Saturday, November 15, 2008

Barack Obama Coiffure

On the way into Garoua, our provincial capital for the time being, there is a hair salon of sorts which has recently changed its name... I don't know exactly whose coiffure it was originally, but last week it was officially re-christened, "Barack Obama Coiffure". The new and improved Barack Obama Coiffure joins the legions of "Fan Club Barack Obama" establishments that have spontaneously materialized over the last two weeks. These days on the streets of our training town the standard greeting of, "Nassara!" is occasionally replaced with "Barack Obama!!", always accompanied by a jubilant pump of at least one fist. As I imagine most people abroad at the moment could affirm, people here in Cameroon are absolutely hysterically excited about the next President of the United States, and it has been really cool to witness that excitement and hopem. Really and truly this victory has become a victory for all Africans in the eyes of so many people here... "On va dominer!", "We are going to dominate!" one of my neighbors yelled to me yesterday. It's really a magic time to be an American abroad, at least in Cameroon, because overnight the attitude towards Americans has changed dramatically, from ambivalence if not outright dislike to admiration and inspiration. Someone else commented to us the day after the election, "In America, anything really is possible."

The past two weeks have been full of new and exciting changes. On election night I was actually hours away from my homestay family and fellow trainees in a village in the Mandara mountains which will be my home for the next two years (well, after I finish training next month). I woke up at around 4:30 in the morning and stepped outside with my radio in time to catch the end of the live broadcast of John McCain's concession speech under an incredible African sky full of stars.

My week at post with the current volunteer was wonderful. My town is medium-sized and is home to the district health center, serving as a referral center for 11 smaller health centers scattered throughout the neighboring mountain villages. I will be working with all the health centers in some capacity, though the work to be done with each of them varies tremendously. Some have no electricity or running water and all of 10 boxes of medicine in their pharmacies, while others have beautiful, freshly painted buildings and all the basic health equiptment but very few patients coming to use their services. I am both intimidated and exhilirated by the challenges and possibilities that await me there, as well as the nearly limitless potential for projects. The post is also physically beautiful and the previous Peace Corps Volunteers who have served there have had really positive experiences with the people of the area as well. Back in training now I find myself impatient to get to post and get started doing the real service work I anticipated when I joined the Peace Corps.