Mango Season

During Pre-Service Training we all had interviews with our Program Managers about how we were getting on and what we wanted out of our posts. I told Amadou that what I really did not want was a lot of heat. Yes, there are places in Cameroon that are not terribly hot. There are posts in the North West where temperatures are in the 70s for much of the year. I have heard that there’s a town in the mountains of that region where it even gets down to the 40s.

To be fair, I did specify that it was humid heat in particular that I could not stand, but I wanted as little heat as possible.

Ever since I first got to the North, people have been telling me about hot season. I’ve heard that I would be dumping water on myself with my clothes still on to keep cool. I have heard that if I have a walled concession, I should just sleep outside at night, or alternatively dump water all over my bed and just hope to fall asleep before it finishes evaporating. I’ve been told not to worry, because once you get to 100 or 110 degrees, everything after that pretty much feels the same, anyway.

Now that it is March, hot season is officially here, and should continue (and probably get hotter) until the rains start in May. I have no way of knowing the current temperature at my post, except to look up the forecast for Garoua (high of 106 for today) and assume it is at least a little bit lower (my town does have the reputation of being on the cool side for the North – thanks, Amadou!). I have not gotten to the point of dumping water on myself while clothed, or sleeping on a wet mattress – so far. This is especially good, since the water pump closest to my house seems to have stopped working, so every ounce of water has to be hauled twice as far under the blazing sun.

But there is a bright spot in all this. For the last week or so I have been gazing longingly at small green fruit that seem to be dripping from the branches of the trees around here – and today I purchased and ate my first mangos of the season!

Now I just can’t wait to be able to plug in my fridge and actually drink some cold water.

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Water!

So I have now been in Bafia, Cameroon, for what, three or four weeks? It is currently the rainy season, and I keep remembering what someone told me about a week before I left the US: Cameroon in the rainy season is characterized by a lot of mud, and Cameroon in the dry season in characterized by a lot of dust. I’ve definitely gotten to experience some of that mud.

Bafia, I am told, is pretty modern and developed for Cameroon (especially compared to some of the places that a lot of us will be posted), but it probably shouldn’t surprise you to hear that I live on a dirt road that quickly turns to mud in the rain. I do, however, have a bathroom in my homestay house, complete with a sink, a toilette, and a shower head with a drain underneath it – and water doesn’t come out of any of them. Instead, I or others in my family have to go to the well in the yard across the street to carry water for use in the bathroom.

Luckily, the water that comes out of that well is clear, and I suspect treated, because a lot of other trainees and their families have to go all the way to the water pump to get water that clear, and man, is water heavy. Still even with the clear and probably treated water, I chlorinate it and put it through a Peace Corps issued filter before drinking it. A couple of trainees have had amoebas, and another found a round worm in the top (unfiltered) part of her water filter that definitely wasn’t a worm yet when she put the water in, and those are things I would like to avoid ingesting for as long as possible. Fresh fruits and veggies have to be soaked in water with bleach before being eaten raw, and other foods, especially involving water, have to be heated to a boil.

Laundry water does not need any special treatment, but it is a whole different experience to do that by hand and then worry about having enough sun to be able to dry it outside during the rainy season. Of course by the end of November I am told it will be the dry season again, and quite hot. By January Bafia’s wells will be running dry, and everyone will have to go to the water pump.

Of course by then I will be at my own post, and the whole water situation will probably be completely different.