If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. You’ll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens, and that tribesmen fight because they are part of the human race. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.

– The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Now is the time I am finally alone, and I force myself to write this blog, or it will not become part of my routine like everything else.

Like walking the ten minutes or so from what is now my house to the girls center, down the muddy path between houses, in which 9 out of 10 of them include people outside or on their porch yelling out at me, “Bonjour!” The first day being here and feeling a bit strange, I can say that I never once felt alone. One cannot feel alone when babies are struggling to talk, yet they make an effort to get out “bonjour” to you, the American that everyone knows as a teacher, that everyone’s happy about because you’re going to help raise our children. It doesn’t get old, no matter how many times you say it.

Like bon apetit! No one ever forgets to say that. Even at the last bite, Cameroonians still feel entitled to giving you that phrase of politesse– and it’s said more as if the person saying the phrase gets more gratitude than anyone.

Like cleaning my feet from time to time on what is now my porch, scrubbing the mud and dirt off and being satisfied at how white my feet can actually become again… To look up and see Maman (the entire village calls her this) walking by and asking a question or telling me something like “Ferme la porte ou si non les moustiques vont te piquer!” –something that reminds me that she is going to look out for me.

Like market days in Nkongsamba. They happen every Sunday. Tim and I tell each other “Happy Market Day!” and we go out into the thriving streets on a quest for food and to bargain over what must be equivalent to nickels (but it’s the principal of knowing that we are no longer getting ripped off). Makes me feel productive.

Like washing my clothes in a bucket. Yes, I still do this myself! And I have been warned about the mango fly, so since a good story told by a fellow PCV, I have been very careful to leave my clothes to dry for three days in the house. I don’t know if I could bring myself to cut open my own skin to pull out a worm or fly, if it’s there long enough. Hey, you know what though… I never lose my socks in the dryer!

And boiling water the night before so that I can put it into the filter the next day.

What is difficult to become routine to is patience for what does not happen on my schedule, or the schedule that was originally put into place. The tasks that would take a few minutes take hours. Going to the cyber could be a very stressful task depending on my mood, because sometimes I cannot stand waiting for ten minutes while an e-mail is sending. Meeting with the proviseur requires a book because you were told be there in the morning…and you know you’ll be waiting. Patience is something I must reason myself into having. It’s never my schedule. Waiting will have to be done.

What else I will struggle with are the numerous marriage proposals that I receive. In the last journal that our training stage published announced me in The Mosts as “Will have the most boyfriends in Cameroon.” Although I’ve been firm about refusing, I need to have encore more boundaries. I have stopped shaking hands with men that want to greet me, because it’s happened twice that the men pulled me in to try to kiss me. His friends found it funny; I found it violating. And when I don’t tell them I am married already, I’m told that I’m never leaving. I usually chuckle, but I did become quite fearful when a maman told me that I would not be leaving because I was going to marry her son. Part of what scared me was the way that she hugged me, tightly like Mom does when she doesn’t want me to go anywhere. I guess Mom’s the only person that can do that. Recently a colleague has made some steps to making our relationship less professional and uncomfortable. He is looking for a wife, and he is trying to convince me that I do want a relationship when I feel it was already enough that I even gave him an explanation for that. At 22 years old and looking around at the many women who are my age, married and with children, I find again that I am not just Mom’s baby or the baby of the family- I am just a baby in the whole scheme of things in this world.

Routine also shall involve rides in cars that sometimes start with screw drivers instead of keys, that are filled up when four people are sitting in front and another four are in back… and having no space to yourself and you’re just thankful you aren’t embracing a smelly person. And looking out at the scenery that sometimes privileges you with the most beautiful green mountains and hills and trees…and other times looking at the shacks of houses that I remember feeling sad about when I first saw similar conditions on the bus ride from the airport. At the time, I felt that Cameroonians were terribly unfortunate and deprived. Now I feel more that I’ve just been extremely lucky my entire life. We live out of necessity here. In America, we live so luxuriously, so extravagantly. I knew this before, but now I live a life that constantly reminds me.

“Embrace the community and it will embrace you back.”

