25 February 2009

Time to move on

Today I feel that this blog has served its purpose, that it is time to move on.

Life sure has been interesting. If you would like to continue with me on my journey feel free to find me at my new blog:


http://matthewdouzart.wordpress.com/

best wishes,

Matt D

15 December 2008

Fight Poverty with Empowerment

The Problem: Poverty
Poverty—A lack of the knowledge and resources that provide dignity and opportunity.

Most of the people in the world struggle for the basic necessities of life. Billions of people live without opportunities for education, health care, and sustainable livelihood. Poverty leaves its victims economically and socially isolated, and destroys their belief in themselves.



Here, living in relative prosperity, we watch the news and read stories of the pain and suffering of others around the world. We hear the natural call to service, but the problem seems so vast, it is difficult to know where to begin or how to help.

The Solution: Empowerment
Empowerment—Imparting the knowledge and resources that enable people to provide for themselves.

The Himalayan Institute believes in the vast potential of individuals to change and uplift their own lives and the lives of their family members, communities, and the global community. Empowerment is the integration of knowledge and action, of self-confidence and opportunity. Each individual’s transformation and sense of empowerment inspires others, and helps bring forth social regeneration.

How?
On June 15, 2007, the Himalayan Institute Community Center (HICC) opened in Kumbo, Cameroon. Since its inception, HICC has undertaken projects focusing on the four cornerstones of Himalayan Institute empowerment efforts: education, health care, vocational training, and micro-enterprise. Collectively, these services provide a multifaceted solution for sustainable social transformation.



Current Empowerment Projects
School of Energy Farming
The Energy Farming concept is a revolution in sustainable agriculture, land management, and green energy, and a catalyst for rural empowerment. It refers specifically to the sustainable cultivation of crops to provide green energy, most notably biofuel—crops like rapeseed, sunflower, Jatropha, and Pongamia. Energy farming methodology is also applicable to food, medicinal, aromatic, and cash crops, and its holistic approach increases crop productivity, decreases cost of cultivation, and offers environmental regeneration.



The School Energy of Farming launched educational and outreach efforts in summer 2007, anchored by the planting of 10,000 trees in the region. June 2008 marked the grand opening of the School’s main campus about 45 minutes from the HI Community Center on 125 acres near the small village of Kishong.

Take a look at plans for the School of Energy Farming land development.



A training center and model demonstration farm will showcase the entire vision of Energy Farming, from crops to cultivation to processing. This facility will serve as a base to provide intensive training and hands-on experience in Energy Farming to local farmers, and is the key to the Institute’s outreach campaign to educate and inspire the surrounding communities.

Himalayan Institute Total Health Center
One of the greatest tragedies of Africa is the failure to offer preventive health care and access to services for readily-treatable conditions, especially in rural communities. Unhealthy lifestyle choices and lack of awareness about simple preventive measures greatly contribute to widespread preventable health problems. Public attention is often focused on high profile diseases such as AIDS, but the common health issues that plague everyday life go largely unaddressed.

The Himalayan Institute Total Health Center in Cameroon pioneers access to holistic, preventive health care, providing a range of custom-tailored natural health products, and public health education and outreach.



In May 2008, the Center began its efforts with a six-week Total Health Center consultant training program covering the Total Health philosophy with a strong emphasis on hands-on experience in basic public health education and dispensary services. The training curriculum was developed by the Institute’s team of medical and holistic health practitioners.



The first Total Health Center in Africa is now successfully operational, staffed by the inaugural class of Total Health Center consultants. The training program graduates are continuing in an apprenticeship at the Center, honing their skills under the guidance of the Community Center staff. Upon completing the apprenticeship, these graduates will be able to launch their own Total Health Centers and help spread the Total Health paradigm to surrounding villages.



In addition to creating local employment, the Total Health model will facilitate a two-way flow of health care knowledge and health products to underprivileged areas while helping the Center collect important research about local health needs. With this social infrastructure in place, a wider range of educational and health care services can be delivered to these rural villages in the future.

