Thursday, August 22, 2013

Over-Supplied & Under-Prepared

I heard that line recently while listening to The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht on CD with my mom, as we drove back from taking Elise back to Ohio State. The speaker was talking about the young lusty aristocrats who, holding onto their birthright, hire someone to take them out bear hunting; they rarely succeed at shooting anything, much less bears, but the speaker comments that they are always changed by that experience. I immediately latched onto it, of all the many many lines in that book, because it made me think of... myself.

I have all this stuff. Stuff which I will be bringing with me to Cameroon, stuff to comfort me when I miss home, stuff to keep me entertained on down days, stuff to protect me from a difficult life for which I simply have no way to mentally prepare. So, rather than mentally preparing, I prepare by buying all this stuff that makes me feel more prepared, more comforted now. 

At least my books tell me I'm not the only one. In The Poisonwood Bible, the Price family packs up to go to the Congo:

"...our mother went about laying out in the spare bedroom all the worldly things she thought we'd need in the Congo just to scrape by. 'The bare minimum, for my children,' she'd declare under her breath, all the livelong day. In addition to the cake mixes, she piled up a dozen cans of Underwood deviled ham; Rachel's ivory plastic hand mirror with powdered-wig ladies on the back; a stainless-steel thimble; a good pair of scissors; a dozen number-2 pencils; a world of Band-Aids, Anacin, Absorbine Jr.; and a fever thermometer." It wasn't until they got there that they realized they brought all the wrong things.

Of course, I'm not going to the Congo during Ike's presidency, I'm going to Cameroon during Obama's. And I won't be able to tell you what I packed all wrong until later. So what, you might wonder, does one American need (read: think she needs) to survive in Cameroon? 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Want to Visit Me?

Or to visit Cameroon but not me?

(This is taken directly from information sent to me by the Peace Corps.)

Information for Family & Friends Visiting Volunteers in Cameroon
The following points of information and advice have been compiled from various sources (previous visitors, former Volunteers, staff, etc.) for people planning to visit Peace Corps Volunteers in Cameroon. Visitors and Volunteers have learned that advance planning, communication between the volunteer and visitor, and flexibility are very important aspects of a successful and satisfying trip. We hope that the suggestions and information below will be helpful. You may also wish to consult various travel books such as the Lonely Planet's Africa on a Shoestring and West Africa on a Shoestring or the Rough guide. 

Remember: Visitors are not permitted during a Volunteer's pre-service training or during the first three months at post. The best time for visits are after a Volunteer has spent at least six months at post. They have established themselves in their community and have honed their language skills. Thus they are better able to host visitors. They also have a better understanding of Cameroon and have a clear idea of what sights they would like to show you! Note that Volunteers' supervisors discourage them from receiving visitors during peak periods of work.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Mail in Cameroon is Particularly Snail-like...

...and requires special instructions. So here goes! Rumor has it that making packages/letters with red pen, religious markings (crosses etc.), and insuring them makes them more likely to arrive. Since I'm rather dubious about superstition (though it's not my opinion that matters is it?), I'd push the insurance option. It doesn't cost much, and some volunteers have said it doubles their chance of receiving whatever you send. Some have also said that flat rate boxes are the cheaper option and are just as likely to arrive.

The estimated amount of time to arrive is something crazy like 6 weeks to 3 months. Until I start receiving stuff, I won't know how long it actually takes. Apparently patience is key (and we all know how good at that Patience thing I am).

Friday, August 2, 2013

Time to Blastoff: T-1 Month

Just over two months ago, I graduated from college.

I thought in this summer time, I'd get bored of home.

Instead, I rode camels in Egypt, found myself in the middle of protests in Turkey, went to my first ever wedding near Pittsburgh, visited NYC and DC with friends from USC, explored Boston...

...and generally did not get bored of home.

It's hard to get bored when you cannot manage to sit still!

Besides which, it seems when you haven't lived at home for an extended period of time in three years, you don't get bored of home anymore. It's suddenly more like a vacation.

Whether or not I'm bored, in just under 2 months, I fly to Cameroon to begin my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. (On September 11th. People gasp when I say that. But I've decided its auspicious.)

It's a grand adventure.

It's a scary challenge.

And it's a whole lot of other things too.  

Since I know my mother will ask me what the title means, and why I chose it (I can hear it already: "Do you think your home is a cage!?"), I will preemptively answer her. By quoting Lord of the Rings, in proper nerd fashion. 

Aragorn: What do you fear, my lady?

Eowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.