Yune Lee, my post mate in Bare

As I sit at the table of a nice house that Tim inherited in Nkongsamba, I’m reflecting on the past few days full of interesting adventures…to say the least. A common saying among volunteers is: Everything doesn’t always work, but everything always works out okay.” I have officially lived out the meaning of this phrase.

I’m talking about my house. I don’t have a house. But we will get back to that.

Last week, we all went to Yaounde, the capital, for some PC business. What they call the case (prounounce cahz) is amazing (see the video below), equipped with free internet, washer and dryer, a DVD player, and pizza delivery service close by… yes, I said cheese. Pizza, which means cheese! Did I mention that Parmesan would be an excellent package filler??! Four of us went to an Indian restaurant where he consumed hummus…hmmmm…and there was so much excitement that you would almost think it was Christmas! The Indian restaurant we went to was set up just beside an amusement park for small children, which was a little strange, but in the end I think that it added to the excitement and fun of the entire experience. I look forward to going to back to Yaounde whenever I’m supposed to or am able to (after 3 months of which I am to stay in my own province- The Littoral).

I’m officially a Peace Corps Volunteer! I took the oath! We had the ceremony on Wednesday, where we spent the last few hours with our host families and friends before we all went our separate ways to post. It was a nice but strange feeling to be liberated from being a trainee to a volunteer. No more schedules that tells us when to wake up, when to eat, what to eat, etc. etc. “We’re all grown up!” I told my Maman Merineau, just before she noticed my headscarf coming loose and fixed it. Just a few hours before I was telling her, “on va faire comment, sans toi?!”. But together, Tim and I are dealing with the strangeness of all this new and bizarre emotion of being out on our own again, more on our own than we’ve probably ever been in our lives. So I don’t feel so guilty about spending so much time together; I think that we are extremely lucky that we can process this in unity. Things are becoming petit a petit less strange.

The day after swearing in, we all took our different paths to drop everyone off at their posts with all of the books (many we borrowed from the case, and excellent resource center) and clothes we’ve had made and everything else we decided to bring and not bring. As it had just started to pour down rain, we found what was to be my house, just outside of Bare. The owner was there…oh she was there all right, but she was just starting work that she promised would be done by the 23rd. There was no kitchen, no toilet- nothing. Oh, and the one room that she was supposed to block off, was blocked off, but also was the main bedroom that was supposed to be mine. She claimed that the contract did not start until September first, and in any case, the 3 months advanced rent was not enough to complete all the work that had to be done, she told me. I could leave my things there if I wanted, but the contract doesn’t start until the first, she said. After that short conversation, I picked up the phone and called Gaby, my manager, as I walked back to the door and hollered for everyone to put my things back on the bus. I had a bad feeling, and I was not going to leave anything there. Yune had left the key for me just incase I needed it (she’s in the north right now), so I forced the bus driver, who was already agitated because he was pressed for time in getting to Douala, to take me and my luggage to Yune’s house. But it began raining heavily. The road up to her house in Bare village was more like a river with many rocks on it at this point. Before I started to cry because I realized I was homeless, and just because of the situation, I laughed. I said a little prayer, and then I laughed. I was sure we were going to get stuck, in which case the driver would have been happy because he could have blamed it all on me…and it was still pouring down…and I could not see Yune’s house. I kept looking, I kept pressing the driver, continue un peu, continue…And just as he threatened to turn around if he had to go one kilometer further, I saw Yune’s house. Home for now. He pulled up as an electric chord was caught on the top of the bus. It flickered and sparked. Joe, an older volunteer who is somewhat a father to the group, told us not to touch anything. I listened. The bus stopped, I jumped out, and voila… I got the key and I was inside, in the dark. And hungry. Ashia! After I found out how to turn on the gas, the first meal I made for myself was pasta with chicken seasoning. Maman Merineau showed up an hour later. She had to see where I would be staying, she told me. She didn’t stay long; Urielle was sick and she needed to be looked after back in Bangangte. Quelle journee! Merineau and I took a car into Nkongsamba, where I found Tim and his big, empty apartment. We spent the rest of the evening talking, checking out his apartment (he has lots of great books), cooking, and repeating the phrase, “This is so weird.”

