After a string of less than pleasant events in the last month, things are looking up, for real this time. I took a small trip a while ago to clear my head, to regain perspective and to avoid punching someone/some kid in the face. The trip was a wonderful escape (details to come). I saw different ways of living within the same country and I have gained perspective on where I am, both my place in this country, and in life.
Juliette and I had many lengthy conversations over development and what’s it is really all about. Along the way, we met interesting people that taught us a little more about the world. We came across a group of French hunters who were here for just few weeks. The one guy we spoke with brought a kilo of candy and a suitcase full of medicine to distribute. It’s people like them that had the kids yelling “donne-moi le cadeau” (give me the gift) at us in an area where that’s probably the only French they know. The guy talked about all the things they (Cameroonians) can do to be more “eco-friendly”. We laughed later – people who have no idea. People care about having food for dinner and money to send their kids to school. Their level of carbon emission is the last thing on their minds.
Then we met a 84-year-old guy from Norway but had done his undergraduate studies at University of Washington. He came to talk to us randomly one night when Ju and I were having dinner. Turns out he first got to Cameroon nearly 10 years ago on a church mission and had felt in love with the people in the village. And since, he’s came back every year for different periods of time personally financing projects for the people he’s grown to love; building houses and sending kids to school. We met one girl he’s sending to nursing school now. He was fascinating and showed that personal wealth can do a great deal of good this way. Makes me rethink the private sector. There would be efficiency, and money. Money that I can turn around and do greater good with.
I also met other French volunteers whom I haven’t met before. We discussed at length and compared our work. And I couldn’t help but keep feeling as though I am just here wandering the fields aimlessly hoping to stumble on something good to do, while the French volunteers are sent here with very specific projects and goals. They have a legit job. They also get paid 3 times what I get. Also, they speak French, duh. I can’t help but feel they are looking at me amazed at what in the hell I am doing here not speaking French that well and living in the middle of nowhere with no real goals and little pay. Yup. That’s the Peace Corps for you. When I try to explain the “culture exchage” part of our goals, which is 2/3, I myself feel a little ridiculous.
Despite of it all, I got back in village and am still glad to be here. While researching for future job possibilities, I rediscovered my dream job as an International Manager at HSBC. I had discovered this program a few years ago but had given up after an internship-searching debacle that sent me seeking for a therapist. I had completely forgotten about it and when I rediscovered it few days ago, I was amazed at how unknowingly, ending up in the Peace Corps has further qualified me for this dream job. To put it simply, this job is like a life-time Peace Corps, except in international banking. One spends their career making 18-months to 2 year rotations in any of the 85 countries that HSBC has operation. I will have to adapt quickly and learn languages as I am here in the Peace Corps. The difference is, I’ll have a real pay, and a real job with specific functions and a learning curve so great that I won’t know what to do with myself.
I miss absurd efficiency. I miss strange looking excel spreadsheets with equations out of the wazoo. I want to make the world a slightly better place, but I am learning that doing it through the traditional non-profit way is not for me. I am grateful that I have this experience to really find myself, in a way that no other job/experience could offer. Meanwhile, I have 19 months or so left in this experience. I intend on wracking up more ridiculous stories for my future interview.
I am back in business, and I have more reasons to stay and tough out the remaining months of service than ever. Now, let’s get some projects rolling!