Monday, November 24, 2014

A Volunteer in Ngaoundéré

Yes! I am now officially a Peace Corps Volunteer woohoo! And yes I am in Ngaoundéré, which I will get to. Spoiler Alert: Ngaoundéré is awesome.

On November 19th I was officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the health program.  The US Ambassador to Cameroon did the ceremony with the Peace Corps Country Director and several Cameroonian officials. One of the prouder moments for me was taking the oath of service.  According to one of the volunteers who served in the army during Vietnam, it was the exact same oath of service except we said Peace Corps instead of Army, of course.  Everyone was dressed in the same fabric but with a wide range of styles and none were the same.  It was a great event.

One if the best parts of the event was the fact that so many Cameroonian's were there.  Whether they were host families or officials, it was great seeing them there.

My host family was there and it was good to see them one last time.  I should say my host mother and father were there.  Only two of the twenty three members of the family.  The Peace Corps asked if I would recommend my family for the next group of volunteers.  I said absolutely (as they took such good care of me), but I recommended them for someone with excellent social skills who can deal with such a huge family and an army of neighbors who gravitate around the household.

I left Mengong that day and the South the day after.  Myself and five girls (four in health and one in agriculture) went first to the national capital of Yaoundé by bus with other volunteers heading to the center and east provinces.  We also were able to see my friend Mary Beth before she returned to the states for medical reasons.  Mary is one of my closest friends from training and was super pumped for going to Adamawa.  I know what ever she does next though, she will do a good job.

After a short break in Yaoundé, we took the night train to Ngaoundéré, which was impressively nice almost to the standards of European sleeper trains I used before.  I would say nicer than the St. Petersburg to Moscow train for sure.  I woke up early in the morning on the train and saw as the scenery began to change.  We were in Adamawa, and it was beautiful.

The South could best be represented by thick green jungle.  The Northwest by huge green mountains, cliffs with waterfalls and jungle like forests.  Adamawa by semi-arid land including desert vegetation and large desert hills. Just from what I saw so far.  It almost reminded me of central Arizona.  However each region is diverse, and the country as a whole is very diverse (with ten regions total).

We arrived in Ngaoundéré mid-morning and were instantly greeted by Peace Corps Staff.  At the Case (a sort of regional headquarters for volunteers, pronounced cause), we were greeted by a large group of volunteers from the region who cooked us dinner, showed us around and overall made us feel very welcome.  I could not ask for more.  I really like the volunteers who believe in being a support system for each other.  I think that will be important for me and others over the next two years.

I love the regional capital Ngaoundéré with its almost middle eastern feel (reminds me if Egypt and Tunisia in particular), kind and laid back people and yes, abundance of beef.  I like the Adamawa a lot so far and can't wait to get to post.  I have a ten hour bus ride tomorrow but I got help organizing my trip from the local staff and I will be getting help from a volunteer located near me named Victoria and my counterpart Alphonse.

I'm excited and almost at post.  I hope you are all well!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Road to Adamawa

Hello again!  Its been a while but I wanted to make one more blogpost before swearing in as a peace corps member and moving to Adamawa next week! Today I met with one of my counterparts: Alphonse, a motorcycle riding nurse.  Awesome right?  He seems eager for me to get started right away and is very busy.  I'm excited to get started.

I've been busy in the last few weeks as well.  Four weeks ago I went to the market to buy a live chicken.  I was dressed in my finest pagne (African fabric) and a collection of phrases in Bulu to no avail as the chicken salesman did not show up in time. I had to go to class but my aunt purchased the chicken instead and it was waiting for me after class.  I named it Marie Antoinette, learned a new farm skill and that night had some of the most delicious chicken I've ever had.

While in training we had a few chances to practice classes and activities on the unsuspecting locals of Mengong.  We had a nutrition lesson in a primary school.  Afterwards one of the volunteers nearly started a riot by handing out the paper cut out fruits to the children after we used them for an activity.  We escaped alive.

We ran a nutrition screening at the primary school, did an activity on attitudes of men and women with a group of high schoolers and my group taught a class on Ebola at the health center.  The Ebola class was interesting.  Some people were really interested yet others were not too concerned.  The class focused on the current crisis, causes and prevention.  I talked about prevention.  I think with the way Paul Biya is handling the airports (masked doctors screening arriving passengers) and the borders, and the way many Cameroonian's eat bush meat (monkeys and bats are the main potential Ebola carriers), it is more likely an Ebola strain starts in the rural regions here then spreads I through the airports.  Either way it is unlikely in the near future.  I hope.

All for now, next blogpost in Adamawa!  I hope you are all well!