Yune generously offered that I stay in her house with her until she leaves, when I can continue to stay in the house. Gaby was happy with this idea, and I was happy with never returning to the dishonest landlady and her house. Yune’s house is perfect, actually. 2 bedrooms. Bathroom. Working toilet. There’s also an older couple that live in a house just in front who I’m told to call Maman and Papa, and another woman that lives on the other side. It is situated between the lycee and the Girls Center, and the house has already been fixed up and evaluated by Peace Corps. Not to mention that it is already equipped with everything I need to live. And you know what else… it’s pink!

Madame de Baré, Tara L. Smith

(Featured in 39 Strangers Peace Corps Publication)

As I walk around the classroom as the students I proctor take a Physics test, I count down the minutes. The past four weeks of model school have been terrifying, overwhelming, exhausting, terrifying, and negative. But necessary…un mal necessaire. As I mocked being a teacher, I have begun to see what it means to be one. It means that first year teachers really are clowns, because they fall down a lot (sometimes literally), but they wipe the dirt off and they get back up again. Being a teacher means NOT being perfect. It means sharing what you know, and learning too (sometimes when you’re least expecting it, a student says something that opens your eyes that much wider). It means having patience…and at times, losing patience (although we really try not to). It means diving into your students’ world, while trying to maintain it. It’s motivating yourself, and then motivating your students. Being a teacher means that sometimes you fail. After one miserable week, I wrote a blog that worried my American mom enough to ask my motivator to call me- Madame Parks, my high school French teacher, who inspired me from the moment she entered the classroom, and who never once stopped encouraging me in the passing seven years. Knowing me so well, she put things into perspective for me. She gave me this quote: “The right thing to do and the harder thing to do are the same thing.” And the things that sent me into tears the week before seemed to be worth it, because while I had failed at some of the details, just sticking it out and around to figure it all out is ultimately what it’s all about anyway. Being a teacher means not giving up on her students, even when it gets really difficult.

At the end of my four weeks, I conclude that I still don’t know entirely what a teacher is, but I know that I am going to have those weeks when all that keeps me going is knowing that someone loves me and supports me, even half the world away. Oh, but how I look forward to those moments when a student says or does something brilliant and sends my pride soaring, or when I see that a few students were actually listening (when I thought that no one cared because the dérangers lost focus…), or when one kid tells me “ashia” after you fall down in front of everyone. Thursday, as I was writing the date on the board, I mumbled that my birthday was going to be in two days, not expecting anyone to understand- but suddenly my class erupted in singing “Happy Bird-day to you…” I stood there and soaked in the joy of seventy-two students wishing me a happy birthday (in English, by the way). The same group of kids that had me angry the day before had just made my entire week. I think that for me, being a teacher is holding on until I get to moments like that.

At the beginning of model school, I told myself that I would never smile with my students, but I’ve found that after four weeks, there comes a time when you can.

 

A good volunteer is one that stays.

– Felipe, Peace Corps Education Volunteer

One moment, you’re helping someone else get through, telling them, “Ashia”… and the next, you’re down at the bottom, holding hands with those same people, only now it’s their turn to support you and to give you their shoulder. I’m overwhelmed with the burden of everything, mostly with trying to be a teacher, a role that entails more than I currently feel capable of. I want the students to enjoy class, but I want them to respect me, and all the while I want to smile but if I do, I wonder if my kindness will be taken for granted…but then I lose my patience, and it’s completely acceptable to scream at your students as a teacher…but I feel guilty because I don’t want to be a teacher that’s angry all the time. How do teachers feel accomplished at the end of the day?? Because I feel anything but accomplished. I don’t know if I can be satisfied with the fact that one third of my students actually understood something. As a volunteer, I want my students to appreciate me being here. I want to be a good teacher (see an education training delivered by yours truly here!). I want to know my students…and I know that I can’t make that much of a difference in 4 weeks of model school, with a class in which I don’t even know the kids’ names. At this point, I’m trekking on, just to get through. One day at a time, a voice in my head says. But there’s another voice in my head that’s screaming, How can I do all this?!