Sacred Link Jewelry
In July 2007, the Himalayan Institute launched its first Sacred Link Jewelry internship program in Cameroon. Seven local students were chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in the class. Over the next three months they received intensive training and hands-on experience in the crafting and marketing of unique artisan jewelry. Based on a “train the trainer” model, these students had extensive one-on-one contact with Institute faculty, so they could become fully prepared to become Community Center trainers themselves or start their own micro-enterprises upon graduation.



Several of these students currently manage their own independent micro-enterprises where they create and sell jewelry. You can support this project by purchasing their jewelry in our online store. If you are a store owner and are interested in carrying Sacred Link Jewelry, please call our contact center at 800-822-4547 for more information about wholesale pricing.

School of Carpentry & Construction

Over the course of renovating the Community Center’s main building in summer of 2007, Institute volunteers realized that the region lacks basic tools in the fields of carpentry and construction. Workers also lacked experience integrating the various trades required to build or renovate a building like the HI Community Center.



Watch video of HICC renovations and footage from our first main shipment of materials. To date, the Himalayan Institute has sent three 40-foot containers full of supplies from Pennsylvania to Kumbo, Cameroon.



The most recent container included state-of-the-art tools to equip the new School of Carpentry & Construction. Major renovations to the School of Carpentry & Construction’s facility were completed last summer, revealing a spacious workshop with energy-saving skylights, and equipped with tools completely new to the region. Classes will begin in November 2008.

Kumbo Public Library
Africa’s consistent lack of access to information can be clearly seen in the scarcity of books. In Kumbo, despite a relatively high literacy rate, books are hard to find, and even when they are available, a used paperback will routinely cost $15 to $20 in a country where many earn only $2 per day.



The Himalayan Institute Community Center, in partnership with Honesdale Rotary Club and the Kumbo Council, is addressing this dire need with the establishment of the Kumbo Public Library. As the first public library in the region, and one of the largest in the entire nation, the facility will house over 30,000 volumes.



The Kumbo Public Library is a true community project, first spearheaded by the Kumbo Council, but abandoned at the construction phase because of lack of funding. Upon learning about the project, the Institute gladly agreed to help complete the library. Significant renovations, provided by the School of Carpentry & Construction, are currently underway to transform the building into a fully functional climate-controlled facility. Besides the main library hall, administrative offices, restrooms, storage rooms, and several reading rooms will accommodate a range of programs, including literacy efforts, children’s programs, and public education outreach programs.

Impact
What we’ve achieved since June 2007


  • Providing direct employment for 36 local people and indirect employment for hundreds more

  • Establishing four vocational training programs: Sacred Link Jewelry, the School of Carpentry & Construction, the School of Energy Farming, and Total Health Training

  • Planting 25,000 new trees in the deforested hillsides surrounding Kumbo

  • Providing scholarships for 30 children in Kumbo to attend school this year

  • Bringing investors and delegates from the United States, India, Bangladesh, Senegal, Ivory Coast, the Central Tibetan Authority, the Spanish Islands, Aruba, China, and the United Kingdom to the region, to see the Institute’s empowerment projects in action

  • Establishing the largest public library in the region


Profile: Laisin Wirngo
Laisin Wirngo was one of the fourteen students trained by the Himalayan Institute Cameroon’s Total Health program. Now 33 and a father of four, he is able to provide for his family financially as well as medically.



“My life has changed drastically, in the advantage side,” he says. “I have learned a lot from this course, and it has been helping me, my family and the entire community that I’m attending to. They’ve all been giving me a very positive response from the herbal treatment they’ve been taking at the Total Health Center.”

Laisin grew up in Kumbo. He and his wife met and married while still in high school, and the couple moved seventy miles south to the province’s capital, Bamenda. In April 2008, when Laisin first applied for the Total Health program, he had his own health issues.

