Saturday, June 21, 2008

Arrived Alive!


Sorry it took so long to post that most basic update! I arrived in Cameroon on June 7. A couple words to describe life since then: Whirlwhind! Muddy! Funny accents!!

So far, I’m happy with Peace Corps! I’m stimulated by the new people—we are a group of 38 trainees undergoing this new experience together. I’m excited to be here in Cameroon—absorbing the new culture and trying to fit into my host family, where I’ll be staying throughout this initial 3-month training period. I now have an African “Ma,” as I call her, and three younger brothers. Although living under somebody else’s roof is sometimes challenging, it was exactly this type of integration and understanding that I wanted back when I was in Haiti. The French here definitely has a different accent to it, so I ask “Comment?” a lot. I’m starting to get used to the new sound, and am even finding myself adapting my speech so I have a little more African ring.

We are plenty busy—classes all day long in cross-cultural integration, French, and the technical training, which is my favorite part! Coursework in Cameroonian economy and history, different types of microfinance organizations, NGOs, and my role in all of that for the next two years. On July 12th we find out where in Cameroon we will be posted for our two years. It’s most likely that I’ll either stay in this central area where we are currently training (google “Bangante” if you are curious), or that I’ll get shipped to the Extreme North. Yes, that is the name of a province!

That’s big deal because if I go North, I’ll learn Fulfulde, which is spoken by populations not only in the ‘Roon, but also Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Niger, and Chad. The north is also seen as more traditionally African, with fewer western influences, and a much stronger Muslim population. I hear it’s also hard to get fruit up there! (uh oh. I have been eating pineapples and papayas down here in the South like it is my job!) I just hope their girls play soccer. The chicas are definitely kicking it down here, and Cameroonians are good!

So a few highlights of life so far:

· Twice now, on my way out the door, Ma asks me “Katy, est-ce que tu portes un bustier aujourd’hui? Il fait froid là, tu ne veux pas devenir malade!” Kate, are you wearing a bra today? It’s cold outside, you don’t want to get sick!

· After about five consecutive meals when I’ve pleaded with Ma that I have NO MORE ROOM in my stomach, and that I really cannot finish those plantains/rice/unidentified starch occupying half my plate, she is convinced that I am not kidding. I swear she can eat three times as much as me! I am going to waddle out of this town in 3 months.

· On the waddling note, I got up early Monday morning to join Ma for her early morning aerobics program, which she does following along a local TV program. Lying on the floor, doing butt squeezy exercises til I thought I could never squeeze my butt again!

· Last weekend, I somehow got myself into a dance-off competition with a local 16 year old, at a birthday party I wasn’t even invited to. I’m an awful dancer. But I won! Way to represent the US government and your taxpayer dollars.

· Last night, we had a soccer game with almost all the PC trainees and trainers. Think teams of approximately 15 v. 17. Madness. And we played on red red dirt. At the end of the game, when I thought I could hardly walk, I took a good look down at my shins and realized I’d gotten about 4 shades REDDER from all the dirt! Half of us STILL have red legs today. And we do shower!!

· Finally, I somehow managed to anchor a successful relay team. The race? Girls v. boys, teams of five. Put the condoms on the Sex-ed model “prosthetic.” Peace Corps wants to make sure we get these important things right! The girls, despite our natural disadvantage, won the race. I was so nervous my hands were shaking! And they smelled like latex for the rest of the day. (The condoms were expired anyway—no worries, we weren’t wasting good rubber.)

Weird Cameroonian food tasted for the day: Spaghetti with tomatoes, avocados, mayonnaise, and sweetened condensed milk?! Nasty!

I have limited internet access, but love all the messages, comments, or singing telegrams you wanna send!

My mailing address:

Kate Fleurange

U.S. Corps de la Paix

B.P. 215 Yaounde, Cameroon

I have a phone! 011 237 4979 6028. And yes, I’m going by the middle name here cause there are really way too many Kates in the world!

Lots of love to all :)

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