Monday, January 5, 2009

By the way, I've been here for over 100 days now!

So, I've been meaning to put up a new post for a while now, but have been procrastinating a bit because I really didn't know what to write about....there has been so much going on in my life here in Cameroon but at the same time it isn't necessarily the time of stuff that is breaking news, or makes for a terribly interesting blog read, I don't imagine. However, as I am sufficiently embarassed that the other day I received a letter from my friend Tans referencing my Obama post (knowing that mail takes at least a month and usually closer to two to get to me from the U.S., I have just bought myself two hours of internet and will take a stab at making this interesting for you all. So here it is, the first post from me as an official Peace Corps Volunteer!

Myself and the 27 other volunteers in my stage were sworn-in in the presence of the U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon, the Peace Corps Country Director and many other regional Cameroonian dignitaries on December 4 in Pitoa, the village where we had lived and trained for the previous 10 weeks. The next day we said goodbye to one another and our homestay families and took off for our respective posts throughout the Grand North of Cameroon. For me this meant a four hour bus ride followed by about an hour car ride through the mountains to my village. This trip is usually made on a motorcycle, but while I've come to believe its possible to fit nearly anything on a moto, two suitcases and a bicycle might be pushing it. Honestly though, one of these days I'm going to devote an entire post to a song I'm writing, to the tune of "Down by the Bay", called "On a Moto" and its going to be a wonderful chronicle of some of the more ridiculous things I've witnessed being transported on motorcycles across this country.

I should have time for that these days too, as life in village so far is a bit slower than that of training. My past for weeks have largely been spent settling into my house and community and celebrating the holidays. First up was Tabaski, also known as Fête du Mouton, which literally translates to Celebration of the Lamb. It's a Muslim holiday which follows 70 days after Ramadan and celebrates the story of God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son and then God's intercession to save the child by substituting a ram after Abraham had demonstrated his obedience. It is celebrated with lots of music, dancing and consumption of a lot of lamb. Christmas was spent in Maroua, my provincial capital, with fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and featured 90° weather and chicken fajitas for dinner, made from whole cooked chickens we bought off the street. As I write this it is New Year's Eve and I'm back in village preparing to celebrate with a volunteer from a neighboring village. We're going to attempt to make pizza from scratch in a dutch on the results to follow.

When I'm not busy fêting I've been getting a feel for the health realities in my community here. I spend two mornings a week assisting with pre-natal consultations at the local hospital and will be going out into the mountains this week with my counterpart to observe the routine vaccination outreach program. The job is definitely made more interesting by the fact that in 9 out of 10 cases, interacting with patients means having someone translate my questions from French to Mafa, the most prominent local language, and the translating the responses back into French for me, which I sometimes then need a minute to work out to English. I'm hoping to begin studying Mafa soon, but in the meantime its really interesting to be so dependent on another person to accurately and reliably understand and translate every single thing you want to say. Once again every day is a learning experience, some come easier than others, but literally just walking down the street staring at the beautiful mountains that surround me and the people of this place I am constantly in awe of how lucky I am to be experiencing all of this, now and for the next two years. I miss all my friends and family often, especially throughout this holiday season, but I am thankful everyday for this amazing journey and thankful to all of you out there who are following me on it. Bonne année à tout le monde!


Kevin said...

Hey Katie!

Your experiences sound amazing. Thanks for sharing and good luck. I'll keep an eye out for more updates.

--Kevin Ledley

gael lynch said...

Bonjour Katie! Glad to see that you're well and that you are feeling such gratitude for this great opportunity! It takes a very special person to feel the way you do, living away from your family and friends for so long. We've had quite a 'first week' with our very new President Obama, truly an invigorating experience. Your dad and the crew from BOPH will be coming here day after tomorrow (Sunday, 1/25) for a meeting. I'll be sharing your blog with my kids in the classroom next week...we're studying Africa right now, and love the little slice of life you've shared here!

Jana said...

OMG did i know you had a blog. give me your address so i can send you goodies... ......... I HEART YOU.