24 January 2012

First few weeks in Yaounde

Hello again Cameroon. But this time it is a bit different. I am still struggling to figure out what it is that I am supposed to be doing. I started a new job with UNICEF working on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). It seems that my direct boss is out until February, so I am left hanging a bit until she comes back. In the mean time I am reading a lot of documents in French from UNICEF to try and figure out the current situation of my program in Cameroon. It has been informative, but it gives me a headache after a few hours.

On other fronts, I have moved into my new apartment. It is a bit big for me, but hopefully soon I will have some new wicker furniture to fill it. I bought a bed and a fridge and now I am broke. Living in a big city has a much higher cost of living than a village. I could walk everywhere, but I am under more time constraints so I am forced to take cabs. The taxis are not expensive, but it adds up. Also food is much more expensive because all of it is trucked or trained in from villages. To add, there are more opportunities to spend money, like going out to a Chinese restaurant for Chinese New Year. I am trying to get into a habit of buying food on the weekends for the whole week, but I am not there yet.

Recreation and relaxation options are much greater in the city. Peace Corps Volunteers are always in and out and ready to hang out. My fellow UNICEF workers are a very interesting and experienced group of people that I hope to get to know more. My officemate is a French volunteer working on a malaria initiative. There is also an expatriate community here that organizes activities like: ultimate Frisbee and yoga! So for now, until work picks up, I am enjoying discovering the city and all of its surprises.

01 January 2012

Pennsylvania for the Holidays

The United States is an interesting place. What was the first thing I did when I arrived in the western world? Well I paid about $10 for a french vanilla soy latte in the Brussels airport. I really needed a good coffee and I only had dollars on me, the shop accepted dollars but used euros, so I gave them a $20 and got 8 euro back. Was it worth it? yes it was!

So on that note people ask what I have missed most and I respond by listing a few foods: mostly cheese, good coffee, and the ability to order things like pizza and have it delivered to your door. Bagels is another big one, although I have made my fair share of bagels in Cameroon because I just couldn’t wait any more. Besides food I have missed friends and family. I have missed some milestones in people’s lives while I have been away and there is no way to go through that experience with them again. I have also missed the idea of efficiency and society valuing multitasking.

Now that I have been back for a few weeks and I am preparing my return to Cameroon I have realized that there are a lot of things I miss about Cameroon too. I miss people selling food on their heads anytime you seem to want it, especially on the road. I miss the warmth and the ability to walk everywhere I could possibly need to go. I also miss the slower paced appreciation for life. Everyone seems to be in such a rush and I feel like I am getting lost in the aftermath.

All in all I have had an amazing time seeing my friends and family for the holidays and I am so grateful that people have made time to see me. I have overindulged in cheese, coffee, and bagels. It has been great while it has lasted, but I know that I could not continue the kind of life I have been living for the past three weeks. So for that reason I am happy to be going back to Cameroon for a third year. I think this will be a great transition year because I will be living in a city and life will be a bit faster than the village life than I am used to, yet I think it will be more reasonable than the east coast pace of life in the US.

Cameroon here I come...again!