Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not. – Dr. Seuss

Title Credit: Bethany Reinhart

I woke up one morning in April to a calling, a direct line to my heart from the universe. As a citizen of the world, I knew that I had to do something with the passion and outrage stirring within me over the global refugee crisis the world has been watching. After all, we are all connected through our humanity. It was time to go see it for myself, and to create a space of opportunity for other airline crew who want to do the same. 

I was welcomed with open arms to volunteer with Dirty Girls of Lesvos, a wonderful non profit organization that washes clothing and other items to recycle back into the hands of refugees who need these supplies. Alison, Founder, recommended a great family run hotel, and like that I booked some rooms. The itinerary was neatly woven together after discovering island charms such as the Healing Springs and historic Molyvos castle, and thanks to a lot of assistance from Aphrodite Hotel. Within a couple of weeks, more than a dozen travelers signed up for the trip, and I realized that this calling was not just my own. With big hearts and smiles, 16 of us found each other on the island of Lesvos!

The drive into Molyvos was lovely, a twisting curvy road that leads you through cities and across the island, until we came upon Molyvos, a beautiful enchanting town with a castle at the top of the mountain! Our hotel was just behind the mountain, facing a beautiful beach. Our first activity on the itinerary would be eating a dinner at the hotel taverna, meeting with Alison of Dirty Girls, and to see a photo slideshow by Aphrodite herself. We needed to know more about the refugee crisis, and how we could help.

…the media has portrayed a crazy image of the island that has scared tourists away, and now local businesses are suffering. Hotels are going out of business.

It has been said before that if you take care of others, God will take care of you. But in the case of Lesvos, they have welcomed refugees, because as Aphrodite says, “What choice do I have?” She tells us of how she was in the middle of serving customers last summer at the very same spot that we were sitting in, when boats would arrive, and she would excuse herself and go check on the incoming refugees. It’s the right thing to do to give someone water if they are dehydrated, and to provide clean clothes if theirs are wet and dirty. The golden rule, quite literally. And yet, not many have stepped forward to back up Lesvos, in fact the media has portrayed a crazy image of the island that has scared tourists away, and now local businesses are suffering. Hotels are going out of business. The world needed to know what’s going on, only because it deserved the world’s attention and reaction. I’m so glad I put my feet on the ground as I attempted to put myself in their shoes. It’s hard to imagine that less than a year ago, up to 8 boats were arriving jam packed with people, sometimes with no gas, often taking twice as long as it should have taken, on the beautiful beaches I enjoyed during my stay. The locals helped the refugees, despite the laws against it. There are now some boats arriving, but not anything like they did last summer, receiving up to eight boats per day at Aphrodite’s beach. I’ve only seen refugees driving through Moria where the largest camp exists. I noticed the barbed wire fences, and a few people walking alongside the road. 

But the help that Lesvos truly needs requires you do nothing more than go to Lesvos and enjoy yourself!

But the help that Lesvos truly needs requires you do nothing more than go to Lesvos and enjoy yourself! As Katarina at our lovely hotel says, “You can feel free here.” I felt both guilty and lucky to be given the extra attention, and perhaps a more personal experience. Our euros spent there push the economy forward, and if more tourists returned, we could turn it all around for the locals and their land- the same land where Aristotle first studied birds, where Sappho was born, where the prices are right, where gorgeous sunsets can be seen every evening, where they’ll gladly help you if you’re lost -and in fact you will probably get a long, detailed set of directions- and where you’ll never eat a meal alone because there will always be some sweet stray cat that keeps you company. From the breathtaking views to the beautiful beaches, hot springs and castles, in your effort to create change, you may be subjected to wonderfully kind people as well!

