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bonjour mes amis. i write to you from qa luxurious cyber cafe in bangangte. french keyboards are a little different: azerty; not qwerty. this will be brief i only have 15 minutes and the internet is very slow.

one: i love cameroon. beaucoup. it is beautiful, the people are nice, my host family is great.
two: this is the hardest thing i have ever done. it is very hard to go home to a family where we do not understand each other very well if at all. i did not realize how intense the language barrier would be. i did a bit of crying over it all but i think i am done for now. it will be a long slow process but i think that i will get there eventually.

my stomach is still getting used to the copious amounts of palm oil, but all the food i have eaten has been delicious.

what is my day like§ let me tell you. i wake up on my big wide bed under a mosquito net. carry my TP out to the latrine behind the house and practice my aim. i am no sniper. this is at six am, but my host family is already up and scrubbing the floors. i brush my teeth with bottled water and spit outside. i bucket bathe in the douche inside; a small room with a tile floor with a small drain. apparently i can also pee here at night, have not tried it. my host mom has breakfast ready for me, though no one else eats any. it is a giant omelet and a baguette with margarine or chocolat. also a cup of instant coffee: i walk to the training center a five minute walk: 4 two hour classes a day with a break for lunch: i finish at four thirty and walk home: rest: try to communicate with my family; have dinner in front of the tv zith ma mere et mon^pere and sometimes my oldest host brother; the other 4 to 6 kids eat elsewhere or at another time; then they do homework while my mother and father prepare baked goods; i go to sleep early and have mefloquine dreams;

all for now: much love: write me or call me: email me for my number; hearing from home anything at all would be really great: REALLY;

i am very happy and healthy;
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Probably the last time I will have a chance to use internet before we move to Bangangte on Thursday. After that, I don't know. Thought I would include some writing I have done over the past few days, which I am glad to have because my brain is currently in that post-lunch lull + week of sleep deprivation.

18 September 2009
We are flying over the coast of Africa! It is finally becoming real to me! Wow. We all crowded around the windows to see, and I got a big smile on my face. My heart races to think that in 4 hours we will land.
Also, props to Brussels Airlines for great food. Camembert? Yes please. I thought I was done with fancy cheese - any cheese - for 2 years.
Our flight from New York yesterday was delayed almost 2 hours, so we spent a good 4 hours or so in JFK just waiting. Once we got to Brussels we only had an hour fifteen to make our connection... and go back through a long security line. Someone finagled to get the 32 of us in the priority line... until a boss came back & rudely kicked the last 8 of us out, told us to go to the back of the now-even-longer security line. We made it through security with 15 minutes til boarding and had to run to catch a shuttle to the T terminal. We all just barely caught the shuttle that dropped us at our gate just as boarding began. A little nerve-wracking? Yes. Separation & delay & english is no longer the default language (tho everyone spoke it). I also didn't have a boarding pass from Brussels to Yaounde. Luckily, they did not ask for one going through security & I got one printed at the next checkpoint.
We are all in various states of sleep deprivation & excitement, but we are on our way!!!

