Education is the key to success. – Oprah Winfrey

It’s been 9 years since I met the adorable little 12 year old boy who carried my umbrella throughout the International Women’s Day parade. He was wearing broken flip flops and a big smile. He was living with his uncle at the time, far from town. His father had passed and his mother wasn’t in the picture. His face was skinny, and I knew that he was only eating once a day, so I invited him into my home and into my life, and we began sharing recipes. He taught me how to kill and pluck a chicken. I taught him all about cake, Mexican food, and pizza flavored goldfish. Little did I know the role that I would later take on, that he would move into my house, that I would host his 14th birthday party (see below), and that one day he would add my last name to his.

At the age of 22, I learned a lot about motherhood and the love you can have for someone, even when they drive you nuts. Now Franck is much older, and he’s grown so much that picking me up mid-hug just came naturally when I first visited Franck a couple years after I had left. Leaving him was one of the hardest things I had to do. Since then we’ve grown into our differing lives, he settling into an orphanage and me going forward with the opportunities before me. I feel that I’ve lived several different lives, while he’s been stuck in his. I’ve been disappointed, proud and more forgiving than I’ve ever been with anyone. During our time together, I did my best to equip him the tools that I felt could help him succeed. I emphasized moral values, I talked to him about safe sex, no matter the blushing face, and I repeatedly taught him that education would be the key to his success. For Franck that key would bring him to America, but I’m not entirely sure of what that key will open up for him yet.

[embedyt]https://youtu.be/b_suWTRKpXQ[/embedyt] [embedyt]https://youtu.be/FX0GNnlF4is[/embedyt]

Right now we are working through his last year of high school and his final Bac exam. So while 7 years and an ocean separate us, I will always be rooting for his success. And while some of my friends are skeptical about trusting this teenage boy who continuously asks me for money, and rightfully so, I’ve decided that I want to be no part of why Franck doesn’t have a chance. If he finds some way to blow it, it’s on him. But I’m doing my part to carefully give enough to allow him every opportunity to soak up an education, and all the love I can give him from where I stand as his remaining living family. Today, that means sending money through Express Union to a trusted mama friend  in town (see her featured below), who will go with Franck to pay his school fees tomorrow. And that puts a big smile on my face.

 

 

“Work. Discipline. Success.”

-Fultang Bilingual College

 

 

I had a dream that I was in the states until I began to stop appreciating showers. I took long hot baths with careless amounts of water, I drank never-ending fountain drinks, I ate chicken with no bones, I got to go the movies lots with my family, I drove my Grandma to Wal-Mart… and I saw everyone that I needed to see. Of course it was not enough time. You can never make enough time for the people that you care about most; you just try to do the best thing at the time. I saw my mother the happiest I think I have ever seen her, owning a house and being a grandmother. I saw my sister on the track she saw herself on and mapped out for herself. I ate tiramisu. I taught my goddaughter some French phrases! I spent a few scandalous days with my best friend and gathered enough motivation to finish out my service. My luck even led me into some lovely conversations with wonderful, supportive strangers that were eager to hear some of my stories. In this dream, I visited all the places that I love most- all the people that have made up my idea of “home”, even if they have been an ocean away for the past year. It was home.

 

But then I awake underneath my mosquito net, feeling refreshed and ready to start in on my next 10 months in this country as an Education Volunteer for my community- starting with mon fils, Franck. After the first visit to the Fultang Bilingual College and boarding school in Nkongsamba, I knew that this would be the best thing for Franck. Not only will this put pressure on his success in terms of his education, but this will help prepare the both of us for my departure next year. He will make friendships that I hope will support him as much as I have. His father dead at four and his mother only visiting every few months, he was just another orphan in the community going hungry at lunch time and walking two hours to school in shoes that didn’t even cover his heels. I remember him before he became my 14 year old son with a little belly on him from eating so much with me, who irritates me to no end but then again listens to what I tell him most of the time, who I have come to really enjoy having around. Somewhere in between, I instilled within him at the very least one principle- the necessity for a good education, something that he knows will lead him into a future where he can become whoever he aspires to be (and personally hoping that he will be standing next to me in the family photo one day). After talking it out with friends and my parents -and taking out a loan from a close friend- I enrolled Franck into 5ieme at Fultang. I bought his textbooks and notebooks today, in which he wrote his name inside. He is starting to get excited, getting his name sewn into all of his new uniforms and buying new shoes and everything else that the school requires. Trying on his no sleeve sweater, he looked like a student straight out of Dead Poets Society. I am so impressed with this school that expects hard work and success from each of their students. Fultang has laboratories and a library, with teachers that show up every day and where homework is required. Classes contain about 20 students. These things that you may consider simplicities are extraordinary in Cameroon, where corruption is all too common everywhere within the government schools and where teachers are hardly motivated to show up to their 100+ student classes. More over, everyone is expected to work hard, and whether you are the deputy’s daughter or from a lower-class family, you will be treated exactly the same. Students all come in with the same uniforms and materials.

 

I do fully realize that I have gone out on a limb of faith in the people who care about Franck from the other side. I am relying on some helping hands in getting everything covered. The school costs about 600 dollars per year for everything with the exception of textbooks and uniforms which I have paid for. If I had more money, and when I have more money, I will take full responsibility of these costs- but as a volunteer, I am already spending a good part of my Volunteer stipend taking care of him. That being said, if you want to contribute to Franck’s education, you are more than welcome.

