Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A week in paradise! um, okay maybe not

Ahhh, vacation, finally! The peace corps requires that we stay at post for the first three months of our service. This helps us in getting to know our community. After in-service training which I just finished, volunteers are free to take vacation and travel elsewhere in country. My travel/vacation plans this month are Kribi (meetings all day with beach in the evenings), climbing mount cameroon in Buea, and (most exciting) New year's in London with the parents. By the time I make it back to Batouri, I will have been a month away from post. I have no complaints as to the timing of this vacation.

So Kribi. I got there a day and a half early with three others just enjoy being at the beach before everyone else arrived. This was probably my favorite time of the week. We found a secluded beach 15k down the road of which we had to wade through jungle bookesque streams and crab-filled beaches to get to but worth all of it! This is where I can say skinny-dipping off the coast of Africa if it was ever on my check list of things to do, it is now checked! It quickly ended as a volunteer swimming close by was stung by a jellyfish. That put a quick stop to things. And yes, I now know several ways to treat jellyfish stings.

As the week continued, it was nice seeing all the volunteers that I did training with as well as being introduced to a lot of other volunteers. Being in the east where we are small in numbers it was a treat. During presentations, we shared pictures or stories of what our different posts were like. As soon as 5:00 came and we were dismissed it was a mad rush to the beach. However as the week dragged on, there was a fair amount of us that were falling sick. Of course the hospital diagnosed them with malaria, since its the catch-all when they are unsure. The ones still sick at the end of the week went back with the medical officers to Yaounde for further testing. The saying by the end of the week was that those robbed were the healthy ones.

And so that leads me into the end of the week. Yes, we were robbed and by gun-point most unfortunately. I share this not to freak anybody out, but to be honest about the experience. However, because of my audience I will be vague in some details. I believe it was caused for two main reasons: we were a large group of white people who had been hanging out at the same beach for several days at this point and it was around 10 at night. 21 PCVs in total were involved. We had made a bonfire earlier that night and at the point when it happened half had decided for a late night swim while the rest of us were at our bar/local hangout for the week at the beach. Three men entered firing warning shots in the air. We did nothing but hit the ground while they went around the table grabbing all of our bags. Within less than a minute it was over. Those watching from the ocean could tell more what went down. They walked away with my purse, wallet, & sadly my camera. We immediately called Peace Corps. When they arrived, the compliment we all received from everybody was how calm under pressure we were. And thus it came to be that it was not with the saddest of feelings that I bid adieu to Kribi.

Now I am in Buea staying with Bill Colwell and Trixy Franke, a couple that run the Buea SDA hospital. It has been some great R&R while I gear up for the trek up Mount Cameroon. Best moment of the week: walking into their house after a long day of travel to see a christmas tree and lights with christmas music playing. How comforting to the soul. Who knew it could be such a mood-lifter or how much I've missed it. :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

World AIDS Day

Probably not really publicized in the more developed regions of the world, but in a country where it is prevelant there was a lot more acknowledgement of it. Specifically at the high schools. Jackie & I started a girls club at the local Lycee Bilingue (bi-lingual high school). Thus named for it following both the french & enlish school systems. We have a pretty consistent number of girls (knock on wood) that have come so far. The plan is that we teach a topic for three weeks and then the fourth we have a fun day. Our first fun day was an exchange of dance. I taught the girls salsa dance and in turn they were supposed to teach me a Cameroonian dance. Were is the important word in that last sentence. There were too shy too.

But let me bring things back on topic. We just finished discussing AIDS/SIDA so when the administration organized a panel discussion for the day they incorporated our already organized plans for the day by inviting some girls to come up and speak to the whole school on the specifics they learned about the symptoms, contraction, myth/facts about the disease, etc. After this, Jackie & I got up to demonstrate to the whole school how to correctly use both the male and female condom. The female condom because of its little use or knowledge of caused some intrigue, but you could only imagine how much high schoolers would get riled up when these two white girls brough out a wooden penis to demonstrate the correct usage for a male condom. Oh how I wish internet access here wasn't too slow to attach pictures. May we all celebrate to be in good health!

