9.24.2013

D-Day Weekend and Yaoundé Recap

Calla and I before the Dinner at the Country Directors House
The PC Country Director, the Health Program Manager, and the US Ambassador
View of Yaounde
So I’ve arrived in Cameroon. My instinct is to say ‘I’ve arrived in Sierra Leone!’, but for once, that is not true! Here I am in a new country, new culture, with a new group of amazing people, and here I am being immersed in a new language! For once, I’m doing something new.

Wow, so much has happened! Besides the vomiting incident on day one, the next day (Sunday) was much better. After a safety and security debriefing in the morning, I had my French interview. Having been 3 years since I’ve spoken a lick of French, I felt as if my interview went quite well! After the interview we had the afternoon off which I spent walking with some fellow volunteers to the national soccer/football stadium and back to our hotel. After an afternoon spent lounging and eating, I spent the evening whittling away the hours drinking Castle beer (a Cameroonian beer that is quite awful) and playing cards late into the evening.

Monday everyone had to wake up bright and early. We had to be at the Peace Corps Headquarters in Yaoundé at 8:00am. We all got shuttled to the headquarters a few kilometers away. Jackie Sesonga, the Peace Corps-Cameroon Country Director, was there to greet us and she gave us a brief history of the Peace Corps and Peace Corps-Cameroon. After that we had our Typhoid vaccinations and then I met my health boss for the next two years, Sylvie Ngoube. Our interview went well. The purpose was basically to gauge my interests in jobs and regions in which I want to be posted. She admired that I had been to Sierra Leone before and worked in mother and child health. She also liked that I was flexible. She informed me that my contact with a current health volunteer in the Eastern region, Eddie Rosenbaum, was perfect for my interests.

After the interview I got my medical intake interview and signed up for some spare glasses. I am quite sure the nurse judged me based on the fact that I chose men’s glasses as my spare rather than female glasses. C’est la vie! After I was finished with my interviews, a current health volunteer took us over the Case House, which is basically a large hostel/transit house for PCVs. While there, I was able to meet Eddie Rosenbaum in person. He informed me that he was my mentor for the next three months and the year to come which is awesome given our similar interests and my desire to be placed in the East region like him.

The Case House reminds me of a frat house mixed with a hostel. The house is a dorm much like most hostels, yet it lacks the cleanliness of hostels.  It also has a distinct frat-boy smell. But it’s cool nonetheless. The best part is the large avocado tree in the back along with a basketball hoop. The living room is covered with goodbye messages scribbled on the walls by COS-ing PCVs. Unfortunately in the coming months the Case House is closing along with the headquarters office and both are moving across town.

Monday night was great - we all dressed in our best and drove to the Country Director’s house for dinner. Also attending was the US Ambassador to Cameroon as well as other notables. Jackie’s house was huge and gorgeous. She served as a volunteer in Mali decades ago so she has Malian art all around her house - it was a feast for the eyes for an African art admirer like myself! I sat at the dinner table of the man who works at the Cameroon Ministry of Public Health. Little did I know, he spoke only French! He seemed appalled at our lack of experience and at the fact we were all unmarried and none of us had kids. After many linguistic gaffs, most done by fellow volunteer George, the dinner finally finished. But besides the awkward dinner conversation, the food was amazing! There was bread, baton de manioc, vegetarian quiche, vegetarian egg rolls, beans, and fruit skewers! The night ended with a group photo with the country director and the US Ambassador.

Tuesday was another long day at the office. First thing in the morning we  went to the police station to get our national ID cards. When we were done we went to a nearby Boulangerie. I got a beignet and dark chocolate gelato. There was also nutella crepes! Best. Place. Ever!
We then headed back to the office for more sessions and shots (vaccines, not the alcoholic shots), and then back to the hotel for dinner.

The second half of Tuesday was spent learning about PST (Pre-Service Training which is our first three
months in country) and about our language and cross culture classes. We got our French placements back and I received intermediate-mid, which is level 5 of 9. This is the level that trainees need to be at to place into an Angolphone region. I’m only one level away from reaching the level needed to qualify for a French region, which shouldn’t be hard to obtain at all.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), half of our group is moving to Bafia for PST while us health volunteers are being banished to the rural village of Bokito which is 22km away. I’m really excited and nervous to meet my host family, but I’m sure it’ll all work out! I’m looking forward to new food, unpacking, practicing French and exercising once again! Oh how I’ve missed running! I’m so energized by the Peace Corps and Cameroon! I know it won’t always be like this so I hope I can look back at this and remember what this all felt like. The future looks bright!

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