Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wam Kara's first album release project launched today!

Just an update, the project to release Wam Kara's first cd has just launched on Kickstarter. Please check it out at And please donate, even a few dollars, if you are able! The project will be up there for 40 days. Teh listed goal is $1000, which will allow them to produce CDs, but we are really going for $1800, to be able to produce the CDs at a better quality. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!

See post from March 5th for more info!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Last day in Cameroon

Today I'm heading to the airport in Douala in about 5 hours! I had a nice, but somewhat alone last night in Cameroon, getting here at 4 pm and not knowing what to do with myself!. I ate one last plate of Ndole and plantains at the restaurant next door, and then called different friends from Garoua and Mafa Kilda say goodbye, took a wonderful shower, and watched tv--trace and a hausa soap opera. Ha.

Heading out of Yaounde

Well, I'm taking the bus for Douala in about an hour. I'll spend the night in Douala and then fly out of Cameroon tomorrow afternoon! I am heading to Ethiopia for a week, to see one of my high school and college friends who is a foreign service officer at the embassy in Addis Ababa. She has been there for about 2 years now and I'm excited to see her world there as well as a bit of the capital and other areas! Then I will head on home, arriving the 16th. Just in time for Spring!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Help Release Wam Kara's first album

Before I leave here, and get back, and might start to lose some of my readership, I wanted to tell you all about an initiative I'm undertaking to support some of my friends here, talented musicians in a group called Wam Kara, in Garoua.

Of the two years I spent in Garoua, their group was one of the best I heard. They have been together for four years now, but have not been able to release/produce their album (which is already recorded). In fact, in 2008, they were chosen through a panel of judges, to represent the North Province for the music catagory of the Festival of Arts and Culture held in Maroua. At the Festival, the representatives of each of the 10 regions in Cameroon competed, and Wam Kara won best music group. From this, the ministry of culture was supposed to give them a cash prize as well as a trophy/award. On top of that, they should have helped them pay for releasing their album and set up a tour. But, none of those three things ever happened (for any of the groups in fact). So they are there, blocked from being able to be known in the rest of Cameroon and advance as a group.
As a fellow artist as well as a friend of members in the group, I hate to see them discouraged like this, and talking about the pointlessness of continuing, without any hope for the future. They feel that if they can just release their album, it will help get their name out there, help them get other gigs set up, and raise a bit of money through tours and the sale of the albums. So, I want to help them out. I will be mounting a fundraising project for the release of their album on the website It is a website that helps raise money for artistic endeavors, combining patronage with commerce. People set up projects which can be donated to by anyone online. Usually, in exchange for a donation, there are gifts. First of all check out the website, because its a great site with some great projects! Second, check back here in the near future, or contact me directly, and I will send you the link for our project. It will only be posted for about 30 days. In that time, we will have to raise all of the $1,000 we are hoping for in pledges, or nothing will be given. So feel free to help out, even with a $1 donation! Its a great way to help support some great Cameroonian musicians as well as the Cameroonian music scene!
Update March 24th: the project was launched today on Kickstarter. Please go online to in order to pledge donations! It will be up there for 40 days, and it's an all or nothing deal, so if we don't reach our goal we don't get any of the funds pledged. We have listed $1,000 as our goal, but we are really hoping for $1,800 in order to produce the CDs at a better quality. Our donations can go above and beyond our listed goal, so if we're over $1,000, don't hesitate to pledge. Even a $1 a person helps move us forward! We are counting on your support!

Augusto Kara playing Calabash percussion

The Moloru, a traditional 3 string lute

Friday, March 4, 2011

Gonging out Ceremony

Wednesday, Grover and I had our "gonging out" ceremony. This is somewhat of a Peace Corps Cameroon tradition, where people who are COSing, right before leaving, have a little ceremony with the Country Director, Program Director and any other staff or volunteers who are around. The gonging calls everyone together and highlights certain moments. During this time the Program Director shares with everyone a little about the volunteers work, and anyone shares any memories or comments about the volunteer, a bit of a hot seat situation. We also have a chance to speak as volunteers. Then certificates are handed out and the Peace Corps Cameroon pin (which we are all encouraged to wear to any job interviews). While usually there are 4 or 5 volunteers, it was only Grover and me COSing this week, which was nice. We came in together, both as agroforestry volunteers, and both of us extended 3 months. We went through the process of our medical clearance and other administration paperwork and interviews together. He flew out last night.

David Tiamadjo and "the gong"

Country Director Lahoma Romocki
Getting language level certificates

Country Director Lahoma Romocki, Agroforestry Program Director Tiki Theophile Manga, and Program and Training Officer Kim Ahanda

Agroforestry Ho'yay
(stop talking to donkeys)

Friday, February 25, 2011

What I am looking forward to, coming home

As I posted recently on what I will miss in Cameroon, I wanted to also post some of the things I am most looking forward to in the states in the next few months and year.