Dude...I'm Sick

Well there we have it. In terms of things i've accomplished thus far in Africa, falling sick, check. The whole following post will be discussing my recent bout on the sick side, but know that antibiotics do wonders and restored me to health! I've done pretty well at avoiding sickness as compared with other people I trained with. I was almost six months in. What starting with a little cramping turned into a full blown fever and passing my day prostrate on the counch or enjoying countless trips to the bathroom. While I can't pinpoint what specifically I do know that it was something I ate. [yes, mom I know you are in your head telling me i need to be more careful with food] Hospital exams blamed it on too much bacteria in my system, or officially put...bacterial dysentery. On their records I did have "a little" malaria, but they are overly cautious with that disease and will over diagnosis. PCVs have no qualms about having a "poop talk", but for my first-world friends/family who might be a little more squeamish, let's just say there was no doubt in my mind I wasn't healthy.

So what's a trip to a third-world hospital in Batouri? Surprisingly,not so bad. Waiting, which one comes to expect, on the other hand not fun. Here is when receiving prefential treatment for being white was to my advantage. The doctor is the supervisor of, Jackie, the health volunteer here so he took me in soon as I arrived. Next came lab tests. The lab should open around nine but of course with the Africa time factor nobody came until 10:30. Luckily Jackie was there so I could pass the time with somebody. She was working in the women/children ward and I unfortunately passed the time watching women bring in their malnourished kids. One pays for their own needle and antiseptic swab thingie so that quelched that fear. Now for stool sample? At this point, I had been having horrible cramps every twenty minutes since 3 A.M., so stool sample on command was unfortunately easily obliged. But what did I use for a stool sample you ask? Well among my choices given were to find mango leaf or plastic bag. I chose the latter. Pretty thankful to have received a negative for Typhoid. If you are curious enough, i'll let you google what you've eaten if you test positive for it.

I fell sick with fever on a friday and it was better/worse, better/worse, until I woke it up with severe cramps Tuesday morning and my only direction for the next 5 hours was bed to bathroom and back. A weeks worth of antibiotics have brought me back to health. I have decided to de-worm myself for precaution sake every three months and lets pray/knock on wood there is not many more sickness to come!

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I am feteing American style this weekend. All nine of us Easties are in Bertoua this weekend for a regional meeting. During which we each discuss what has been happening at post and address any concerns of the region we want to take to administration. Its refreshing to see all of us together. I get the chance to see how everybody is adjusting to post and discuss ways we are all coping. It helps putting things in perspective, even something simple as having a market everyday. I feel lucky, lucky, lucky, to say I have access to a SWIMMABLE swimming pool (just as long as there is electricity to clean it with)! Only other possibility is the ocean.

Okay, back on topic. Tonight is our halloween fete. Where other regions have more people and maybe can make it a big party, we will probably just be sitting around chatting, BUT some will be dressed up! Me included. East theme this year is Cameroonian. My take on that is food. I will be dressed up as piment (P.MA.NT.) Its a hot pepper here that is served with almost every dish. Did I mention its hot? I'm quick to grab the bowl when it is served on the table so that I can skim just the oil off the top before it gets mixed. People can have spoonfuls of it, I can manage only about 3 drops. Other highlightable moments on this trip: stocking up on some food, eating fish dinner (its a break from eating only beef and chicken here is expensive so that rarely happens), banana pancakes, baked macaroni & cheese, good bread,...okay i'm hungry.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


So its been almost two months in Batouri now. Except for weekend trips to Bertoua, I cannot leave. It is required of volunteers to spend their first and last 3 months at post. The title for this post comes from the fact its the main feeling i've felt since arriving. Frustration for my language, for the culture and living here, and for figuring out what real sort of work i'm supposed to be doing.

