21 September 2009
Friday afternoon we landed and took our first trip in a bush taxi to our hotel. Bush taxis, hmm, how do I describe them. They are like skinny mini vans, some people may know them as jitney buses. They have about 12 seats in them, but we squish around 18 people in them. It is a very snug fit so there is no need for seat belts, we have each other.
Meals are very starchy and fatty. I was told this prior to coming but did not actually expect it. Breakfasts are very small so we have a piece of baguette and then café au lait. I am told that the coffee that we are getting at the hotel is unusual and next week when we are at our homestays it will be Nescafe. Maybe I will start trying some tea. We use sugar cubes here, which is taking some getting used to as well since I love splenda.
Lunch and dinner seem to be identical thus far, though when we start training it will be different. We have rice and potatoes and some veggies for me (others get meat or fish). And we get a coleslaw-like salad or other cut up raw veggies (no lettuce). Apparently this is also not normal, but the hotel trying to be fancy. Then we get a piece of fruit for dessert.
Saturday we started by having language and site placement interviews. This is so that we can start language classes with people on the same level of as us. And we get to talk to the placement officer about our preferences and our skills so that we can be placed appropriately for our two year service. We also took a survey bout homestay preferences. I am so excited to move into our families. We will be moving to Bamena on Thursday where we will move in with our new families for the next 10 weeks.
Sunday nothing too exciting, though we did go for a walk. While we are in the hotel we are not allowed outside because we do not have national ID cards yet. We also had dinner at the country director’s house.
Other random thoughts.
There is a night club below my hotel room and so it is hard to fall asleep before 3am (when the club closes). I am hoping to check it out sometime this week since we will soon be moving to smaller villages where we are going to spend nights with our host families.
It is a very nice temperature outside and not as rainy as I expected. But the rest of the month and October are supposed to be the rainiest times. The whole atmosphere sort of reminds me of Aruba, even the smell (although I have not seen the ocean yet). So in that respect I like it a lot. Lots of palm trees, really green everywhere even though we are in a city and rich/dark reddish muddy ground except for the main paved roads.
The Peace Corps seems to be protecting us a lot right now so as to transition well. I am trying not to question the rules too much and to understand them through their intended purpose. I want to be the most successful volunteer I can be and the training process seems to be well thought out for that purpose.
I had my first Cameroonian beer (I think its local) last night – Castel Beer. Nothing to special to speak of, but not bad. Hopefully soon I will get to try several different kinds.
I think that is it for now, if you have questions you could make a comment and then I will try to post a blog about it. I would love to hear from lots of people!
15 September 2009
But who is counting, right. Below I talk about the marathon I did the other day, the list of my schedule for the next few days, and how packing is going.
Why would anyone purposefully run 26.2 miles. I am not sure bodies are actually built to handle it. That being said, two days later I feel great. I finished the marathon and I ran 9 minute miles finishing just under 4 hours. That was the goal that I set for myself so I am ecstatic that I was able to do it.
Running for that long is largely a mental task. Physically I knew I would be able to do because I had done two 20 mile training runs. I started out feeling great and running under 8 minute miles, then around mile 10 I broke down mentally because I decided not to get water at the last station. Regretting that decision, I had to make it to the 12 mile marker. But then I got my mind back on track around mile 13 and felt pretty good for the rest of the race.
So even though the race was mostly mental, I could definitely feel its effects physically. I waddled for the rest of the day and all day yesterday because my hips did not want to do their job. But now I do feel much better and looking back this marathon went much better than my first. And training for this did a wonderful job of keeping me sidetracked while waiting to leave for
Now I only have a little bit of time left in the states and no more time left to waste.
Tomorrow, Wednesday 16, 2009:
10:30am – leave with Mom and Mary for Philly
12:00pm – lunch with Katie, Mom, and Mary in Philly
1:30pm – registration with the Peace Corps
3:00pm-7:00pm – introductory staging
Thursday 17, 2009:
6:30am – check out of hotel
7:00am – leave for clinic
9:30am – leave for JFK
5:50pm – plane departs for
Friday 18, 2009:
7:35am – land in
10:20am – plane leaves for
4:05pm – land in Yaoundé
Friday afternoon I will be in a completely different continent, where I will be spending the next two years of my life!
