Life in Lomie – Life Vraiment en Brousse

Leading Up to Our Daily Market - So Many Hills in Lomie!
After perhaps sleeping 2 hours, I awoke in my new house. I was finally able to catch a glimpse of my home for the next 2 years. My house has a living room upon entry, a little hallway where I store my bike, my kitchen (fully equipped with extended counter space and cabinets, thanks to Danny!), a guest bedroom, the master bedroom (newly painted green, thanks to Danny) and an indoor latrine, fully equipped with a little throne-like latrine with spots to place your feet in order to better guide your aim.  Out back is my Cameroonian kitchen, which is essentially an empty wooden shack that will remain empty until I find a way to turn it into the petite clubhouse of my childhood dreams. My house is connected to my other postmate, Grant’s, house by one wall. In back of Grant’s house is the platfort – a three story wooden fort where us Lomié PCVs pass the hours playing games, reading, tanning and consuming the occasional alcoholic beverage.

The Platfort
My landlady, mama Rosaline, and her grandson, Samedi, stopped by to welcome me. Mama Rosaline assured me that she would repaint the house, tile all the floors, and install a Western toilet (although I kinda like my throne!). After becoming acquainted with my landlady, my housekeeper Alfred, and the large family that lives next door, Danny and I went to breakfast. If I thought the avocado salads in Bertoua were good, they’ve got nothing on Lomie’s spaghetti omelet shacks! Danny and I got an avocado salad which had nearly every vegetable inside with a veggie omelet on top and a café au lait on the side. The perks of living in the rainforest where food is plentiful has its fair share of benefits! After stuffing ourselves, Danny helped me buy necessities for my house. The rest of the day was spent trying to clean my house and organize my things. Actually, most of the day was spent murdering cockroaches and spiders with Raid and making a game out of it.

Tuesday was spent making a trip to the post office (thanks for the Christmas box, mom! The candy is already eaten!) and making a trip to the district hospital, which is my host institution. I asked around and I finally found my counterpart, Jules. While everyone else in my stage had met their counterpart at the Community Host Workshop, I hadn’t because I was on medhold in Yaounde. I had no reason to be worried about meeting Jules because he is amazing! From what I have seen, him and I will get along perfectly! He is a young-spirited man who always is sporting a larger than life smile and who frequently cracks jokes. We joked around and talked for a good hour and agreed that he will give me the week to settle in. He acknowledged that he knows the first three months in Lomié are not for me to be working, but rather to be learning about the health needs of Lomié and the surrounding villages. He decided that the next week we would do protocol with the gendarmes, the mayor, the chiefs, and the sous-prefect. He then told me that the week after we would discuss how I would spend January and February in village.

Panorama view from the Platfort
The Entrance to My Compound. This is Mama Rosaline's House and Mine is Further to the Left and Down a Hill
Back at home, I spent the next few days acquainting myself with the neighborhood, cleaning my house, and making friends. Mama Rosaline gave me paint for my living room, a light yellow which is a large improvement from the chalky pink haphazard paint job that previously existed (see below). I spent the next two days painting my living room – with Danny and Samedi the first day, and with my new Anglophone friend Frieda,  a 26-year-old woman who is engaged to a man who has a wife in Yaoundé. Wednesday I walked 7km with Samedi to the Lycee Technique to make an order for my bed. $80 later, I had ordered my bed with posts to hold my mosquito net.

Before and After of the Living Room - I Can't Wait Until My Floor is Tiled!
Wednesday night was spent at Danny’s housewarming party in what should have been my house. His house is gorgeous, but just a bit more secluded than mine, although less than a 5 minute walk away. It’s newly built so it has nice floor tiles and a new paint job, but with just a bit of work, my house will eventually look the same! Danny invited his community host, two extremely kind moto men named Moussa and Bouba, our housekeeper, Alfred, as well as a high-school/college-aged girl who lives across from the hospital, named Jeanne. We drank and enjoyed guacamole and talked for hours long after the power was cut.