18 September 2009

In Cameroon! Wow. It is amazing! I have seen very little, just what was along the road between the airport and the hotel. This place is green, green, green! It looks very tropical, all sorts of trees I've never seen before, muddy streams, red, red dirt. People are everywhere along the sides of the roads. Carrying buckets & giant loads on their heads, sitting at umbrellaed tables selling bananas & other fruits, walking home from school, playing futbol, riding motorcycles the wrong way. The traffic is intense (though Yaounde is paved). Imagine a 4-way intersection with no stop signs, no stop lights, no lines on the road, no orderly rules, just cars driving through whichever way they can make it. No accidents yet! There are small buildings everywhere selling building supplies (quincailleries), auto supplies, furniture. A man carries one of his shoes balanced on his head and the other in his hands. A few blocks later I see a boy with a shoe on his head & one in his hand. I like your style, Cameroon!
Speaking of, Cameroonians dress very diversly, but stylishly. Men all wear pants, some wear nice jeans. Fancy button-down shirts, t-shirts, a sweater vest & Kangol hat. Ladies wear brightly colored muumuu type dresses, matching blouses & skirts, trendy clothes, jeans, heels on muddy streets. When it starts to rain & red mud washes down the streets in streams, some people roll up their pants, carry their shoes & walk barefoot. Clean shoes & clothes are very important.
Some young men wave at our Peace Corps caravan as we go by. I wave back. I think it will be difficult to move into a more subdued role around strangers. No one really makes eye contact with you, or smiles at you, I've noticed. I unfortunately am in the habit of making eye contact & smiling. I think it makes us both a little uncomfortable.
When we get out of the van at the hotel, there is a gendarme holding some kind of rifle-y gun. I am under the impression he is here for our safety (later confirmed). Still, an unexpected sight. In the hotel is once again our cluster-mess of bags & people. Imagine 32 young adults, each with 3 or 4 bags they've packed their lives into for the next 2 years. We are a big smelly pile. Did I mention we have been traveling for 2 days without a chance to shower or freshen up?
I start lugging my bags up to the 3rd floor. At the 3rd floor, the numbers start at 100. The 4th floor, 200 & finally the fifth floor I reach my room. Two small twin beds pushed together (I have a roommate, she is great, hi Lauren!), a table, enough space to put our bags down & turn around. There is a small bathroom with a sink, a toilet, a bidet & a shower stall minus walls or curtains. There is no toilet seat (turns out to be non-essential, also turns out other people have them), but I am grateful for TP & flushing abilities for a few more days.
Back downstairs for dinner. Our appetizer/salad is half an avocado sliced in a fan with a scoop of tuna, corn & an olive on top, next to two tomato slices. Delicious! Why did I never think of this? I am looking forward to lots of avocado (note: haven't had any more since!). Dinner is a big plate with fried fish, oignons, some sauce, boiled potatoes & a mountain of white rice. Also crazy delicious, but I get full quickly. I've been so anxious the last month I've had trouble eating. A much smaller portion size suffices. For dessert is a plate of some sweet mild orange fruit with lime. Papaya! Tasty.
At the Yaounde airport we came down the stairs to find our Country Director. He shakes all our hands as we walk by & laughs at the gigantic grin I have on my face. We meet more of the PC Staff...
God, Cameroon is so beautiful! I feel super loopy, since I got off the plane.

19 September 2009 7:17 am

Uhhh.... sleepy! The bed was comfy, the A/C worked all night, I got to sleep by 9 but the wedding party (actually the night club) 3 floors down really PARTIED with bumping, BUMPING music til 5 am (a nightly occurrence). Only slept fitfully & sleep deprivation pervades. Brushed my teeth for the second time using bottled water. I need to learn to stop touching my eyes. I do it a lot. Oh yeah - took my first malaria prophylaxis last night. Hello, mefloquine. No crazy vivid dreams yet (at least not abnormally so). Next challenge for the AM - shower with no walls/shower curtains. I think we even have hot water but I am not holding my breath (oh yes, we do).

20 September 2009

Feel like such a shut-in. Not allowed to walk around w/o a national ID card, so not much time spent outside. Very little interaction with anyone Cameroonian. It feels a lot like the first week of college. I know that this will all change soon.

21 September 2009

Yesterday went to dinner at Country Director's House & met his family. What a super-nice family. Giant snails! On the ground, not for dinner. Lots of bats in the sky. A lush tropical backyard, our chair legs sank into the lawn, we ate at tables outside under big tents with colored light strings & burning mosquito coils (oh the sweet smell). The food (and beer) was deliceuse. Typical Cameroonian salad (corn, tomato, onion, tuna, etc), veggie egg roll, fish croquette type thing, fried thing, baton de manioc, green beans, njama-jama, fish. All around enjoyable, everyone in fancy dress. We went to a night club afterwards (the one that shakes our hotel), on a fete night (end of Ramadan). Wild! It was packed, hot & sweaty, the mirrors are steamed up (mirror dancing, obviously) & the fog machine was sporadic and asphyxiatingly dense & sweet. The guys were a little handsy, but I was never (very) uncomfortable. Some were a lot better about backing off when I said NO. I will definitely have to learn to be more assertive in saying no. It was nice to dance & move & experience a little of the culture.

21 September 2009 - now

A bunch of us are all sitting around now on the internet. We had Medical Orientation this morning and got our med kits. Fun! Got a few more vaccinations, had some pain au chocolat, had brief medical intake interviews. My PCMO did not believe my weight and made me get on the scale. I guess I'm pretty muscly. Ha. I kid.