 

For most projects that my Cameroonian income cannot take suffice for, I take out from my Bank of America account. You can make a deposit there (to Tara Lynn Smith). I don’t blame anyone that finds this a little shady; but at the end of the day, know that I end up spending more of my money and using my family’s support to follow through with these volunteer projects that have become my life. I am also willing and open to suggestions for fundraising for Franck. But for now, I am simply going to ask you for your help.

 

I will get more video blogs up that feature Franck in them as soon as I can get faster internet. Also remember to visit my video blogs on www.YouTube.com under the profile: Mlle.Tara.Smith. It’s really nice to know that there are people that like to get so involved with my missions here. Thank you, I love you, and as Cameroonians say, “On est ensemble”: “We are together”.

Education is freedom; it’s the only way out. -Oprah Winfrey

I try to start my days off with 100 crunches and 100 jumping jacks. For one, it starts me off feeling accomplished about something, even it only partially makes up for the palm oiled koki* and all the other too often starchy foods that I eat here. It seems as though all the men are losing weight, while all the women are complaining about the double chins and round bellies we have gained. I am starting to resemble Buddha a little. And we are constantly reminded as we are complimented by Cameroonians on a daily basis- they congratulate us on the new weight gain, and are happy to see that we are eating well in their country. They probably think we are becoming more ripe for reproduction. It comes into conversation more often than I would like it to. I tell the mamas that I don’t know how they can have so many children, that I am too young still to have children; they laugh and think me a little crazy, I’m sure. But Americans are already thought a little silly, with their funny sandals (the ugly Tevas are worn every day, as my foot fashion sense has gone out the window, outweighed by the desire for comfort upon the rocks and hills on my road, as well as at the school) and their treating dogs like family, and their cheese fetish- and their crying because they let stress tear them apart, when no one has died even!

I broke down last week, the day before starting to teach computer classes. I was going over lessons that I hardly understood with Calvin, my colleague that co-teaches the class at the girls’ center. He immediately jotted down the name of an excellent head ache medicine, misinterpreting my not feeling well statement. When I explained that I was stressed, he became fairly uncomfortable and bothered, making me promise that I would never cry again. Il faut plurer de temps en temps, I told him…but he strongly disagreed that anyone ever needed to cry. After that he crossed out anything difficult in his notes for me, and assured me that everything would be okay. There was no hugging, but I felt better about it.

And it went okay. It was so much quieter in the room filled with 8 girls as opposed to the 90 6ieme* students at the lycee that I teach 5 hours per week. It went smoothly, after I candidly told them to save the difficult questions for Calvin. I cannot pretend that I am as competent as everyone else seems to think I am in regard to teaching computer classes. But I can deal with this. Flexibility is important for PCVs, because when it comes down to it, it’s about what you can do the community development- and these girls really want to learn about computers.

Friday was Global Teachers Day or La fete globale des enseignements! Blue and pink pagne was distributed to teachers and resembling outfits were made! I had made a traditional kaba, the village dress, that I paraded around while wearing my black heals and black attached ribbon and bow (that makes it more so like a fairy tale dress, I think…). No, seriously, I paraded! All of the teachers gathered at the sous-prefet to receive a few certificats and numerous speeches to respect protocol, followed by a parade; the women marched in front, just behind the band of drummers. Some younger students walked along beside us, and everyone waved and saluted us as we went through and across town. It was beautifully fantastic! It was one of those I feel really integrated days. I marched with my head high, proud to be part of the future of this country, and over all happy with the students that I am able to teach. My 6iemes are at times the highlight of my day…I enter the classroom to a standing audience that yells loud and clear, How are you, Madame? And a young boy runs up to erase the board for me. And when I feel I’ve lost all control, students get up and put other students in their place for me, reinforcing that there are inspired, prepared learners in my class. I lost my voice last week, and when they became loud, I muttered that I cannot yell today, I am sick; one of the boys stood up and screamed out at the bavard students, She cannot yell at you today! She is SICK! SHUT UP!!! It was sweet.

I have strayed as I have begun to brag on my little students when possible to whoever will listen. My time with 6ieme is usually very amusing. And I enjoyed celebrating all that it is, by standards of the little moments that make it worthwhile, and in knowing that these students will never forget the very educated white teacher that taught in their school, that perhaps encouraged them to do something more than they would have thought they were capable of. Teacher’s Day. Of course we ate afterward. The teachers ate and drank together, and I was forced to get up and dance as a special honor. Everyone posed for pictures (a photographer shows up for events like this) and I had the chance to mingle and sit with a few of my colleagues. I perhaps learned a few more names as well!

I found a house that I will move into, hopefully in mid-November. I have talked to many teachers and community members that all assure me that I will be en securite there. My program director is coming this week to help finalize things with the landlord, as there is a little work to be done on the house (such as installing a modern toilet into the back of the house, locks and paint). Water fountains are located just in front of the house, so it can easily be fetched each week. Electricity is usually working. 5 rooms! It’s fairly huge. I’m very excited. I’m going to have furniture (probably bamboo style) made this weekend to be ready for the move, with the help of a Cameroonian friend that I know from the bank in Nkongsamba. That way, I will not get les prix des blancs- white people prices!

* Koki is a dish made from unique beans that come from the region area, that are smashed, formed and cooked in leaves. There is a woman that makes this dish every day, selling plates for 100 CFA (so cheap!), who lives just across from my house. It’s all too tempting. I may O.D. on this stuff at some point!

* 6ieme students are ranged in ages 12-15, and make up the first year of the lycee or high school.

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

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.

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.