Since landing in Guatemala City this morning, our group has been thoroughly impresssed by the hospitality of Enactus Guatemala. Both Carmen and Ana Lucia greeted us at the airport with open arms and immediately drove us to breakfast before taking us grocery shopping and moving us into our lovely townhouse. We were then brought to University del Valle de Guatemala, where we were given a tour and introduced to other Enactus students, and we even got to meet the Enactus faculty advisor. The UVG students also invited us to have dinner with them at their favorite pizza parlor and ordered us the notorious “meter pizza”, which we shamefully could not finish, but this may be a goal for us to aspire to before the trip’s end. The most significant part of the day to us was indisputably when Carlos welcomed us into his home and introduced us to his entire family. At Carlos’ house, we had the pleasure of watching Enactus Guatemala practice for the 2013 Enactus World Cup, along with meeting each of the department heads and learning more about each of our upcoming projects. It has only been one day, and this is already starting to feel like home!
Hello Everyone! Sorry for the delay, our internet was down for most of the weekend!
Things have gone on well here this week as our project coordinator, Robinson, has returned to the island along with Richard the director of the Ekialo Kiona Center. With their vision we’ve been able to accomplish a lot towards our project goals and have gotten to meet more friends around the island that are partnered with us on the reforestation effort!
Mae and Kathryn left last Sunday to visit Berlin’s (their host mom) mother’s home in Homa Bay. They had a safe trip and a fun time meeting the family. They report that both Berlin and her mother are determined to marry them both to Kenyan men. They returned on Monday without any wedding plans.
While they were gone to Homa Bay I remained at EK on Monday and performed a radio broadcast with Nancy and Eric on the radio team and Nick Olambo, a farm specialist here at the center. We discussed the cultural value of forests with callers who offered their comments and questions. The radio team and Nick did a lot of translating to Dhluo to make sure that everything that we had to communicate was well understood. We’re about to do our next broadcast and I’m excited to do it with our whole team!
On Tuesday we met with the nearby Sena Mixed Secondary School to teach some of the theory behind the reforestation effort. This week the emphasis was the environmental importance of maintaining forests. Afterwards the teacher was excited to tell us that some of the topics we covered, like the water cycle and nitrogen cycle, also come up in the students’ coursework. They were so excited about this and the way we presented the material that they want to host us again for an extra lesson.
Wed, Thursday, and Friday were all spent setting up nurseries. On Wed we worked at Ramba with a wise old tree farmer there named Oguta, on Thursday at Ugina with the women’s group there, and on Friday at both the EK center and at Sena Secondary. A nursery essentially consists of a 8 x 5 ft bed of well tilled earth on which seeds are scattered, watered, and covered in some topsoil and mulch. These beds, in 2 weeks, will yield small seedlings that we can transfer to plastic tubing filled with dirt where they can grow protected for about 9 more months until they are planted in the wild. By this time next year, the center is on track to plant 10,000 seedlings around the island!
On Saturday our team and one of the other volunteers at the center made pancakes (with a really tasty banana sauce) for Mae and Kat’s host family. Afterwards we all attended church together (it was long) and then split up for the afternoon washing clothes and helping EK members set up their own facebooks! Sunday we took the first part of the day at a nearby beach with Adam and two students here from Penn, relaxing and chatting an unwinding from the busy week.
That’s all from this week, we’re excited for what’s ahead and stressing over how little time we have left! Only two weeks remain before we leave all our friends and this beautiful island, we avoid thinking about it!
WE ARE HERE!
Our team successfully arrived in Douala, Cameroon! As soon as we arrived, we easily passed through the airport and met with Stephen (the Peace Corps Volunteer who works with Better Family Foundation). We waited near the baggage claim, sweating and a bit tired, slowly collecting our bags as they came out. Unfortunately, while we all arrived without a problem, Luke’s bag was not as lucky – it was actually still at JFK airport in New York! We therefore began our journey by maneuvering the different airline counters, trying to get his bag back. Eventually, we got it all worked out (all in all taking probably around two hours), and it was time to leave again! Stephen had arranged for a taxi man to come and get us, so we walked down and squeezed all of our stuff in to the trunk and clambered into the car.