Day One, we collected together many bags of accrued amenities, pens, ladies underwear & water shoes. Alison invited Crew Travelers to participate in a beach clean up at Light House Beach, where we hiked down to work in the hot sun to collect trash, discover clothes to be recycled, and cut up 4 plastic boats! Afterward, we jumped into the clear blue ocean to cool off! After we hiked back up to the road, we made our way to a lovely restaurant on a terrace surrounded by flowers and olive trees, with a view of the ocean, and Turkey in the distance. We shared a wonderful meal, and then a lemonade liquor shot over a big “Opa!” That evening, we enjoyed a delicious Greek BBQ by the sea. We kidnapped some of the Light House volunteers for a pool party, which followed by a night of dancing at Congas, a beautiful beach-side bar with great music!

Day Two, we made our way up the castle for some rich history, fun photos and incredible views. Then we headed over to the best natural hot springs and spa in Lesvos, where we enjoyed the beach, some of us received massages, and where we couldn’t help but feel like models in the infinity pool! We made our way back to Molyvos, where some travelers went to explore the traditional market. Bethany and I picked up some hand-made olive oil soaps and locally-made olive oil, before meeting up for dinner at The Women’s Cooperative of Petra, the #1 Restaurant via TripAdvisor, and an initiative to increase and expand opportunity for local women! Costas and his staff of waiters did an amazing job of giving us a taste of Greece as we chatted and drank white wine on the balcony and looking out onto the sea every once in awhile. I felt like I was part of a beautiful painting. We said “Opa!” a lot, and after dinner we all stood around on the cobblestone streets of Petra, taking photos, looking into the shops, and slowly saying our goodbyes. This group of strangers turned family in just a few days, as we fell in love with Lesvos over and over again.

Everything about the island will steal your heart.

There’s no reason not to go to Lesvos, as the people are lovely and kind. Everything about the island will steal your heart. As an added bonus and way to give back, you will support a local economy that is truly appreciative of your euro money by simply doing whatever you want on the island. And there’s even more to explore, such as a boat ride to snorkel and visit Rabbit Island, perhaps a tour to the Ouzo factory, a trip to the Oxy beach-front nightclub, and more time at the hot springs spa. The day I got back to Texas, I was already thinking about returning to Greece, with 3 travelers requesting a return trip in early October. The truth is that I would return again and again. Somewhere between the sun’s kiss and the salty blue ocean in beautiful Lesvos, you will find my heart! Opa!

If you have 8 or more people in your group who would like to volunteer and explore beautiful Lesvos, I would love to coordinate your adventure! Just send me an email with dates to  [email protected]! Check out more trips at http://crewtravelers.com! Efcharisto!

 

Life is worth living. I refuse to merely exist. I pursue a life of meaning and purpose, fulfillment and joy. The world is not yet as it ought to be. Neither is my city. Neither am I. Yet, I reject apathy and despair. I engage the world, my city, and myself to make an impact for good.

– Credo House

credo coffee houseThe next morning, Kathleen asked if I would like to visit a non profit coffee shop in town. My heart skipped a beat! “I figured that would be right up your alley” she casually mentioned as if she had not planned this entire Galentine’s adventure already. So off we went to Credo House, where I was immediately charmed by the friendly welcome, clean coffee bar and romantic string lights (I’m such a sucker for lights!). Photos of Haiti by a local photographer hung on the wall, and large glass windows allowed all the sunlight in without any of the cold. Downtown Credo’s donation only coffee shop is an opportunity to drink a delicious cup of coffee with purpose. Credo’s website explains that as customers assign a value to their coffee, they become more conscious of where their money is going and are invited to consider the impact it makes. Credo House partners with fair trade Guatemalan farmers, and supports several projects within the Orlando community as well. The more the cute ginger bartender indulged us in their mission, the more we fell in love. We claimed residence on the oversized chairs by the window and spent the next couple of hours discussing life and happiness.  We shared a piece of coconut banana bread, that could not have tasted any fresher or better. The world needs more businesses like this.

image1 (1)Fast forward a few hours later, we’ve walked through two malls too many and prepped ourselves for a night on the town. We gracefully landed at the Courtesy Bar, where the vibe was dark, romantic and vintage. The thought provoking art within the bar captured our interest and served as a beautiful backdrop for elegant lady conversation. A kind & knowledgeable gentlemen served us a tasty, classy cocktail. As he elegantly made each drink, he provided an eloquent summary of ingredients, and a brief history of the drink itself, making for an even more lovely experience. We were so fancy.