“When I was about to start studies, I had a big abdomen. Our instructor asked me whether I’m drinking beer. I told him I took four to five bottles of beer a day. I was also eating a lot of starchy food. He told me I should reduce eating starch and concentrate more on fruit and vegetables. I’m no longer drinking, and I’ve been doing a lot of exercise, too, so I feel light. My stomach, which was big, I’ve noticed it’s gone down completely. So health-wise, too, I’m completely sound.”

Through the knowledge gained from the six-week Total Health course, Laisin realized that the most widespread health problems in Kumbo were, like his own, lifestyle-related. Now, in addition to suggesting herbal and homeopathic treatments, he sensitizes his patients to the shortcomings of the traditional diet.



When he’s not working at the Total Health Center, Laisin spends time in Bamenda with his family. His youngest child, Lennyuy, turned one just as Laisin was graduating from the business portion of his training at the Himalayan Institute.

As a Total Health consultant, Laisin is able to buy medicine at wholesale prices and treat patients outside of the Total Health Center. He acts as an ambassador for the preventive and alternative methods of health care that the Himalayan Institute espouses.

“I have carried much of the knowledge I’ve got from the Himalayan Institute to Bamenda where some of the people do not even know where Kumbo is. Now they want to know where Kumbo is because they’ve heard about the Himalayan Institute.”

While the HI Cameroon team makes arrangements for additional Total Health Center franchises around the Northwest Province, Laisin looks ahead to the future. “What I’m foreseeing is I will be able to change the mentality of my people by teaching them what to do, how they can do it, and at the best time.”

How You Can Help
Share:
Offer your kindness and generosity by contributing to the Institute’s humanitarian efforts. All charitable donations are tax-deductible.

Serve:
Spread the word. Let your friends, family, and community know about the Institute’s humanitarian work. Help start a movement of empowerment instead of aid.

Make a Difference:
Join us! This is our opportunity to put spirituality into action—Share, Serve, and Make a Difference.

15 April 2008

In a rush, Back from China, off to Senegal, and then on to Cameroon

Head over to the HIC Team Blog to see some recent video posts of media coverage for our work.

http://hicteam.wordpress.com

China was amazing. I spent 4 days in Guangzhou, and 3 days in Yiwu shopping for all sorts of items for our center in West Africa. The range of products that was purchased spanned from Generators to Jewelry, and Carpentry and construction tools, to household supplies. It was a 7 day, 18 hour per day, shopping marathon. I am just now getting over jet lag, and BAM! off to Senegal in west Africa for a week to scout out potential sites for collaboration, and from Senegal I will travel to Cameroon where I will remain for about 3 months.

As I type this, I am neglecting packing. Not like last minute packing, but the total job of packing... Got to run!

See you in July!

22 February 2008

Honesdale Rotary Supports Himalayan Institute Project

This is a promotional video made by one of the Himalayan Institute Cameroon volunteers, Jeff Abella, after he returned from Kumbo from a six month stay. Jeff wanted to properly document a wonderful partnership that is being formed by the Himalayan Institute and Honesdale Rotary Club to raise funds for establishing the largest public library in Bui Division (pop 300,000) in the NW Province in Cameroon where our first Community Center is based. Fund raising efforts are well underway, we still need all that we can get, but it looks like we will have the library open in fall of 2008, which is warp speed for a developing nation like Cameroon.

For more:

www.himalayaninstitute.org/humanitarian

www.honesdalerotary.com/projects/AfricaHumanitarianProjects.htm

21 December 2007

Loving Broadband: A video of our first two weeks

A nice litte video that Jeff made to document our travels through Casablanca and Douala. Our first two weeks of a six month trip to Cameroon.



29 November 2007

HIC Projects in the in the news:

http://www.grantmanagementblog.com/2007/11/27/global-trees-in-cameroon/

10,000 trees planted: a postcard from Cameroon

November 27, 2007 | Posted by Catherine

 

Welcome to our blog. We hope you find it interesting and useful. If you would like to receive regular updates, please subscribe to our RSS feed or by email in the sidebar. Thanks for visiting!

Global Trees CameroonEncouraging news from Cameroon where the first phase of a tree planting project, supported by our Global Trees campaign, appears to be ahead of schedule.