Anyway, we have two more days of classes and then on Thursday we move in with our host families. I am so excited!! It will be nice to be moving forward with learning French and taking classes and living in a community. I am so thrilled to be learning about things that are directly related to something I will be doing. Finally! Our schedule for the next week goes something like, classes from 7:30 to 4:30 (i think), 4 classes a day, mostly language and technical training, but also cross-cultural, medical, safety and security. Saturday is a half day. Sunday is no class. Actually, that is pretty much the class for the next bunch of weeks. In November we have sit visits, which is where we spend a week in our potential site, getting to know our counterpart and the community, with a current PCV host. Super great.

I am still real tired, but I am also so happy and excited. Everyone here is really wonderful and I am glad to have so many new friends that I have only known for 5 days (though it seems like it has been much much longer).

I should have a cellphone this week! I hear Skype is the cheapest way to call Cameroon, though some phone cards are pretty good too.

Also we played charades the other night and it was all good. How bout that.

Love love love! Zararama.
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I'm in Cameroon! It's beautiful!! Green green green & red dirt. We are in the city now, but go to our training site next week. The food is good, the toilets are american and our hotel has hot water & air conditioning! What luxury! The volunteers and staff are great.

I don't know that I will actually get to the internet very often. We will see. Love you all!
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Je suis dans Philadelphia.

I woke up at 3:30 am today to the realization that the sound of the alarm was not just part of my dream. Crawling out of bed was a tragedy, but with a noble cause. Got into the shuttle van at 4:00 am. Listened to the suth'n gentleman tell me stories about bison and i don't know what on the way to the airport. Slept completely on the flight from Eugene to Denver. Arrived in Denver 7 minutes before I had to board my next flight. 70 gates, and 15 minutes later, I arrived in perfect time to board.

Unfortunately, my bags did not run so quickly and I arrived in Philadelphia to find myself traveling very light. Hopefully, theoretically, please, my bags will be delivered to the hotel tonight. On the plus side, I didn't have to wrestle giant bags to the hotel! I also managed to spill half my water bottle in the bag with my laptop and paperwork pertinent to today (though luckily not my really important paperwork). Also, bonus, my laptop still works!

Anyway. Struggle to understand the very simple transportation situation. Finally get on a shuttle. Meet another PC volunteer. We talk. Walk around a bit, find cheesesteaks for dinner. Meet another volunteer. Part ways. I attempt to iron my clothes for tomorrow. Not bad. Not good, either.

Now, I will be passing out. 10 hours of sleep over 2 days is Not Enough.

Excited for tomorrow. And nervous. All my love.
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What's the time? Night before departure time! Boodoo da doowoop boodoo da boowoop. I depart scenic Eugene tomorrow at 6 am. Which means I depart scenic my sister's house at 4 am. Which means I depart a warm cozy bed at 3:30 am. Which is in Slightly Less Than 7 hours. Aaaah, you say, seven hours, a decently restful night of sleep before a thrilling journey! To which I reply, HA. AS IF. Even if I hadn't spent last night in the San Francisco airport wrenching 4 hours of sleep from a couple of chairs in a freezing terminal, I will certainly not be getting 7 hours of sleep tonight!

While I am packed (technically, mostly), my head and probably paperwork is all out of order. I need to come to terms with what I have where -- in my brain as well as in my bags. In fairness to my sister & brother-in-law's generous hospitality, I should probably clean the upstairs which I have sullied with my mess-making. I would like to go through my old photographs to bring along some choice cuts. Showering would be appropriate. Procrastinating at this late hour? A must!

In the last 3 weeks I have not spent more than 3 days in any one locale. I am in a dream-like, fairly delirious state, which I find is conducive to wrapping my head around the journey I'm about to begin. Nothing is real, it's all a dream, SURE, I'm going to be in Cameroon in a few days.

Anyway. The last three weeks have been really wonderful, seeing family and friends and being fed enormous amounts of cake. Mostly the family and friends part was really wonderful. How can my life be filled with so many great people? I don't know. I'm very lucky. I will miss you all. I'll be back though, in 27 short (and medium and long) months.

Enough procrastination. My eyelids grow heavy and yet my to-do list remains. I will be in Philadelphia tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday I will leave for Cameroon. Friday I will arrive in Cameroon. And then...???

(Also, my phone will be thusly shut off on Thursday or Friday).