12486028_10153783825303361_8168466447244090454_oWe strolled down to another bar briefly before entering the independent Bar for Mac & Cheese Night, featuring DJ Mac and promising the cheesiest music! Without question, we needed to check it out! After the doors opened at 10 PM, we entered the club without any cover, and ordered some drinks before heading to the dance floor, ready for whatever cheesy music may inspire us! The ’90s and ’00s music was off the chain! From Spice Girls, NSYNC, to Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer”, the crowd belted out lyrics that they know all too well, and the date Kathleen met there may have been overwhelmed by our performance! As any incredible night should end, we crossed the street after the last call and fed our stomachs some vegan hot dogs!

Love is all around us!
Love is all around us!

As we always have it, our adventures came to an end when she dropped me off at the airport to head back home. Just after take off, I looked down to see a lake that’s naturally shaped like a heart, and thought to myself, “Love is all around us.” 

 

 

Being a newhire flight attendant can be rough. A lot of airlines don't pay for training, or pay very little. If you manage to make it to graduation (many don't!), you quickly realize that the hours you get while flying aren't enough to making a living wage. Hopefully, this is where you come in! You know someone who is going through flight academy and you want to help them out! Here are 10 items that can bring a little relief to the crazy experience that is Flight Academy. 

Large Lunch Tote

Newhire Flight attendants don't make much, and a big part of our expenses when flying is food. If you don't think ahead, and pack your food you will quickly find yourself in the red. So help that flight attendant in your life by giving them the gift of packed food! Snacks, food, and drinks can all safely be transported in this large tote bag. 

The two photos featuring Franck are from Youth Day, a National holiday where children parade and dance in the streets to celebrate their youth. I went to Nkongsamba to share the fetstivities with Franck. He really enjoyed the grilled fish that I bought for him.

The last photo is just to let you know how traveling looks like in Cameroon most of the time, when I cant flag down a private car.. huge buses; with all the baggage on top, including goats. This photo was taken on way back from Yaounde, when a tire literally flew off the bus, and we sat there stuck for a few hours before catching another car. Ouai! On va faire comment?

Traveling to new countries can cause a lot of headaches sometimes. One of these headaches is knowing where you are at all times. Because our phones rely on cellular data that usually is tied to one carrier, our phones data connection doesn't always work when we are overseas. However, most people think that GPS and Cellular Data are connected, when in reality they are not. The only reason your Google Maps app doesn't work overseas is because it is constantly checking the servers for the most up to date maps. However, the App does know your exact location regardless, even if it can't show it to you. How do you get around this? You use an app called Maps.me! Keep reading for how to use Maps.me to travel the world, and always know where your are, and how to get where you need to go!

“Hey baby you oughta be free
You gotta get out and chase all your dreams
There’s ain’t no point in you waitin’ for me
Hey baby you oughta be free
Hey baby it’s gonna be fine
You goin’ your way and me goin’ mine
We’ll be together somewhere down the line
Hey baby it’s gonna be fine

Hey baby
You’ve got to give it a try
Hey baby
Spread out your wings and just fly
Hey baby
You know that I’m on your side

Hey baby you better take care
Harden your heart ‘cause it’s lonely out there
It won’t be easy and it won’t be fair
Hey baby you better take care

Hey baby you gotta be strong
You’ve had this feeling inside all along
C’mon you’ve denied yourself for so long
Hey baby you gotta be strong”