Girls’ club is tomorrow. Last week, meeting with our girls was interesting. Independence was put on the negative list for women. Most of the girls then said that it was okay to be independent, but only when you are single. When you get married, you should become dependent on your husband. You should respect your husband. You should have children. Like a duty or a chore. Gay marriage came up and so much hatred erupted that I could have cried if I weren’t continuously telling myself, You’re just an intermediary. I whispered this to Sophia, and she later thanked me for it. When I left the group, I felt tense and disheartened, so much that Sophia and I had to debrief after the event. If anything, maybe I can make these girls think about helping themselves first, before they get married. I don’t think they quite got it when I said, “If I were to get married and my husband didn’t want to me to finish school, a dream of mine, I would see that my husband does not respect me.” But the girls were really happy to be in a place where we could discuss freely amongst ourselves. Some of the girls became teary eyed when we were going around, expressing what each person wanted the club to be. Ce qui cherche le trouvera, one of the girls said in her introduction. “He who seeks shall find.” I look forward to creating a more lasting club in Bare. There are already opportunities that have come up, such as the HIV/AIDS workshop that will be happening in Emily’s post. She’s a SED (Small Enterprise Development) Volunteer who will not be too far away.

My post mate, Yune, is in town to help with the Diversity Training, another thing that I would like to be apart of. If I join the committee, I could even help with the next group of trainees, an Agro-forestry group, that will have their stage here in Bangangte in September (see a tour of the Peace Corps training facility below!). My original point being…with all the things going through my head, what I really need right now is to do a little lesson planning for tomorrow, followed by putting it all aside and going to the local bar where I can unwind a little. They always said not to take things so personally as a teacher, but when professional life is your personal life, it can’t be anything but that way.

Je suis la. Just being here will have to be enough for now.

« Vous représentez l’espoir… que vous êtes ici, c’est déjà l’espoir. »

(You all represent hope…the fact that you are here already brings hope)

-David, the Peace Corps Training Coordinator

First day of teaching model school: Felt like I was being harassed most of the time by my Premiere students that vary in ages 17-20. The first example that I received was, “You are beautiful.” That’s a general truth, okay. One of the boys pulled out a camera, and was about to take a picture of me, when Anne-Marie who co-taught the class with me, snapped at him to put it away. We decided that we weren’t going to smile anymore in the classroom. As a woman, I will have to be strong and demand that students take me seriously.

First day of teaching a class by my self: The first hour of class went fantastically, from the moment I walked in, confident that things would run smoothly, until the end, when my students’ comprehension of the past continuous gave me a boost of confidence. After the second hour, however, I left the classroom less encouraged. I tried to do a listening activity, which the students weren’t used to. In general, Cameroonian students learn how to read and write the English language in the classroom; there is less emphasis on listening, speaking, and critical thinking, I’m told. In any case, my students were lost, and in the end, I considered the lesson a failure.

Day 2: I’m giving myself props for holding myself together this morning. Teaching the subjunctive was more difficult than I thought. My lesson for the first hour became a lesson that took up my two hours of teaching class today. I had to slow down the lesson to make sure that all of the students got it, and that’s okay. Teachers must be flexible and willing to slow down the pace to the class level. Walking into the second hour, I slipped on a muddy area just next to the classroom, where many students were standing outside. It’s okay! Keep smiling! I kept myself together and confident into the next hour. I was surprised that most students did not react with laughter, but with, “Sorry, Madame”. “Ashia”, one student told me, meaning “sorry” in pidgin. I continued with the subjunctive, and at the end of the day, tout le monde est arrive ensemble. We were all together, and I was snickering on my way out after motioning that my students stand up as I leave the classroom. They assumed that I did not know that standing up when the teacher enters and leaves the classroom is a sign of great respect… “You stand up as I leave, no?”

While I am feeling more and more motivated and self-assured in the classroom, one of the trainees who I think is one of the best teachers’ in the group, is talking about her desire to go home. She handled a younger class yesterday who broke down her patience, and triggered her thinking about wanting to go home. I don’t want anyone else to go home. I want her to stay strong and get through this with the rest of us that are struggling. I’m disappointed while I understand that if she can’t see herself happy, doing this for the next two years, that she should re-consider her decision. Life is too short to be unhappy.

