oh! for the love of mold!

Just last week, Greg put the following status update on facebook:

“My shirt smells like manioc. My pants smell like mold. Today I introduce a new fragrance to the world – Eau de Cameroon!“

It’s really too bad that blogs can’t be scratch and sniff.  Honestly.  If you want to fully understand what our unabridged and uncensored experience in Cameroon has been, you really need to see it, feel it and smell it.  We draw the line at tasting it.  At least for this particular topic of the week.

And while we are beyond overdue for posting the outcomes of the three photovoice projects from last month (it was very exciting and the results amazing, but the best things come to those who wait, you know, so patience people!) sometimes we have to pause and… nope, not have a cup of tea… nope, not watch the flowers bloom or the clouds drift away in the sky…

This is Cameroon.

This is Yaoundé: we watch the mold grow.

Right before our eyes.  Just like magic!

All kidding aside though, Yaoundé has a warm, humid tropical climate.  During the rainy season, laundry will take 5 days to dry.  Sometimes it feels like things will never dry at all.  It makes me cry which creates even more moisture and makes it take even longer.  And all this causes the most gloriously favourable environment for the cultivation.

Nothing is sacred to mold.  And small victories are many for those who wish to fight it, but big ones are scarce.

Here are the items that have, at one point or another, fallen victim to the mold monsters:

-luggage and backpacks

– leather sandals

– motorcycle helmets (this picture has not been modified, altered or manipulated in any way!)

how do you say "yuck" in pidgin?

– all of Caroline’s purses (which led to many a curses!)

– jewelery (madness, I say, madness!)

– wooden chopsticks (which we only realized after they were already in use –ALWAYS ALWAYS look before you put anything in your mouth even when trying to have a nice romantic evening by candlelight)

– baskets & pot holders

– nearly every article of clothing (nope, that’s not ring around the collar… it’s a fresh batch of fuzzy mold!)

– books, note pads, folders

– extension cords, electrical cords, surge protectors

– my wallet (while inside my purse no less)

– the broken umbrella we had forgotten about in the back of the closet

– the wooden spoon I usually cook with (that gets scrubbed before use)

– the very precious scrabble game (another 5 letter word for evil but gives less points)

– the portable radio (“this just in from the BBC Africa:  “mold is attempting a coup d’état!”)

– camera cases and nearly all of bits and pieces

– the medical kit (stay healthy and you don’t need the kit… but the consequences are that it will mold over!)

– the sleeve to Greg’s coffee maker while we were on vacation

– my best spool of quilting thread (still rather angry about that one)

– and anything ignored or unused for a week or so.


Now of course, the mold isn’t so discriminatory.  It has launched an all out assault on the walls too.  Although bleached and scrubbed, the fuzzy wuzzy new life form is quickly emerging from the cracked wall at an alarming pace.  It’s quite an interesting phenomenon, really.  Our very own scientific experiment.  Maybe the cure for cancer is growing in our apartment and we don’t even know it!

within days of Greg's manly scrubbing with bleach... it's baaaaackkk!

While we do our best to vinegar and bleach our belongings on a regular basis (I hate cleaning even more now), the mold is much more focused and determined than we are.

We’re fighting the good fight.  It may win many of the battles, but this is war… and we’re not backing down!



We realized that the motorcycle helmets were not getting enough ventilation being stored in our closet, so we brought them to the office where they would benefit from greater air movement.  And it’s been working.  However, today another volunteer tried on my helmet (a perfect fit!) and instead of mold (which would have been awful), a colony of ants erupted and landed on her head.  Our office mates came to the rescue, the ants were, shall we say, “relocated” to heaven, and the helmet is off on a new adventure.

If it isn’t one, it’s the other.  But I digress.

~ by Caroline Spira on September 13, 2011.

7 Responses to “oh! for the love of mold!”

  1. Oh my goodness…


    How do the locals cope with it? Surely they must have a solution?

    And what about those with allergies? How do they ever manage to keep breathing back in again?

    Makes me feel like we are total fusspots here in Canada, where the slightest hint of mold is cause for great alarm and intensive scrubbing… and where mold has even been the source of many a lawsuit…

    Gives a whole new definition to the idea of a “leaky condo!”

    Quite the experience!


    • Breathing’s been a problem at times. Allergy meds make it tolerable for now – so does running away from home (!). Constant vigilance needed. Guess that means I should attack that wall again. Boo.
      Mind you, colour, texture and form make for decent entertainment. I’m thinking of developing a rating system of some kind. Maybe hold a competition. See which article will win the prize.

  2. We live such sanitized lives over here. Good to be reminded. Sanitized hugs to you both.

  3. It is so fascinating to read about something so every day as mold. Clearly our two cultures are not sharing the same experience! Your mold pictures are creepy and I get tired just thinking about all the cleaning you must do.When I see that green stuff growing in my son’s north-west facing window I will relax a little knowing it could be much, much worse! Thanks for sharing.

  4. The white fuzz in the picture of your wall looks more like lime crystals being leeched from the concrete or mortar. Check above the wall for a roof leak. (in Cameroon?! No!!) Small solace.

    • Ah, that is where you are both right and wrong… because there is a leak… and it has many many friends!!! Seeing as the second floor of the building is still under construction, there have been lots of leaks. The positive side is that since the rainy season has no intention of stopping, we have loads of buckets out catching the rain in case we are graced with yet another water cut!

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