Monday, August 25, 2014

A Day in the PCVLife (Part II), in which we go on a scavenger hunt.

Do you ever have those days where you think of so many witty Facebook statuses but then remember that you are a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa and you don't have an iPhone or a tablet or wifi or internet at all for that matter? Of course you don't. But that's why I'm here - to tell you what it's like and regale you with tales of the absurdity that is my life on the daily. 

A new day begins. 

It had only stopped raining two hours ago, but at 7am the world was already noisy. The market DJ was out and so were the piggies and my window was open to let in the light. So I got up. The first two hours of my day, as usual, were spent diddling about: doing little work-related tasks, eating oatmeal, drinking Nescafé laden with sweetened condensed milk (Is there any other way to drink it?), washing and dressing and brushing for the day, NOT forgetting my malaria prophylaxis and my daily vitamin. Around 8:30am I called the Censeur at the nearest high school to verify that we were in fact meeting at 9 as we planned the week before. Miracle of miracles, not only had he not forgotten but he was almost there already! 

I felt dubious about this "almost" - because that can mean, "I'm getting dressed now and almost ready to leave so I'll be there in an hour," or it can mean, "I'll show up when I'm done this beer or maybe the one after," or it can mean, "I see you from where I am standing and will be there in thirty seconds." So 15 minutes later I began wandering over. On the 15 minute walk I saw: innumerable chickens, 3 goats, 2 turkeys, and a man skinning a cane rat. So, a typical 15 minute walk to school. I happily observed that I am much more comfortable greeting every. single. person. on the way than I used to be when I began making this walk ten months ago. Progress! 

True to his word, Monsieur le Censeur was there when I arrived! I had to wait only 5 minutes before being allowed into his office and beginning our meeting with a discussion of summer break, vacations, families, life in general. Once we got all that out of the way, we could get down to business, and we spent about 40 minutes discussing A2Empowerment, Club FORTES, rising pregnancy rates, and orphans. It was all in all a very productive and satisfying meeting. Until it ended with: "One more thing. Has anyone told you how beautiful you are?" (Keep in mind that, while I thought I would wash my hair more with the new cut, that has turned out to be false.) I chucked good-naturedly and said "Yes" with a tone I have perfected, indicating that the conversation is closed. But he had to have the last word, him being a grand and all, and he insisted on it in more ways than one: "Let me be the last." Time to go.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

American Becky =/= Cameroonian Becky

When I was considering Peace Corps and talking to a lot of returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs), I heard pretty often that Peace Corps was life-changing, that one would come back to the same place and find oneself indelibly different. 

In the 11 (almost 12!) months I have been here, I have watched many changes occur in my PCV friends. Most people pick up Cameroonian habits - they begin to talk like Cameroonians ("C'est quoi ça?!" or "On va faire comment?"), or use gestures like Cameroonians (the clap followed by spread hands and raised eyebrows to indicate innocence or helplessness in a situation), or drink like Cameroonians ("Vin de palm at 9am? Well it is a Wednesday.")… 

Watching these changes in others, I realized I must be changing too. So, in honor of self-reflection and my new hair cut, I decided to compile a list with the help of my lovely postmate Danielle, and with inspiration from Sarah Mae's very entertaining blog post. 

The most obvious is my name:  In America, I am Becky. And that means I have the same name as a lot of white girls in rapper songs.  But in Cameroon, I am Rebecca. And that means I have the same name as a lot of people's grandmothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, etc, making me instantly part of the family. ("Ma grandmère! Tu es là? C'est comment, non?")