Sunday, June 21, 2009

AH! Its been a month!

It's been a month since I've written a blog! annnnnnd most importantly it's been a whole year! Yup, thats right, I've been here for a year. Crazy huh? So this blog will catch you up with what I've been doing lately.

New trainees!
Cameroon recieved 30 new trainees on June 5th and I was at the airport to welcome them in. Linsdey and I were chosen to be the Host Volunteers. I liked to think of us as their cameroonian mommies, because we were there to help them with every step during their first week in country. Days before their arrival Linsday and I ran around Yaounde and to every Peace Corps office to see what they needed from the new arrivals. Buying one cell phone here is difficult enough not to mention 29 more, so in short.. it was exhausting.

I think was almost as excited to meet them as they were at the airport as they were to finally get to Cameroon. They were also on the same flight as the Cameroonian Lions Football team arriving in country to play a big qualify match against Morrocco. It made security at the airport a little more tight but not so much that a bunch of us could pass by customs & security to the bagage claim to start organizing the mounds of luggage.

As we were traveling back to the hotel, it was funny hearing their comments about their new strange surroundings. Like the crazy driving here, people walking with things on their heads, starved mangy dogs wandering around, the little boutiques and thrown together bars... and many more aspects of cameroon that all seem really normal to me now. The new trainees asked hundreds of questions a day and it made me re-reflect on things and reminded me what cameroon was like at first. I remember being nervous about getting malaria and I never missed my prophoylaxis. The first medical session on mango flies that wiggle underneath your skin, dysentary that will keep you in your bathroom for a week, or the several worms that can make their home in your body... that stuff scared the shit out of me. Now a year later, it's really not that bad.

The new group of volunteers are really fun and they are also qualified for the job. Read the article here on two of the new trainees

The best part of being a host volunteer was hanging out with them and catching up on all of the american stuff i missed. I learned about Susan Boyle the British Idol phenomenon. John and Kate are going to need to split up their eight. Yeahhhh and that's just about all i missed. Like I said, the new group is really cool and I loved hanging out with them but they also reminded me of the fast passed, internet dependent, twitter ridiculous life that many westerns live. My previous life included.

Conclusion: one year later and I still really like living here and I hope the same for the soon to be volunteers.

Yaounde is my new home!
Joking, but seriously I've been spending some quality time in the capital these past 2 months. Mostly I've been doing work in preparation for the new volunteers but I also had my Mid Service Medical Exams. The mid service is done in groups of a dozen or so and our laundry list of things to get checked up range from the dentist (kind of nervous about that one here in Cameroon but it was legit) to handing over a few stool samples. Not as exciting as the dentist I assure you. In light of this, my friend Thryn decided to make a game out of it.

Diarrhea is the freebie, everyone gets it. The BINGO card was sent out to PC staff and even our medical officers thought it was pretty funny. It was a weird disappointment that I didn't win this game but kind of a good thing that no one has... not yet.

Between preping technical presentations for the new trainees and medical stuff, we had some time to kill. Yaounde isn't the friendliest city and it's definitely not cheap so volunteers often find themselves staying in peace corps headquarters the entire time. Instead of being bored and spending tons of money eating out, we decided to cook because that usually took at least half the day to do. On average we were feeding 15 to 20 hungry volunteers and at most, like on homemade raviolli night there were 25 of us. Other nights we made egg rolls, an indian masala with paneer and nan, amazing pad thai, breakfast burritos, eggplant parmesan and alot more. Vegetarian chili, which i had my doubts about turned out to be good enough to make twice. The second week we cooked, we made it official with a menu and a restaurant logo.

"we make dreams come true" aka delivering american food to volunteers cheap and easy. for them at least. We have 2 locations and are opening a 3rd whenever Thryn and Gabe move to their new post. Here are some pictures and my first plea to Food Network to send some proper utensils along with a mixer and imersion blender please and thank you.

My hand in a metal cup makes a good bean masher

The transit house only has 3 spoons so we eat with measuring cups accompained with beer in a jelly jar.
Nik and his heaping plate of Pad Thai, imitating my pose for pictures

Whats next...
I'm going to have to say goodbye to my postmate Ann-Marie on friday which is going to be pretty tough. We've gotten to be really close and this next year in Peace Corps is going to be completely different with her not around. It might be a good thing though, I'm really looking forward to concetrating on projects and things I want to accomplish before I leave.

This weekend I'm headed to Bagangte the training village. I'll be doing technical sessions on corruption, management consulting, and working with community groups. I'm excited to see the new trainees again! Then, finally, after several weeks spent in the captial, I'll be going back to Bertoua. There's just no place like the East. Lots of love, Siobhan