Thursday, July 14, 2005

progress being made

I've (finally) begun the next phase of my language training. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I attend a class in Bangangte with four other students. There's only one other adult, and I think I'm the only one who doesn't speak any African languages. So, I'm sure to be the worst student! I also work one-on-one most weekdays (no set schedule) with one of the senior CEPOM staff. These sessions are supposed to be more academically oriented. To make things "interesting" the class uses a different writing system than the individual tutoring. So far, I'm more comfortable with the tutor's system because it encodes more details about pronunciation, and is closer to the standard transcription system familiar to professional linguists, the International Phonetic Alphabet. The other system, for example, doesn't indicate contrastive tone at all.

At the same time as my class, there's one for people who already speak Medumba, but want to become literate in it. It's explicitly aimed at reading the Christian Bible, and uses the same writing system as my class. We learned in class that there's only one other language indigenous to this part of Cameroon which has a translation of the entire thing, Shupamum. A few other languages have a New Testament.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


As some of you know, the cost of living in Cameroon is high relative to the rest of West Africa, and that of West Africa is high relative to most of the world. Because this fact tends to be of great interest to many, I'm going to share the prices of a few things I've bought recently. The figures will be a little high for American dollars, and a little low for Canadian:

- cheap sunglasses: $2-$5
- 0.65l bottle of beer: $1
- meal before drinks at a cheap restaurant: $3
- second-hand blanket: $13
- small cup of brewed coffee: $0.20
- kilogram of coffee beans: $5.60
- 4 AA batteries, made in Cameroon: $0.50
- 4 AA batteries by Duracell: $8
- bus ticket to Douala (4-7 hours): $6
- kilogram (in a tin) of sweetened, condensed milk: $3.50
- a pineapple: $0.20

Friday, July 01, 2005

stops and starts

On Monday, I got back in touch with CEPOM, an organisation which supports and researches the indigenous language I've been learning. (It's called "Medumba" or "Bamileke-Bangangte" or some combination of those three words.) Its representative was very happy to see me again and said he and others would help me with my research by aiding with research design, giving me access to their library, and by finding contacts: this in addition to providing me with more language training.

I was meant to start all this on Tuesday, and then commence an intensive language class on July 11th. Unfortunately, on Monday night, I twisted my ankle and have been bed-ridden with a painful sprain until today.

Still limping, I went to Baffoussam to use the bank, only to have my requests turned down at every turn. So, after resting my foot a few more days, I will return to Douala to use the banks there. Cross your fingers for me! This should get me back to Bangangte in time to enroll in CEPOM's course.

While I'm trying to remain optimistic, I'm upset about how all this delays what I really want to do with these first few months of fieldwork- learn a language and a musical instrument. Institutions have never been my favourite settings, and waiting in line at an unfamiliar bank only to here "no" is difficult. So it goes.