Thursday, January 31, 2008

not to worry...

so i just posted four seemingly uneventful days in a row of journal entries (june 4-7, 2001), and you may be thinking, "is he going to post every single boring day he put down in his journal???" not to worry... i won't.

staging and the first few days in-country are an anxious time for peace corps trainees. i'm just trying to capture the feeling of everything being new and uncertain. and, interestingly enough, a lot of these early entries foreshadow events that occur further along in my service, in ways that even surprised me when i re-read them.

e.g. my APCD's comment about knowing "exactly where to place me" is a dead giveaway for my future post. something that's shrouded in mystery for the first couple months of training. if i would've known anything about the towns in the NW and SW provinces, or simply even asked, then my destination would've been more-or-less obvious.


practice my religion


can’t seem to get this alarm to work properly! anyhow... we ate dinner @ our CD’s residence today. quite posh. nice man. tomorrow ibrahim or ibrahima will be taking me to prayer (jum’aa, that is). looking forward to it. will be strange not understanding the khutba however. guess i’ll know how all the non-Arabic speakers in the states feel. looking forward to that, too.

full day today. seems much longer than a day. intros, orientation, shots, etc. actually, i’m quite impressed with the training staff... most of them cameroonian. professional. competent. friendly. patient... all it takes. looking forward to working with them at training sites.

still don’t know what to think about homestay??? most of us are a little worried about the language thing... understandably. that the staff is so confident and optimistic about it is comforting. it’ll be full immersion come Sunday when we leave for Babadjou.

my APCD already knows my name (enjoys saying it fully) b/c, he says, it’s different and i sent my aspiration statement in last! also b/c i “want to practice my religion.” he says he knows exactly where to place me, too. can’t imagine where?... the North is francophone. maybe there’s a Muslim town somewhere in the NW or SW... we’ll see. glad he’s taking care of me, so to speak. now i have to find someone to wake me up tomorrow...

big moon over africa

lying in bed in room 202 at the Hotel Mfandena in Yaounde. moon’s about full out. beautiful night. gawked the entire drive over from the airport. at the people, places and plants. bananas, mangoes, and corn to name a few.

the flights from NY to Paris and Paris to Douala/Yaounde were exhausting. threw my sense of time and sleep off. my neck and back... feet, too... ache. not really ever that anxious or excited, however. still taking it all in stride. can’t wait to be sitting outside a simply furnished little house in my village reading or talking to a neighbor... to a slow pace of life.

PC folks picked us up at the airport... about ½ dozen cars/buses/trucks. some cameroonians and some americans. ate dinner at a restaurant adjacent to the PC office here in yaounde. i’ve already made 2 connections b/w PC people here and folks back home. i’ve seen both back in the DC area. small world. OK... i’m going to try and rest. it’s ~10:45pm. tomorrow starts at 7am.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

staging: philadelphia

started staging yesterday in philly. the 76’ers just got to the finals the night before. tough saying goodbye to everyone that night. especially rama and the kids... not sure just why? moms had everyone fill out a page in an album for me. photos and an entry about memories. i got very emotional flipping through it. couldn’t hold back the tears and i just didn’t speak so i wouldn’t ball. found myself doing a lot of that this last weekend... no speaking. worried my voice would crack and i’d breakdown, i guess.

moms did a splendid job of packing fore me... God bless her. 3 LARGE duffle bags and a backpack. the bags weighed in here @ JFK at ~100 lb each. 20 over the 80 lb PC stipulated limit, but all was well. so... landed in philly yesterday. strange walking around a few blocks of a city without a larger context. didn’t really feel like i was there.

the group is great. 30 other prospective teachers. about 1:1 ratio of male-female trainees. all around 30 or younger, and 2 couples... they’re cute. we did the ice-breakers and get-to-know-yous yesterday, but they weren’t bad at all. everyone seems really sincere so that helps. also exciting/relieving to be with folks who are going through much the same thing... emotions especially. can already see the camaraderie building. looking forward to having many of them as a support network.

one of the sessions yesterday bothered me—no, just got me thinking... called Policies in Practice. all about familiarizing us with a few rules. political expression, intelligence, drugs and motor safety. felt like there was a little “deprogramming” going on, you know? getting us to change our views/ways in regard to issues like privacy, discretion, politics, etc. many of the concepts weren’t foreign to me (i.e. not saying anything about the government). but still it kinda rubbed me the wrong way... felt myself getting a little cynical during the discussion. anyhow... not to worry. it’s all for our well-being and i can deal.

a quote the PC staging staff shared with us:
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” –Helen Keller

staging: looking ahead

-my 2 years will be a success if...
i’m alive and well in 27 months
i’m a better, more experienced teacher
i can speak a little french
i traveled in cameroon and west africa
i climb mt. cameroon
i help my school with a garden
i really connect with one student that i’ll teach

-my greatest anxieties are...
discipline in the classroom
missing my family
“disillusionment” with work

let me start from the beginning...

so i started the first few posts of this blog (april fool: parts 1 2 3 and leaving wum) from the very end of my peace corps service. around the one incident that i think in many ways encapsulated my two years in cameroon. and while those posts do well to introduce some of the main themes of this blog (see why dis?), there's still a lot to be said about how i got to that point in my service. a lot to be said about how i got to cameroon, then how i got to wum, whom i met along the way, and what it all taught me.

too many innocents abroad

please pardon the extended absence... it's been a while since i posted something. more than a month, actually. in that time an interesting op-ed came out in the NY Times that got quite a response from the peace corps community. like many of the people who responded to Too Many Innocents Abroad, written by my former peace corps director in cameroon, i think the piece was a little harsh.

that said, i also think CD strauss brings up a point worth considering about quantity versus quality of volunteers. one that i found myself struggling with at some point during my own service. i won't say much more about the op-ed piece, except that i wasn't all that surprised by it. i had a couple of extended conversations with CD strauss while i was in cameroon and this theme of quantity vs. quality came up even then.

the same theme comes up in my journals, as well, i think. but if i remember correctly, i approach it from a different and more PCV-centered perspective. i'll do my best to make note of it when it does come up. until then, let me start from the beginning...