Matthew Douzart, project director of the Himalayan Institute Cameroon, has just written to tell us that the first 10,000 trees have already been planted in protected reforestation plots and water catchment areas and plans are well advanced to plant more trees after the rains start next spring.

Sponsored by Global Trees, the forestation work is part of a project run by the Himalayan Institute, a non-profit, international organization committed to humanitarian programmes.

Their new community centre near the town of Kumbo (Google map) is intended to be the first of many spread across Africa offering practical support and empowerment for local communities.

Matthew Douzart reveals that, of the funds allocated, 94% went directly to tree planting with plenty left for thousands more.

If you would like to know more about the project, there are details on the Himalayan Institute Cameroon web page and photographs from the most recent tree planting on our Flickr pages.

22 November 2007

Headed home

Thanksgiving day 2007.  Briana will be in the US in 3 hours.  I Leave Cameroon in about 4 hours.  Arrive in Casablanca at about 4pm.  Spending the night in Casablanca, and then fly out around noon.  Will be in the states on Friday.

Look forward to some rest, reflection, and getting hard at work on Cameroon related items stateside.

It has ben an amazing time.  Truly amazing.

 

Matt D

28 August 2007

Short on time, quick update

Greetings everyone!

It has been some time since we have had an opportunity to post on the blog.  All of our projects are in the beginning stages, which is to say that there is very little time to do anything else.  We have found faster internet than before, so posting some pictures will be possible soon, but it is still quite slow.

Everyone is healthy and happy here.  than you all for your letters of support and your prayers.  They have all been felt.

Today Jeff and I traveled to Oku which is an area of Cameroon known for carvings and honey.  We saw a little of both, and also made some time to get up close and personal with a lovely waterfall.

If the weather cooperates this Sunday I am hoping to take everyone out for a picnic and hike to another waterfall that we saw along the way.

06 August 2007

Historic Day for The HIC!

It is with great pleasure that I would like to announce that our very first humanitarian initiative, Sacred Link Jewelry training and apprenticeship, officially held the inaugural class today!

It was a lovely day of teaching, sharing, and rapport building.  Petra, Briana, and Chelsea did a wonderful job of taking charge of the class as head instructors.  They have worked long and hard on a course curriculum, and that work sure showed this morning when we began the program.  I am so proud for them.

We snapped a few photos of the team, and I promise to post them shortly.

I had a busy day today, as I was in attendance for the morning session of the jewelry training, but then traveled some distance to discuss with the Fon (King) of this area about procuring some land for our demonstration farm amongst other things.  The meetings were fruitful and exciting.

03 August 2007

What's been goin' on

Life sure has been exciting here in Kumbo!

We are still managing several tasks at one time, so there is never a shortage of meetings with various community members, contractors, or organizations. A brief overview of the projects that we have going concurrently include:

1. Completing the relocation of the Sacred Link Jewelry apprenticeship program that was previously being conducted in our global headquarters in Honesdale, PA. Sacred Link Jewelry uses natural materials from all over the world. We are starting with 5 apprentices for this first round of training so that we can create an intimate setting for training. There are three full time instructors from the United States that have been charged with the task of training the trainer. These first five apprentices will have the opportunity to become faculty members after they complete the three month training program so that the first group will be fully capable of teaching future classes of jewelry making apprentices the proper way to produce and market jewelry to North America and European customers. The training will begin this coming Monday 6 August 2007.

2. Completely renovate and adapt a two story, 10,000 square foot building to meet all of the needs of a full fledged Himalayan Institute Community Center. So many good things have already happened, and yet it seems as if the project will never end.

On a daily basis we have a contractor with a large team of people developing the front grounds of the building to allow for access to the main road, entry gates for both pedestrians as well as vehicles, a guard house by the main gate, a parking area, flower beds, and a lawn complete with a thatched roof gazebo that will allow up to 15 people to relax comfortably.