Here, we got our first taste of Cameroonian driving: without a blink or any hesitation, the taxi man told all four of us to get into the back of his very small car. Stephen told us that this is how driving is done in Cameroon, and we were more than happy to embrace this tradition! Until, that is, we were speeding along towards the Baptist hostel where we would be staying and we got pulled over by the police. They told us that we were overloaded and at first demanded to see our passports. Stephen and the taxi driver talked with them, and they no longer needed our passports: they asked for a small bribe and we were on our way! Getting pulled over was a bit of a shock for all of us, as were the large automatic guns that all of the policemen carried. But everything went well, and we got to the hostel a few minutes later. It was absolutely wonderful! The hostel was a compound with several different buildings and several families staying there. Our building was a little 2-story, cabin-like building with beds on top and a bathroom on bottom. Stephen had already prepared a delicious meal (pizza, pasta, bruschetta, bread, and fruit!), and we were all happy to sit down and eat: while not bad, it’s sure that having home-cooked food was well received after so many meals that were wrapped in plastic. That evening we talked and got to know Stephen a bit better (he is very nice and funny!), hung out around the pool, and finally went to bed, tired after our day of travel but ready for the next adventure.
The next morning, we woke up at 5am in order to make breakfast, pack up, and take a taxi at 6:15 to go to a type of bus stop. We all stuffed ourselves into the car again and we were off on our way. This time, in the daylight, it was much easier to see the passing landscapes. It was also a bit scarier because we were able to clearly see all of the traffic on the roads: something we’ve noticed about driving here is that there is sort of an unofficial fifth lane that cars moving in either direction can move. In addition, cars drive a lot closer to people and to motorcycles. However, once you got used to it, it was actually pretty efficient!
We arrived at the bus station. We were going to take a VIP 30-person bus from Douala to Bemenda, a 6-hour drive. We got there early and so we waited around the bus station for a while. Everyone was so friendly, and vendors were selling clothes and food. Chickens were squawking around and people were greeting and conversing with each other. There were a lot of people there, so we were able to fill the bus on time and we left around 8:40. The bus was different than any I had seen. All of the luggage was loaded on top and then covered with a tarp and tied down. There were two aisles, one with two seats and one with one seat. Then, there was an additional fold-down chair that made it so that there were four people in a row and no aisle. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. They began playing music (it was wonderful! We’re trying to get ahold of some of the songs – we’ll post them when we find out which they are, because you definitely want to listen to them), and as we slowly rolled out of town, we began to see the country side. Cameroon is absolutely stunning. If you ever get the chance to come to this beautiful country, you should definitely take advantage of it. It is not at all what most of us think of when we here “Africa” – it is definitely not a dry Sahara. Instead, everything is a bright green. There are banana trees, fields of corn, looming trees, rolling (and sudden) mountains, gorgeous rivers (at one point, it was so warm outside that I could see water evaporating from the river!)… I don’t think that any of us could truly describe what it looks like. While I originally intended to do some work and reading on the bus, I ended up being enamored and entranced by the passing scenery. We stopped once to stretch our legs for a bit. Often, when we would pass through a town, merchants would come up to the window and try to sell things – fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. People would complete the transaction through their window and off we were on our way! Six hours later, after crossing some mountains, we reached Bamenda.
Bamenda is the capital of the area and a relatively large town. From the bus station, we went to get a taxi. If we thought we were introduced to Cameroonian driving before, we were in for a new treat. In this new taxi, we weren’t the only patrons: in addition to Stephen, the driver, and the four of us there was another woman driving to Fundong. Therefore, we had two people in the front seat and four people in back. I was squished in front between the taxi driver and Atika in the front seat (poor Atika gets car sick, and we were winding our way up some narrow mountain roads at a fast pace!). Unfortunately, because of a few complications and some fears about taxes, half of us had to switch out of our car after a few minutes into another taxi, before eventually switching back to our first one. Finally, we were winding up the mountain roads. It took us about 2 hours to reach a place near Fundong. When we got out, Atika and I literally could not walk because our legs had fallen asleep, but we wobbled for a minute and were quickly back to normal. We finally got into one last taxi that took us all the way to Fundong where we met Simon, who is head of the Better Family Foundation. We had our first taste of Cameroonian food (beans and puff-puff (which is basically a fried piece of dough, like a beignet) – it was delicious! It’s currently around 4:00pm here, and I’m already looking forward to walking over and getting some more today!