And I am very much looking forward to life at post after four weeks of model school. I look forward to visiting Tim in Nkongsamba every week when I want to use internet and see another American. I look forward to real life projects and starting an ongoing girls’ club, instead of the one that lasts only for the duration of model school. It will be nice to listen to Amy Winehouse on my computer without hiding out in my room. While I love my host family, I look forward to evenings that I spend simply alone, in my very own home, with a few candles and with a screwdriver.

Joy in Cameroonian Life
Par Tara L. Smith
(Featured in 39 Strangers Peace Corps Publication)

The lights went on and off last night, in a way that teased us for a few seconds before flickering out again. I was walking toward the lantern to blow it out when the living room went completely dark. Merineau and the children started laughing. I joined in. It’s true that this is not for everyone. In the most daunting tasks to overcome the challenges of daily life in Cameroon, it is absolutely crucial and necessary to find joy and laughter in them. I am continuously amazed and inspired by the little moments that remind me that Cameroonians are experts at pulling joy out of life and living it. It is this attitude that I seek to bring into my culture, one that will always get me through anything it seems. I remind and encourage every other trainee to remember to laugh as well, the next time the lights cut out.

Les lumieres se sont allumes et eteigne, dans une facone qui nous a taquine pour quelques secondes avant de clignoter encore. J’etais en marchant vers la lampe pour le souffler quand le salon est devenu completement sombre. Merineau et les enfants ont commence a rire. Je me les ai joindre. C’est vrai que ce n’est pas pour tout le monde. Pendant les taches les plus decourageuses a reussir les obstacles de la vie quotidienne au Cameroun, il est absoluement crucial et necessaire a trouver la joie et la rire de dans. Je suis continuellement merveillee et inspiree par les petits moments qui re rappelle queles Cameroonais sont experts a sortir la joie de la vie et de la vivre. C’est une attitude que je cherche a amener dans ma vie.

Citizens of the world ask not what America can do for you… but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

-John F. Kennedy

Another Saturday among classes, my 36 fellow volunteers, trainers and the beautiful weather of Banganté. I think that the weather may be even cooler than the weather in Texas. I can easily focus myself on the positives of this country, although I admit that there are some moments when I feel like a plug in one hole, when there are many other holes to be corrected. I don’t know if I’m at will to discuss this here. Corruption is the biggest issue of course. We are told to “teach corruption without teaching corruption” when we get to our classrooms, through imaginary stories and such. We are also encouraged to teach about women empowerment, AIDS, and environmental issues (like litter problems). People can buy a college degree, and that alone drives education away from the people that need it. Over all, I lean on education as the best resource, so it makes me glad to be getting the necessary training to teach well (even if I’m terrified of writing lesson plans currently!). I find comfort when I need it in the words, “take it day by day”; otherwise, it could be overwhelming.

I have African clothes!! After going to the seamstress with Merineau, I returned to my beautiful dresses and skirts. I know that I won’t fully fit in, but my clothes get me a little closer to becoming Camerounaise. Picture me strutting through the market… la blanche, they say… being called to bargain with a few locals, and maybe I will attempt that game today.

As we walked home down the dirt path with our chickens, she could not understand why I kept giggling.

I’m hiding out in my room, the mosquito net still up from this morning. My floor is clean, after a long time, my family must feel like. This evening, Urielle, who just turned eight, asked me, “Tata Tara, why don’t you wash your floor?” I asked her how many times should I wash my floor per week? “Per week!?” She said, surprised. “We wash the floor every day.” It became one of those moments in which I feel young. So young in the presence of an eight-year-old and her seven-year-old sister that are fighting over who gets to ring out the cloth before washing the floor. So young in a house that is cleaned daily by a nineteen-year-old domestique… who once wiped off an outside chair before I sat down to peel garlic. I was trying to fit in. And much younger among every strong, hard-working African woman that knows how to prepare every meal, down to buying the live chicken.

