26 September 2011

UNICEF extension

A lot has been happening lately. Shortly after my summer camp, Kevin and I took a vacation to Kribi with a bunch of other people from my stage. It was a sort of last official hoorah with my stagemates, because we are no longer able to take vacation until our service is over. The week after was Close of Service (COS) conference. It was held in a nice hotel in Yaoundé. It was so great to see everyone again from my stage. But the experience was a bit jarring because it was a lot about re-entry into the US. In particular I enjoyed going to the US embassy. But the whole thing was a bit too hypothetical because I was thinking about extending my service for another year.

So on that note, I recently received word that my extension has been approved! This means that I will be spending a 3rd year in Cameroun. For this last year I will move to Yaoundé and work for UNICEF with the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) team. I am really excited because this will be a completely new experience for me. So far I have been living in a small village and working out of a community health center. At this point I feel that there is only so much I could do in this position and while the lack of structure has been freeing it has also been constraining. Once I start my new position I will be working out of an office with more of a defined role. I will hopefully still be going out into the field very often, but I will have the infrastructure of UNICEF backing me up.

Living in Yaoundé is an exciting and at the same time a scary opportunity. I have never been much of a city girl, but here is my chance to see if I can handle it. Honestly I will not enjoy the overcrowdedness and lack of personal space norms that exist in the capital. But I will really appreciate the coffee shops, weekly yoga classes, and the access to internet.

Anyway, back to what I have been up to. After COS conference I stayed in Yaoundé for 2 more weeks to plan the training for the next group of trainees for health. It was a lot of work, but we finished in and the schedule looks great. After that I went back to post for 2 weeks and now I am back again in the capital. I will be going to the training site in Bafia for 3 weeks to help with training. Our normal technical trainer is a Cameroonian who just received the opportunity to go to the US for 4 weeks. While this is great for him, it means that our new trainees will be without a wonderful trainer for their first 4 weeks. While he is gone I will be helping along with the health assistant project manager.

Also this whole time Kevin has been in Cameroun since July 7th. He is working with a local NGO called ACREST which works with sustainable and appropriate technologies. Mostly he has been working on this charcoal brickette making project. During his first week here he went down to Yaoundé to present the project to the World Bank. The project was picked among others to receive funding through Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Since then Kevin has been working to finalize the budget and time line of the project so that things can continue. He has also been experimenting with different types of kilns and methods of creating charcoal. I am not sure if he is completely satisfied with the process ACREST is currently using, but I think it is getting there. He has had a great introduction to Cameroonian culture and his French is really improving. Currently he is working to renew his visa so he can stay longer.

Since I am extending for a 3rd year I will getting 1 month of home leave which I will take from December 9, 2011 to January 8, 2012. So please make sure I get to see you during my month in the US of A!