Of course first and foremost, I am so excited about spending time with my family, and after that, my friends. I will be home in Charlottesville for the whole summer until the fall, and I am looking so forward to living with my sister, and hanging out with my parents and just being with them. I do hope to be able to take a few road trips and visit some friends who are a little farther away from Charlottesville, perhaps to NY. And I am looking so forward to just being able to call up friends to chat for a few minutes.

Over the past year I have read some books and become very interested in permaculture. Permaculture is the combination of ideas of sustainable agriculture/livestock raising and design principles, so that one can design systems which are energy efficient and ecologically balanced. These systems may be on a home scale (i.e. architecture) or a farm scale, or even neighborhood or community/city. The fact that it combines art aspects with ecology and agriculture means it marries two of the major interests in my life. And so I am very excited about this idea. There are 2 week certification courses in Permaculture, given throughout the country. I am looking for one in the VA/NC area, and am looking forward to getting certification in permaculture, perhaps opening opportunities in permaculture consulting down the road. (check out the book Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison if you're interested!)

I have applied to four graduate schools in the area of Natural Resources and Forestry for starting in the fall. I am waiting to hear back from their admissions departments, and am looking forward to starting work on a Masters. I hope that I might be able to take my experiences in Cameroon and translate them into research work, and perhaps return to Cameroon in the area of research a few years down the road.

I have really missed art while I have been in Cameroon, and that is one of the reasons I spent so much time at the Alliance Franco-Camerounaise. Still, I am so excited to be in Charlottesville, for First Fridays, for concerts, just for the art that is available. There is a new arts initiative, which some members of our church, Trinity Presbyterian are involved with, along with other artists in the community. It is called New City Arts Initiative and is made up of artists (and perhaps art lovers) in the community who are active in many mediums and genres, and who get together for converstaions, discussions, projects, art shows. I am very excited to get involved with this initiative! I had the chance to do some painting here in Cameroon and am going home with 13 oil paintings, as well as a few watercolors. I do hope to be able to show them at some point, maybe as a homecoming or Cameroonian themed party, especially in the hopes of educating Americans about Cameroon and Cameroonian culture and people.
Finally, I am hoping to help some musician friends in Cameroon release their first album. I may try to do some fundraising parties, or try to sell some Cameroonian themed paintings in order to help them raise the money for the release. Look for more news down the road on this initiative! Im happy to have the possibility of staying connected with my friends and the culture in Cameroon as well share my experience in Cameroon through a project like this. Please ask me for more information if you are interested!

Leaving Garoua

Well, today I'm heading out of Garoua, for the last time, for now. I'm taking all my stuff to Mafa Kilda, where I will spend the night and say goodbye to all my friends there. Then in the morning I'll catch the bus to Ngoundere on the side of the road. I'll spend the night in Ngoundere as well, to take the train to Yaounde Sunday night. It's hard to believe! It's also hard to believe that I'm feeling very calm. This is an answer to prayers! I've been making the rounds saying goodbyes to people, and most everyone I've gotten to see. IAnd, thankfully, my things are packed up pretty nicely, with a few overflow items. I just went to the Alliance and said goodbye to some resident artists, picking up a few more last minute gifts and chatting with friends. It seemed like I could be back next week. As I cross the bridge over the Benoue, one more time, heading south out of Garoua, I'll say goodbye to the hippos, whose backs are well visible out of the dry season water level. The last time I crossed it, I counted 12 or 13!

I actually haven't written much lately at all, on the blog or in my personal journal even. Probably because my emotions have been so rollercoaster, so much has been going on in my head, that I haven't even attempted to try to write about it. Maybe I'll regret it later, but I think it has allowed me to be a little less frazeled and get on with the packing and trip. A few things I have noted, mentally: looking forward to the future, and what comes next has helped me not dwell on the past and present and things I will be leaving behind. Having a feeling that I will be back to visit in the not to far future has helped it be easier to leave this time...although this could be an illusion, as I may find the road back here to be much longer or more difficult than I am imagining right now. And finally, the extra three months here, allowing me to finish up a few projects, and moving from the village to Garoua, helped in leaps and bounds. I don't feel rushed leaving, I don't feel like there are loose ends I'm leaving behind. Everything seems completed, and I feel as ready as I could feel I think. What's important is that even if there were things I would like to hold onto, the lifestyle in village, my friends here, my work here, I know that I wouldn't want to continue on in this manner (as a Peace Corps volunteer). I can't stay a volunteer forever, nor would I want to, though it has opened up wonderful doors of opportunity, skills, and relationships. I have finished being a Peace Corps volunteer. It feels completed, full, and a great experince, and also something I don't want to prolong. Thus, knowing that, that I am finished with this life in the context of a Peace Corps volunteer, I am happy to move forward to what comes next, what will open up the doors for the future, perhaps landing me back here down the road, in the same lifestyle and work and endeavors, but a different context, of studies or NGO work, or something else entireley different. Thinking about this has also helped it be easier to move forward, be ready to go home, looking to the future, and not wanting to hold onto the present. Perhaps other volunteers, or workers abroad have felt similarly. So it is I am having one more night in my village, hopefully not the last visit in my life!