Cameroon / Eat / Life / Peace Corps

Hey Baby, You Gotta Be Strong

“Hey baby you oughta be free
You gotta get out and chase all your dreams
There’s ain’t no point in you waitin’ for me
Hey baby you oughta be free
Hey baby it’s gonna be fine
You goin’ your way and me goin’ mine
We’ll be together somewhere down the line
Hey baby it’s gonna be fine

Hey baby
You’ve got to give it a try
Hey baby
Spread out your wings and just fly
Hey baby
You know that I’m on your side

Hey baby you better take care
Harden your heart ‘cause it’s lonely out there
It won’t be easy and it won’t be fair
Hey baby you better take care

Hey baby you gotta be strong
You’ve had this feeling inside all along
C’mon you’ve denied yourself for so long
Hey baby you gotta be strong”

-Bryan Adams

After a very long day, I sit astounded at the events that took place and how they took place today. After giving an exam to my younger students, I returned to the house and Franck visited for a short time before I napped and left the house for my return to teaching at the girls’ centre. I stopped by my friend Agathe’s boutique to buy some soy milk yogurt before heading up. I sat my phone down on the table, unknowing that it would never be found again. When I realized that I had left my cell, I quickly returned to an empty surface, not even ten minutes later, to see my friend Agathe who was sick to her throat and nonobservant to who had taken the phone. I headed to Nkongsamba in my attempt to block the credit and to save my number as my own. Peace Corps security awaits Monday to help me take care of this. I returned to village with Abby, to a house escaped by Sammy. I opened the backdoor and to my surprise she had ventured back to the yard. Hopefully she is not pregnant now. I felt so alone. I am so tired of feeling up and then down so quickly. I found myself in a large empty house with no contact to the outer world and no compassion from my closest companion. We decided to eat some fish and take a beer at Agathe’s boutique, who had received medicine from the hospital but who had not gone home to rest like she should have. I was concerned wholeheartedly for my friend, and before I knew it I found myself picking up empty bottles and taking orders for men in the bar area just next to the boutique. She was falling half asleep on the bench and I was enjoying the use that I was making of myself, giving change and feeling apart of something that needed me in order to directly contribute to someone else’s being that I cared for. So often you come to care about someone here, but you don’t know how to help them without pulling out your pockets. I was pulling out my heart, and something motivates me to spend more time at this boutique, secondary project or not, to be apart of something. To feel apart of something, to contribute to something.

Teaching is not feeling apart of something. I see the other teachers there, I mingle with them, and I talk to my students and I care about them, but nothing proves my useful aide to them. They derange and if they want to, they take in some of what I give them. But to do what with? I never feel productive there, for I know there is always someone that can do what I do better, and even if I did have better lessons, what would students take away from that for the rest of their lives? Am I being overly critical of myself? I feel that what has made me a happier volunteer is to quit judging myself, and to push away what I dislike and to bring in closer the little things that make me content. Like Franck, my youngest best friend. Like baking cakes and cooking meals that go proudly appreciated and enjoyed by those around me. Like cuddling with my kitten. Like pushing kids out so that I can enjoy a nap, which at times cut up the day into parts that need to be divided into two. Like calling out men’s possible and most likely intentions that most women do not. Like text messaging jokes and good things- and receiving them. Like making my bed, and falling deep into sleep between my cool sheets, one foot in and one foot out, one arm around my pillow, the other around my care bear….

You Asked What I Eat!

Poisson braise and baton de manioc. I eat this at least once a week. I always feel good eating it because it’s healthy and cheap, and plus it’s fun to eat with your hands! I can find fish a few minutes away from my doorstep, but the mamas don’t start grilling until it starts getting dark, so it’s usually something I get for dinner. The baton de manioc I can’t really explain. I’m sure it’s starchy. It’s white and has somewhat of a gooey texture- I hated it the first few times I had it, but it’s great with poisson and piment!

Piment. Oh how this is in everything, so if I didn’t like it, I would not be a very happy eater here. But everyone loves it because it’s tasty. I don’t even usually like spicy peppers and things, but I can eat piment pepper sauce until the point I get tears in my eyes and I would keep eating because it’s just good.

Koki. I’ve talked about eating this before. You will have to look this up on wikipedia too if you want to know more about it. I have not made it yet, but I hear that it’s really hard. Koki is made from mushed beans that are turned and put into leaves and cooked. I think it takes a good part of the day to make it. I can easily find koki on market day, usually served with boiled bananas or manioc, and I love it!

I can find peanuts almost anywhere. Oh there is a peanut sauce that they make here, that I made once, and it’s delicious too.

L’haricot rouge. Red beans are super easy to make and good for their proteins, so I’ve been making this about once per week. You have to soak the beans for a night and cook them for hours, but other than preparation it’s really easy to make. I add tomatoes and onions and garlic, and sometimes piment…I’m told that they are almost like the beans that Cameroonians make. So that’s the last time I serve something I make to my neighbor! No, kidding, he is a good taste tester, and encourages me to keep working at my cooking skills. Everyone know that I’m a debutant!

Achou. Oh god this is good, from the Anglophone region in the Northwest, a little weird but now I’m used to the funny texture that sticks to my fingers, before dipping it into a spicy yellow sauce and then eating it. It’s really fun to eat with your hands, I have found!

Even though Cameroonians don’t so much I eat salads frequently. I can easily find tomatoes, salad, cucumber and make my own vinaigrette.

Fruits come in seasons. There are usually bananas, avocados and mandarins. Mangoes are hard to find now, but coconuts are in the market now! I bought one yesterday just to buy one; now I will have to figure out how to crack it!

About Tara

Tara received her degree in French and Communications before jetting off to serve Cameroon for 2 years with the Peace Corps. She has forever since been inspired to serve in humanitarian projects around the world. She's a writer, tour guide, business owner, property manager, wifey, dog mom, and traveler. Tara lives in Dallas, Texas, where she's happily married to the tech genius who keeps her website pretty.