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?”

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.

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”.