I have completed two weeks of Pre-Service Training (PST). Two weeks of ten. This is a rough time as a Peace Corps Trainee, a necessary evil. I wake up for training at 6 am Monday through Saturday. Training lasts from 8-4:30 except on Saturdays when we have language from 8-12:30. We typically have about 3-4 hours of language a day, which is further supplemented by my interactions with my host family. Our days are filled with French, Cameroonian culture, what to do if you start pooping worms (cry), and the basics of teaching. A few days out of the week my fellow trainees and I will go to a local bar to get a drink or two before our 7 pm curfew. We then disperse to our respective homes and do it all again the next day.
I’ll never forget the feeling of pulling up to my homestay, where I’ll be living for the 10 weeks of training, and my little sister running up and hugging me. The Cameroonian people have welcomed us with overwhelming kindness and generosity, most of which is expressed by the copious amounts of food we are expected to eat. I would like to preface that all of my accounts come from my personal experiences and are in no way meant to generalize the entire country.
I have gone from being one of the youngest in my family to the oldest. Suddenly I have an adorable four-year-old sister who loves nothing more than to come into my room and sort through all of my things. I have a baby sister who cries every time I get too close to her. I managed to snag her while she was napping one afternoon, the only time she’s ever let me hold her. She woke up and immediately started crying. I also have two younger brothers, also scared of me. They’re a little older and look identical except for a slight difference in height. I only know one of their names. This week they have mustered up the courage to start saying hello to me. My host mom speaks only French. Our conversations are punctuated by a lot of laughter as we struggle to communicate with each other. My father is head of the village quarter we live in, I went through a brief period of time wondering if he was a mob boss. Our house is on the top of a hill with a beautiful view. The dynamic of my household confuses me. There are many children whose names I don’t know that also seem to live here but aren’t the direct children of my host parents. I’m also 74% sure they might be orphans, possibly village orphans that do our chores.
It’s surprising to discover the things you can and can’t live without. For instance, I’ve learned to look forward to my bucket baths. The cold water is very refreshing to someone who is almost constantly sweating. Cameroonians don’t seem to sweat. Ever. I miss cheese every day. I have received a marriage proposal and have also had my nationality questioned. I didn’t expect to have access to internet. Nor did I expect the surreal beauty of this country, the people, and the culture.
Cameroon is beautiful. Our days range from humid, sweltering heat to temperate breezes brought on by sudden torrential downpours. Everything is green. We recently visited a breathtaking crater lake, of course we asked the chief for permission first. There is however no trash system in the town we live in. People literally just place their trash in the street and sometimes burn it. It makes me question the effectiveness of our trash system in America. Is it really better to have all of our trash rotting in one place? I’d like to implement some sort of trash disposal system when I get to post.
We get our post assignments and have site visits in two weeks. Our first real taste of freedom. It’s bizarre going from being a (mostly) fully functioning part of adult society to being treated like a child again.
A prochaine mes amies.