September 16, 2003 - Youngstown Vindicator: Life in Cameroon grows on Peace Corps Volunteer Corey Ballantyne

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Cameroon: Peace Corps Cameroon: The Peace Corps in Cameroon: September 16, 2003 - Youngstown Vindicator: Life in Cameroon grows on Peace Corps Volunteer Corey Ballantyne

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 1:38 pm: Edit Post

Life in Cameroon grows on Peace Corps Volunteer Corey Ballantyne



Life in Cameroon grows on Peace Corps Volunteer Corey Ballantyne

Cameroon is an experience that grows on you

By COREY BALLANTYNE

SPECIAL TO THE VINDICATOR

Some days Cameroon grows on you meaning you grow fond of it.

Other days, its living things grow on you, from four out of the five kingdoms:

* Animals (ticks, chiggers, worms).

* Fungi (athlete's foot, yeast infections).

* Bacteria.

* Protozoans (amoebas, giardia, and I think Plasmodium, which causes malaria).

But seriously, you can learn to like this habitat.

The coolest thing about this part of the earth is the geckos. They are so cute! And they eat mosquitoes, which makes them our allies against malaria.

It's always fun to spot one because you don't see them all the time. They are gray or brown and, I'm guessing, 6-15 centimeters long.

Yesterday I saw a little one camouflaged on an old tire. Last night, I looked out a window and saw one run across the outside of the screen.

Wild animals such as geckos do not normally get inside Peace Corps volunteers' houses because we screen our windows. (If you don't screen your windows to keep mosquitoes out, you are taking your life into your hands, and you'd better have your emergency malaria treatment handy.)

We like the lizards, too. They are about 8 inches long and have wide stripes of yellow, orange, white, and black. They do push-ups. No, I don't know why. They don't seem to be able to walk on ceilings or vertical walls like geckos do. I have no books to read up on them, but I'm sure you could.

The jungle

Traveling east the other day for the first time, I saw what I now think of as "ordinary" Cameroonian vegetation transform into dense jungle.

Our posts were announced last week, and we had to visit them this week. The six trainees going to the East Province are posted in towns along the same road Abong-Mbang, Dimako, Bertoua, Batouri, Ndelele so we started out together.

From Abong-Mbang to my post in Bertoua, the short, stubby palm trees gave way to larger palm trees and other tall trees.

These, in turn, fused into no-holds-barred jungle, and separated into two layers, before my eyes.

Seeing the canopy layer form felt like discovering something that you assumed was mere legend like meeting Bigfoot or the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow because the canopy is something I have only read about.

What it is

The canopy is the trees that grow tall fast to fight one another for space in the sun. Beneath their leaves is a gap, where you see only the bare part of their spindly trunks. On the ground below is a thick tangle of shorter, shade-dwelling plants.

The East Province of Cameroon is also the place where I saw the widest trees I have ever seen all stacked on the backs of logging trucks. Three feet in diameter, maybe, and none less than about 2 feet.

Litter is also prevalent. A volunteer who is now in her third year here has reportedly commented that "the whole country is a bathroom and a trash can."

Naturally, you throw your banana peels on the ground all across Cameroon. They decompose in no time. That's what jungle is all about.

No doubt, Cameroonians, human and otherwise, have been throwing their biodegradable trash on the ground for many millennia, since long before the word biodegradable even existed.

The thing is, people haven't decided thus far that you don't throw your plastic trash on the ground. Sometimes they burn it, adding to the nauseating air pollution, but a lot of trash is tossed aside before reaching the trash can or heap to be burned, and I don't think anyone cleans it up like we do in the United States.

And if you could see people's environment here, you would understand why it is not obvious that old jungle trees are more precious alive than as lumber.

Everywhere you look, it seems that it is the vegetation that is threatening to overgrow the people rather than vice versa.

There's almost no avoiding the sight of nature, but pure, unspoiled nature doesn't seem to be an idea that people think about.

Besides, logging companies bring jobs, and some people here hover on the brink of starvation.



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Story Source: Youngstown Vindicator

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Cameroon; PCVs in the Field - Cameroon

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