Saturday, August 23, 2008

What's new

A little update on exciting times! I feel right now like I’ve just finished finals my senior year of college and am kicking back, waiting to graduate! Today, our trainee group returned from a few nights in the capital city Yaoundé, where we took care of last administrative stuffs. It was business during the day… but civilization-starved kids gone wild at night… chinese food, pizzas, and even… a happy hour at the local Hilton?!?! Until our 7pm curfew that is! It was three nights of 36-person slumber party.

Our twelve weeks of training are done! No more curfew, no more living in a home-stay family—we’re about to be legit and independent again! We swear in as for-real volunteers in less than 48 hours. At the ceremony, all of us will be wearing matching pagne (the traditional African fabric). It’s what folks do around here for any exciting occasion—weddings, conferences, national holidays. Kinda like a rewind to when my sister and I wore matching red dresses at ages 6 and 9… only times 36 of us!

But really, bigger than all wearing matching outfits is the fact that on Saturday we all leave to go to our posts scattered across this big diverse country. I should arrive by about Tuesday… People have told us that the first three months will be the hardest, as we try to navigate the new town, in a foreign language, and settle in to our host institutions. On top of that, I’ll be figuring out how to cook with new foods, minus an oven and a fridge. I’ve been eating Ma’s fabulous cooking for the last three months during training (as previously noted!) Obviously, I won’t have a lot of friends being the new kid in town, so feel free to send me letters, e-mails, and your favorite baked goods wrapped in love :) One of the hardest parts of the coming months will be all the free time…alone. This is a sharp contrast to the past 12 weeks of training, where we always move en masse as one big pale posse. It hasn’t hit me yet how alone I am going to be.

Actually, I am accompanied by about 16 books. Also, a new guitar that I just bought off a friend (I’m going to name it Ingrid after her), and more movies and music than I’ve ever owned in my life. (We’ve swapped huge amounts of digital media among trainees since we arrived. This is so not Peace Corps of 1961.) So I’ll have things to do to stay occupied. But life will sure be different.

My to-do/learn list for the next few months:
-Delve into technical financial reading I brought
-Polish off last French grammar questions and get cracking on Fulfulde
-Spend quality time with Ingrid the guitar
-Learn how to do a handstand push-up
-Spend quality time with the Peace Corps cookbook. I am really excited about this one. I just bought it. It’s compiled by past Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and is chock full of recipes with powdered milk, local green leafy things, and all the substitutions we’ll ever need when there is no sour cream within a day’s travel. (Whipping cream + vinegar works. Apparently, green papayas can also be made to taste like pumpkin pie.) Hopefully I’ll come back to the states having learned how to not embarrass myself in a kitchen!

When I arrive up north, there will be one other PCV in my town, who will finish her two years in December. She’s a great girl, working in the health program, and I’m super glad to have her there during my first three months. There are other folks who don’t have another volunteer within a days travel, so I’m pretty lucky. In December, she leaves, and her replacement will arrive. Also in December, my current group of 36 trainees will reconvene for one last week of conference/training. (On a beach. Tough.) I love having something to look forward to!

A bientot…
KF :)

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