The reunion with fellow stagemates in the beach town of Kribi was everything expected and much more. This In-Service Training, or IST, marks the end of our first three months at post, which supposedly are the most difficult time due to all the newness and adjustments. But as you know, my first three months were filled with splendid goodness, so ça va aller. It was really great to see everyone again and hear about everyone’s experiences. Cameroon’s diversity shines through the stories of each post. Those up North, those out East, and those of us in the West, aka Beverly Hills, all have massively different past three months. The sharing made me that much more glad to be where I am, and a true validation that everything happens for a reason. In all honesty, I don’t know if I can hack it up North or out East, and that may be precisely why I am in the Beverly Hills!
The week long of training is supposed to provide us with information that would better help our projects. But like the first three months of training, I really didn’t learn all that much. I did, however, brushed up on my conjugation of all the irregular French verbs. Also, all the time sitting in session allowed me to make numerous lists and brainstorm ideas for projects. So I suppose I did benefit from the time. I got more out of talking to my peers and my boss. The SED volunteers have the best APCD (I don’t actually know what that stands for… too many acronyms…) in all of PC Cameroon. James, our boss, was a volunteer here out in the jungle of the East Province back in the day. He knows exactly how to relate to the volunteers and makes our lives as easy as possible beneath all that PC bureaucracy.
The “trainings” aside, we spent all of our time on the beach. We had bonfires a couple of the nights and even made smores! It was really nice to get away and be with a bunch of Americans. I think it served two purposes – to fill with all the American-ness I need for the next foreseeable future, and also makes me miss my village and new friends so I’d be ready to get back. It’s a funny dynamic because I had spent the exact same amount of time with my friends from training and my new friends at post. Three months each yet so vastly different. While I was glad to be with my old friends, I did kind of miss my new friends. The Peace Corps experience, among all else, tests your ability to make friends. Intense relationships are formed quickly, and then separate quickly. It takes a toll on your emotions while you are in a completely new and strange place. On the surface, Peace Corps is about helping people and exchanging culture, but in reality, it is so much more. If I helped on one and exchanged no culture during two years of stay, I will at least become stronger of a person simply by living through these two years. I came into this experience knowing it would be life changing, and it already has changed me immensely in three months. Excited and scared to see what the next 20ish months will bring. Not sure if this applies to every volunteer; some have told me they don’t feel like they’ve changed that much in three months. But then again, each PC experience is completely and utterly different.