The language will come, i'm sure of that. Slowly but surely. Not to mention the prescence of many ethnice languages, of which i've been learning a bit of Fulfulde here and there. My days usually consist of getting to the bank around 9 AM. I'm really not obligated to work my first 3 months, but merely supposed to observe and integrate into the culture. With this I use my time at the bank merely for French. To study it and pratice conversation. I've started trying to think of work I can do with a SED volunteer here in Batouri. I'm starting a girls club at one of the local high school's with my health postmate Jackie and there are plans for condom demonstrations on worls aid's day. My french is not quite there for business classes and the East is the least-developed region here, which is proven so to me by some mentalities of people I have encountered. This hasn't made thinking of projects and their prospect of success the most easy.

Having just said the East is the least-developed, with that it is also the most aggressive. As a volunteer you are always on the job 24/7 and I feel that here where it is like I'm on American Idol when I leave my house and everybody watches me as I walk since it is not so common to see many white people in this neck of the woods. Buit (pronounced like Bwe), Nassara, La Blanche, are all names I am frequently called as I walk the streets. It annoys me to know end when they call me that stating the obvious, but if I turn and all they want is to get my attention for a wave or to come up and greet me with a handshake thats okay. What has been bothering me the most is the stigma that white people are all rich. And sometimes here even with my Peace Corps salary and living in a house that sticks out like a sore thumb in my neighborhood only proves the stigma true. I've been asked for money, to give them things I'm wearing, a young girl coming to my house to give me her sob story again saying she needed $, and for me the saddest/hardest is being asked for food. Of course that doesn't even take into account the "i love you's." I was pulled into a conversation by a guy wanting just a word. He asked me in English so I relented. As soon as I sat down, he offered his love to me and asked to see me often. I immediately stood up shook his hand and wished him a good day saying that is not the way to start a conversation with a blanche. With that i'm sometimes asked if they can go back to the states with them. I just say "we'll see." It stops the conversation easier than saying no. I've got replies to all these scenarios save for the asking for food, to which i've only been able to hang my head and keep walking. Its frustrating the days when I feel everybody wants a piece of me and even more so I feel so on guard with anybody trying to befriend me. This makes me feel bad when intentions can totally be innocent.

Sticking out when walking around can have its rewards. One day I can feel its a spotlight and the next I can be grateful. Walking home one day my sandal broke and as I was hobbling along I eventually had about 15 people crowd around me and try to fix my sandal. They refused when I said i'll just walk home barefoot. They were starting to go to some lengths when I was just trying to give my sandals away saying i'll just throw them out when I get home. Several pairs of sandals were brought forth of theirs to choose from and of course everybody knowing where I lived the girl I took sandals from just said she would pick them up later at my place.

What really is frustrating is the constant on and off of both water and electricity. Its good when I have them both for 3 complete days and then I know i'm pushing my luck. Which is funny to say that as I'm writing this, yep for sure electricity just went out. I'm getting quite used to cooking by candlelight. I will after 2 years learn to appreciate cooking since all of it as to be down by scratch. One of my many where in the world moments was cooking on my gas stove by candlelight and sewing curtains by hand.

But I digress, while there as been a lot of frustrations most of which probably won't go away, its all part of this big adjustment period. What makes Batouri for me is the friends that I have made here. It helps to find things that make you happy. Ed Nader who I get my internet from has been in town this week. He owns a tobacco company here and comes for a couple weeks every few months. When he is in town his inflatable pool is cleaned and i have taken very much advantage of that! Hot season is coming and I do not look forward to sweating anymore than I am and I never thought I would say but I don't want my face and arms tanned more than they already are.

P.S. Oh i didn't even talk about the frustration of my computer. It has been down since i got here. Trying my best to get it fixed. Looking like i'll have to do a system recovery where i'll loose everything since i'm in middle of nowhere Africa. With a computer broken here its like i'm up a creek without a paddle with a hole in it being chased by a hippo (incidentally which are here in the East and one of the most dangerous animals in the world). After not having internet for over a month, I am finally borrowing my Education postmate Jessica's computer. Crossing fingers next post will be with my own....

