Wow, where to begin. I’m moving on up, both geographically, situationally, and emotionally. You are probably thinking, ’Geographically?!’ Yes, I’m moving…finally. And this time officially.
When I stepped out of the car in Lomié after a quite hellish (but not the worst) trip back from submitting my grant in Bertoua, I immediately got the call that I was being put on medhold to talk about my safety and wellbeing in Lomié. Honestly, there was a mixture of relief of being able to get back out of Lomié, but also of exhaustion. I had just spent 16 hours on the road…and now I had to get back on it?! I asked for two days of rest and relaxation and to travel to Yaounde on Monday.
I got to Yaounde and talked to the Country Director, the doctors, and my Program Manager about the struggles I’ve been having at post and the various security incidents, many of which I don‘t even mention here. Staff was very understanding, they listened to what I had to say, and they explained to me my options. In the span of 12 hours it was decided that I was moving posts…this time for real.
While it was ‘decided’ I was moving posts 5 months ago, the problem was that there were no posts available and a few of us who were having to change posts. The demand surpassed the supply, and I got put on the backburner. I was basically told that it would be a very long time until I could move, so I gave up hope and gave Lomié a second chance. I didn’t want to be perceived as weak or a quitter for giving up on my post, and hell, I asked for a challenge, and Lomié was definitely giving me that! And given that my life would’ve been in limbo for an indefinite amount of time, that seemed like undue stress I did not want to handle. So I stopped bombarding admin with questions about when and where I would be moving, and I instead devoted my time to finding a new counterpart, a new host organization, and some good projects to fill my time and see if I could maybe make things work. In many ways, I succeeded. I started the beekeeping project with the amazing counterparts Atangana and Yacouba, two extremely hardworking and kind individuals. I was very excited for the beekeeping/soy project and the impact it would have on the Baka communities and felt like this was the project of my dreams. But in all other aspects I was still deeply unhappy, afraid, and mentally drained.
Things were getting dark in Lomié. The harassment, which I now have come to accept was exceeding just mere harassment and was getting worse - so much so that I would lock myself in my house most of the day - only to leave to visit Yacouba and collect some information for the grant application. I’ve come to realize that that isn’t why I came to Cameroon! I came to learn about Cameroon, to fall in love with my experience (while though I’m sure still getting unnerved about some aspects), to meet amazing people, both PCVs and Cameroonians, and I came to get some great work done, gosh dang it!
In the last day of talking with admin, I realized that staying in Lomié for one project while risking my mental health and security would not be prudent and would quite frankly be a waste of my service. While sure, I might have started a great beekeeping project, I would’ve done a disservice to my community by not being integrated or well-received. I have told myself lately that if I leave Lomié I will consider myself weak and a quitter, but I‘ve come to realize that I can‘t look at it like that. Going through what I’ve been through has been darn near impossible some days, many of which either end or start in tears. I like to think that I’m stronger for finally coming to the realization that things aren‘t working and that something needs to change in order for me to get what I want out of this whole experience. It was a hard decision to come to, and a lot of it wasn’t even my decision to make, but rather PCMO’s and admin’s.
When told I will be moving, I felt extreme sadness and dread knowing that in a few days I will have to go to face Yacouba and Atangana and tell them that the beekeeping project we have devoted days and weeks of our time and energy preparing for will not come to fruition. Even worse, I’ll have to travel to the Baka encampments and explain that the beekeeping and soy project will not be happening. That will tear me apart.
But in the end, this is what is needed. I’m extremely happy to be moving to a new region, meeting new friends, thinking of new projects, collaborating with volunteers nearby (I’ll be by other PCVs!!!), and learning a new language. A fresh start is always good, right?! I have discovered that my new post will be in the Adamawa - specifically somewhere along the road between Tibati and Meidougou…which is a very long and expansive road, so that doesn’t tell me too much, but I do know that two of my good friends, Liz and Alexi, will be close by! The road is unpaved, like Lomié’s, but part is also accessible by train via Ngaoundal, so that can significantly cut the travel time. I’ll probably be transitioning to a life sans electricity and with more food scarcity, but this is the Peace Corps experience that I wanted. My life will probably be quite the opposite of what it currently is, but I think that is very much what I need, and I think it’ll still offer me many of the challenges to which I can try to overcome.
This past week has been filled with so many ups and downs. I go from crying one moment to smiling and laughing the next. I think it is quite safe to say that I’m feeling every possible emotion right now. I’m terribly sad to leave Yacouba and Atangana and our project. I’m extremely excited to be moving to the Adamawa, a region and culture that I have loved ever since I first stepped foot in it. I’m relieved I’ll face much less harassment - not to mention I will never have to sleep alone on a deserted rainforest path overnight ever again! I’m grateful that I’ll be living in a bit calmer and more welcoming environment. I’m anxious about the cost and logistics of moving 900 kilometers - a move which will likely involve taking a car to Abong Mbang, then another car to Bertoua, sleeping in Bertoua, taking a bus to Ngaoundéré, sleeping in Ngaoundéré and then taking another 7 hour car to my new post...with all my belongings and a cat to boot. Talk about a long, expensive and exhausting journey. I’m dreading re-making my ‘home’ and settling in and going through the hassles of getting furniture made and learning the ins and outs of a new village. But most of all, I’m excited for this new opportunity. Despite the stress and sadness, this is best and I’m thrilled to meet new people, learn Fulfuldé, finally be integrated, have friends, and have a more Peace Corps-y experience. Here’s to making my last 14 months the best 14 months!