The events that took place today made my existential crisis of yesterday horribly unnecessary. However, those crises are part of this whole experience. The ability to endure those hard times, having faith the better days will come, is what helps one get through these two years.
I met the agro volunteer in the village near me along with a few other Americans. I haven’t hung out with Americans in a big group in quite some time. Kate has been the only American I’ve spent extended amount of time with, but the dynamic is much different in a group. Besides, the people I saw yesterday are all seasoned volunteers who have been here for a year or more. They instilled a lot of confidence in me, and made me realize that having crisis is natural and it takes time, at least a good 6 months before things feel right. I also met two of their Cameroonian friends who are musicians playing in an event in the village today. I had a nice music chat with them, and they made me feel much better by complementing on my good French (good for being here 4 months). Megan, I got your music hookups in Cameroon when you visit!
When I got back to my village, Antoine paid a visit. He’s the chief of my cartier (neighborhood) but works for Peace Corps in Yaoundé. He’s in town for the long weekend and invited me over tomorrow with the other volunteers, and told me he will take me to a few development meetings in town and introduce me to a few groups. That’s exactly the kind of introduction I need! Really looking forward to it.
After the talk, I walked into town for lunch. It was around the time when kids were getting off school. The young kids only have half day on Fridays. I walked and talked with 4 or 5 little kids who are hilarious. They asked me question after question about random things. So cute. Just right before I reached town, two teachers from the school that I visited this week approached me. I had talked to the principal of the school about teaching English classes in the afternoons a few times a week there. The guy whom approached me must be the guy in charge, and he told me I can start on Monday! That should be interesting!
Anyway, back to lunch. I was hoping the Frenchies would be free to meet for lunch, but they were both busy, so I went alone. I sat at the omelet shack and ordered my usual – two-egg spaghetti omelet with demi-pain (half of a baguette). Just as I was waiting for my order, this guy came up and started talking to me. Turns out, he is a part of the development team who is going around the villages in the area, working with locals to carry out development plans. Fabulous! My French kind of stuck when we started talking technical, so he switched to English. We exchanged contact information and then he invited me for the afternoon meeting. I showed up and saw many familiar faces that I run into frequently in town. It was fascinating to see the meeting. This has been the 5th day that they meetings have gone on. I read the charts that are pasted all around the wall, and it looks exactly like the PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) tool I have learned in training. The more exciting thing is that now I know who are the motivated individuals in town! The meetings will continue next week, and I will partake in part of it!
So things on the work front seem to be turning around. Life is such in the Peace Corps. There are days when I feel like I am purely wasting time here and then there are days where I made many connections in one day. Patience. It takes a lot of it here. Now I need to channel that same energy into dealing with vast amount of free time. Today, I craved calling people up and meet for coffee at Starbucks. The closest thing to that is calling the French and asks them over, but they were busy today. What limited option. And there I was thinking calling my list of people in my phone book for coffee and no one answers was limited option.
Emily, the agro volunteer whom I visited, said to me about her visit home this summer. She said that it wasn’t hard to come back because she realized nothing had changed over a year. People may have changed jobs, but they were more or less doing the exact same things that they were doing before she left. That in and of itself, made me glad to be where I am, regardless how hard things can be and how much I miss a non-fat, extra-foam, toffee-nut latte from Starbucks with a blueberry muffin. That latte and muffin will still be there (hopefully) in two years, but I can’t just live in Cameroon when I want.