I have been in Cameroon for over two weeks now, time has really flown by. I arrived in the capital Yaounde (Ya-oon-day) and went through all kinds of talks (medical, language, cultural), all while getting to know everyone, and being given tons of vaccines. Some highlights of my time in Yaounde were going to a dance performance and dining with the peace corps director and the American ambassador to Cameroon, with whom I got to speak to for about an hour!
The Peace Corps staff is amazing, very helpful and friendly. Most are Cameroonians, with a few Americans too. The other PCV’s are great as well, we all get along very well and have pretty similar world outlooks as might be expected. There are 7 other computer literacy (informatique en francaise) volunteers. There are 43 of us in my class – all education (informatique, english, and science) and SED (small enterprise development). There are only 12 other men, which was a bit surprising. This group is the opposite of electrical engineering!
In country there are about 140 volunteers, doing education, small enterprise development, agroforestry, and health work. The group is diverse, most people being in their mid 20’s with a few volunteers in their 30’s and older. I have also met a few volunteers who have been in Cameroon for a year, who had lots of great information for us.
I left Yaounde after a few days and arrived in Bafia, a town of about 70,000 (from what I hear) about two hours north of the capital. I have been living with the Tang Family, with my host mother, father, aunt, and three brothers. My mother works as a lab technician at the central hospital, my father is an economist and “comunity organizer” who travels a lot, my aunt is a hairdresser, my oldest brother goes to university in Yaounde for economics, my second brother attends the Lycee Bilang (bilingual high school), and my little brother (Tang a Tang Emanuel Junior – who everyone calls Junior) attends the ecole (grade school). My little brother is really cute (he’s 8 ) and follows me around everywhere. He walked me to class everyday the first week while holding my hand. I have my own room here compete with a bed, table, water filter, and mosquito net.
I have been going to training (je suis un stagiaire) every day starting at 8:00 and ending at 16:30. I take tons of classes (french lessons, medical information, education training, cultural training, and recently some informatique specific stuff), and I have been very busy in general. I have been taking bucket baths in the morning and eating with Junior, going to class, coming home to study french, eating diner, maybe doing a little reading, and going to bed. I have been going to sleep so early – around 21:30-22:30, and I still feel tired all the time.
French is really tough and my family doesn’t speak English (besides the father, who has only been home a few days). I think my French is slowly improving; I hope so because soon enough I will be teaching 80+ Cameroonian children ICT in French! I will know my assignment in the next few days, I will most likely be going to a francophone post in the western part of Cameroon. 3 of the 8 ICT volunteers will be going to the anglophone regions (Nord Ouest and Sud Ouest provinces), but I requested a francophone post (which is going to be hard but rewarding) and I hope I get one!
In the coming weeks I will visit my site to see my school and meet the faculty, as well as seeing my house and the the town where I will be living. I am excited to see where I will work and especially my school’s computer lab (I have big plans…). Model school starts in the next few weeks where I will get a chance to teach real Cameroonian students (there are about 1000 students enrolled, and there are about 30 education volunteers). I have been doing sample lessons and learning education techniques which should prove very useful. After a year of teaching at a lycee you can request to teach at a teachers college, which is something I am really interested in because I feel I could make a bigger impact that way. I can see that real education experience in the Cameroonian school system is required before I start that though!
Some of the highlights of Bafia so far have been hanging out with the other volunteers at their houses, seeing how things are done around here, and trying the local cuisine (which includes manioc [kind of a yam, which is pretty tasteless], lots of plantains [preferably fried, yum], beans, what they call cous-cous [kind of like corn polenta], tons of greens, potatoes, rice, delicious avocados, something they call a prune [it kind of tastes like an eggplant and it grows on trees], and the best pineapples and bananas I have ever eaten).
I miss everyone and hope everyone is well.