After the successful distribution of books, I headed to Yaoundé for Close-of-Service (COS) conference with my fellow ’08-’10 SED/ED volunteers. To celebrate having endured Cameroon for nearly two years, Peace Corps put us up in a nice hotel in Yaoundé. While one of the nicest hotels in Cameroon, in comparison to the US standard, Mont Fébé is nothing but a high-end Holiday Inn. However, for us luxury-starved volunteers, any lodging equipped with hot shower, air-conditioning, swimming pool and food that includes chicken is five-star rating!
Our first night, we were invited to the Country Director’s house for dinner. LaHoma is our newly-arrived country director who is incredibly smart and full of energy. I can already tell that Peace Corps Cameroon will go places under her leadership. The first night after we arrived to Cameroon as a group, we also were invited to the previous Country Director’s house for dinner. That was back in June, 2008. Two years later, we are so much more comfortable with each other and it felt like a big family dinner. Also, as a group, this might have been the most clean we have all been. The girls all took the occasion to put on nice dresses, did our make up and hair. Boys were looking sharp, some even put on a suit! The whole process felt a bit like prom!
The week was filled with paperwork and explanation of the process to end our service. I received the COS date of July 23rd. It’s later than I had hoped, but so many people were trying to Early COS that I simply didn’t want to hassle to fight for an earlier date. Besides, I am not sure if I am really ready to leave any earlier. I have moved around the world a great deal, but this is the first time that I am truly sad about leaving a place. Likely because the chance of me ever returning is slim.
One of the events for the week included a trip to the US Embassy. Now, I worked at the US Embassy in London, and the Embassy in Yaoundé totally kicks London’s butt. It is HUGE. I suppose land in Yaoundé is slightly cheaper than that of London. I was also extremely impressed with the selection of American food. We all gorged ourselves on burgers, chicken salad sandwich, tostata, meatball, philly cheese steak, etc. After the delicious meal, we had several talks from RPCVs about career option. One of them talked a great deal about a career in the Foreign Service, which piqued my interest a bit. Something I’ll think about, but I’m not jumping up and down about that career just yet.
Oh, funny side note. The toilets in the Embassy had automatic flush, and it scared the crap out of me – not literally though. But seriously, I was amazed that there was even a clean toilet, and now one that flushes by itself?! Also, people pointed out those fancy shades on the big windows. Two kind of shades that you pull on depending on how much light you want in. WHAT? Most of us just have fabric nailed over our windows for curtains. If you are really lazy like me, you just let the sun shine as it pleases.
Anyway, the week was wonderful and it was so good to be with all of my PC friends who have become my family here over the past two years. Siobhan once described the relationship between Peace Corps volunteers as second cousins. We may not all know each other, but if we are traveling and need somewhere to stay, it’s safe to say that there is another PCV who will lodge us and feed us. PCVs are second cousins to one another, but those who are in the same stage (training group) have status of first cousin or even immediate family. As I sat during the conference and looked at the faces around me, I was comforted to know that after this experience, I am just one video chat or a phone call away from one of my loves to reminiscent on details of life here.
PS – Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance somehow turned into the theme song for our COS week. Also, we watched Trace TV around the clock and now I am playing Trace’s top 15 on repeat! I am already having severe nostalgia over the week.