This journey is not about you, but about the work that is done through you. Then you will realize, this journey is about you!
– Isiak Holiday Jr.
I arrived on Wednesday, walking into another volunteer even before walking out of the terminal. There are lots of us here! There are 40 of us who expect to join the 99 that are currently in Cameroon. The butterflies in my stomach come and go, and I’ve found very early on that I am not alone. It has been stressed to us throughout the staging orientation, through activities and discussions, that we are to be each other’s family for the next two years. The motto of Cameroon echoes throughout this community that has quickly formed: “Nous sommes ensemble”, or “We are together”.
Many of the assignments are Education. A lot of volunteers will work within Small Business Development. Mostly all of us have the secondary assignment to educate on HIV/AIDS. Rumor has it that the reason falls somewhere along the lines of having been given a large amount of funds from the president for global AIDS Education.
We were asked to define our personal definition of success:
I will know that I am a successful volunteer when I realize that I have made a mark, when I see that I have made my community a better one.
I now know only a few of my fellow trainees’ names, but I look forward to learning the rest of them. I was relieved to find who I know will be a good friend so quickly. Sarah is my roommate from Atlanta, Georgia. I was so happy when, on the first day, she revealed that she was a Leo. Leos always make great, loyal friends that like to share the spotlight together. But everyone is very friendly, open-minded and mostly agnostic. A lot of the trainees are vegetarians. I cannot say too much to generalize them, because they all have their differing, unique qualities. I think that what I appreciate and acknowledge most from the entire group is that no one here is closed. Their hearts and minds are wide open.
I am a little light headed, or either I am making myself funny because I know that there are many side effects of the anti-malaria pills that we started taking today. Some trainees have a weekly pill, which are popular for the “crazy and erotic dreams” that they produce (I’m excited about this of course!), and others have a daily pill. As I was sharing my story about appealing the 6 month deferment that the PC originally issued, because of “mental issues” -all because I had a few counseling sessions- one of the girls said, “Your letter must have really worked then”. She proceeded to explain that the weekly pills have more of a tendency to cause anxiety, and the Peace Corps would not issue them to anyone who they were concerned about. I guess I really proved to them that I am completely “normalized” and stable.
Other than the fun pills that are known to have a wide range of side effects, from dizziness to vomiting to hives to losing chunks of hair, most of us were lucky enough to get three immunization shots this morning! It really wasn’t so bad, and we were moved along pretty quickly. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of the series of shots we would get. Everyone is anxious and READY TO GO! Soon enough, I’ll be boarding to leave the country for a while. Prepared or not, here we go! Off to training in Banganté for eleven weeks! Language, technical and safety training will be provided there as we stay with selected and screened host families for that time. Because of my level of French, I will most likely have the opportunity to learn Pidgin English (which sounds nothing like English, with one or two thrown in every five or six words! See the video above of my friend making a speech in Pidgin in training!).