I have a small confession: I have done almost no work so far this month. I had plans, oh yes I did. I rushed back to post after the National Girls Forum (instead of, say, traveling to parts of Cameroon I have not yet seen) with the expectation that I had a busy month ahead of me. The Youth Center I have been working with had gotten funding from the mayor’s office for its summer activities a few weeks before, the activities were to be launched on July the 4th, there was a lot of planning still to be done, and I was going to help as a member of the center’s staff. There was going to be a reforestation program, sports tournaments, leadership training, and workshops on HIV/AIDS and reproductive health. I was excited to be involved.
My counterpart, the director of the youth center, came back to post after NGF on July the 1st, only to be immediately summoned back to Garoua by his boss. That was a long day of travel for him. I did actually do some work on July the 2nd, when my counterpart and I met with people at city hall and wrote a speech for the Prefet to give during the opening ceremony two days later. (When I say that we wrote it, I mean that I mostly just took dictation, as the only person present that had grown up in a society where children often learn touch typing in primary school. It is not an exaggeration to say that many Cameroonians would have no idea how to turn on a computer, and those that do tend to slowly pick away at the keyboard. Even with my numerous errors in French grammar and orthography, this was a way to speed the process.) The next day, I waited patiently for a phone call from my counterpart, who was still waiting to meet with the mayor himself, to be summoned to meet with him for more planning and work. When the phone call finally did come that afternoon, it served only to tell me that the launch ceremony the next day had been cancelled, and that my counterpart would be going back to Garoua instead.
This didn’t make my 4th of July a total bust. Rather it meant that I could leave post in the morning rather than waiting until after the ceremony to go celebrate America’s fête national with other Volunteers. We grilled cheeseburgers and made potato salad, ranch dip and guacamole with veggies, and apple pie, then toasted the US of A late into the night.
Then on July the 5th I woke to find that I had nothing to do with myself for the rest of the month, save wait to hear from my counterpart who was soon on his way back south to Yaoundé. I would be heading south myself to head back to the US for a bit of a vacation in a few weeks, so I wasn’t about to try and start anything.
On Monday it rained for most of the day, which is to say that I stayed inside, drank hot chocolate, and watched a season of Portlandia. It is Ramadan now, though to be quite frank, only a little over half of my town is Muslim, and they can’t just stop working the fields now that it’s rainy season, so the holy month has not slowed things as much as I thought it might. Still, nothing really happens in Cameroon when it rains. Meetings get cancelled, children skip school (though school is out by now), and people generally stay in.
My cell network wasn’t letting me make calls for most of the day, even though my phone claimed that I had several bars, but I eventually got through to my counterpart. He is back in town, and was hoping to meet with the mayor the next day, and then he would call me and we can get back to work.
I finally heard from him this morning. He still has not been able to meet with the mayor. I have to admit I am a little less optimistic this time around, but hey, it might work out, even if it doesn’t happen before I leave for my vacation in a week.