We also have electricians, carpenters, plumbers, roofers, and gardeners working to have the grounds prepared for the grand opening this coming October.

3. Facilitating the sale of locally grown coffee to buyers abroad. One of the reasons that we selected Kumbo as the starting point for our first community center on the African continent was the existing infrastructure that a coffee marketing cooperative union had established. The structure that this coop was operating with was similar to the way that the beta project in India had perfected, so the town of Kumbo was on the fast track for an HI community center. As mentioned, the international buyers are there, HI has connected the dots between a coop that has not sold one Kg of coffee in many years, and a contract for a full year’s production! All that we have to sort out at this point are a few details, and the wheels of commerce can begin to spin again.

4. Negotiating and facilitating the purchase of locally produced honey to be sold abroad. In true HI form, we stumbled across a honey producing cooperative in a small village north of Kumbo. This honey is exceptional in so many ways. I do not want to spoil the surprise just yet, but just know that it is far from what is available at the local supermarket, and we are buying it (literally) by the metric ton!

5. Procuring publishing rights to two books written by local authors so that the books may be combined into one title and sold globally.

6. Sponsoring the planting of 5,000 – 10,000 indigenous tree species in an effort to fight deforestation, conserve water, and create positive impacts on climate change.

7. Locating and negotiating the rights to a large area of land in order to establish a demonstration farm and model village. Right now we are trying to procure 100-500 hectares (240-1,240 acres) so that we can provide massive employment (500-1,500 jobs or roughly 3 jobs per hectare), as well as proof that all of the teachings of our BioVedic Energy Farming educational programs can work as promised. The demonstration farm will also be capable of producing enough medicinal herbs, aromatic plants, and oil producing seeds to meet local need, and still have plenty of left over produce for export. There is a tremendous export deficit in this country, so creating some foreign reserve would be a huge boost to the national economy. The people that will be working the land will also have the opportunity to become members of a model community that will be able to produce all of its food crops, bio-diesel for powering electrical generators, and also focus mainly on producing cash crops so that every day the future will be a little bit brighter for their families than the previous day. This will be a self sustained society in every way, and I am certain that we have no even scratched the surface of where this concept can go. Also, do not forget that this is a demonstration farm that is really designed to inspire local land owners to follow suit, so there is no end to the amount of income that this project can inspire!

8. Developing concepts to reality – We are constantly considering so many other concepts that are brought to us by supporters abroad, local NGOs, as well as other ideas that our faculty happen to conceive. These include, but are certainly not limited to working with local prisons to improve conditions, commissioning locally produced indigenous artworks that can be marketed in the US, establishing a local chapter of Rotary International, collecting new and used sports equipment in order to outfit a wonderful sports academy that was founded by a local philanthropist, recording and documenting local traditional music, and the list goes on and on…

So that is a brief summary of what the days have been like or us. I only wish that the internet speeds would allow for the posting of photos and videos so that we could share more of our experiences in a multimedia format. A couple of videos that Jeff Abella produced here in Kumbo should be uploaded to this blog from stateside soon. They do a wonderful job of documenting our first few days in Cameroon.

Oh yeah we DO manage to squeeze a little time in for fun every day as well.

Until next time, please stay well.

23 July 2007

Week # 4 Update

Things are still progressing well here in Kumbo.  Everyone is healthy, happy, and we are well on our way to adjusting to this new culture and pace.  The days have ben busy, but rewarding.  The center is really starting to take shape, and we should have the main hall of the Community Center fully constructed very soon.  Once the main hall is complete we will begin the Sacred Link Jewelry Apprenticeship.  We have selected 5 applicants to begin this three month intensive.   Chelsea, Petra, and Briana are busy at work finalizing the curriculum for their first five students, and Jeff an I are working hard to get all of the construction, agricultural, and administrative initiatives underway.  It seems that at every step there is a new twist or opportunity to explore.  Needless to say, the work has been very fluid and exciting.

The web speeds are still quite slow, so posting video and photos are not an easy undertaking.  I did send some pictures and videos to our webmaster in hopes that he would post them to the web.

