Monday, October 21, 2013

post peace corps

Question; Answer; Actual Answer

Q.  Ohmigod, what was it like?
A.  It was great and hard and rewarding and I loved it, but I'm really happy to be home.
AA.  I hated it so often and I loved it so often and now I miss it so much and I want to go back but I don't ever want to go back again and I miss all my friends and I don't know how to talk to you real people yet and I don't know what to say about anything.  I love consistent running water.

Q.  What's the weirdest thing about coming back to America?
A.  Oh it's just little things I didn't notice before, like how much I love to wash dishes with hot water or how nobody talks to each other in public.
AA.  Sometimes I'm like really pissed off that my WiFi is so slow in my bathtub!

Q.  What did you do over there?
A.  A lot of teaching, traveling, working with groups in the community who seemed willing to try new things, cooking, english classes, whatever I could find really!
AA.  Watched The Wire, twice.

Q.  What's the best thing about being home?
A.  Hot running water, Netflix, reliable public transportation, friends and family, fast internet, my bed, smart phones, the overwhelming clean everywhere, public restrooms, clean clothes, people almost never talk about their weird poop, food options........
AA.  Hot running water.

Q.  What are you going to do next?
A.  [Silence.]

(i'm learning selfie-etiquette)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Oh The Places You'll Go!

I have learned just a remarkable amount in my time here in Cameroon. I've learned how to scream without blushing at a bus-driver to let me off the bus to piss behind a bush, I've learned how to balance on the unevenest of cement latrine floors, I've listened to discussions in my living room during a water outage about who's going to poop on whose poop, I've made direct eye contact with strangers while peeing on the ground, I've made direct eye contact with strangers while they pee on the ground, I've tested out several different squatting methods and been quite proud to find my own, and my latrine muscles are tight! So here it is, my highlight reel of pissers, shitters, alleyways and hallways in Cameroon over the past two years:

  1. Belle Vie, Maroua: this is a sink disguised as a latrine. You enter the bathroom, turn around, hold the door shut with your hand, and back your junk up so that you piss directly into the sink, the sink being the only drain in the bathroom. The tap does not work and there is a message painted on the wall urging users to, “Pee ONLY.”
  2. Treehouse Bar, Yaounde: this is an accuracy latrine, the hole is about the size of a nickel and when I asked someone why (because this passes for bar conversation here) I was told, obviously, so that nobody shits into it. That would be accuracy! Oh and, unrelated to the latrine, this bar is crawling with pimps, madams and their prostitutes. It's very fun.
  3. Kojis, Rhumsiki: one doorless, roofless, toilet-paperless, direct sunlight, fly-ridden outdoor toilet shared by any and all guests at the “hotel,” children come into your room during the day to leave you a jug of water – but they also eat all your brownies if you leave them out (that's actually an awesome forthcoming story).
  4. Thermometre, Bangangte: Bangangte is a delightful town for just about everything except relieving oneself anywhere other than at home, the most notably bad toilet happens to be so bad that you have to pay the waitress to take you across the street to the brothel where, behind a metal roof-panel, you pee while the hookers outside heckle you and chain-smoke cigarettes
  5. Barname Unknown, Yagoua: Upon asking the male server where the latrine was, I was brought to a door, he opened the door and gestured me in while assuring me that he'd be watching the door outside. I went behind the door to find a hallway. No latrine, no drain of any kind, not even a sink to piss in. So I did the natural thing and peed in the hallway. A short time later, my female friend asked where to find the latrine and was brought to the same place. Our male friend – who was living in this village at the time – has been to the bar several times before and since and has been shown to a proper latrine with a door each time.
  6. Matt's House, Bangangte: This is only interesting because ONE TIME, many many months ago, I left a potato in a bucket of water at Matt's house and he used the bucket to flush the toilet, leaving a potato lodged in his plumbing. To extract the potato, he fashioned a toilet-fork out of a wooden stick, duct tape and a fork. The toilet-fork is still propped up against his bathroom wall.
  7. Prescraft, Bamenda: Toilet stalls, toilet paper, locking doors, mirror, running water, soap, towel. This place is a haven. To get there I have to take a two-hour ride on a moto, in a bush taxi, in a city taxi, in a coaster bus, and in a city taxi, but it's always worth it.
  8. John Jack's House, Kaele: I've never been in this bathroom, but it is maybe the most talked-about residential bathroom since obscure pop culture reference here. The details change from person to person, but from what I can surmise, our dear friend John Jack fashioned a “toilet” over his latrine from an adirondack type chair but forgot to pound on the nails on the slats they took out, so not only are you shitting through a lawn chair, but it's probably giving you tetanus.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013


  1. If you live like you're always being threatened, it's only so long before you become the threat. There are more people out there who want to help you than harm you.
  2. Central Africa is built on polyester hair and plastic bags. Every time the rain falls, the hair and bags emerge from the Earth. 
  3. Worrying is too much work and never helps. Planning is a much more efficient use of time. 
  4. Never give anyone money until they ask for it.
  5. You are all you have, even when someone else convinces you otherwise. Trust yourself. 
  6. Eat seasonally. Eat locally.
  7. If you're gonna be in the freak show, at least be the biggest freak.
  8. Jesus was in Cameroon before the Missionaries brought the good word. Trying to convince anyone otherwise – especially an Evangelical minister – will only get you into trouble. Steer all conversations away from the topic of religion. Other topics to avoid: why you don't have children, when you're going to have children, your worth as a woman without children, why you aren't married, why you don't plan to be married, your worth as a woman without a husband, Paul Biya.
  9. The ways we've learned to think and the ways they've learned to think make communicating about ideas incredibly difficult. It's much easier – and less rewarding – to talk about tangible, touchable, reasonable issues.
  10. Never take someone's first price unless it's in writing, and even then, argue.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

23 Months Down

I have nothing to say about it yet that can't be summed up in this photograph. Hat tip to one Elizabeth Harvey for art directing this piece. We may all be better people, but we have been, in so many ways, cameruined here, in completely endearing ways. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

the mountain goats

Do every stupid thing that makes you feel alive.
Do every stupid thing to try to drive the dark away. 
Let people call you crazy for the choices that you make. 
Find limits past the limits.
Jump in front of trains all day 
and stay alive. 
Just stay alive.