Yes, I went with Maman Merineau to buy a chicken last week. Well, what I thought she said was one chicken. At her friend’s house, she stuffed two into a plastic sac and gave it to me. She filled another sac and carried the remaining chicken in her free hand. As we walked home down the dirt path with our chickens, she could not understand why I kept giggling. This is the safest way, to buy and kill the chicken yourself, she told me.

I don’t know that I will really fit in, but I will try. I had some clothes made with the pagne that I bought in Baffoussam. A cute dress, a skirt and top that fit me perfectly.

Me: “I’m always late in the mornings.”

Merineau: “No, you’re just always on American time.”

Three trainees early terminated and went home last week. What a strange and sad experience that was. It’s been just a few weeks now, but we’ve become a sort of family, and to see three people go all at once was saddening. One of the guys I knew was thinking about leaving early on in arrival to Bangante, and it seemed that his parents pushed him into this. When he mentioned leaving in a phone call, the parents told him that he would be a complete failure if he were to quit. A group of us were thinking that it would be a good idea for him to unplug all the electricity and water when he got home, just to give them a taste of this life. In any case, what it came down to was that this was not what they wanted for themselves, and early terminating after two weeks, in a way, sparked a thought process… This is a really hard thing that not everyone can do. Is this really what I want to do? There was never a question for me. I would not want to be doing anything else… even on a day like today.

Today the Education group did 30 minute lessons for a mock group of students, who are actually very intelligent trainers. I taught possessive pronouns, and somewhere in the middle of critique, the whole world was put on my shoulders. Like I have to be a million different things, and that’s just to survive in the classrooms here. It will be only me, the chalkboard and my students, and I have to make do with that. I’m very much afraid of failing at this at the moment. “You’re not boring”, a friend told me in regard to my lecture afterward. At least I have my enthusiasm going for me. Now I just have to better learn English! The P.C. is starting a model school here in two weeks, which we will get to teach at and observe others teach at.

There are three posts in the Littoral province, where I am going to request. It is near Douala, close to the coast, close to an airport and other transportation. I think that they speak Pidgin English there, which is a language I hope to learn in the next couple of months. Interviews for requested posts will take place tomorrow.

You don’t learn a culture. You live a culture.
– Tsafack, P.C. language trainer

It’s funny to think that it’s only been three days. Like other volunteers have mentioned, it feels like it’s been months, and I say that with the most positive tone. Time passes slower during large adjustments, I suppose. Thursday morning, I received my packet, which announced to me my family’s name, and listed that there were six in the family. We were each given a map with our home stay houses marked. I was happy to see that Stephanie would be living just next door. We now walk to training together every day, just five minutes down the dirt path, past the electricity post, trees, cornfields- oh, and more cornfields. One volunteer I know identifies her path to her home stay by a pile of garbage, if that’s enough to tell you that there are not very many landmarks.

So we packed up in the bus and headed on our way. At Bangante, families were already waiting for us with signs, featuring each of our names. When my name was called, I quickly met Merineau, and she immediately took two of my heaviest bags. I was thinking, “Man, this woman is strong and kind!” She sent me off in the van with her daughter, Urielle. I don’t think it is a coincidence that I feel so at home in her house. Granted the first night was a bit awkward, the next day during our home stay reflection activity, my word to describe my first night was “nice”. The mother and father are both teachers, but my host mom is already on vacation, so we have spent lots of time together this week. She taught me how to make la sauce which is tomato sauce with fish cut up in it, among other spices. With rice, it’s pretty good. There is a lot of fish here. The fact that they eat meat regularly is a sign of wealth, or it could be just that they keep honoring me. Being American in the community is a pleasant, although sometimes awkward, experience. Everyone stares, even the motos that pass by. I was approached and proposed to yesterday. I responded that I was already married…Other PCVs recommended that we say this to avoid being hit on too much. Actually, when I asked about having male visitors from the states, everyone said that it would be a really great thing for me, because my village would think I was married, at least for a while, and people would stop approaching me so much. Being a woman in Cameroon, I can tell will already be a very different experience from the male volunteers. My activities have included cooking, setting up for dinner, helping out -which I have been a great sport about, but my family makes it easy because it’s just the way that we spend time together. Peeling garlic is enjoyable on a breezy day when you are sitting outside with two other women peeling plantains, listening to the kids chase the chickens and poke at the goat. We have three goats in our backyard. As a woman, I have not been out alone at all, and it became extremely obvious one evening when Merineau and I went for a walk into town. We forgot the BoGo light. We walked home, hand in hand, completely in the dark. I can barely get around in the daylight on the bumpy, dirt roads, much less in the darkness. The BoGo light has definitely become a great friend of mine. Electricity and water also go out often. But we just manage. Cold showers are something that I haven’t quite adjusted to yet, but at least I am getting better about taking faster showers. And by the way, shaving? No thank you.

