Tomorrow is my last full day in the village. I am nervous and am not sure that I am ready to leave. Though I am realizing that perhaps one is never ready to leave a situation as this. I just simply gotta “pull the band-aid off” so to speak. So many emotions. It has been a wild ride. Try as I may, words are simply insufficient in describing how I feel. Last week, I hosted several volunteers who came through on-site visit, one of them was my replacement. Showing them around made me see even more clearly the beauty of my village and life here in general.
I’ve been waiting to meet my replacement and show her around throughout the better part of my service. So much so that when the idea of canceling site visit for trainees was proposed at our Steering Committee meeting, I fought hard to keep it. I still so vividly remember my own site visit from two years ago and how helpful it was to get into the right mindset for the remaining time in training and have something to look forward to. The biggest problem I see in the work of Peace Corps volunteer is continuity, and I see site visits as an important element for information exchange.
It was exciting to speak in person with the person who will take over my projects, and integrate into a community that I’ve grown to love so much. Cristina was full of energy and I was excited to introduce her to everyone and show her the ropes. I didn’t realize just how many people I know until Cristina was scribbling everything into a notepad, as to not forget. In answering all of her questions, I realized how much I’ve become an expert with life here in Cameroon.
I left her a detailed post book full of tips. Everything from traveling, to shopping, getting water, bathing, using the latrine, finding help, where to buy certain things. All the basic things about life here need an explanation. Nothing is simple and obvious. There is no one-stop shopping and no directory of services. Other volunteers are your directory.
Besides the everyday stuff, I took Cristina to meet many of the work contacts that I’ve established over these past two years. Who you know always help facilitate things no matter where you are, but here in Cameroon, the difference can be night and day. We met with the mayor and he even took us to lunch. Cristina wanted a social media tutorial from me, so I gave her a quick lesson on blogging and twitter. Hopefully, through these different mediums, I’ll be able to see the progress of this community.
Even within the past two years, big improvements have already occurred, mostly thanks to the wonderful mayor. I didn’t realize this until I was pointing out different things for Cristina. Things that exist now in Batié but didn’t exist when I got here: a cyber café, more power lines in farther out neighborhoods, new cobbler at the carrefour, more stable power supply, better MTN réseau – I now can talk on the phone in the comfort of my own bed and not have to run outside every time the phone rings. All the buildings got a fresh coat of paint this past year. There are now 3 places to make photocopies instead of one. Few more tailors have set up shop and also a new coiffeur at the small carrefour by my house.
Slowly, but surely. As they say in French “petite à petite” or in Pidgin, “small small catch monkey”.