner before heading to the airport. Our flight was a bit delayed, and we flew out around 10:30pm. It was only a two-and-a-half-hour flight to Lusaka, Zambia, which wasn’t too bad. As we came in for the landing, though, we had a problem – just as the wheels were about to touch down, the pilot pulled up hard and we came back up really fast. I thought the pilot had either botched the landing (we were flying on a relatively new Tanzanian budget airline) or that there was a problem with the landing gear. We made a wide loop around Lusaka (“This is perfectly normal procedure,” a flight attendant hollowly assured us) and came back around for another landing, this time luckily with no trouble. That long lap was a period of dead silence, a feigned calm trying to cover up how much we were all feeling a bit panicked. But we made it! Once we were on the ground the pilot came on to tell us that just as we were about to land the first time, there was a sudden power outage at the airport and all of the runway lights had gone out, so he had had to come back up until it was fixed. We were not all that surprised, given our experiences with power outages in Cameroon.

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Zanzibar: Beaches, Spices, and a bit of Politics

After our quick visit to Rwanda, we had another (thankfully short) layover in Nairobi, and then we arrived in the impossibly hot and humid Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania late at night. We got a taxi to a hostel located within the YMCA in Dar, which was alright but rather run-down. We only got about 3 hours of sleep before we had to wake up to catch the ferry to Zanzibar, which is part of Tanzania but is also semi-autonomous and has its own government.

The ferry ride was about two hours, and it was a fun ride. Will and I sat up top, enjoying the view and the breeze. We arrived in Zanzibar a little after 9:00am. We stayed at a nice little guesthouse run by a guy named James, and it was close to everything in Stone Town, Zanzibar’s main town.

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A Few More Adventures for the Road: Kigali, Rwanda

We’re off on our next adventure! It’s hard to believe we’re officially RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, our new title for life) and that we left Cameroon a couple of weeks ago already. We spent our last week in Cameroon in Yaoundé doing our final medical checks and getting lots of paperwork signed off before we could head out. All my test results came back healthy, but Cameroon just couldn’t let me go without one last attack on my immune system, it seems. I came down with a fever that was off and on for a couple of days while we were in Yaoundé until my system settled on having some kind of respiratory infection. The fever went away, but I had this deep, irritating cough for almost two weeks and only now is it almost gone.

At the end of our COS (close of service) week, I set out on our month-long post-Peace Corps adventure with Cody Overstreet, Alexi Piasecki, and Will Godfrey. The first leg of our trip took us from Yaoundé to Douala in Cameroon. Our Kenya Airways flight (the first of many) would take us from Douala to Nairobi, Kenya for a long layover before our three-day stop in Kigali, Rwanda. Kenya Airways also decided to change all of our flight times without telling us, so that was a nice surprise when we went to check in online. On Saturday, we caught the train to Douala. We took second class, which is not air-conditioned (PCVs…we’re cheap), and it was an unbearably hot ride. We spent the night in a hotel in Douala before setting out for the airport on Sunday.

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On Leaving Cameroon, New Adventures, and Abusing the Semicolon

Last week, I left my village for good, and it was so much more difficult than I imagined. To be sure, in some ways I felt ready to leave; the comfort and familiarity of home are starting to sound pretty good, and I look forward to moving on to the next adventure. In the days leading up to my departure, I spent much of my time wandering around town saying my goodbyes and emptying my house.

I didn’t get a chance to mention this earlier, but a few weeks ago I found out that Peace Corps would not be sending another volunteer to replace me and continue my health work in Lokoti. In August I had been told, along with three other PCVs in my area, that we would be replaced. Whenever I told people in Lokoti that I was leaving soon, particularly my work counterparts, I assured them that someone else would soon arrive to take my place. Due to security concerns, however, Peace Corps decided not to replace the volunteers in my area of the Adamaoua region after all. There was an unfortunate lapse in communication, however, and we didn’t get the news until the new group of trainees got their new site assignments and we found that none of them had been assigned to our villages. Continue reading


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Little Moustapha and Leaving my Little Brothers

Little Moustapha comes by my house every day. He is one half of the inseparable pair that is he and little Ahidjo, who I’ve written about before. Sadly, Ahidjo left Lokoti for good back at the end of June, to return to his family down in the East region somewhere, having completed Quranic school here.

As I’ve written earlier, the boys live at the Quranic school next to my house, sent away by their families to learn to recite the Quran. The boys – a few dozen of them – range in age from very young to the early teens, and they sometimes spend a few years living all together at the Quranic school, away from their families. The school is run by the marabout, the Islamic “scholar” who teaches the Quran to the kids. I think he may have some wives that live there as well, but I never see them; aside from that, it seems they have very little adult supervision, and they sort of are left to do most things on their own.

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On Our Breast Behavior

Did you know that this week is World Breastfeeding Week? I would bet you didn’t even know that was a thing – I wouldn’t have either, if not for an email about it from our Health program manager here in Cameroon. In light of the occasion, I thought it would be apt to talk a little bit about our behaviors and attitudes relating to breastfeeding and breasts in general.

I have surely mentioned this in earlier posts, but one of the seeming contradictions that most struck me during my time here is the complete openness about partial nudity in what is otherwise a rather conservative society. I live in a small, predominantly Muslim village, and the style of dress reflects that. Men wear the full boubou, the traditional Muslim long tunic/robe and matching pants (the jealous side of me is suspicious that this outfit is really an excuse for wearing pajamas all day), or a shirt and pants, but never shorts. Women tend to wear either a full pagne (the vibrant wax-print fabric ubiquitous throughout West and Central Africa) outfit consisting of a tailored top and a wrap skirt and headscarf made from the remaining yards of fabric, or a t-shirt with the wrapper and headscarf. Some of the non-Muslim women (plus me, but I seem to be granted some sort of nearly gender-neutral status in terms of clothing as the already-strange foreigner) wear tank tops on occasion, but in general women in my village don’t wear shorts, pants, or anything that reveals the knees or shoulders.

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