Monday, June 10, 2013

The Hardest Job You’ll Ever Love

I am currently sitting on the bus going from Yaounde to Dimako, my post, for the very last time (of course for the first time my bus also broke down, only an hour into the 5 hour trip). After an unexpected medical issue, a burn on my leg from a motorcycle, dragged me to Yaounde to see the Peace Corps Medical Officer. I contemplate my service here and what it means to me. I have come to understand that the Peace Corps truly is the hardest job I’ll ever love.

I have loved my time here, I wouldn’t change my experience, nor do I regret coming here, but as my time is coming to an end I have been reflecting more and more. My time here has been plagued with doubts, fights, setbacks and if I am being honest I sometimes I have thought about throwing in the towel. Life here was harder than I thought it would be, not because it is not America, with all of its conveniences. I have learned to live without running water and electricity, no indoor plumbing, but that is the easy part. Adapting to the culture here was difficult, the instant celebrity status I receive because I am white, the million marriage proposals and constant “give me” demands. I realized that joining the Peace Corps was not going to be easy, but somehow I didn’t understand the demands it would have on me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. There were definitely many times where I thought that I wouldn't be able to fulfill my service, even from the beginning, but here I am with two and a half weeks left in my service. I know that this experience has made me a stronger person, more resilient to obstacles, for that I am grateful.

I realize that many of my doubts here came from my job, as an education volunteer I don’t get to see the outcome of my work. I have been teaching my students here for two years now and I won’t see how they grow up or how they will use (if they do) what I taught them. While agricultural volunteers will be able to see the trees they plant mature, while they are still here or a business volunteer will be able to see a business improve their practices. Sometimes, not being able to see my impact on people makes me doubt my efforts here.

As I am getting ready to leave, I realize that the hardest part is yet to come; saying goodbye to the people here who have become my family and friends. When I said goodbye in America, I knew that in two years I would see them again. But now I don’t know when I will see the friends that I have made here, or if I will ever see them again, which makes this more difficult. I’m not sure I am quite ready to leave, but I don’t think I will ever leave completely. There will always be a part of Cameroon in me. 

A community garden that I helped plant in a friends' village 2.5 months ago

Look at how tall the trees are already!

Eddie came to my goodbye party in village (If you look close enough you can see my band for my moto burn)

Me with my favorite colleagues

The computer teacher and the sports teacher

Everyone all together!

Hanging out with ostriches in my village, no big deal

Where I have gotten my water for the past two years

That is where I do my laundry

Hanging out in Bertoua

A normal breakfast of beans and beignets, with some coffee of course

Allez Les Lions

In March, I went to see the World Cup Qualifier match between Cameroon and Togo. A bunch of volunteers and I went to the match and support Cameroon. Most of us had on Lions jerseys, some of us even got the Cameroonian flag painted on our face. We were all excited and so were the Cameroonians, since Eto’o Fils, the major Cameroonian football star was invited back to play for the national team after a couple of squabbles with the head coach and other teammates.

The atmosphere at the stadium was insane to witness; everyone was cheering, playing music, and basically just supporting the lions. The ambiance was contagious and soon some of the volunteers I was with starting joining in, borrowing drums and beating along with everyone else, myself included. At one point I borrowed a Cameroonian flag from someone and ran, I was trying to start the wave, although I was unsuccessful, the people were just happy to see une blanche fully supporting their team as well.

In the end, Cameroon won, I could not tell you the score, I do know that Eto’o scored at least one goal. But I will always remember the feeling of being amid the chaos, yet feeling a part of it all. 

Add caption

Tree that fell down in the middle of the national highway

Volunteers waiting for the game to start

Playing some drums

Got to borrow a flag

Kid selling peanuts in Limbe

At a bar in Douala

Tracy, my friend from America visiting my village