Fitting all of my stuff in two checked bags and two carry-ons is proving very difficult. My checked bags cannot weigh more than 80 pounds together and either one by itself cannot be more than 50 pounds. Then it must fit the requirements set for linear measurements. The length plus width plus height of both of my checked bags cannot exceed 107 inches. While this may sound like it is plenty of weight and space; I can assure you it is not. I have to fit my things that I need to live for the next two years.
So I think that I have fit everything within the framework set by the Peace Corps, but it depends on whether I measure conservatively or liberally. I hope that at the airport everything goes well!
08 September 2009
Only 9 days left before I leave for the Peace Corps. Oddly enough, I remember this feeling like it was 3 months ago, oh right…I was nine days away from leaving for Mauritania then. But I guess now is the time to start believing that it is really going to happen. I am really leaving. I think I have most things set in order. I still have one more week of pretend school before everything changes. I have gotten most things together, but after this weekend is when I will re-pack and finish all of that stuff. This week is when I will say most of my good-byes…again!
In the mean time, I am running a marathon on Sunday: The Lehigh Valley Marathon. If you get the chance, you can come by and cheer for me because I know I will need all the encouragement I can get. The race starts at 7am at the Lehigh Valley Hospital on Cedar Crest. I will be near Sand Island in Bethlehem probably around 9am (12 miles into the race). And it will end in Easton, hopefully around 11am if all goes well. For more details and actual maps: http://www.vianet.org/events/marathon/course_description.shtml
I just realized that I have not really posted anything about Cameroon specifically yet. With only 9 days left in the states I figure now is as good a time as any.
History – Cameroon derives its name from the Portuguese (1472), who named it Rio dos Camarões after the abundance of shrimp in the water. After the Portuguese came the Dutch and then the Germans. In the beginning of WWI, the French and British forced out the Germans. The French took the eastern section (80%) and used a policy of assimilation, while the British took the western part (20%) and adopted indirect rule. Then in 1960 the French colony proclaimed independence and in 1961 the two colonies were reunified. The current President is Paul Biya, who has served since 1982. The country is divided into 10 provinces (8 francophone, 2 anglophone) and has over 100 active political parties.
Population – approximately 19 million
Language – over 239 spoken, but only French and English are official languages
Religion – 50% animist/native, 30% Christian, 20% Muslim [although these numbers vary depending on who you talk to]
Communication – Letters will take at least two or three weeks and up to six weeks. Sometimes the mail has been weeded through, so do not send anything that is very valuable. Make sure to write ‘Par Avion’ (airmail) on any envelopes or letters that you send. While I am in training you can send packages and letters to me at the following address:
Peace Corps Trainee
Corps de la Paix
I will probably get a cell phone in country to communicate with Peace Corps staff and locals. The rates to make outgoing international calls are fairly high, but I will be able to receive international calls for free. Internet cafes are popping up in all of the cities, so that will probably be the easiest way to keep up communication.
Food – It has a diverse array of fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains. Local foods include: millet, plantains, beans, cassava, coco yams, sweet potatoes, okra, fish, and poultry. Luckily it sounds like being a vegetarian will not be difficult for me in this country, although up north the variety of vegetables decreases depending on the time of year.
Climate – The country is sometimes called ‘Africa in miniature’ because it contains so many different landscapes. The south and east areas have rainforests and lots of rainfall; the western provinces have mountains and steep slopes; the north has grassland plateaus leading to desert.
PC in Cameroon – In 1962 (shortly after Cameroonian independence) the Peace Corps set up projects focused on education. Since then four main sectors have developed: small enterprise development, agroforestry, education, and community health. I will be working on community health. This includes mainly health promotion, education, and prevention. Health issues in Cameroon include: malaria, HIV/AIDS, diarrhea, Tuberculosis, and Filariasis [Filariae are tiny worms that develop in humans, months after they are bitten by the filaria-carrying black fly, mosquito, or deer fly. The disease usually causes problems only after many years of chronic inflammation and scarring of involved organs and tissue. Filarial flies exist primarily in the South, Center, and East provinces of Cameroon.]
My specific position and duities will depend on where I am eventually placed. So more information will come on that during training.