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Move to Post

Here in Cameroon I no longer write from Bafia. Training is over! The day after we officially swore in as Peace Corps Volunteers I began the move out East. Those going to the East and North left together to Yaounde. While those going north caught the train that afternoon, us Easties spent the night in a communal dormitory style house the PC has for us volunteers. The next day they drove us, all six of us and our immense baggage including bikes, to the bus station. There was a bit of trepidation on our part remembering all what happpened during our site visit, but all went fairly well. Highlights were a man directly in front of Liz going into an epileptic seizure and me being sold a raw egg instead of a hard-boiled one that I cracked open all over myself.

We arrived in Bertoua too late on Friday to go to the bank too pull out our money, so staying for the weekend was the only option. This turned out to be for the best. Us six new volunteers got in alot of good bonding time. There are only nine volunteers in the East. The other three were all there the second night and we all went out for a delicious fish dinner. It's was weird to see that where other regions in Cameroon have 20/30+ people us Easties can be all seated together all around one table. The rest of the weekend was passed with a Glee marathon, lots of walking around, visiting Pati's house, fish dinners, eating beans and beignets from a road-side stand, etc. Monday our big accomplishment was the bank. One in America might not see this as a days accomplishment, but in Africa it can be. Picking up an ATM card, receiving its pin, and drawing out money all required three different lines. Between all six of us working all different lines, the wait was just under 3 hours. Who knew just waiting in line can take so much energy? Lesson in Africa you'll only need to learn one - always bring a book!

I was happy Tuesday to make my final move. Thankful to bring my guitar, but tired of lugging it everywhere. The bus ride left more to be desired. Its a three hour bus ride for 90 kilometres. It should really only take an hour or two, but because the roads are unpaved its three hours on a good day, possibly up to nine on a bad one. Jessica, Julia, and I were crammed in a row together with two other people. We had our backpacks with us and between the dust and sweat and loss of feelings in our legs caused by heavy backpacks we were thankful when our anglophone friend Jupiter showed up in Batouri when we arrived with his company's truck. Highlights for the night, buying a mattress and carrying it home on my head to the many teasing of others and coming home to find my house in complete disarray. Since it was last occuped, it had collected immense amounts of dust, cobwebs, etc. Ask me how much I missed home at that moment? ALOT!

Since Julia leaves further out east in Kenzou (another 3, 4 hour trip for 120 km)I wanted to take her to post to help set her up. Highlights from that trip include being one of only two white people in town (both girls nonetheless), trying out my less than stellar Fulfulde since there were people there that only spoke it and not French, finding food to make for dinner which included me breaking down and eating Sardines (!, not as bad as orignally thought and it was nice to eat a fish and not have to worry about bones) trying out a latrine, having electricity only from 6-10 pm at night, and killing a cockroach while bucket bathing. Julia is set up comfortably and will do a really good job there as an English teacher, that and learn to speak Fulfulde better than all of us!

So here I am back in Batouri. Nice to finally have internet after long abscense. My house in coming along slowly, but surely. My first day back I threw a lot away from the previous volunteer Trevor and dusted almost everything. Both electricity and running water were out the first couple days. It wasn't a bad experience bucket bathing by kerosene lamp. Today the entire inside was painted. Something so little does so much. The head of the bus company, Alliance, came several times during the day too make sure all went well for me with that. The accountant at my bank, Abdoulaye, is a muslim. He invited me & Jessica over to his house last night for dinner. He is a Muslim and during Ramadan they fast every day. They break their fast each night with beignets and this corn drink called bouille which we sipped out of bowls. Its late here and we are back on a generator here at my internet source since electricity is out yet again. I'm going to say adieu, but I am excited for the cultural and language integration to finally begin. Just need to get my house in a workable condition! Yep, life in Batouri has begun! :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Travel in Cameroon

Its ridiculous, crazy, and something else entirely. So much that it gets its own blog post. The reason for traveling? I received my post last week! Its Batouri in the eastern region. There are 3 SED (small economic development trainees posted in the in the east, all of whom girls. Coincidentally, 3 Education trainees received posts in the east...all girls as well. All the men volunteers who have finished their service are getting replaced with woman. Random, yes. And for the least developed region of Cameroon an interesting choice.