-Bryan Adams

After a very long day, I sit astounded at the events that took place and how they took place today. After giving an exam to my younger students, I returned to the house and Franck visited for a short time before I napped and left the house for my return to teaching at the girls’ centre. I stopped by my friend Agathe’s boutique to buy some soy milk yogurt before heading up. I sat my phone down on the table, unknowing that it would never be found again. When I realized that I had left my cell, I quickly returned to an empty surface, not even ten minutes later, to see my friend Agathe who was sick to her throat and nonobservant to who had taken the phone. I headed to Nkongsamba in my attempt to block the credit and to save my number as my own. Peace Corps security awaits Monday to help me take care of this. I returned to village with Abby, to a house escaped by Sammy. I opened the backdoor and to my surprise she had ventured back to the yard. Hopefully she is not pregnant now. I felt so alone. I am so tired of feeling up and then down so quickly. I found myself in a large empty house with no contact to the outer world and no compassion from my closest companion. We decided to eat some fish and take a beer at Agathe’s boutique, who had received medicine from the hospital but who had not gone home to rest like she should have. I was concerned wholeheartedly for my friend, and before I knew it I found myself picking up empty bottles and taking orders for men in the bar area just next to the boutique. She was falling half asleep on the bench and I was enjoying the use that I was making of myself, giving change and feeling apart of something that needed me in order to directly contribute to someone else’s being that I cared for. So often you come to care about someone here, but you don’t know how to help them without pulling out your pockets. I was pulling out my heart, and something motivates me to spend more time at this boutique, secondary project or not, to be apart of something. To feel apart of something, to contribute to something.

Teaching is not feeling apart of something. I see the other teachers there, I mingle with them, and I talk to my students and I care about them, but nothing proves my useful aide to them. They derange and if they want to, they take in some of what I give them. But to do what with? I never feel productive there, for I know there is always someone that can do what I do better, and even if I did have better lessons, what would students take away from that for the rest of their lives? Am I being overly critical of myself? I feel that what has made me a happier volunteer is to quit judging myself, and to push away what I dislike and to bring in closer the little things that make me content. Like Franck, my youngest best friend. Like baking cakes and cooking meals that go proudly appreciated and enjoyed by those around me. Like cuddling with my kitten. Like pushing kids out so that I can enjoy a nap, which at times cut up the day into parts that need to be divided into two. Like calling out men’s possible and most likely intentions that most women do not. Like text messaging jokes and good things- and receiving them. Like making my bed, and falling deep into sleep between my cool sheets, one foot in and one foot out, one arm around my pillow, the other around my care bear….

You Asked What I Eat!

Poisson braise and baton de manioc. I eat this at least once a week. I always feel good eating it because it’s healthy and cheap, and plus it’s fun to eat with your hands! I can find fish a few minutes away from my doorstep, but the mamas don’t start grilling until it starts getting dark, so it’s usually something I get for dinner. The baton de manioc I can’t really explain. I’m sure it’s starchy. It’s white and has somewhat of a gooey texture- I hated it the first few times I had it, but it’s great with poisson and piment!

Piment. Oh how this is in everything, so if I didn’t like it, I would not be a very happy eater here. But everyone loves it because it’s tasty. I don’t even usually like spicy peppers and things, but I can eat piment pepper sauce until the point I get tears in my eyes and I would keep eating because it’s just good.

Koki. I’ve talked about eating this before. You will have to look this up on wikipedia too if you want to know more about it. I have not made it yet, but I hear that it’s really hard. Koki is made from mushed beans that are turned and put into leaves and cooked. I think it takes a good part of the day to make it. I can easily find koki on market day, usually served with boiled bananas or manioc, and I love it!

I can find peanuts almost anywhere. Oh there is a peanut sauce that they make here, that I made once, and it’s delicious too.

