Trying to Open at The Close

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These guys are the best – just really love the ability to track down the customer to make the sale.

A school year is defined by chunks that stretch or gather at the seems depending upon the perspective of the person. At this time, we are in the stretch of days being experienced like weeks, and weeks rushing away into hazy memories.

Then, I (we) are trying to just look and remember, to experience with openness, appreciation and thankfulness. To push back on the stress of closing up a two year home, the ending of school years and the graduation of Seniors.

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Safely across the street and heading home after a long – ‘I can’t carry my backpack anymore, mom’ – day.

Tonight the four of us headed up to the bar at the golf course for an ice cream and a couple of Cameroonian Guinness’. The area was set up for a dinner and awards ceremony from the Royal Air Maroc sponsored golf tournament so we dragged chairs out of the way and sat overlooking the 8th hole and tried to place things in context.

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The freshest of style and a red gate of a Chinese restaurant.

This we is what we figured out: nothing is everything; happiness is a perspective and resilience is key to being mostly happy, some of the time; Zanzibar should be named Catabar (Shea) and the lack of MS recess is no big deal (Quinn). The beers were empty, the ice cream eaten and we walked back chatting about this and that while the dance music pulsed and the fireflies came out to play. Now Monday wants some attention.

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Sheets of persistence on the streets – the vendor will come over to make the sale even if the car is moving.

 

Failing to Fail, succeeding success

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This spot has be collecting and burning four times this year. Thousands of bottles up in smoke.

As a teacher, I confront failure as a lovely, meaningless cliché. As an adult, I chafe, worry and am angry with failure. Thus, failing to fail correctly. There’s no failure, but there is.

We have failed the precious plastic project. Finding a place in Cameroon that could make a sustainable (read: affordable) and accessible metal manufacturer was beyond all involved. The need of the project is still being lit on fire and then discussed – weekly; so there are still attempts to maybe buy parts and then ship to Cameroon or there are some options that other people have shown interest in, or?

But for me, this project ended in failure, which is again, to state how much I learned about metal manufacturing in Yaoundé and how good ideas are killed by the little details. Or just bitter disappointment.

Success:

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Out with the old and in with a new place to shower and three private stalls.

From the good work of Michelle, Charles and Liza, Colleen and I where able to push forward the latrine project.  To overcome the details, personality conflicts, worries and rain, plus a hideous amount of bedrock for the construction of a sanitary and usable shower for the 27 orphans who previously took bucket showers and shared one hole.

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Permanent, sanitary and with running water  – not perfect, but this is a good thing.

This is something that will change lives and matter.  We didn’t do much, but try to provide connections to happen and a face to all who donated money.  You, who helped, (or will start to help) have given opportunity to hundreds of young people with just a small donation.

I know how these projects can seem like a bother or how a little won’t help much. I live here, see the work being done and can see the physical and emotional change within those affected and yet still struggle with questioning how to keep helping.

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Not sad or broken, just in need for some support from a larger community.

At this point there is just the need for money that goes directly into feeding the students at a level that is just normal.  The money matters; this is not some organization that has bureaucracy, or might drink away the money, be a scam, or just feel off.  There is literally one woman, The Sister and 27 children and of course you. Every bit that is given is worth something so keep it coming, even though we are leaving.

 

 

 

 

 

In The Space of Time

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Squint your eyes a little and this wall turns into a setting sun over a deepening even sky.

Yes, this will be a little cheesy, but really, I’m not really lying here, when I state that this wall is like a canvas. A blank area that gets imprinted with hunks of life and if I’m in the right mood, I can experience and marvel at the colors and humanity.

we drive by twice a day during the daily commute. With the dry season gone and roughly each afternoon bringing the rain, the wall is washed. Ready for the next tableau.

Then the bright colors of painted walls, the taxis, clothes, bananas and the setting sun all combine to make Cameroon a visually stimulating palette. This wall is always singing that song.

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A simple story – a needed truck with a hard to replace tire – parked/placed in a non parking spot. This is the life line for farmers – tomatoes can’t walk to market.

Lining the road next to the wall is a ditch that carries the deluge of water as it rains, is only partially covered dnager, yet a sign of a tremendous amount of work – a hand dug, hand poured cement trench many kilometers long. More than once these ditches have swallowed the back tire forcing the car to rear up like a frightened horse.

Most days though, the wall is covered by taxis and trucks. Still, two years in, the wall is a wonder, takes a flashing moment of beauty to hold my attention.

