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.


barcelonabill said...

I remember the time when President Kennedy created the Peace Corps and I can't think of a better representative than you. Good luck.

Bill Callan

Ann Marie Farrell said...

I had tears in my eyes when I read your latest blog. Years from now when people ask, "Where were you when you heard about Obama winning the election?" your memory will be priceless! What a world we live in! Love you forever, Mom

gael lynch said...

Katie, and all of the other Peace Corps staffers and our wonderful new President: the faces of America in Cameroon! Hope lives and it travels too!

Tommy and I think of you often! xox Gael

Kristen said...

That picture might just be the best thing I've ever seen.

kathleen Lord said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and in such an eloquent manner. I read you blogs with awe.
On election night I thought of you in Cameroon wondering how you would learn the news of Barak Obama's (and our) victory. What a beautiful memory. We love you and are so proud of your commitment. Keep the prose flowing!
Much love- Aunt Kathleen
Do you need anything?

Mary McKeon said...

Hi Katie,
Your dad just sent me the link to your blog. I'm enthralled by your prose and its contents. What a wonderful experience - for you and for anyone who has the privilege to meet you. Looking forward to reading more,
Mary McKeon

purple crayon said...

Hi Katie,
We are so lucky to have you writing about your experiences and sharing your insights via this blog! And your "brothers and sisters" in Africa are so very lucky to have you with them during your service in the Peace Corps. I am beginning to feel proud again to be an American and I am so very proud of you!!
God bless you and watch over you in your travels. Merry Christmas!
Much love,
Mrs. (Sue) Dighton
aka "purple crayon" - silly, I know...

Shannon said...

It wasn't until today that I saw the e-mail sent by your mom with the address to this, and I could not have been happier to come across it. Your depictions and feelings of excitement towards the upcoming post make me so excited for you!! You are truly a person that gives all you can to those in need. I can not wait to hear more about your adventures and challenges to come!
Miss you and lots of love from the PA family!!
Merry almost Christmas!

John said...

Hi Katie

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I love your voice.

What a beautiful life you're living!

Uncle J.

Nancy Beal said...

Dear Katie, I am so glad that your father shared this with us. It sounds like you are having a wonderful experience. It must be difficult not to be home for the holidays. We wish you a Merry Christmas and pray that God continue to watch over you in the New Year. Love Uncle Malcolm & Aunt Nancy