Finally, we took the car to Simon’s house in Ngainkuma, where we are staying. This post is getting to be quite long and we haven’t even started talking about our project yet, so I’ll leave a detailed description of the house for later on. Suffice it to say that our house is amazing – so much more than any of us were expecting! We have delicious running water fr
om our faucet, two bedrooms with large beds, a comfortable living room, a dining room, kitchen, two bathrooms, and a shower. We don’t have warm water, but I think we’re all getting used to those adventures. We’re also slowly getting used to the spiders and dead bugs that we find pretty often, but they’re quickly becoming our friends and the basis of a lot of jokes, so no complaints there.
Overall, I am so excited and happy to be here. Cameroon is so beautiful and everyone is so kind. There are a lot of things that are different culturally, but I haven’t been experiencing much culture shock. But we’ll talk more about that later. I apologize that this post was just a blow-by-blow of everything that is going on – there’s just a lot of stuff to get caught up on!
Some fun words/expressions we have learned so far (phonetically spelled)!
Toe-lie-mah – Good morning
Wah-ee-see-ma – Good afternoon
Too-jeem-ma – Good evening
See-je-ah – This one is harder to translate in English, but it means something along the lines of courage, good luck, stay strong, etc. It has a lot of different meanings!
I-ong – Thank you
(Ah-she-ah – This is similar to See-je-ah, but it is in Pidgin English.)
Talk to you all soon!
We have now been here for a little over two weeks. It’s been an eventful week –both at the site and at our house.
The A Drink For Tomorrow chapter at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill arrived this past Thursday. Saturday morning was spent doing orientation activities to become acquainted both with the groups and the projects we were conducting. Afterwards we headed to Huanchaco, a small beach town right out of Trujillo, for the rest of the weekend. We ate great food, went to beach, and enjoyed seeing a new part of Peru. Some of us tried Ceviche, a Peruvian specialty cooked with only lime juice.
After a much needed rest, we headed back to work on Monday. We continued working on the three holes we started last week and began digging at two new holes. As we mentioned last week, one of the holes required dynamite. This past Tuesday and Wednesday we blew up the boulders. By we, we mean our very own Peruvian Chuck Norris, Andres, who is also our foreman. Rumor has it Andres doesn’t need to break rocks, they crumble out of respect. We also heard once that he could irrigate the entire Moche Valley with a single tear, but Andres has never cried. Long story short, he is awesome. He has shown us how to properly use the tools to our best advantage and is now showing us how to build and lay bricks as two of our holes are now ready for latrine construction. Tomorrow we will begin digging for our last hole bringing us up to the goal number of six latrine locations.
Also happening tomorrow is Freaky Friday!! …This time sans Jamie Lee Curtis. Freaky Friday is an idea the staff came up with to give each of the three project groups (UNC, Yale, Pitt/Juniata) a chance to see what each other has been working on. Three of our group members will go to the town of Collambay to work on a school playground, three others will go to Los Cocas to help with construction of an irrigation system, and three of our members will stay in Ciudad to show the other groups the ropes. We are all very excited to experience the other sites.
Despite the positives, we’ve had our first encounter with sickness abroad. It all began this past Sunday with one of our team members getting sick followed by five others from different groups in the house. Sick joke, the electricity went out early Wednesday morning at a time when all toilets were at full capacity. Luckily, the sick had 30 caring housemates more than willing to help out by whatever means necessary. Now most of the sickness has ended and we are all taking extra precautions to avoid further illness. The power outage ended last night with the help of Renee’s glow stick stash and a ukulele.
We are looking forward to exploring the archaeological site of Huaca del Sol and Huaca del Luna this upcoming weekend and sincerely hope for a calamity free week.
Unfortunately the internet is not strong enough to load pictures now but we will try as soon as we can!
Rachel and Emily
My name is Taylor Cady and I am a member of Nourish International from the University of Kansas. The purpose of Nourish International is to join with different organizations in countries around the world to help create and join in forwarding sustainable environments. Last year, Nourish sent five students from Kansas and New Mexico to build the ACE center at ABAN’s compound. This year, Kansas joined forces with Wake Forest University and sent three of us to return to ABAN.
Our main focus for this trip is to build a summer hut on ABAN’s newly acquired land. Last year, ABAN bought six acres in Dumpong with plans to develop the ABAN compound and eventually create a fully functioning village or sustainable community to replace the currently rented compound.
