Second week at post is coming to an end, and I am starting to feel more like a member of this community. My house is coming along nicely. The walls are painted baby blue and I’ve added a few personal touches to make it mine. As Kate puts it, I’ve turned the place into Pottery Barn (as much as possible for being in Africa). If I were in the States, this would be even more ridiculous. The other night, I had a dream that all of us went to IKEA to buy things we needed for the house. What I would do for a trip to Target/IKEA right now!
I still have yet spent a night alone since Kate is still chez moi! I am enjoying the company though. Throughout college, I’ve only really lived in a studio-esque space alone. Suddenly, I have this gigantic house all to myself. It can feel a little scary at night. The first few days at my house, I was extremely paranoid and quadruple-locking everything. The paranoia can partly be attributed to the malaria drugs; it’s better now. Except, the paranoid feelings have turned into vivid dreams about going to IKEA and the like.
In other exciting news, last week, Kate and I hung out with the Chinese consulates. They were in the West province visiting government officials, and fellow Chinese people. By association, Kate and I were invited to the gathering. I have never been happier to be Chinese than I was last week! I talked Chinese with the consulates and they were impressed that I spoke as well as I did having only elementary level Chinese education. Besides the great food, I also tasted the best Chinese alcohol, one the Chinese government use to treat foreign governmental officials. On the bottle, it stated the alcohol came straight from the manufacture and is used for Chinese foreign diplomatic purposes only. So, diplomatic purpose it was, we talked Cameroon, USA, and Taiwan. First week of my volunteer career, and I was fulfilling goal II & III, exchanging cultures, like nobody’s business!
Since getting to my village, life has slowed down a lot. I have a lot more free time than I ever did in my short 21 (almost 22) years of life. The other day, Kate and I were watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and one of the character said, “I feel like I am on a train going 200 miles and hour, and I wish it would just stop at a platform.” I said, “Join the Peace Corps.” That is precisely how I feel. 3 months ago, back in May, when I was studying for exams, making financial models for StudioSTL, running reports for rich people in St. Louis, preparing for life in Africa and trying to spend time with family and friends all at once, I felt like I was on that train going far too fast. Suddenly, the train stopped and now I am not quite sure what to do with myself.
The pace of life is slow here, far slower than what I am used to. Getting accustomed to this lifestyle is an adjustment in and of itself. I still can’t get away from my list-making habits, so everyday I write things on my list just to feel accomplished. Yesterday, my list consisted of the following, “go for a run, go buy food in town, wash floor, organize my room, nail artworks on wall, make lunch, shower, make dinner and get water.” Surprisingly, those things took a while and nearly filled up my day.
My house is a 25 minute scenic walk from the “center of town”, which is one road with some shops. If I am lucky, I can find essential food that I need. Yesterday, I wasn’t so lucky. All I could find in town were bread, eggs, tomatoes, garlic and onion. I’ve wanted some potatoes to make fries and I couldn’t find them for the life of me. Thankfully, Kate brought some back for us from Bafoussam. I cook a lot now. Before May, I was pretty much the worst cook you’ve ever met. Now, I think I do quite well. Cooking takes up a good chunk of my time; I often joke that I joined the Peace Corps to become a good wife. This past week, I made: pancakes, raisin scones, fried rice, cream of corn soup, crêpes, oatmeal raisin cookies, fries, rice soup, and of course, ramen (old habits die hard). Tonight, Kate and I will have a go at lentil taco!
Not sure if I’ve mentioned, but my house is without running water. I spend a good hour of my days “organizing” my water source. I have 20 water bottles and a few buckets that store water. Luckily, it’s still the rainy season, so I can simply put the bucket out and catch water. Otherwise, the neighborhood kids like to visit me all day long and ask if I want water. These kids are funny and stinky. They like to come to my house and stand at the door just watch me do whatever I am doing. I would let them hang out more if they didn’t stink up my house. Maybe next week I will start handing out bars of soap for them to shower before coming in!
People in this town are really kind and I don’t get déranged much. People are getting pretty used to me and they are incredibly friendly. The guy in town that sells tools is really nice, after I showed him that he couldn’t rip me off. He tried to sell a water jug to me for 2,000CFA, and I bought it for 1,000CFA. I’ve become pretty darn good at bargaining. It’s a way of life here. I’ve been going to the bank (MC2, the microfinance institution in town) a few hours a day just observing and showing my face to the community. It’s pretty interesting. This week, I made my first contribution by redesigning their sign for school loans. Changes start with the little things.
Phew! This entry turned long. I will try to be better about posting shorter entries and more frequently! I miss all of you and modern life in general. But things are well here, and I am very happy!