That is all for now.  More and more info will be coming.

11 July 2007

Day 23 and still going strong

Things have been very busy, as starting a business is one thing, but starting one in Africa is a whole other ball of wax!  There have been so many meetings with applicants, contractors, government officials, and local royalty, that there has barely been any time to think.

We did sneak away today to a place called Oku where some of the most talented artisans in the country are located.  We stopped by several handicraft shops and met with artisans, and also stopped by a local Honey collecting and marketing Cooperative.  All in all it was an interesting visit.  The scenery was breathtaking as Oku is one of the highest elevations in the country.  We were in the 8,000 - 10,000 foot range above sea level.

Briana is really taking things in stride.  She is very relaxed and strong in the face of such a culture shock.  I (as always) am very proud that she is my wife.

I have to run now as time is always tight.  I will be trying to upload photos sometime soon.

Be well,

Matt D

06 July 2007

Week 2 / 3 Update

After successfully removing our container from the port of Douala on this past Saturday, all nine of us completed a 9 hour journey (broken into 2 days) to our new home in Kumbo which is in the North West Province of Cameroon.  It is wonderful to report that we made this journey riding in our own vehicles that were donated to the project by some wonderful people in Madison, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois!

Kumbo is lovely, the townspeople have been very hospitable, and we are all getting adapted to all of the new climates associated with this sort of venture.

Since Sunday we have been working hard at all of the necessities of forming a full fledged NGO in this country.  As you can imagine there is an infinite amount of plans being made, necessary items being purchased, contractors in negotiations, and local government agencies being visited.

We have chosen one large space in the building to become the launching pad of our activities for now.  The room will become a virtual microcosm of the work that we will be doing in the early stages of this venture.  The space will have workstations for up to 12 apprentices in our Sacred Link Jewelry making and marketing apprenticeship, shelving for Himalayan Institute books, Varcho Veda herbal elixirs, as well as provisions for all sorts of other items that can be set out for display.  As of now we are calling this room the Himalayan Institute Cameroon Community Center because in addition to all of the items on display listed above we will also have a nice public relations desk set up so that our public relations officer can offer an orientation to the HIC and all its’ programs and even take people on a tour of some test plot gardens that will be set up in the adjoining courtyard.

As you can tell, this truly is an exciting time for us.  Things are literally being created from scratch.  It is so wonderful to have such a dedicated and motivated team of people here pushing to realize this dream.  There is not a chance for failure, and it will not be long until the impact of the HIC is being felt on a large scale.

Tomorrow we will all travel to the palace to meet with His Highness, The Fon (king) of Nso (the area in which we are working).  There is always a big celebration at the palace, and it is an amazing cultural experience.  We are excited to return.

The future is very bright!

04 July 2007

We have arrived!

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we have all arrived safely at our final destination.  We have ben in Kumbo since Sunday afternoon, and it is wonderful!

The rains have settled in, so things are wet and slippery, but the air is clean, the energy is great, and we are in full swing getting the center up and running.  We should be making jewelry by this afternoon, or tomorrow morning at the latest!

More thoughts, details, and photos to come!

24 June 2007

Fianlly uploaded! Photos from Stopover in Casablanca!

A sample of photos from Douala

We have not taken too many photographs of Douala.  You have to be careful for two reasons.  One, some people really get angry at you for snapping heir photo, and two, some people will want to take your camera.  So most of our footage has been video from moving cabs.  The videos are great.  I am working on uploading some of them, but the web connection is so slow.  Enjoy these pics!

23 June 2007

Week 1 Summary

It has been a busy and successful week for us.  We have poured all of our efforts into getting the container that we shipped from the United States on 2 April out of the port of Douala.

The container arrived on last Saturday the 16th. That means it took 75 days to travel from Door to Port, and it is still not yet out of the port itself.  Sending this container has been an arduous and expensive process.  We are hoping that we will be able to remove the goods first thing Tuesday morning.