L’haricot rouge. Red beans are super easy to make and good for their proteins, so I’ve been making this about once per week. You have to soak the beans for a night and cook them for hours, but other than preparation it’s really easy to make. I add tomatoes and onions and garlic, and sometimes piment…I’m told that they are almost like the beans that Cameroonians make. So that’s the last time I serve something I make to my neighbor! No, kidding, he is a good taste tester, and encourages me to keep working at my cooking skills. Everyone know that I’m a debutant!

Achou. Oh god this is good, from the Anglophone region in the Northwest, a little weird but now I’m used to the funny texture that sticks to my fingers, before dipping it into a spicy yellow sauce and then eating it. It’s really fun to eat with your hands, I have found!

Even though Cameroonians don’t so much I eat salads frequently. I can easily find tomatoes, salad, cucumber and make my own vinaigrette.

Fruits come in seasons. There are usually bananas, avocados and mandarins. Mangoes are hard to find now, but coconuts are in the market now! I bought one yesterday just to buy one; now I will have to figure out how to crack it!

Pure life…this kind of life cannot be captured in pictures or words. Because when people become fascinated with pictures and words, they wind up forgetting the language of the world.
-The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Besides experimental cooking and hanging out with Tim, in addition to my teaching 8 hours at the lycee for the moment (my schedule is not fully determined yet at the lycee, and the girls centre classes do not start until October 1st), I would like to investigate further the possibility for study abroad for Cameroonians. I am going to contact someone at the Embassy to discuss what determines that a Cameroonian can study in the states, what holds them back, what helps them, etc. etc. as well as other issues, the principal issues seeming to be obtaining a Visa from the Cameroonian government and money. I cannot imagine being told that I would not be able to study abroad for reasons beyond my control. Study abroad has opened my eyes to the world, teaching me that you can never know the entire world completely, but that I can continue to experience the world as much as I can, so that I may become a better person because of it. Just the experience of traveling somewhere else can inspire and drive someone to accomplish more. So my new development project is going to be this. I don’t know what exactly to title this project, but hopefully I can do something that’s sustainable.

Things I should ask at the Embassy (Let me know if there are other questions that I should consider in regard):
· What is the Visa process (get copy of Visa application)?
· What highers and lowers a Cameroonian’s chances of getting a Visa issued to them, as a traveler or student?
· Can an American’s invitation assist with the Visa process?
· What financial assistance, if any, is available to students wanting to travel/study abroad (I may do some research on Cameroonian companies, such as Orange, MTN, Coca Cola, and airline companies that may be willing to be a part of a program that assists financially or via some discount rates those who want to study abroad later).
· How could an American university set up a regular exchange program with a Cameroonian university or any student?

How strange to begin my relationships here. To be committed to the relationships that will be more and more defined in the next two years- the support network that is essential to my success here. This group of 37 strangers that met 3 months ago. October 6 will mark 4 months that a chapter ended my life in America and my chapters of Peace Corps life began. We had a Mexican dinner this past weekend. Cheese enchiladas (made with Babybel cheese, but cheese nonetheless that can be shredded and tastes delicious) are going to be a weekly thing for us. I never realized how simple it is to make tortillas, yet we always just buy them in the states for more than they are worth. Flour is a main ingredient in my kitchen now, when I hardly ever bought any for my Denton kitchen at all. The only ingredient we need from the other side is chili powder to make the sauce. I have learned how to make a saucy salsa as well, additionally spiced with piment peppers. Piment peppers are very hot. I think my dad would just love to try some piment peppers in a hot sauce.

Yune decided to extend for a year, but she will be working in the extreme north of Cameroon instead of my village after her trip back home for about a month in January. I better understand her desire to pass down this house to the next volunteer now, because this house is closest to the village that is just next to it, still 20 minutes away by moto where Yune works. The house is situated best of the possible housing locations that already have electricity, water, and are walking distance from the market. We are going to look around at different houses and apartments so that I can get into something by November when the next agro-forestry volunteer starts at this post. It’s going to be another girl for sure. I’m already excited about new volunteers. For one, I won’t be the batch of new volunteers anymore, and second there will be new friends to meet and have over course of the next couple of years. In any case, there is a 3-bedroom apartment in a compound I hear is available near the bridge that crosses the river in my village, and hope to look at it soon.

