I am back!
So I don't get on the internet very often here in Cameroon, so I'm going to try to recap the last couple of months of my life in a short, and hopefully not excruciatingly boring, blog post. Here goes...
The last month of training was full of final activities, preparations for the impending massive-freakout (aka moving to our villages), and enjoying spending time with a large group of obnoxious Americans. I did not have the honor of testing the fecal-oral diet during training (although typhoid did get the better of about half of our health group, so it seems quite effective). Instead, I spent the last month of training on the beer-and-carbs diet, and it seems to be working well so far. The last thing my neighbor in Bokito said to me as I was leaving for the swearing-in ceremony was “Bokito treated you so well, look how fat you are now!” Lies, actually. All my clothes still fit quite well, but I appreciate the sentiment, neighbor.
Geoff, Shannon, me, and a braid that fell off of my head
My walk to the training center in Bokito
Some of the Santés on AIDS Day
One of my favorite people in this entire country
Sophie and I - we mastered the female condom demonstrations in French
Joe and I with the best pagne in all of Cameroon
How we spend our field trips...
Our drink of choice
Swearing-in was a little anti-climactic, but fun nonetheless. I forgot to say my name when the Ambassador said “I (blank) pledge allegiance to the United States of America”, so I'm not sure if I'm technically a volunteer, but I'll just fake it til I make it. We partied until the sun came up, then cried like babies as we all left for or respective regional capitals.
The Santés swear-in as real live Peace Corps Volunteers
After spending a few days in Bamenda getting essentials, such as buckets and a mortar and pestle, I was picked up by the Fonfuka Council pick-up truck and driven (in a car!) to my village. Yay dry season! The road was still awful, but it was nice to be sitting in a real seat and not on the back of a motorcycle.
My first weekend in village, there was a big celebration commemorating five years since the death of one of the Fons (traditional rulers). I feel very lucky to have arrived just in time for it, since it was apparently one of the biggest celebrations of the sort they've had in the past 25 years. There was feasting, music, masks (“ju-jus”), and a Peace Corps Volunteer dancing with the Fon of Bum.
I've had a few moments since I've been here where it's really hit me – I live in a Cameroonian village. In the mornings I usually sit on my porch with a book for a few hours and greet everyone who passes by my house in as many languages as I can (Pidgin: Morning oh!; Fulfulde: Jam na!; and Bum: A cherna!). The kindness of the people in my village is a little overwhelming. Almost everyone greets me with a smile, and after I bought a couple of eggs in the market, I've been gifted about ten of them in the last few weeks. I've spent some fun times with the neighbor kids too, mostly playing jacks with seven stones or palm nuts. I'm slowly becoming less pathetic at it, so yay. A few of the teenage girls who live near me are also helping me to cook on my wood fire with the few ingredients I can buy here – sweet potatoes, yams, ginger, garlic, onions, tomato paste, eggs, palm oil, and MSG cubes. In return, I give them Milk Duds and my eternal gratitude. Seems like a fair trade off to me.
Everyday is an emotional roller coaster – there are moments when I look around me and know that there is nowhere I would rather be, and nothing I would rather be doing, and then there are other times when all I want is to drive to the Shell or 7-11, buy some Doritos and a spicy beef patty, and curl up in front of the TV and watch a movie.
I spent a nice Christmas in Fonfuka watching a movie about a Nigerian midget with my neighbors, and New Year's with a few other volunteers near Bamenda. It was so nice to see some familiar faces and recharge my batteries (both mental and those of my computer and ipod). Will be heading back to Fonfuka in the next couple of days though with supplies of pickles and Vache Qui Rit from the big city. Here is to a new year, new experiences, and hopefully becoming a real live village mama.
After living in my Cameroonian house for a few weeks, I have come up with a list of things that, I will no longer take for granted in the US/Switzerland:
- Cooking indoors and with gas.
- Doing the dishes indoors and in a sink.
- A trash pickup service. Burning my trash is not fun.
- A mop and broom.
- A washing machine.
- Roads. These cowpaths I go on to get to my village are not amusing me in the least.