We began our work on the land shortly after arrival and have already experienced plenty of blood, sweat and tears (but mostly sweat). We started off by clearing all of the trees and shrubbery with our machetes and pick axes. We pretended to know how to do all of this until we actually caught on. Once the land was cleared we were able to make paths leading up to the placement of the summer hut. In those paths we planted grass, which we hope will actually grow and not just die. After the paths were completed, we were each given our very own bed of soil. We all planted carrots which are expected to germinate within a week. However, the best part about our newly found farming talents is that once the carrots begin to grow we can start making our own pizzas because many of the Ghanaian pizzas have carrots on them!
My favorite part of the trip though, by far, has been my interaction with the ABAN women and their children. It is so inspiring to see that many are the same age as myself, but have overcome so much but still continue to find joy and happiness and a have a spirit that cannot be diminished. My favorite part of each day is going to their compound and just talking with them in English and my very limited Twi. I adore hearing their stories and the reasons for their children’s names and anything that they are willing to share with me. It’s been great to see all the love and compassion that they have for each other and the hope that they all have for their futures. In a world full of sadness, despair and depression, it brings me so much joy to see the endurance and happiness that I find here in Aburi.
I’m so excited to see what is in store for me during the next five weeks of my time here in Ghana and cannot wait so see all that the girls can teach me.
With so much love,
Hi ya’ll! Dhanya here.
Let me paint a picture for you. Now, you really have to close your eyes and imagine this. Ready, set, GO.
Imagine sitting under a heavily fruited mango tree. The only thing illuminating the darkness is the glow of your laptop. But somehow, your eyes have adjusted and you can see the little cottage where you live, the stage where you teach, and the dinner hall where you eat every meal. The faint thud of mangos falling on the soft sand is the only sound you hear. And as you stand up with your bare feet, all you can feel is the sand between your toes.
Got the picture? Good. This is where we live. And if you’re thinking of how beautiful it sounds, you are absolutely right.
We’ve been at the lovely Shanti Rani Bavan (the convent where we live) for two weeks now, two of the most challenging, eye-opening and joyful weeks of my life. As I’m sure most of you know by now, we are teaching English, computers, organizing literacy workshops and starting micro-enterprises in 3 villages in and around Gopalpur, Orissa. The students we have here have been some of the most resilient people I have ever met. The 22 of them ( all ages 16-23 ish) show up to class every day and are eager to learn all about the English language and computers. It sometimes gets difficult to manage them at times and behaviors that are completely unheard of in America are common here. But I remember that respect is seen completely differently here and I’m sure that some of the things that I do seem absolutely ridiculous to them.
Everything is completely different here. For example, I have a mouse, a toad and a gecko all living in my bathroom. That’s pretty different. I’ve named them all … but that’s another story all together. Back to our kids, even if it does get difficult it is worth every moment because I see them learning, growing and taking every single thing in. If I ever question if what we’re doing is making a difference (which I do often) all I have to do is think about them, how much they are actually learning in our classes and how much they are benefiting from the programs we organize.
We started our village assessments last week and it was painful to hear that some of the families don’t have the luxury of having water in their homes. As Chris (one of our volunteers) pointed out, how can anyone think of an education or a livelihood when they cannot have something so simple as water in their homes? It feels like we are getting to the root causes and challenges in these communities and I’m beginning to realize how tough these problems are. I can’t help but feel a little helpless.
But, at the end of every day, I’m reminded of how strong the people of this community are and how they themselves can start movements, change mindsets and develop their villages. All we can do is give them a little push and watch the rest unfold. I’m thrilled to see what is going to happen in this community and how the kids we are teaching are going to help mold and shape it into something even more beautiful than it is now. That’s empowerment. That is what makes it worth every single moment here. =)
- A Dog, A Cow, and Llama – Es Una Vida Dificil June 9, 2011
- Home Again! June 21, 2011
- One Week has Flew By! June 6, 2011
- Time dilation in a far away nation June 7, 2011
- Pre-Cameroon Musings May 30, 2011
- Day 1 Recap of Guatemala Project June 18, 2013
- Welcome New Nourish International Board Members! June 17, 2013
- UMN: 10,000 Seedlings June 17, 2013
- Departure! June 17, 2013
- We are here! June 14, 2013
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