My motivation for lesson planning and teaching has hardly been seen in these past few days. I sometimes want nothing more than to sit inside of my house without talking to anyone. Yune says that this is normal, and in addition she has also been through a phase in which she develops a hatred toward men and wishes she could castrate all men because of some of the male attitudes and advances that are irritating and disturbing. I think that most of the men here want to marry an American so that they can obtain a Visa and a ticket to a better life, there don’t even consider would ever involve issues of money or hard work. All dreams come true in America, right? You and I both know that is true, but I think that is the idea that most Cameroonians have of the states.

My marriage proposal record log:
1. A model school teacher (that really wants to know me, along with all the other white girls that taught at model school with me)
2. A random older male in Bangante who stopped me in the street
3. A random guy in a bar who offered a dowery (gifts and money that males are to give the family when asking permission to marry the daughter, in some cultural customs here) to my counterpart, and then following gave me the finger wiggle which involves a violation to the palm of my hand by a the pointer finger.
4. Does a drunk who tries to kiss me count?
5. It happened twice!
6. A colleague (whose name I will not mention here)
7. Erik the electrician, a villagois neighbor
8. Erik, a student at the lycee across from my house who has come to my house to tell me that it is his dream to be with a white girl since he was a little boy…and guess what, he wants me to be that girl.
9. Emanuel, one of my 2nde students! I am going to embarrass him tomorrow in class for this. I was appauled at his ridiculous stalker behavior that landed the family in my compound to become agitated.
10. Random neighbor who I laughed at in his face when he told me that all he dreamed about was me the night before. I don’t even think he was that embarrassed when I laughed, but at least he had stopped trying to negotiate what he thought I should want.

* this does not include random daily comments, shouting, hand motions to come over and men trying to talk to me randomly throughout my routine around village and Nkongsamba.

I am stalling. I need to lesson plan for the next week. There are dishes in the bucket in the kitchen, and before I know it I will need to start thinking about what to eat for lunch (everything takes longer here…) so that I can prepare it. Instant gratification should be something that is out of my vocabulary by the end of service here. I have heard stories of returned volunteers that go into a grocery store and end up walking out with nothing because there was just too much for their senses to take. I will guess as well that I will be more relaxed with time schedules. But I will be an alright cook, and I will know what to do with myself when I am alone. I don’t think I have ever known myself better. Maybe this has something to do with why I don’t feel that far away really from everyone back home [in America]. In a way, it seems that my friends are closer to me than they have ever been, because now is when I look back and reflect on memories and experiences that get me through the day, and this causes me to love them even that much more. You are with me beyond physical being. You’re with me in everything I do.

Makes me think of the following quote…

If we have the courage to disinter dream, we are then faced with the second obstacle: love. We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream. We do not realize that love is just a further impetus, not something that will prevent us from going forward. We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey.

-The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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.

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?”

C’est le Cameroun!

– Juliette Michenoud

After almost 2 days of traveling, we are here! The plane rides were bearable, thanks to the volunteers that kept me company, as well as a Cameroonian woman named Juliette who chatted with me on the plane from Paris. I feel such a great sense of community. She called me Cherie and told me to come to her house! I felt like an instant addition to the family. While we were sitting in the airplane, waiting to leave Douala, I noticed Juliette speaking very casually in French with a man that was sitting across the aisle, and then I saw her use his cell phone. I wondered if they were friends. I asked her if she knew the man. She repeated my question and then she laughed and replied, “Non, je ne le connais pas! C’est le Cameroun, ca! On est toujours comme ca!”- “No, I don’t know this man. This is Cameroon. That’s the way it is.” That’s just the way Cameroon is”. I’m getting really excited about host family “adoption” on Thursday.