Year in Review

One day, I went to go fetch water from the well just outside my compound. This is part of my daily routine and I use the water to bathe, fill my water filter, and wash my clothes, dishes, and floors. Once it’s dirty I use it to flush my toilet. It’s a pretty efficient system. Except on this day, I hoisted up the bucket by the rope tied to the handle as I had countless times before and pulled up only a handle. The bucket remained filled with precious life-giving water 5 meters down a well.


In many ways this is a metaphor for my time in Cameroon. Just when I think I have a handle of things, in this case I literally had a handle, something unexpected happens to disturb me. Trying to be positive though so I won’t go into the unending list of things that don’t work the way they ought to.


After those moments, or days, it’s helpful to focus on the little things. Whether it’s a morning spent with coffee and crosswords, an impromptu play session with the rag tag band of toddlers (my stash of balloons has brought us a tentative peace), women cheering me on when I yell at men yelling at me, or a man asking me to help feed his children and then turning around and buying me some avocados when I told him I had nothing to give. Maybe I have a rare successful activity in my classroom (it’s probably 1.5 out of every attempted 6) where I get to see my kids engaged, collaborating, and expressing creativity. Sometimes it’s just watching my cat play in the grass outside my home. All these things make me appreciate my village and the opportunity I have to live here in Cameroon.


When I started this journey I honestly had no idea what I was signing up for. I romanticized the idea of teaching, imagining a classroom of kids who would start out nonchalant and uninterested but as we formed a more personal connection would break out of their shells of indifference and apply themselves, wowing me with their academic growth (thanks a lot Freedom Writers). I imagined a kind of spiritual renaissance. Living a simple life, my free time would be devoted to the pursuit of literature, music, and art. I could ponder the bigger questions of life with my neighbors while watching a heard of elephants disappear into the setting sun. Okay maybe I wasn’t that naïve but I’m still holding out for the elephants.


Like volunteers before me, I often wonder if my being here serves a purpose. It’s taken the better part of a year to strip away all the big projects I dreamed of and to realize that my service here won’t be defined by a new library or science fair but rather the culmination of interactions I have with my students and neighbors. Hopefully, I can help one teacher figure out that they aren’t chained to writing notes on the board or help one student pass their national exam. Who knows if the projects I’ve done will continue to play an active role in the community in a few years time? But I would bet you 500 CFAs worth of baton grille that my students and my neighbors will remember me.


FOMO is oh so real and as hard as it is missing out on weddings and birthdays and holidays I also consider myself lucky. Not everyone has the chance to travel and learn about themselves outside of who society tells them to be. To be frank, not everyone has the chance to make it to their 22nd birthday. So I count each day as a blessing and look forward to the surprises it has in store. Having another year (technically 15 months but who’s counting) to go is a daunting prospect, but it also provides a much-needed chance for me to improve. To try more new things and drink in more life experiences here. To grow.


Really in the grand scheme of things what difference does it make when I lose my bucket down a well? I’m fortunate enough to have a community who will go down the well and get my bucket.

Here are some of my fav pics from the year:


The Art of Being Thankful

I write this post as I sit on a bus amidst a very heated Cameroon argument. I’ll spare you the details because I don’t understand them but there’s a lot of “chien” and “se combien manges-tu” floating around plus the occasional claps from thee other passengers so you know it’s intense. On the bright side it’s given me some time to think. 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It focuses on food and family without the pressure of gift giving. Sadly with as many holidays as Cameroon has, I don’t think thanksgiving is one of them. Here it’s just another day. I even went to work. There are none of the usual harbingers of fall on this side of the pacific. No change in temperature, no change in leaves, no cinnamon brooms or pumpkin spice lattes. To be honest I barely remembered today was thanksgiving. Though I’m extremely sad to be missing this sweet time usually spent with my loving family and especially especially sad about my lack of traditional thanksgiving foods, I still find that there’s so much in my life to be thankful for. 

I’m currently thankful for my friend Kevin and his magical supply of Manila cookies and his never ending hospitality, for the mama that visited me this morning wanting to bring me met de arashid, and for having learned enough french to be able to fix things with my electric company when they turn off my power for “not having paid my bill” (even though I do pay it every month). I’m grateful that I have a roof over my head, even though it has a few leaks, and for being well fed, which does not necessarily mean nutritiously fed. This year I find myself especially thankful for my health. The fact that I am alive and living in a country where each day is an adventure is a privilege I know not everyone gets. 

This thanksgiving I’m also thankful for my past and the up and down journey that brought me to where and who I am today. I’m thankful for growing up in a community that valued education and had teachers that were passionate about their subject and their students. I’m thankful for parents who encouraged me to pursue what I wanted because they believed in me. I’m thankful to have been a part of an amazing sport and an even more amazing team. And finally I’m thankful I have friends who still make the effort to be my friend even though I’m 8,000,000 miles away. 

