24 October 2009

The End of Week of 5!

Time is really going by quickly now that we have training 6 days a week. The end of week 5 marks the half way point of training. So what have we done so far you may ask...

Well last weekend we had mountain bike training so now I have my very own mountain bike that I can ride around on. The only problem is that there are either 'highways' (paved roads) or really muddy and rocky roads. It is definitely an adventure getting around on this terrain. Actually on our first group ride two girls went to the hospital after falling. Don't worry they are ok and doing fine. I really love having my bike, though, because it is one more degree of freedom. I am able to bike over to the other training town and visit the other trainees. It is a really good work out too because there are hills everywhere.

We visited a Chefferie, which is basically a chiefdom. That was a very interesting cultural experience. He has over 30 wives and over 120 children. When we went to visit him we were wearing our very best and most traditional Cameroonian dress. In return he was wearing symbolically American things - a shirt with the US presidential seal, adidas pants, and a puma jacket. How is that for a cultural exchange. He was very knowledgeable and accepting of other cultures, even making a comment about how polygamous relationships are not acceptable in our culture.

We were also able to see another volunteer in action at his post. We were able to attend some community group meetings in Bandrefam, a small village near by. When we arrived, we were welcomed to a women's group meeting and they starting singing a song for us. One realization that I came to during this visit was how much communication is going to be a barrier in any post. Thus far I have been worried about getting my french down. But now I realize french is just the base, in order to communicate with everyone in the community I will need the local language. In most cases this means having a person who can translate french to the local language and be your point person. So I need to first get french down and then start on my new language...wish me luck.

This upcoming week we find out our post assignments. And then the following week we have site visit with our counterpart!! I will be in touch soon with my site assignment.

23 October 2009


(Sent by Chritina by mail September 27 - Earlier than the previous post)

After my first night in Bamena with my homestay family I now respect each and every PCV/RPCV infinitely more. I am not sure if I was just not prepared for the transition mentally or what. My French completely failed me and my family has taken it upon themselves to teach me basic French because that is how bad my communication skills were the first night.

Thankfully the first night is a hump that I have gotten over. The initial culture shock has worn off and my excitement and enthusiasm has returned. My family is really nice. My mother, Meredithe, is a housewife and my father, Romeo, is a driver in Bangante (a nearby bigger town). I have three brother and two sisters. Lots more people are constantly in and out of the house and eating dinner here. Most of the children are younger and my oldest sister, Terrance, does almost all of the chores. I would say that she is 13 if I had to guess.

My house is the blue house in town and that is how I and others identify it. I am really excited to have a light in my room because it starts getting dark around 6pm everyday and all year round. But the electricity is not guaranteed and we have lots of power outages. My house does not have running water, although some other volunteers do have a spigot at their houses. This means that we have a latrine and the shower area outside. In order to shower I must take a bucket bath. I think that this is an experience everyone should try. It is especially exhilarating if you use cold water!

I have definitely become very conscious of how much water I use each day, whether it is for drinking, bathing, washing my hands, etc. Water is not a given or especially easy to come by, so it makes you think about it whenever you do use it. Today I carried water on my head for the first time. It could not have been more than a five minute walk, but it was very difficult to do. I like to think of myself as a fairly strong individual, but my 13 (or so) year old sister upstaged me completely. As I came struggling back to my house my mother took the water from my head and told me that it was too heavy for me to carry.

We have finally begun training sessions so now I have lots of classes - technical training, language immersion, and cross cultural classes. These will keep my days very busy full of training that will help me to be an effective volunteer.

I think that I got sunburnt today, but I do not have a mirror to check and see. It is interesting to realize a lot of the things that we take for granted. Another interesting thing that I have noticed - they do not have trash cans here. You would think that might be a huge problem, but everyone reuses anything you can think of and I am told the very little trash that is produced people burn periodically (not the best strategy). But no food gets wasted - either animals or humans eat all of it.

