My apologies for not writing sooner, but the past couple weeks have been such a whirlwind! It actually feels like I’ve been in
Our time in Philly was filled with icebreakers and information on cultural adjustment and expectations. Every staff member there was a former PCV and it really does make you feel like you are joining a big family and an organization that encapsulates so many memories, hopes and history. Peter, our facilitator, was awesome and he even teared up when wishing us goodbye and good luck before we took off for the airport to catch a plane to
That doesn’t mean that we weren’t aching to get out of
During our time in
We also had to take a language test. I’ve been placed in Intermediate Low (the 2nd language class from the top). We took a technical test for Small Enterprise Development too. Tests don’t usually get me excited, but this one did – it was just a preliminary exam and sort of demonstrated what we will be learning over the next couple months. I’m super geeked. I already feel like I’m learning so much.
Now we’re all in Bangante, settled into our homestay families here and into the first couple weeks of training. The first couple nights at my homestay were a bit of an adjustment – I think it may have been the first time that it really hit me that ‘hey, I’m in Africa’….all the sudden struggling through conversation in French with the strangers I would be living with for the next 3 months in a house and environment which resembled nothing of that which I left behind in the States. Life is good though, life is good…
Before I go, here are a few random notes and observations from my first few weeks in
- 6 shots in less than a week = really sore arms.
- Beware: Asking for a
Coronaat a local bar in may result in a big white rock. Who knew that was even on the menu? Cameroon
- Anyone can join Peace Corps – even celebrities. Amongst our crew we have a real live Indian music video star and a couple that had their green wedding taped for the Sundance Film Festival.
- Even a bunch of supposedly mature, future PCV 20-somethings digress into giddy silliness when confronted with a health session surrounding the sole topic of diarrhea. Didn’t help that the power point started off with “Diarrhea Happens…”
- Potato peelers – a device my host family here had never before seen – seem to be one of those fancy but useless technological advances, at least for Cameroonians. My host mom can peel upwards of 5 potatoes with a knife in the time it takes me, the white girl with her nifty western tool, to peel one. I actually think it was made for those of us who are simply impaired in terms of hand-eye coordination. I’ve already cut myself several times with the knife while helping my host fam prepare dinner. I think they were just trying to make me feel useful by letting me peel the fruit before, and now they just look concerned anytime I ask to help.
- Markets/stores here are not constricted in terms of physical space as they are in the
. One of our trainers, a current volunteer, stated it best by saying that you could take out a lawn chair, cop a squat, and pop a beer anywhere in town and within no time at all, you’ll be shopping. Anything that you might have been looking for from mangoes to shoes will appear before your eyes. Even highways are fair game - people will come running up to your car to sell their goods at every gendarme stop. So far I’ve seen everything from dead monkeys to baby goats for sale at a window near you. US
- The mayor of Bangante (Madame La Maire) is a beast at Foozball.
- After only being in
for a few short weeks, I can already feel it leaving an impression. For instance, I will never again think of mud in the same way. “Bu” as it is called here, is a force to be reckoned with. This is the rainy season (there are only two seasons in Cameroon – the rainy season and the dry season), so it rains just about every day, sometimes multiple times a day. The sky opens and it rains harder than I’ve ever seen it rain before, but only for a matter of minutes each time. Snow days might not exist in Cameroon, but on more than one occasion I’ve had one of my French classes delayed because there was no hearing each other over the drumming of the rain on the roof. The ‘bu’ ensues, caking your shoes and making you stand a good few inches above your normal height. Whats more is that this culture places a lot of emphasis on the cleanliness and presentation of one’s shoes, so people spend every evening cleaning the red earth out of crevices. I’m afraid I will never understand this part of the culture – honestly, if it were me, I think instead of placing an emphasis on having shiny shoes I would just make every pair of shoes the same color as the rouge dirt. Maybe I will start a campaign and make this my secondary project while in the Peace Corps. I think I might also try to make tank tops the norm…not trying to be culturally insensitive concerning conservativeness, but I’m really not digging this farmer’s tan I’ve been perfecting… Cameroon
- Somehow Spanish soap operas it seems, like some kind of opportunistic virus, find their way into nearly every television market around the world. I remember seeing them in all of their overly dramatic glory on television stations when traveling around the
Middle Eastas well. Now I am forced to watch them nearly every night, dubbed into French (which only increases the drama mind you) when my family flips on the teli after dinner. Really, how does this happen? My only savior is the fact that our family’s television is tapped into the cable of our neighbors – meaning that if they change the station, the channel changes on ours as well. Awesome. I think the dad in the family next door isn’t a fan either. Thank god for that.