After a breakfast of fried plantains, french fries and delicious Cameroon coffee, we headed out to a farm owned by a friend of Farmer Tantoh. Farmer knows so much about agriculture and plants and he shared his knowledge with us! We saw Cassava plants, avocado plants (called “pear” in Cameroon), palm trees, pineapple, mango and papaya trees and much more. We even got to suck on deliciously sweet sugar cane. One of Farmer’s sayings is “Everything you need, you can get from the earth.”
Palm trees are located throughout the farm. In addition to the nuts, that can be eaten and also pressed for oil, the trees can be tapped, yielding 5 liters of juice every day for a month. If the juice sits around, it ferments and becomes palm wine. There are also grubs in every palm tree; in the larva stage, they are considered a delicacy when they are fried up. They have lots of protein and health benefits. Farmer Tantoh is currently doing research on how to breed these grubs so they can be sold.
The vision for this farm is to house an Eco-Lodge, where people can come to learn about gardening and agriculture. We visited a fish pond on the farm where we used a machete to clear some grass around the pond.
We also saw a man making a medicinal mixture to treat typhoid, a disease people get from drinking unclean water. It consists of a plant pounded into a paste, mixed with one raw egg and Guinness beer.
For lunch we pulled up the roots of the cassava plant, and peeled and boiled it over a wood fire. We made an orange sauce out of the oil from the nuts of the palm tree mixed with spices. Delicious!!
Cameroon is known for the beautiful dresses worn by women as well as the fabric used to make these dresses. We went to the shops and each bought some fabric. Which one do you like best?
For dinner, we had a delicious tomato fish stew with rice that we helped prepare, preceded by fried grubs as an appetizer. Farmer fried them in oil with sliced onion, parsley and spices and, although we were hesitant at first, we ate them and actually enjoyed them!
To end our wonderful day, Farmer and his wife Quinta surprised us with beautiful Cameroon dresses that we will wear when we go to church with his family on Sunday!
Today we explored the city of Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. We are staying at the home of Justice Mabu, a close friend of Farmer Tantoh. From the balcony we can see the bank that produces African currency in the distance, a nearby secondary school as well as local markets and homes.
Farmer’s wife, Quinta, gave us a lesson on cooking plantains, a vegetable similar to a banana, but a little harder and shaped a bit differently. After peeling and slicing them, we fried them in oil and ate them with leftover chicken from last night and fresh pineapple - delicious!
We exchanged $100 of our United States money and received 59,000 Central African Francs (which sounds like a lot!) Who can figure out what the exchange rate is? (How many African Francs is equal to one dollar?)
We visited a small zoo in Yaounde with Farmer, his wife and three boys. We saw crocodiles, a lion, peacock, monkey, parrott, tortoise and a mandrill. Watch the video and be the first to post in the comments what the parrot said!
In Cameroon, people celebrate a child’s first, and sometimes second, birthday, but birthdays aren’t a big thing after the first two. Today was Quinta’s birthday, and Farmer decided, since we were here, that he would surprise her with a cake and a new dress. We took her to dinner and had delicious mackerel, plantains and potatoes and went home to have cake. A fitting end to a great day! Tomorrow we head to a farm to learn about agriculture in Cameroon.
What a welcome to Cameroon we received! Farmer Tantoh and his friend, Ivo, picked us up at the airport and brought us to a friend’s apartment where his wife Quinta and three sons (Smith (6), Godwill (4) and Favor (2) were waiting for us. Quinta had prepared a delicious feast – fou fou (which reminded us of polenta), fried vegetables (huckleberries, onions, leeks, tomatoes) chicken and papaya. We are excited to explore Yaounde, the capital city of Cameroon, tomorrow!
Our second day in Paris was a whirlwind! We started the day with a visit to a community makerspace/food lab. Community members can rent space to work on computers, 3d printers, and use saws and tools. One woman uses the saw there to cut out pieces for doll houses she creates, which she sells to people in Japan. The food lab space is rented by caterers and used to teach cooking skills to the refugee population.