16 October 2009

2 Weeks of Training Down

(Sent by Christina by mail on October 2, 2009)

Now that training has started time is beginning to fly by. We have class Monday through Friday 7:30 – 4:30 with 4 sessions everday and 2 sessions in the morning on Saturday. Thus Sunday is our only true day off. Thankfully I go running every morning with my host uncle (about 6k). I think without that I would have way less energy.

What kinds of things am I learning? Well, lots of French for one and then also lots of technical health related and community development related things. On top of those two main types of sessions we have cross-cultural and medical sessions. This translates into lots of learning and very long days. I get around 8 hours of sleep each night, but somehow it does not feel like enough.

It is hard to believe that I have only been gone for a little over 2 weeks. So much has happened in this short amount of time in my life. I can already tell that these 2 years are going to have a monumental effect on the way I see the world and how I live in it.

Honestly, it is so difficult to put everything into words. There is so much to describe, but yet no easy way to do it. You could try calling me…(after 4:30 my time).

(Note from Kevin: It really is pretty easy to call Christina. I use justvoip.com the rates are about 15 cents a minute [its in Euros so it depends on when you buy really] and so far we've had pretty good luck connecting. Calling at 11:30am Eastern time seems to be the best time to catch Christina because that is just when she's getting finished her training for the day.)

10 October 2009


I wish that I could post pictures, but unfortunately I lost my camera charger. My mom is sending me a package with a new one so hopefully soon I can upload some pictures for everyone!

Today I had to take a bush taxi to Bangante with a few other trainees. This was the first time that we had to do it ourselves without the Peace Corps vans. It took me almost two hours just to catch a ride and then the car almost broke down on the way. Good thing I was not in a rush. C'est la vie here in Africa! That is one thing I realized that I took for granted in the states: each year cars have to pass emissions tests and inspections, not so in Cameroon. Thus any car that can move is on the road. This means lots of black smoke coming from all the cars and they all look like they are falling apart. But it is good to know that I can get around on a taxi if I need to. I still have not taken a moto taxi, here yet but I am looking forward to it.

We just finished our third or ten weeks of training. It feels like things are moving fast. Next week we have language interviews again to get replaced. And we get mountain bikes! One more degree of freedom here I come.

That is all the time I have for now, but it is so nice to hear from everyone with comments on my blog and such.

03 October 2009

Training Begins

So much has happened since I was last able to post. As a heads up it looks like I will not be able to use the internet regularly. Consequently I am sending Kevin letters to post online when he gets the chance. But it takes several weeks for letters to arrive so the information will be dated.

Here is a quick update of what my weekdays look like during training. We are very busy:

5:30 - wake up
5:45 - go running with my host uncle (about 6k) I am not sure if he actually likes to go running but they will not let me go alone
6:30 - shower, and by that I mean take a bucket bath; try it sometime and if you want to be adventurous use cold water!
7:00 - eat breakfast, by that I mean a piece of bread and some warm vanilla flavored milk
7:15 - leave for class
7:30-9:30 - first session of the day
9:30-10:00 - break, hopefully on monday we will get coffee on our break for the first time!
10:00-12:00 - second session of the day
12:00-1:30 - lunch break, we walk about 25 minutes to a restaurant
1:30-3:00 - third session
3:15-4:30 - fourth and last session
[we usually have about two french classes and two technical classes, but also we have cross cultural sessions and medical sessions sometimes (where we get vaccines :(]
4:30-5:30 - hang out with other trainees to unwind, play cards, etc.
5:30-8:30 - go home and do homework with my family, help with chores, etc.
9:00 - dinner [very very late for me I want to be in bed by around 7:30 because the sun goes down at 6:30 and the electricity goes out almost every night for some amount of time]
9:30 - read for as long as I can manage before I fall asleep

Then repeat they cycle for each day of the week! By the end of the week I am very tired and in need of a break.

I feel like there is so much to say, but it is really hard to organize all of my thoughts. Where I am living right now is in the mountains of the West Province. The view is breathtaking and reminds me of Colorado. If you have ever heard me talk about Colorado or seen Colorado, maybe you can understand how I feel about it.

That is all I have time for right now!