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.

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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.

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

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

food things:

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

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

misc:
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
pictures
utility tools (3)
hammock
rope
clothesline
duct tape
watch

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!