Danny left for his IST and for vacation on Friday, which leaves me alone in village for the rest of December until I go to Bertoua for the holidays. Time to fend for myself! While I was a bit worried about how I’d manage alone without Danny, I soon found that I kick-ass alone! Not only did I finish painting my living room, I also set up my entire kitchen, began decorating the kitchen, and did other Cameroonian household tasks like fetching water from the well (hello, great arm exercise) since Alfred was m.i.a. for a few days.

My Bedroom
Living Room
Danny joked that by the time he returns in January, I’ll be speaking fluent Zimne, my house will be fully furnished (which he has yet to accomplish three-months in), and I’ll be wearing a kabba and fanning the fire for the fish with fish mama Anne each night. My goal is to have this be a reality (perhaps except the fluent Zimne part). I’m working on getting my house all set up, and after spending way too much money on my bed, I went to visit a kind Muslim man who works his butt off making rattan/bamboo furniture. I entered his shop, he gave me 100CFA of free peanuts, and we discussed what I wanted. He agreed that he would weave me two sofas, a chair, and a table for $120 in just two weeks! That’s a good deal here! After I see my living room furniture in two weeks, I’ll place my orders to my wardrobe, kitchen table set, desk, picture frames, and lampshades. Mission ‘furnish Karen’s house before mid-January’ is off to a good start!

I spent the rest of the weekend socializing around town. I woke up early on Saturday to go to the market right by my house. I bought up all of the nicest looking avocados and pineapples for the Mexican meal I wanted to make for dinner, I socialized with the mama that I always buy my tomatoes and bananas from, and hung out with Fali, the man who has the small frip (think goodwill-like thrift shop). I walked home and stopped by Frieda’s house and we agreed that next week we would start our cooking lessons together. Back at my house, Moussa gave me a surprise visit and we talked about what I would do in Lomié the next two years and he gave me his opinions of the health problems which plague Lomie: poor nutrition, malaria/typhoid, and botched abortions/contraception/AIDS.

My House on the Right, Grant's House on the Left
After spending the afternoon sitting on my Muslim prayer mat and sipping smoothies with Moussa, I continued my Sunday housework. After spending some time checking emails up in the platfort, I descended and soon found that Jules, my counterpart, paid me a visit. He just arrived from Bertoua and bought me a 2014 planner “so I can better plan and organize for the year’s work”. Since I am living on $3, I have to travel to Bertoua on Monday to go to the bank. I walked to the bus station in Lomié and bought my ticket for the 3am bus Monday morning, praying that no large boubillers will derange the route. On my walk home a middle school-age boy stopped me and sang me a 2 minute long rap about how beautiful I am – I was even more surprised when the kid told me that was all he wanted to tell me, and he walked away without deranging me or asking for my phone number. When I got back to my house I saw the mom who lives next to me playing jump rope in my front yard with her 8-or-so children. While child abuse is far the norm throughout Cameroon, I loved seeing this mom be the exception to the rule. She gives me hope that someday child abuse will not be so pervasive here.

I climbed back up into the platfort and sat on the sofa up there and took in the view of the surrounding rainforest. While I have only been in Lomié exactly a week now, I am blown away by the beauty of his village and I am astounded that Lomié is the exception to many of Cameroon's norms. While the stereotypes of the East are negative and while many say Easterners are extremely derange-y, I find that not to be the case in Lomié. I am kindly greeted on the street by elders and children alike. I do typical neighborly things with the woman who lives next door, like borrow her African broom and borrow some flour. While the stereotype is that Easterners don’t work (and while that is of course the case for certain people here), I find that the majority are hard-working and extremely motivated. Not to mention, this town is stunningly gorgeous with the surrounding rainforest, a fact to which I am reminded each morning on my chilly early morning runs, during which the rainforest trees a draped in a thin layer of haze, dew, and fog before the scorching afternoon heat arrives. While I was worried that I had hyped Lomié up too much in my mind, I am surprised at how perfect this paradise is. While I’m sure I will have my bad days eventually, I’m enjoying the present moments of bliss. I’m sure that these times will continue and I look forward to spending two amazing years in this village – starting health projects, enjoying the natural beauty in which I am engulfed, and making lifelong friends. Lomié, bring me all you got!

1 comment:

  1. judy snyder9.12.13

    Love seeing the pics of your house,village and treehouse! You will have it looking stylish and hip in no time!


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