So here’s a gentle reminder this year to be thankful for the fact that you don’t have to worry about where your next shower will come from and don’t forget to eat everything on your place cause ya know there are children starving in Africa (I’m looking at you Sierra). Aside from that eat extra portions for me and have a #blessed thanksgiving, nay your gravy boats overflow and your turkey not be dry. 

Peaks and Valleys

School has been in session for about a month now. I hadn’t planned on having many more “first days of school” post grad but there I was Monday morning as nervous as I had ever been. My school is at the top of a very very very large hill. So not only was I nervous sweaty I was also “I’m-from-Florida-and-we-don’t-have-hills-who-put-this-school-on-a-small-mountain” sweaty. I got to school about 7:20, 10 minutes before our general assembly was due to start, and there was not a child in sight. In fact there was only one other teacher in sight, who saw how sweaty I was and insisted I sit down and rest. In true Cameroonian fashion, we started about an hour late giving me a full 10 minutes of first period after I fell down a hill in front of all my students. Thankfully, the rest of the day went pretty smoothly after that. My kids are starting to get used to their crazy American teacher who makes them run around to understand the difference between speed and velocity (although they still don’t seem to understand) or gives them different things to hold to understand the concept of mass.  

I’m feeling more a part of the community here as well. The other week I had the privilege of going to a dueil, a part of the funeral process here in Cameroon.  A dueil celebrates the life of the person who had passed away with traditional singing and dancing and of course food and drinks. The woman who had passed away was still fairly young and was well connected in the community. Her dueil lasted several nights with most of the village in attendance. The night I went was also the night we lost power. It was a surreal feeling to be sitting in the dark surrounded by the beautiful voices these women were lifting up to remember their friend. It was also touching to see how the community focused not only on the grief of losing someone but also the joy of having known them. 

It’s really easy here to be alone. It’s easy to let yourself wallow because you didn’t eat any vegetables that day and you haven’t had enough water to shower since the weekend. Or to want to shut yourself up in your home where you’re safe because two drunk guys aggressively came on to you while you were loudly shouting no or  “ne touche pas” in their faces. Or because you’re overwhelmed from a miscommunication with some of your community members and they’ve signed you up to be lead of a project that you’re not sure actually exists. Those are the lows, the valleys. It’s easy to get caught up in them and wonder how you’re ever going to survive the next 23 months. But then something else will come along. A cute little girl showing you how high she can count while skipping over a few choice numbers or a woman giving you a gift just because or even a conversation with someone you miss. The times that give you the peace of mind to say “wow. It’s already been 4 months?” Those are the peaks that give you the strength for the next time you find yourself at the bottom of a large hill.

The New Norm

Training was probably the hardest 10 weeks of my life. It was like getting emotionally beat up every day while being force fed inhuman amounts of oil and mayonnaise. We all thought swearing in would never come. However, it came and went and I’m happy to announce Peace Corps Cameroon has 26 new volunteers! 

There’s no way I could have survived training without my fellow trainees. To have made it this far we have to have way more in common than we’d care to admit. Whether it be a mutual love for tequila or an obscure tv show or even just a shared sense of humor, it’s made all the difference to have a support group of 25 equally crazy and miserable people who understand what you’re going through and how much you need a shoulder to lean on or un bier glace. Not to mention we probably know way more about each other than is socially appropriate. 

So now we’ve been dispersed to our individual posts all across the nation. We’re facing a whole new set of challenges this time without the comfort of having so many friendly and understanding faces around. We’ve navigated hauling everything we own and picking up the essentials (fork, chair, mattress etc.) along the way to our respective sites. Even though there’s many miles between us, it’s nice to know someone is there to complain about the leaks, the hundreds of bugs, and the general scariness of moving in. Despite not seeing each other every day we are together and we are one. 

I’m still getting used to post. I luckily inherited a chair and table from the previous tenant. Unluckily, I have no running water.  I’m still getting the hang of fetching water and not ending up drenched in the water. My neighbors are incredibly nice and have offered many bucket carrying tips. Cooking has proven another challenge, as I suspected from the beginning. On the bright side I’ve managed to collect some spices to season my potatoes with. Our market is every 8 days and anything I can’t find there I’m just a short motorcycle and bushtaxi ride from the city. The moto men are more than happy to literally fight over who gets to drive the la Blanche. 

School starts the beginning of September and I’m a mix of nerves and excitement. I am looking forward to have something a little more substantial to fill my days with besides reading and watching Gilmore Girls. Luckily fetching water every day gives me a good reason to get out of the house, although my neighbors seem to think I drink a lot of water. The language barrier makes it kinda hard to make friends here but I hope people attribute most of my awkward interactions as a part of American culture. 