So traveling. Its been full of its moments of culture shock. My sunday, the 4th of July for my American counterparts, was spent immersed in learning this new way of travel. Every trainee traveled with their community host. Each community host is from the city/village where we are all posted. They are given the responsibility of making sure we meet people and get integrated in the society. So sunday morning Elizabeth, Patricia, and I traveled with our counterparts all the way from Bafia to Bertoua. Bertoua is the biggest city in the east and travel time is 8 hours away on a GOOD day. We met at the bus station 8:00 am where there were already a ton of organized chaos going about. Once you pay for your ticket you take your bag to your bus where they will put it on top of the bus for you. They always wait for the bus to be full before they will leave so Even when you think the bus is full its not. Last second it always fills up with more. Where the aisle is there also fits a seat. So comfotably seating 3 now with the aisle seat becomes 4 but its full when there is 5 seated in one row! There was a pig tied up laying next to the bus that people kept kicking as they walked by. When a lot of men suddenly surrounded it and then came a bunch of squealing. The 3 of us panicked thinking they were killing it, but no, turns out they were putting on the top of the bus. Yep, we had carried a pig with us for 2 hours all the way to Yaounde. With all of us packed in together, I still find it strange that Cameroonians no matter how hot it is hate wind. They were getting after us to shut the window but Patricia said she was in need of air and could vomit if she didn't have any. That put all the complaining to rest.

That was Bafia. When we arrived in Yaounde we had our biggest scare. We had to take a taxi to catch our next bus to Bertoua. As we neared the bus station all of a sudden the trunk of the taxi opened up and guys started grabbing for our bags. Thinking they were trying to steal them we hurriedly grabbed for our bags and yelling at them to stop. Our taxi driver got out to tell them to quit, and as it turns out thats what they do when you know you're going to take a bus. There are two bus companies competing for business so if they can grab your bag and take it to their bus company thats what they do. But of course scaring "la blanche" (the white girls) is something they would get a kick out of to. It was supposed to leave at one, but it didn't feel up until 2 but for a 6 hour bus ride on what we as Americans consider a normal bus (and complete with air conditioning!) was pretty decent. The only difference, bathroom breaks by the side of the road where you just find a spot wherever. Where we might like to find a private spot, nope they would line up relatively near each other.

Can there possibly be more? Definetly yes, but to keep things short let me skip to the next day and talk about my prison bus trip from Bertoua to Batouri. Its was supposed to leave at 1 but we didn't leave until 3 so I got some good reading time in. I can't give any decent description of this and will have to post a photo just for accuracy. The chairs are like folding metal chairs put together to form a bench. One on each side and of course don't forget the metal chair that folds down on the aisle. It was rickety old bus that you pray doesn't break down during the 2-3 hour (on a good day, 4-? on a bad one) bus ride over a dusty, bumpy road. It took 3 hours to go 90km. There are different and even better buses to take, but I just happened to have gotten the prison bus transportation as my first ever visit to my post. The roads are better than they have been so its not always prison bus transportation like it used to be. So (mom) I don't want to give you a worse impression than it really is. So as not to be claustrophobic I sat next to the window. Luckily no one told me to close it but as I was sitting on the left/drivers side I arrived in Batouri with a nice layer of dirt on my face. So right side it always is! If not just for the dirt its also for safety. The east is rich in natural resources and there is constantly logging trucks on the road bringing in logs from the CAR (Central African Republic). This hasn't happened in forever, but its been known to happen that a truck sideswipes one of the buses and that would affect anybody seated behind the, yah, again right side it is! We did break down for about 20 minutes and as it was nearing night at this point I was praying it to be a quick fix. Just for this reason, the Peace Corps advising volunteers not to travel at night so as if the bus breaks down you are not stuck spending the evening stuck on the road.