After the makerspace visit, we walked through Buttes-Chaumont park, a hilly park created in a former quarry. We loved the waterfall in the cave!
Then on to Montmartre, a part of Paris with artists and shops, and small winding streets. At the very top sits the Sacre-Coeur chapel, overlooking a gorgeous view of the city!
Then down the hill and an Uber ride to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. In the cathedral square, a large flock of birds congregates, waiting for brave pedestrians to feed them as they perch on their arms.
We worked up an appetite and went to a fromagerie (cheese store), charcuterie (butcher shop) and patisserie (pastries) to pick up items for our dinner.
We ended the evening with a night-time visit to the Eiffel Tower. Every hour after dark, the tower sparkles with lights for five minutes and we were lucky to be in the tower for these lights.
Tomorrow, we head to the airport at 6:00 am, take a 6 ½ hour flight from Paris to Bangui, Central Africa, then a short 1 hour flight to Yaounde, Cameroon. Farmer Tantoh, here we come!
Our travels began Friday afternoon when we left school to drive to New Jersey, where we stayed overnight before heading to JFK Airport in New York city.
We started exploring Paris at 6:00 am, heading to the Eiffel Tower, followed by a visit to the beautiful Saint-Chappelle, a Royal Chapel built in the 1200's and home to the Kings of France for several hundred years. Adjacent to the Chapel were prison cells where Marie Antoinette was held. Then on to the Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre and the Pompidou Center (which has a museum & a public library!) ending our day with a delicious meal at a French restaurant.
It was wonderful having Mrs. Rice, our Art Educator, with us when we visited the art museums. Here is some information from her about the Mona Lisa and Kandinsky works of art: Painted by Leonardo da Vinca, the Mona Lisa, located in The Louvre, is famous for her expression. At that time, artists were supposed to represent only the outward appearance of their subjects; Leonardo showed her soul, with her smile and eyes, that seem to follow you from wherever you stand. The artists initials, LV, are painted in tiny letters on the right eye. As you can see from the photo, it is a popular painting.
Kandinsky was a Russian abstract painter who was sensitive to color and sounds from an early age. Kindergarten students at Herman and Genesee learned about Kandinsky this fall when we went over color, shape and line. The students created their own Kandinsky tree and are currently learning how to create themselves with geometric shapes.
During the past month, all schools in Auburn have been collecting loose change to put toward the cost of the well water system we will be helping Farmer Tantoh install. We are so excited to report that, with generous donations from the community, we have reached our goal of $4,793 to cover the cost of the entire well!
You can read an article in The Citizen about the project here.
We began our journey with a two-day stay in Paris, France to adjust to the time difference and visit museums and sites.
Each year, the Auburn School District invites an author to speak to students in each of the five elementary schools. This year, not only do we have one author coming to Auburn, we have two authors AND the subject of their newest book! Authors Miranda and Baptiste Paul will be visiting Auburn the week of March 25th with Tantoh Nforba (known as “Farmer”), the subject of their newest book, called “I am Farmer.” Farmer is an environmentalist in Cameroon, Africa who is a national hero, for the work he has done helping build community gardens and clean water systems. An Auburn Education Foundation Grant has allowed us to provide an evening program with the Pauls and Farmer Tantoh at the Hilton Garden Inn on March 28th for the entire community.
We prepare our students each year by sharing the author’s books and incorporating meaningful activities connected to their books. This year, we decided to do even more, starting with the idea of educating our students about the global water crisis, empowering them to be part of the solution with a coin drive to help Farmer Tantoh put in a new well, to where we are now, on our way to meet Farmer Tantoh, learn more about the culture and people in Cameroon, and assist in the building of the new water system.
Thank you for joining our journey! While the main purpose of this blog is to share information and photos with our students, we welcome questions and comments from anyone.
Mrs. Mlod (Genesee Librarian), Ms. Calarco (Owasco Librarian), and Ms. Rice (Herman/Genesee Art Educator)