10.24.2013

Post Announcement - LOMIE!

The Health Group Celebrating Post Announcement
It’s announced! After two whole weeks of stressing, fretting and sleepless nights, I finally know where I’ll be living for the next two years! And…drum roll please….LOMIÉ!!! I know, quelle surprise. It was my first choice, I wrote a 5 paragraph essay explaining why I want it, I told Sylvie (my boss) the first day in-country that I wanted the East, and I’m the only one who said they wanted the East. So I am not entirely sure why I was so worried, but I am extremely relieved to know for sure that I’ve got it.

Post announcements were last Wednesday at the end of the day - that meant the entire beginning of the day was spent with me whining to my French teacher about how I can’t focus and trying to bribe her with beer and chocolate to find out my post early. The day dragged on, but finally at 3pm Sylvie rolled up in her car with our fates in her hands. We each had a folded slip of paper with our names on it and inside was our post name. We were told to wait until everyone had their paper so we could open them together, but I’m an impatient son-of-a-gun so I held my paper up to the window and was able to read ÉIMOL. A few people, such as Travis, caught me cheating. Him and Spencer teased me all day about what I would do if I didn’t get the East, so when a huge smile spread across my face, they knew I had gotten my post!

We all tore open the paper and many received their first choice or at least a post in their top three choices. I ran over and hugged and thanked Sylvie, who said that my counterpart in Lomié is extremely excited to work with me and she informed me she was going to visit Lomié next week.

I’ve spent the past few days figuring out more about the town and my house, so here is what I know! Lomié is large for a health post. Most volunteers are placed to work at integrated health centers (the lowest of the low in Cameroon) and are posted in villages of about 5,000 or less people. I on the other hand will be in Lomié which is smaller than Bafia (which I consider a sizeable town), but larger than Bokito (thank God!). I’ll also be working at the District Hospital and the only one in my stage to do so. The District Hospital ranks middle on the list of Cameroon health centers, and the Lomié hospital oversees projects and clinics in nine surrounding villages.

One of the many perks of Lomié is that I have two postmates - which means I have two other PCVs to live in the same town as me! One is Danny, a community economic development volunteer who moved there in August, and Grant, an environment volunteer who will spend the next year in Lomié. Grant is my neighbor in Lomié and Danny will be just a short 5 minute walk away. Apparently my other neighbor is a VSO volunteer, so I’ll be surrounded by Les Blanches!

Danny is currently living in my house and will be moving to a new house being build down the road. From what Danny told me, my house consists of two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen which Danny did some work on, and an indoor latrine that might soon have a toilet and tiled floors! There is a groundskeeper named Alfred that Grant and Danny share who fetches water, cleans the inside and outside of the house, does our laundry, and guards the house while we are out of town. When I texted Danny about whether or not there will be enough space in my yard to start a vegetable garden, Danny informed me that at that moment Alfred was digging up a space for a garden. How perfect! Furthermore, there is a ‘platfort’ behind Grants house that he had built which is a two story fort which offers beautiful views of the city and where Grant and Danny drink and play board games. It’s sure sounds like this post was made for me!

Lomié has a market everyday, which thankfully means I will not be going hungry! Apparently Danny has set up a deal with one of the market mamas where he can make requests and she brings in products from Yaoundé - so it seems like I have almost anything at my fingertips! Lomié also sits right at the entrace of the Dja Rainforest Reserve, which is Cameroon’s one and only UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Lomié sits in one of the largest stretches of untouched rainforests that still exists: The Congo River Basin. In the Dja Reserve there are 107 mammal species including forest elephants and chimpanzees. The East is also home to Baka pygmies who are the original inhabitants of the region and who still maintain a largely traditional lifestyle. While the East has a bad reputation for drunkeness, prostitution, laziness, and logging and bush meat trade, Danny says that Lomié is the exception to many of these rules and most people in Lomié are eager to work with you.

My work will consist of maternal and child health, nutrition and food preparation, water and sanitation, and HIV/AIDS (no surprise given that HIV originated from the East region of Cameroon around Lomié!). I am the first health volunteer in Lomié so I will be creating all projects. I will spend the first three months in Lomié doing community needs assessements and then after creating and implementing my projects I design. There are only two health volunteers in the entire East region: me and Eddie, a 3rd year PCV in Messamena. For being the largest, poorest and most underdeveloped regions in Cameroon with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS, it doesn’t make sense that there are only 2 health volunteers for the whole region.

Lomié is a 6-9 hour drive, depending on the season, from the regional capital of Bertoua where I will go every couple of weeks to do my banking. There will be a total of 18 PCVs in the East after I arrive. A total of 5 of us from my stage are heading to the East: me and 4 youth development volunteers. I can't wait to move there and celebrate Thanksgiving with my fellow Easties. The more I know about the East and Lomie, the more and more I realize I think it is the perfect post for me. Bring it on!


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