Its was an interesting journey from Bertoua to Batouri. I've been in sort of a PC bubble being in training and it was good to see other parts of Cameroon. The towns I've been in so far (Yaounde & Bafia) seem a lot more plush to me know. Yes, I know I'm in Africa, but it came to me on another level when in Bertoua I saw a lot of different Aid Development organizations and their cars driving around(i.e. World Food Programme, UNHCR, UNICEF,etc.) There is nothting between Bertoua or Batouri except really small villages with mud huts. Its a lot of the Africa/African poverty seen in photos. There are signs for almost all of these villages that describe different projects that are being sponsored by these organizations. Mostly clean water projects. It was very thought-provoking to see all of it, let alone see the recognition on villagers faces when they realized a white girl was in the bus. PCV's have been referred to before as dusty-road diplomats. I was thinking of that on my way to Batouri that with the PC we live like a local, whereas other AID organizations even are own embassy stay behind their walls and leave them in their SUVs to make "field visits." I may not be doing much with international developement, BUT how interesting to say that I like live, live in Africa. I live like a local, shop like a local, soon hopefully to speak like a local. With my site visit lasting 3 days, I left already speaking some Fulfulde (local ethnic language). It was interesting to think about it just on the basis of how important an understanding of culture is and how much i'll be able to understand that having have lived like a Cameroonian for 2 years.

Coming back has been much easier. Traveling will be much better when I know more what to expect. Tonight we are in Yaounde at the Peace Corps house that they have here for volunteers right next to their offices. Its funny that I'm only a month in and i'm already rejoicing over the little things. Tonight I was able to have my clothes washed and dried by a machine! Not by hand or line-dry. Although ridiculously over-priced, I had pizza for dinner. This is followed by some stable internet, watching TV, ....and a shower with HOT WATER!!! Tommorow back to Bafia it is.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My First T.I.A. Experiences

First off, T.I.A. stands for This is Africa. Meaning the experiences/moments I have that let me know where im at. After meeting and driving home with my host family they showed me all around the house. There is running water and for the most part stable electricity if it doesn't rain since it rained alot that first night and all the electricity went out. The house has a kitchen, but there is a place outside kind of like a covered shack where they were cooking my first dinner of fish and spaghetti. (Here fish meaning literally the whole fish, which was the second time ever i've eaten it like that!) On a cultural note, a lot of people here eat the heads of the fish, their eyes and yes sometimes even the bones apparently for the calcium. As required by the Peace Corps my room has a door with a lock, a screen on the window, mosquito net, bucket for bucket showers, some starter toilet paper, kerosene lamp, bed, matress, pillow & sheets. Because I understand better than I speak i'm afraid that they thought with the few things I was able to speak I was much more fluent than I really am. My host mother has since confimed this saying I understand very well but have trouble being able to converse back. After dinner which is normally around 8 I just couldn't take anymore in. I retreated to my room and felt the first true pangs of lonliness. Not being understood is very hard. A few tears came before I told myself that i'm exactly where I to be. A call to my mom, which consists of me "beeping" her (letting it ring twice then hanging up so she can call me back and its free for me) helped resolve this isolation feeling and I was able to go to bed with no problems. The next day we debriefed about the first night with our host family. Alot of people went to bed around 7 and we were told we should always be prepared for awkwardness the first night which made me feel better. So here they are, my first T.I.A. experiences:

1. Making sure my mosquito net is down and tucked into my mattress atleast two hours before I go to bed and then making sure i've done everything necessary before crawling into it at night.
2. Waking up to rooster's crowing every morning
3. Getting a page/ handout that describes how to use the toilets here (in short always bring a bucket of water with you)
4. Having no fear about discussing bathroom issues
5. Lying in bed in a skirt & sports bra fanning the sweat away while charging my laptop with a regulator the size of a shoebox.
6. The first couple of mornings my brother Jerry would walk me to school and pick me up afterwards. One morning I fell in front of him and scraped my knee on the dirt. C'est mon première blesseur (sp?) en Afrique!(my first wound in africa!) I said this to him to say a joke but of course to also keep my pride intact :).
7. Bringing my own waterbottle to the dinner table because its water that has been boiled and filtered.
8. Killing my first bug(and thankfully the only one so far)in my room and not freaking out about it like I thought I would.
9. Seeing a family of five on the same motorcycle. Two parents with three children with a little baby near the handlebars all dressed up to go to church...of course with no helmets.
10. My family and I getting a good laugh/bonding over watching this American learn to wash her clothes by hand in a bucket of water for the first time.
11. Washing my underwear by hand in a bucket when a chicken strolled by.
12. Asking where to throw something out and being told to just put it on a trashpile on the ground outside.

Things i'm glad to have brought:
1. Camping towel
2. Solar headlamp
3. Pillow from home!
4. Small mirror to put on my desk when getting ready in the morning

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fast Forward

Life is very different. If I was on top of things I would have kept a journal thus far to give an accurate picture of all I have seen and done. This time last week I had already left home but was still in orientation in Philadelphia. With all that has happened, I feel its been so long since I left. Fast forward the sadness of saying goodbye to family, friends, and yes even my dog Wali. Fast forward seeing some historical sights in Philadelphia, Peace Corps orientation, meeting other volunteers, getting my yellow fever shot, 2 hour bus ride to JFK, and a frantic search as to the whereabouts of my mom to say goodbye before I left the states. Fast forward through a sleepless flight to Brussels, starting to freak out and get nervous in the Brussels airport, passing out on the plane to Cameroon, having a first impression of Africa being of two different colors red and green. Fast forward the first night in the hotel where everybody was in some way or another freaking out about something. Fast forward through the weekend of language tests, of which I placed intermediate-mid (the minimum needed for successful completion of training), through painful shots of typhoid, hepatitis, and menigitis (only 6 more required shots to go!) Fast forward through medical and safety lectures, a cultural dance event (our first official chance to do something besides being shuffled between the hotel and PC office), through a dinner at the country directors house for which the U.S. Ambassador was present.

This for the most part gets to the present. Yesterday they bused us all to Bafia where we are training for the next 10 weeks. When we arriwed,they announced the host family and then called out the name of the trainee who they belonged to. We met in front of everybody and depending on who was present we gave each family member three small hugs rotating sides of the face, kind of like three kisses on the cheek. My family has 8 people, they told me to expect 6 but well this is Africa there is no suprise to see more. They dad Celestin is a nurse, the mom Lydie is a drugstore assistant. In family terms,Jerry is my brother he is 19 and so far my main host. He haswalked me to training and picked me up and even helped me cook my breakfast this morning. My cousins are Elvis, Sandrine, and Epiphane 22,20, and 11 respectively. Anne is my big sister who is 25 that I have yet to meet. Well 5minutes now remaining on my internet so I must end this, it was rushed but I hope understandable. More on Bafia, training, my awkward first night with my African family, and this new life to come soon now that I have internet!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Timeline: From California to Cameroon

Tommorow I say goodbye to my family & friends one last time and let this adventure begin! Tonight in Loma Linda, tommorow in Philadelphia, and the finally Yaounde Friday (how crazy to think by the end of this week i'll be in Africa!). There has been a lot of waiting, preparation, & paperwork to get to where I am. For my own personal record I thought I would take a few moments to jot down my timeline just to get to this point, and if your interested, to share it with you (whoever you may be) as well.

