Upon inspiration, ok and a few requests, it was brought to my attention that I have never actually "finished" this blog. I'm thinking its only fitting for the consistent amount I wrote throughout this entire experience its time I did. And what an experience it was! As it always is, in hindsight it went by really fast. It seems sometimes, was I ever even there? Never until I was wrapping up my time in Batouri (my dear, remote town en brousse) and taking in what an eventful two years it gave me did I realize the enormous commitment of giving up friends, family, & life as one knows it to immerse myself in such a foreign environment. That, and to cross the finish line under the conditions I did. To put it in more eloquent terms here is an inspiring quote a friend sent me several months ago, " Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength." Batouri definitely was not love at first sight, but come to love it I did. Sigh, can you tell I'm immersed in nostalgia?
So its been just over three months since I left Cameroon. Having visited the developed world three times during my stay, I wasn't immediately shocked by things. Although, this time it was about reassimilating back into the culture. Aside from readjusting to home. I didn't have to eat everything I could in a two week period or avoid technology. Everybody on touch screens became the norm, produce was clean, quadrupled in quantity, and doubled in size, and I could relearn some trust in the stability of electricity and running water. I could sit in a huge bucket of warm water and not use a cup to pour water over my head from a bucket.
Three months out, and I'm still waiting for the moment I will have to grab my dirty clothes, a bucket, and soap to wash my clothes by hand. There are menus at restaurants, reasonable customer service, and I can once again order water and drink from the tap. I can be friends with guys my age, have more in common with girls my age, and be expected and not argued that men and women should be treated as equal.
I found it humorous when friends would give me a ride in their cars and apologize if there was a thin layer of dust inside. Hey, if there was a working seatbelt, spacious room being one seat to one person, and no hole in the floor I was happy! Goodbye prison buses, goodbye bush taxis. Distance and time is a lot less mutually exclusive and a travel a lot more comfy. I'm loving having my anonymity back thank you, but finding the fact that this culture is, by nature, more reserved an adjustment. The biggest difference for me is language. Sometimes I have to conscientiously remember that people don't greet each other in Fulfulde, slipped sometimes and greeted friends in pidgin English (to laughter or blank stares), and on a few occasions talked to a waiter/waitress in French - once without realizing it. That's not even to mention that I've now thrown British English into the mix. If you were me, how would you answer the question "where are you from"?
So I wrapped up my post with goodbye celebrations, dinners, and endless goodbyes. Here are a few photos of my last few days at post, gonging-out ceremony in Yaounde, and my transition back into my first world self.
Goodbye ceremony with my handicapped and orphaned youth group. I as the group denoted La Mere des Enfants watched as acted out skits and danced for me.
During the ceremony, Pauline presented me with a Diplome d'Honneur (Diploma of Honor) in recognition of all my contributions to her youth group.
Last dinner of one of my favorites - Folere. Goodbye to eating dinner alot by hand.
Goodbye to making palm oil from scratch.
Goodbye to the man in the cowboy hat trying to sell me mystery meat.
Saddest goodbyes were to my closest friends.
My mission was to take a picture with a baby goat. Best I could do was this lamb.
My walk home every evening.
My house is just around the corner. In the background is the edge of Batouri and the start of the forest.
My new house that I moved into in February is behind that gate.
Cameroonians LOVE hamburgers, so it was only fitting I make it one last time for a farewell dinner.
Some of my closest Cameroonian friends, postmates, and friends from the Catholic Mission.
Business as usual. How I passed a lot of my two years. Abdoulaye (the accountant at my bank) working and me studying french.
Last time sorting through and organizing piles of money (CFA) brought to the bank!
The employees of the Bank and I at my farewell dinner with them.
Made it to my gonging out ceremony! Its a symbolic gesture from Peace Corps Admin to acknowledge the service of every Peace Corps Volunteer and officially mark the end of their service. When we are "gonged out", we then gain the title Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV). It was a bitter sweet moment as one the last memories with mom & dad in country was sitting together viewing this ceremony with other PCVs months earlier.
James, my program director, had the duty to present to all participants a summary of my service. He himself was a volunteer in Eastern Cameroon back in the '80s. Afterwards, other PCVs and Admin present added their own thoughts before I got a word of thanks in myself.
LaHoma, country director, attaching a pin to my dress and presenting me with two certificates, one of my language and another from the Cameroonian government.
Officially gonged out!
Jacqueline an Education volunteer and I both gonged out together.
Can now finally sign the wall of fellow RPCVs!
Goal: look as African as possible when arriving home.
Batouri & Kentzou reunite. Surreal encountering our first-world selves.
My dog Wali :)
Lovely hanging out with friends.
A calm tranquil scene to greet me in Montana this time around.
Visit to grandpa's farm is not complete without feeding the lamb's (whose mother doesn't recognize them).
Celebrating my grandma's 85th in British Columbia.
The Rockies - such a scenery change compared to Eastern Cameroon!
And now, I find myself in Oxford, England and absorbed in the pursuit of a master's. Here is is where I will leave you and bid this blog adieu. Many thanks to my family & friends supporting me throughout this eventful adventure!!!