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Moments later we are cursing the exhaust pipe that is the perfect height to block us all.

How many more taxis?

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Gorgeous, modern and empty. Offices for the future of something.

Does a city of 2 million need before the roads stop working. The growth of Yaoundé can be felt in how slow we drive, how many dump trucks grumble by with listing loads of dirt, gravel, and tomatoes. For the past couple of years, Cameroon has experienced a nice level of expansion and growth. We measure it in strange sights of Porsche SUVs and brand new Land Rovers. Those are the flashy bits – the expendable signs of wealth.

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A mansion? An apartment? A place that might be empty for a long time, yes, that is for sure.

But the stability is in cement, as tall and wide as possible. There are new cement block buildings sprouting new apartments, offices and mansions. On our road alone, there are seven multi-unit buildings being built brick by brick, hand over hand, rippling muscle shoveling piles of sand.

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A wall to keep those things that need to be separate

This is money in the bank for Cameroonians who want their wealth to keep generating wealth. Most of these buildings will stay empty, as the imbalance of wealth continues to keep new apartments out of the reach of many. So, the grey palaces are waiting for the right time to be filled and used. Villages are emptying and Yaoundé is expanding with more jobs, possible chances of hope and one more taxi hoping to drive the day and make their 3 dollars profit to keep everything going.

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Built when there is extra money – with the knowledge that cement doesn’t rot – a retirement fund.

Moving to The Middle of the World

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At 4,381 people per square kilometer, Bangalore is teaming with life

Monkeys are turning out to be the big draw.  We attempt to emphasize the vast history of the second most populous country during dinner time conversations while throwing out words like: mega city, dosas, Taj Mahal and cradle of civilization. They just think about the future uniforms, worry a little about finding friends again and (of course) bandwidth.

A measure of appeal of a future middle school brain and his little sister’s has become how fast Youtube can load. Next year we are going to be living and teaching in Bangalore, India. At this point the move seems exhausting and too soon after only two years in Cameroon.

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Colleen and I find the idea of street food really exciting. Standing around eating with traffic and tired feet with encroaching monkeys.

Then there is food…’Will there be KFC, Dominos?’ So much for the diverse palette of world cuisine, our children’s tongues are drawn to the rare and almost mythical fast food. We answer, ‘There is a Hard Rock Cafe with hamburgers, though with traffic it can be a two hour taxi ride.’ This is not good news. So we circle back to monkeys.

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Canadian International School, the future site of our newly minted MS student and his increasingly charming elementary sister.

This move will mark the third conscious choice to live outside of our home country, establishing a constant orbit around America, only landing in the summer time for burritos and road trips to see friends and family.

We now have to ask everyone to consider a visit and attempt to capture some of the vast and diverse culture that is India. You’ll have a free place to stay in Bangalore, monkeys included.

From Pam with Love

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Come for the pita chips, stay for the wedding dresses.

There was a long time that the dusty shelves held that which no one wanted…the place was empty  for most of this year…October, they said and we went away. Of course the prom dresses, random kitchen supplies and beauty products remained. Then we heard that Ranch dressing had arrived, a drive-by revealed the stocked shelves – the container from Baltimore, filled by Pam, a Cameroonian woman, living in America, had finally arrived in Yaoundé.

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For your parties, for your nuptials, Pam will also girth your body in many shades of red, pink and blue. Maybe even throw in some white plastic chairs for cheap.

 

 

We drove in on Thursday after school, grabbing a worn box of Lucky Charms (the most wanted of the evilest of cereals), all 7 cans of black beans, a jar of salsa, salad dressing and some instant ramen noodles; the most wanted of the processed American foods.

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Word spread quickly that Pam’s was holding the goods and many descended upon the momentary accessibility of American packaged foods – and then we hope..

Pam’s is a picture of how connected the world is (corn flakes and walmart’s nutella) and how distinctly limited Yaoundé can be within a massive five story empty box.  There is money here, just not enough opportunity or stability to make it so that I can buy pita chips more than once a year.

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Pam’s mezzanine has enough flare to look like a potential hip new start up where the app is meant for off-the-grid-back-to-Earther who loves a simple cement open floor plan.

Of course, the point really is that I shouldn’t be able to buy pita chips, made in America and shipped to Cameroon. This very thing is bad, bad, bad for the world. Too much energy wasted for the lasting (they were eaten in a night). Simply put, my needs are destroying that which I want; an Earth with sustainable pita chip creation.