Merineau took me with her to a party of other teachers Saturday. It was fantastique super! Let this experience also serve as a lesson of Cameroonian time. I was told that the reunion would start at 3pm. We left the house at 4:30, but when we arrived, the party was hardly starting. Merineau and I walked around for a bit longer, and she pointed out some of the various plants that are planted here. There is so much green here. To follow, the women began the party leisurely but forcefully, each of them making speeches that sometimes turned into hymns. I was only jealous that I did not know the hymns as well, so that I could sing along. To see the heart and core of gospel music at it’s natural state was impressing, to say the very least. As we walked outside at 9pm, I looked up at the sky and saw that I was surrounded by nothing else at all but stars. The stars seemed to cup around me, and even though I couldn’t see anything else, I felt like I was surrounded by the hands of a higher being. I also went to church this Sunday. The sermon was made in French and translated into the local village language as well. I can’t tell you enough that Cameroon is very diverse. Even at home, it’s hard at times to spot when the changes from French to another language occurs between family members.

The head Director of Peace Corps came to visit yesterday! This was in celebration of 45 years that PC has served in Cameroon. We danced to traditional music and ate a great lunch. It’s not very often that the PC Director comes to a country and meets the trainees, so it was a privilege to shake his hand, take a photo, and to hear him speak like anyone of us would, with strong feelings of passion for the P.C. program and mission.

Communication. I want to say a few things about this. First of all, my latest tip is to use a tampon box to mail things in, inside the package- this will prevent theft, because tampons are the same word in French, and who wants to steal those?! Secondly, I left my phone on the bus on our way to Bangante, so my cell phone took a trip to Yaounde, arriving to me on yesterday. I go to bed around 9pm along with my family, so before that time would be best. There’s a six-hour time difference. While I mention this, I want to warn you that having phone conversations with family back home, especially so early in the program, has more potential to make a volunteer very homesick. It’s not that I try to forget about you all, it’s just that I’m really trying to put my whole heart into this experience right now. I know that you all will be there, and while I will eventually send you all my blogs and show you each and every one of my photos, it might not be so soon. PC recommends that we talk to family/friends back home at max, once per week. I agree that it’s a good idea. Letters. I know some of you are expecting letters, and want you to know that although I have been thinking about you all lots (really), I have not had time to write. In times that I could have gone into my room for personal alone time, I have been instead trying to integrate and settle in with my family. And I feel really successful so far. Cameroonians don’t really spend much time alone, and there’s always someone to talk to or to help with whatever they are doing. After all, the saying is, “we are together”! I am trying to take full advantage of this. Then there’s language training, and today we started technical training… there are all kinds of intense activities and assignments that we will have to do to be successful teachers (there’s actually a model school starting up soon in which we are going to participate a lot in). I will start my letters, but even then, that will be about 3 weeks, at the least. Sorry if you were expecting something sooner. I can make it to the internet café every so often.

You should be proud, because I did my own laundry yesterday!! Yep, last night, with a pause because the light went out, Merineau showed me how to wash my clothes with soap, water and a bucket. Yes, this is the same Tara Lynn!

To conclude this blog, I will give you a bible verse in French to write on packages/letters. The traveler’s passage, Psalms 139:7. “Ou je pourrais-je loin de toi? Ou furir loin de ta presence?” –“Where could I be far from you? Or to flee far away from your presence?”