1.16.2014

Shrooms and Babies

Shrooms, on Shrooms, on Shrooms
As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been helping out with a mushroom project started by my postmate, Grant. Tuesday was the first cultivation of the mushrooms, with two more  to occur over the next couple of weeks. In February we will plant the spores for the next batch of mushrooms. It’s a really neat project to be a part of because it incorporates health, community economic development, and agriculture, so basically each of us PCVs here in Lomié can play our own part.

After a failed pre-natal clinic Tuesday morning at the district hospital, I needed a success. Thankfully the mushroom cultivation was just that. Danny and I walked over to Minlo’s house where the small mushroom house is located. We saw about 11 large gateaux of mushroom heads proudly peaking out of their mais-filled plastic bags. These aren’t your mama’s cremini mushrooms, that is for sure!
Atangana, one of the two undeclared ‘heads’ of the mushroom project, began to chop off the mushrooms, place them in our collection bucket and then proceeded to poke holes in the mais-filled bags, dunk them in water to reactivate the spores, and then placed them back on the shelves, where we hope they will produce some more mushrooms, so long as the mice don’t get them first.

Once Atangana finished chopping off all the gateaux, we took the two buckets full of mushrooms chez moi to prepare some food. I took a recipe I had which used all local ingredients that can be found daily at the market, such as rice, basil, celery, parsley, green onion, and piment, and I made a stew. Unfortunately I greatly underestimated the quantity of water I needed, so the rice soaked up nearly all the water I put in the large marmite, making my stew more of a rice sauté. But ca-va! I sautéed the mushrooms in a bit of oil and vinegar and added them at the last minute. Half the group was sitting in my living room and I served them all bowls of the stew. I was terrified they would hate it because Cameroonians have quite different tastes, but everyone finished their portions and said it was delicious and the best mushroom dish they’ve had (perhaps they’ve never had a mushroom dish before, because I thought it was lack-luster!). We sat and talked about gorillas and elephants and other wildlife in the Dja while we waited for the other half of the group to come to sample my stew.
Atangana Cutting the Mushrooms

Once we were done, we headed over to Gustavo’s where he had prepared mushrooms sautéed in balsamic, which was a delicious meal, but impossible for Cameroonians to replicated given that balsamic exists only in large cities and is more a delicacy item. But believe me, tasting that balsamic was just like tasting a bit of America! We asked the group for suggestions and they said that all the food was great but that mine was a bit more adaptable to Cameroonian recipes and is easier and cheaper to replicate. I then suggested that given these are American recipes, we need to try traditional Cameroonian dishes prepared with mushrooms added so that during the mushroom exposition we have next month we can better explain how mushrooms can be incorporated into local cuisine. We agreed that tonight (Thursday) we would try cooking some Cameroonian meals with the newest mushroom sprouts. Honestly, what I’m really excited about it eating for free, given that I’m down to my last 10$ again.

Yesterday I had a successful day interviewing my counterpart for the large report I have to submit in February. After our long discussion, I walked over the high school to ask if a student health club exists. The principle said there is, and that if I return on Friday morning I can meet the boy in charge. I hope that I can begin attending this health group and perhaps begin holding some sessions on safe sex and family planning in the future.

This morning after my run, daily market visit, and breakfast with Danny, I went to observe the pre-natal consultations (CPN) at the Catholic mission hospital near my house. I entered and there was around 20 women waiting around, which is a drastic difference than the 0 women waiting at the last CPN at the district hospital. The nurse gathered all the women on the outside veranda and held an information session on the importance of getting vaccinated against tetanus while pregnant. At the end of her lecture the nurse held a Q&A session where a few of the woman asked questions such as “Why does my fetus make me angry and not happy?” and “What causes deformities?”, the latter question I wanted to respond ‘All the dang alcohol ya’ll drink while pregnant and then feed the infant like it’s water after it’s born!’, but I managed to bite my tongue. Overall, the CPN was really enlightening to observe. The nurses had a good format and everything was very well organized, which is a rarity here (it even started on time, say what?!). The only thing lacking is ways to keep the pregnant woman interested and engaged. I’d love in the future if I could help develop interactive methods to incorporate more audience participation and discussion so that the woman benefit more from the sessions.

While a week ago I was stressing out over the fact I had little ideas for projects I can start here in Lomié, I now I have a list of possible projects (both feasible and less feasible) which I can begin here. While I’m mainly looking forward to IST to see my stagemates again, I’m also really excited to get some projects lined up to start in the coming months. Here’s to a good end to the week and hopefully some delicious (free) Cameroonian food tonight!

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