Friday, November 28, 2008

Just a Glimpse

I didn't feel right about putting that last post up with no pictures, so here is just a glimpse of what I summarized in the previous post. Plus a little bonus from this very evening.

The funeral in the West...

Eating fried fish heads with Magy at Nancy & Gretchen's place...

With the proud parents and baby after the dedication service...

And here's your bonus photo!

Too Busy to Blog

In a week I'll be back in San Francisco, transitioning my life from Cameroon back to the Bay Area. It's starting to seem real, which means there's a lot I'd like to do before going! So I'm getting right on it, selling off a few last items, packing every nook of my suitcases, figuring out logistics, saying goodbyes. It will be a full week.

The past few weeks have also been full, so let me offer my explanation for not posting in quite a while: my final Cameroonian Travel Odyssey! I left Yaounde on Friday 14 November with my friend Thierry, and spent that weekend attending the burial and funeral celebration of his maternal grandmother in the village of Bafou. After that, I spent a few days with Nancy and Gretchen in their part of Bafou, reading and going for walks and eating delicious healthy food. Then I bussed up to Bamenda for the dedication of baby Grace, and we finally made our way back to Yaounde on Tuesday 25 November. It was a wonderful journey, and also the longest period I've been away from running water. Nothing like that first shower after getting back.

So there will certainly be a few more posts on this blog, but perhaps not until after I'm back in the United States. (I hope that doesn't detract from the authenticity of my reporting.) Saying goodbye to this place will still be hard, but I'm ready to close this amazing and complex experience, and more than ready to see my husband!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cooking Lessons

Hello everyone, and welcome to my yard. I'm so glad you could all be here.

My name is Edwin, and I am coming up on two years old, though my extremely cool appearance may lead you to believe I am far older. Today I'd like to tell you about the day my friend Ann came over to learn how to cook some proper African food from Melanie, my mother. My mother is a good cook, so I figured she'd be a fine teacher for Ann. (These are Ann's sunglasses -- I found them on the desk where she'd set them, put them on, and proudly marched into the kitchen. Everyone seemed to like my new look, so I kept them on for a while.) Behind me in this picture is my eldest brother Patrick, who took most of the following pictures. (I have two more elder brothers and one elder sister too, but they were off at school.)

The featured meal in today's lesson was greens with peanut sauce, served with cocoyams. The ladies started off with a huge pile of greens fresh from the market, separating the leaves from the stems. They even did their hair the same way. Hmmm...

Then they brought them to the outdoor fire to cook in a big pot. Here you see me supervising as my mom puts the greens into the boiling water.

While we waited for the greens to cook down, we sat on the woodpile in the shade of the house and ate some oranges. You may have your own ways of eating an orange, but here we peel off the outer rind (leaving the white part), cut the fruit in half, and suck out the juice from each half, spitting seeds all over the yard.

Here you see Ann stirring the big pot to make sure all the greens are evenly cooked. She seemed to be enjoying herself already.

After the greens were cooked, rinsed, and drained, it was time for the groundnuts. They roasted them over the outdoor fire, then Ann used the grinder to make them into a nice paste. She liked turning the big crank, and kept right on grinding through some other ingredients: tomatoes, celery, garlic, ginger, hot pepper, and the like. It made a very nice sauce base.

Then the two of them took two smoked dried fish and separated out all the edible parts, including the heads of course, to add to the sauce later. My big brother Patrick peeled all the cocoyams (it was a big bucket full!) and washed them, putting them in a big pot on the outdoor fire to cook.

Finally it was time to start putting everything together. This called for the indoor fire, a single gas burner. Here is Ann adding the sauce ingredients to some hot oil, as my mother cuts the cooked greens into small bits.

Here's Ann stirring again. I think she likes to stir things. By this time, everything was all together in the big pot, greens, fish parts, sauce, groundnut paste, and some water. It sure smelled good. Ann and I ran around and played some hide-and-seek while we waited for everything to cook.

At last, the cooks get to taste the fruits of their labors! It was very tasty. I ate two big pieces of cocoyam before the greens were finished cooking, but by the time they gave me my little plate of food (see it there on the table?), I was getting kind of grumpy and went to take a nap. Later when I woke up, Ann was still there, and they had saved my plate of food for me. One of my other brothers got home from school and he thought the food was good too. Ann left to return to her house, so we said goodbye because it was time for my bath. It was a good day, and I think she learned quite a lot about how to cook a good meal.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I'm tired. Spent the night at the house of friends with cable television, lying on their couch watching CNN, didn't sleep but an hour. I was far too riveted by the history unfolding before my eyes. First time I've been out of the US during a presidential election, but boy howdy, the world sure is watching this one. I am very excited about my new president this morning. As is nearly every single Cameroonian.

Again: YAAAAAAAAY!!!!!

Now I'm off to market, then off to bed for a long nap.
God bless America.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

O Canada

You know, Cameroon and Canada have more in common than first-two-letters or number-of-syllables. They are also French/English bilingual countries. And they also both celebrated Thanksgiving this October. In Canada it was probably quite simple -- everyone was doing it. But in Cameroon, it was the proud, the few, the fine residents of Cabtal apartments (and a few friends) who chose to lift up this fine holiday and celebrate with our two resident Canadians, Lois and Teresa. How does one go about celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving in Cameroon? Well, the ever-fabulous Kerry was pretty much the event mastermind, and directed us all in producing an impressive feast!

The first step: we cleared all the furniture out of Kerry's apartment and cobbled together a looong table, bringing in chairs, tables, and dishes from other apartments until there was enough for all.

Lots of neighbors worked together to prepare all those delicious Thanksgiving foods everyone loves, and laid them on the table. A few people arrived...

...and then a LOT of people. In the end, we were nineteen in all. We passed dishes around, serving ourselves, helping each other out.

Everyone ended up with a plate something like this: roast chicken, two kinds of stuffing, cranberry sauce, garlic mashed potatoes with gravy, cooked carrots, green beans with mushroom cream sauce, whole wheat roll with butter...ohhhh, we were very happy.

Zone-Zone definitely approved of his first Thanksgiving experience. He brought his own style to the meal, forming his mashed potatoes and gravy into a large round 'lake' in the style of a local dish called achu, and keeping his bottle of piment (hot pepper) oil close at hand.

Kerry was most pleased with the results of all the efforts, and rightly so!

Everyone was in a mighty good mood after such a delicious meal, but we got even happier as we stood up and made our way over to Lois and Julia's apartment for dessert. We talked about what we were thankful for as we digested a bit more, then attacked a magnificent spread of desserts.

There was pumpkin pie, apple pie, real whipped cream, chocolate chip cookie bars, and that chocolate-sprinkled whipped-cream creation at the top left is something officially called 'sex in a pan,' but renamed 'farmer's delight' many years ago by Lois' family, who apparently had some reservations about the original title.

In the end, we were all filled with food and gratitude, feeling especially fortunate to have celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in Cameroon, and looking forward to feasting yet again in November for American Thanksgiving!