Finally, it’s pretty surreal to see things happening in your home when you’re living in a different country. It’s eye opening to see such a display of domestic terror. My heart goes out to all those affected by the recent violence in Charlottesville. 

Pls pray for me and my ridiculous amount of bug bites. 

Model School

I was trying to post every 2 weeks but things have been so swamped lately I haven’t had the time/sanity to write one. Here’s what you missed: 

As an education volunteer, we spend 5 weeks of training working in model school. This is essentially a summer camp for students which is exactly like real school. The science teachers spend the mornings teaching a mix of math, physics, chemistry, biology, and computer science while the English volunteers teach the different levels of the francophone section. A select few teach both, and by select I mean most of us didn’t sign up to teach both and someone else made us. Once a week the children are forced to participate in club activities ranging from football (soccer) club to philosophy club, also run by trainees. 

Through model school we’ve gained a lot of insight into the Cameroonian school system. At our only pta meeting a mother used us to verify the alibi of her child. Cheating is rampant, so is corporal punishment, and there’s a section for manual labor in the report cards. I help run the music/theatre club with two other volunteers (tbh it’s mostly them sorry guys) and everything is fun and games until the student improving as teacher pretends to start beating the students. 

There are also the two separate school systems to consider. The anglophone system and the francophone system function very differently from each other. The grade levels are different, the curriculums different, and the exams are different. Take the differences between these two systems and blow it up to the scale of different languages and even law systems in the same country and you can begin to imagine the kind of political conflicts that might arise. 

So far I’ve learned: 1) children are monsters 2) language barriers come in hard with test instructions. My test averages have been about 6/20. Oops. Through model school we start learning how to prepare our lessons and manage our classrooms on top of keeping up with our language(s), our technical training sessions, figuring out how to survive in Cameroon, and whatever else our staffers decide to throw at us. 

In other news, I’ve gone from knowing no french to being able to understand and communicate (most of the time) with strangers. I’ve washed everything I own by hand out of a bucket from my bed sheets to the soles and laces of my shoes, mom insisted. I managed to help prepare and cook a meal which took approximately 7 hours. No, that’s not an exaggeration. And finally, I managed to navigate through my first holiday and birthday overseas. If you’re not tired after reading this post I’d like you to know my mattress sucks and I’m frequently terrorized at night by mice. 

As excited as I am to finish training (understatement), I know I’m going to miss my host family and the comfort of having 25 other Americans living in the same town as me. But for now, all signs point to swearing in. 

2 Weeks In

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.

How to pack everything you think you might need to survive in a country you’ve never been to for a job you’ve never done for 27 months.

As you can tell from the title, this is my first blog. Also I’m not especially great at being concise with my words. I’ll work on it over the next couple of years.

This is my premiere blog post! And as most exciting trips start, mine is starting with packing. Very extensive packing that has taken me about a week due to my roundabout packing, going out and buying more things, and repacking habits. I’m already a natural overpacker so needless to say this has been quite the challenge for me. Previous Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) had packing lists that really helped me figure out what I wanted to bring. I hope my list can do the same for someone else in the future!

Here we go.

socks (9)
underwear (29)
bras (2 normal bras, 5 bralettes, 7 sports bras)
bathing suit
athletic shorts (2)
pants (4)
skirts (4)
shirts (5 t-shirts, 6 vnecks, 6 tank tops, 3 button ups, 1 long sleeved)
dresses (3)
rain jacket
baseball cap
hiking boots

laptop and charger
unlocked iPhone and charger
kindle (thx kuya ily)
hard drive with lotsa tv shows (aw becca loves me)
collapsible lanterns
dslr camera + 2 lens + memory card
chargeable batteries + charger
african plug adapter

food things:

zip-loc bags
vegetable peeler
hot sauce
peanut butter
snacks (don’t judge me.)
granola bars
water bottles (2)

bar soap (7 – I’m sensitive)
shampoo (bar + dry)
bar conditioner
toothpaste (2)
deodorant (2.5)
moon cup
birth control (6 months)
over the counter meds (aleve, laxatives, anti-diarrheal)
nail clippers/files
hair ties
moisturizer + tinted moisturizer
face wash
glasses (2)
daily contacts (360)
face wipes
wet wipes
intense bug spray

sleeping bad + pad
travel pillow
playing cards (3, some to give as presents)
yoga mat
crossword book
french pocket dictionary and learning book
lonely planet africa + africa health
journals (3)
coloring book + pencils + art supplies
envelopes + things to write on + things to write with
utility tools (3)
duct tape

So you can understand why it took me so long. Here’s to hoping I didn’t forget anything too important! Now I’ve just got to decide what I want my last meal to be stateside. Suggestions are welcome.

BONUS: For those of you who are new to blogs (lookin’ at you grandma and grandpa) if you subscribe you’ll get email notifications every time I post!