14 December 2009


Friday my supervisor had at celebration to honor David, the outgoing volunteer, for all of his work and to welcome me to the health center. Little did I know, but I had to give a speech. That was nerve racking. Standing in front of so many people and speaking in French, when I am not even comfortable giving speeches in English. But I made it! And I even got them to clap and laugh a few times in my speech – success!

I really enjoyed it and I am excited to get settled into my village. For now I am going to stick with the house that I have in the health system. While there is a lack of privacy and a lack of silence, I have a great support system there with my counter part. But first thing I need to do is to get glass windows put in because I need the sunlight in the morning. Right now I have wooden doors that I need to close at night so that the bugs don’t come in, but that means that I do not get to wake up to the sunlight.

David said all of his goodbyes and I know that was a tough time for everyone. He will definitely be missed here. And I will have a lot of work, just to live up to what he has accomplished. I think the first step will be establishing that we are different people and will do things differently.

So right now I am in Yaounde and I need to figure out how to get home tomorrow. Traveling is probably one of the hardest things to do here. You have all your stuff with you and there are so many steps to every trip. This will be the first time I am really traveling on my own and it is about a 6 hour trip if you could go straight there, but with all of the steps it will probably take me much longer. Wish me luck!

** The picture on my blog is from my post. It is the tea plantation that covers much of the area.

13 December 2009

Volunteer Life?

[December 4]

So far life has not changed too much. But this is only my first full day at post. We definitely have a lot more freedom, now that we do not have training everyday. Most volunteers say that in the beginning it feels like freedom, then quickly it turns to feeling like abandonment, but after that we will get used to it as we figure out what we are going to be doing at post.

For about 10 days, David, the volunteer that I am replacing, is going to be at post with me. He is not COSing (close of service) until the 13th of December. In the mean time I can tag along on things he is doing while I am trying to feel out life here as a volunteer.

Traveling with all of my stuff here was stressful. You have your life for the next two years packed in 6 bags and the car drops you off in the middle of the marketplace. People crowd around you because they want you to choose their car to take you to your next destination. But all I can think about is, please do not grab my bags because if I lose this stuff moving into post is just going to be so much harder. But then the other volunteers tell me I am worrying too much and I just need to calm down. They are right. My supervisor found me somehow in the middle of this mess. We carted all of my bags over to his van which was just a little ways away. Then he drove me all the way to the health center. To-my-door service, can you ask for anything better?

In many ways I feel very lost and confused, because I really have no idea what I am supposed to be doing yet. I went for an exploratory run this morning to try and orient myself a little bit more. But my run turned more into a walk/run because the hills here are plentiful, long, and steep. On top of that I am more than a mile up and I do not think my body is just yet used to the altitude. I love running to explore. I said bonjour to everyone I passed, and generally people are really friendly. I need to learn at least the greetings in the local language so that I can say that when I am running in the mornings…petit a petit, le oiseau fait un nid – the French phrase for little by little I will learn.

So then this morning I thought I would treat myself and I decided to heat my bucket bath/shower. The warm water felt so good, but in the end I think that was a mistake. Since it is not a shower you do not have water constantly running and I just got really cold anytime I was not pouring water on myself. So lesson is that when you are using cold water, the water feels cold but the air does not. Which one is better? I have not decided yet.

Today is a petit marche day in Bangang. I am going to head down there because I need to get myself some food and maybe some other basic supplies for now. Wish me luck on exploring the market…hopefully I will not make too much of a fool of myself just yet, but let’s be realistic here.

One more random note: it is really hard to find housing here! The Peace Corps has certain standards as far as security for housing [as it should]. But consequently the house has to be cement and lock firmly including the windows. Well Bamboue is a very small town and unfortunately there are not many houses available that fit the PC requirements. Right now I am living in the health center and I thought that I wanted to move because I am in the middle of so much here. But today after looking at a few other available housing options I am not convinced that I will be moving. There is a place right across the dirt street, but it has no sunlight. I could never make it there. Then there is another place up the hill a bit, but right now it does not have any privacy for the latrine. I imagine that could be fixed, but literally right now it is a hole in the ground out in the open. Then I looked at one other place on the top of the hill, but it is really dark also and the floor is mud. If I move anywhere it will take a lot of work, more than I expected.

There is one more known option right now about 45 minute walk uphill. There is a quartier of my health district that has a really rich guy who lives in Douala. Well he has an impressive house back in his home village, as all those who live in the cities do – shout out to my globalization and development in Africa class right now…the importance of autochthony is loud and clear here in Cameroon. Anyway he has an apartment in his complex that I would be able to rent out. I am seriously considering this as an option because I want to work more with the people that are farther away from any of the existing infrastructure. This would probably be a good place to be located in that situation. The president of the COSA [committee de santé/ health committee] lives there too, so he would be really helpful. But then it would be a long commute to my health center every day. Maybe after I get to look at the place I will try to figure it out.

Typical me…thinking too much about this.

Since I was not able to post this yesterday, I have a few more thoughts to add from today [December 5]:

I helped the health center with a vaccination campaign today. So what seems to happen is that the Cameroonian government announces vaccine campaigns usually about 2 or 3 days before they start. It is not clear why they wait until last minute to announce, but anyway then the public health centers are in charge of going door to door and finding all of the children. [If that sounds kind of absurd, it’s because it is. The door to door campaigns are done on the assumption that no one has anything to do all day and just sits at home waiting for people like us.]

David and I walked up to the farthest quartier to the Bororos today. The COSA delegate of that quartier rounded up the children for us and they all came to one central location. I was in charge of marking the children – so that we know they have already received the vaccines/vitamins/medication from this campaign. It is a three day long affair so I used permanent marker on their pinky. I also got to feed the children the polio vaccine, which is two drops per child.

**Shout out to my mom and other rotary members** Thank you for everything, in particular for the campaign to eradicate polio from Africa. The coolers that we were using today to keep the vaccine cold had the rotary logo on them!

I really enjoyed helping out today, and I am also learning to appreciate flexible time! One more random comment; it is the dry season now, otherwise known as the season of dust. The rainy season is the season of mud. It’s a toss up, I am not sure which one I like better yet. They both have their up sides and down sides.

December 8, 2009

Now that I have my computer out I will be writing a lot more. The problem is that I do not have access to internet a lot, though, thus the blogs I post are going to be very long. Once I figure out housing for sure I will probably try to set up some kind of internet, but we will see.

I finally unpacked all of my bags in an attempt to make my apartment in the health center feel like home. It is nice to finally not be living out of bags because even during my homestay I left most of my stuff in suitcases. I am so excited; here I have a bathroom with plumbing and everything. Most of the time if you have a real bathroom the water does not work so you have to pour water into the toilet to flush it and take bucket baths.

Yesterday I went exploring. I have been trying to orient myself to the different communities in the area. I decided to just start walking and see where it led me. I found the local high school and the village of Batsepou – this is the other village that I am considering to live. The women in Batsepou are so nice. We had met before on my site visit and they recognized me right away as David’s replacement, welcoming me to their village. I also found a nice shady spot near a stream to sit and ponder for a while to escape the heat of the day. For some reason I am very attracted to water in nature, in particular running water. Maybe I get it a little bit from Dad and Mom, but I just love the sound of running water; sitting there relaxes me.

Today who knows what I will find when I go to explore!

***One last note – I found out that there is a habitat for humanity trip coming to Cameroon in June. If you are interested, I think you can find information about it online by searching the habitat for humanity website. If you find the info, please add the link here. I would love to see anyone who is able to visit! This is the link I have found so far.