I first thought seriously of joining the Peace Corps in October/November of 2008. At the time in the middle of a desperate employment search. After working on my application and receiving my recommendation letters I was just about to hit the submit button when I received news of my acceptance into an internship in Berlin. When I returned end of April, even though I had a brief employment search in Washington DC and temporary work here in Redlands, I knew that Peace Corps was meant to be. I never wanted to wonder what if. (My submission on June 4 is coincidentally the same day I will be landing in Cameroon). Next came an interview, an nomination for business advising in french-speaking sub-saharan leaving Feb 2010, a very intricate medical/dental clearance thanks in part to my recent "brain surgery" as it was classified (a.k.a sinus surgery), then waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Several attempts to receive possible news of a invitation always came back with a "you'll here next week." Thankfully by January I finally had my placement interview after my placement officer came back from sick leave. Then waiting. By end of January, finally was I told of my new placement officer, of my original program being cut in half, of my country, and of my departure in 4 months time. Now on the other side of those 4 months, I'm glad to say I've had that much more time to get ready, to hangout with friends/family more, and wake up in a comfy bed & with a hot shower!

These past few weeks i've gone through several, but mostly three, different moods. They shuffle between nostalgia/sadness for missing my friends/family, nervousness, and excitement. Now that tommorow is when I finally leave, the excitement is taking over. Excitment of something new, nervousness of not knowing what to expect. I wonder of what my first impressions will be, of how I will take the humidity, how I will adjust to the food, if I will luck out with a good host family, what my project will be, where I will end up in Cameroon after training, and a bunch of things that keep my mind wandering!

So as one timeline ends, another begins. Tommorow night I arrive in Philadelphia, then orientation with all the other volunteers Wednesday afternoon. Thursday morning is vaccinations & a bus ride to JFK then a evening flight out to Cameroon via a stopover in Brussels. If you believe in prayer send one out for a safe journey! Next blog post will be from Africa!!! :D

Thursday, May 20, 2010

So the Peace Corps, eh?

So without further ado, let this blog begin! For better or for worse, here it goes. For those that may be reading this and have no idea as to the origins for its creation, I have been accepted into the Peace Corps (an American volunteer program run by the U.S. Government) and will leave June 1 for a 27 month adventure in Cameroon as a Small Business Advisor.

So the Peace Corps. When i've informed family & friends of this decision there have been many reactions. The two most common being either the comment "WOW, you are brave" or the question "why?". To the comment I say its a chance to make a difference, allow for a huge growth opportunity, experience a new culture, get out of my comfort zone, and well, frankly, to have the travel adventure of a lifetime :). I hope my answer to the question will be clear in spite of its conciseness. I've done crazier things, time wise at least. When I left for my internship in Berlin, I was accepted into it on a Friday and arrived in Berlin the following Friday. Except for bad luck with accomodations and a witchy landlady in my last apartment there, it was a fabulous experience! Yes I've lived in France for 8 months, but this by far is the biggest, longest, and farthest travel experience I have ever pursued. For the Peace Corps, I will be leaving a year to the day I applied last June. So I have had a full year to consider my decision, and the process of getting to where I am now was not the easiest. Patience truly is a virtue. Also, there were many volunteer projects I led out on in college (the biggest of them being a Zimbabwe fundraiser and creation of a Microfinance project for the School of Business) which put in my head the idea of what it would actually be like to live in a developing country. Coupled with my desire to on a professional level pursue Diplomacy and to avoid a 8 to 5 cubicle job, I figure I'm young...why not?

So with my Bon Voyage party last weekend, a weekend trip to Walla Walla, WA to my college town for my friend Megan's wedding coming up this weekend, and that fact that i'm already packed (yes, don't judge its true!)I'm going to sit back and enjoy my last two weeks with my family, friends, good food, and a good dose of American culture! Join me on this adventure? Stayed tuned for more...