We have made all sorts of connections here in Douala, so there have been many meetings with people at banks, the port, customs, and even the U.S. Consulate.  On top of all of the meetings there is a lot of running around preparing things for the container's release. 

Things are much different here than in the West.  There are no one stop shops for anything.  If you want to have a document notarized, you must go to two places instead of one.  If you want to retrieve the bill of lading for your container, you have to visit several places first before making the request at the shipping office.  To put it more plainly, it is a chaotic sort of work that is interesting and exciting in the short term, but as a livelihood, it must be difficult.

Yesterday we spent the entire day in the port while we observed the customs inspection of our container.  Things went well, and we made the best case we could for our goods, but we will not know how they will value it for taxation until Monday.  Even though we are a certified NGO in Cameroon we are still subject to paying some taxes.  That is a difficult thing to grasp for an American, but there has been a lot of abuse of non-profit status here, so it is very difficult to receive full exoneration from taxes right  away.  Once we receive word back about the value, we will pay the taxes and then will work feverishly to remove the container from the port so that we can travel to our home base in Kumbo. 

We now know everything to expect in the ports.  The good stuff, the shady stuff, and WHATEVER YOU DO, do not get caught taking pictures!  We nearly lost a camera yesterday when some guards spotted Jeff snapping pictures of the ships in the port!  I really wish we could have filmed the argument that ensued.  Our driver and Austin were out of the car yelling and screaming back and forth with several guards for several minutes.  It was not until we made an emergency call to the U.S Embassy that the guards agreed to allow us to delete the pictures from the camera rather than seize it.  We were happy with that result, and also with the fact that they did not see my camera, so we still had the photos and videos that I had taken.  We all had a good laugh about that.

Douala is a crazy town of nearly 6.5 million people.  They are mostly French speaking, and finding a stranger that is an anglophone is rare.  We have 4 people who are traveling with us that make sure that we are getting on fine.  Two of them live in Douala as Customs Clearing Officers, so they help us through the ports  their names are Austin and Derrick.  One of them is a man named Eric.  I know Eric from our last visit.  He is a very nice and helpful person.  He is the finance officer of the HIC.  Our other host is our driver who is also well connected in Douala.  His name is Shey-Don.  Shey is a title of honor given to certain people in Cameroon.  Shey-Don took us on a scouting trip of the marketplaces and specialty stores in different parts of the city.  He knew how to find everything we were searching for.

Everything else is going well.  Finding food to eat is proving difficult.  Eating meat here is not a good idea as there are all sorts of things that you can catch from it.  That is an easy pill to swallow for us.  Jeff and I are both vegetarian, but it is difficult to find places that prepare vegetables in a manner that we find appetizing.  So for the most part we have been cutting up fresh pineapple in our room, eating mandarin oranges, cookies, granola, and the staple has been one of three sandwiches that we make in the room:

  1. Avocado, with cheese and cream cheese
  2. Nutella and strawberry jelly
  3. Jelly and butter.

We also have a strong desire for variety, so you can take any of the above ingredients and mix them together, and one of us has made a sandwich out of them.  Jeff was even so bold as to have an avocado jelly sandwich with cookies on it!  HA!

We did find a good place to get pizza the other night, and I am hoping to return there tonight.  It is very nice to eat hot food every once in a while.  That pizza was the first hot thing that we had taken since the plane ride to Morocco.

So that is the scoop from the first 5 days of our journey.  We are going to take a day tomorrow to get caught up on rest, laundry, and other personal matters.  I think I will even cut my hair.  That what Sundays are for!

19 June 2007

Bonjour from Douala!

My travel mate and I arrived in Douala very late in the night. We did not get to our hotel and settled until early morning on 19 June. We are up now, but feeling very jet lagged.

Our stopover in Casablanca was amazing. We made a friend with an English speaking cabbie and got the 3 hour nickel tour. The highlights were an amazing Mosque, a shopping bazaar, and the beach. It was fun. We even got invited to have mint tea with a shopkeeper.

There is a lot to get done now, so I will run. Life is going to be interesting... I can SEE it!