0 com
I have been invited to serve as an Agroforestry Extension Agent (Peace Corps Volunteer) in Cameroon!!! I have been dreaming of joining the Peace Corps since I was a wee 15 year-old. Nearly 9 years later, including an entire year of a slow-moving, arduous, emotionally fraught application process... I am going into the Peace Corps!!!

In case you are wondering about the title of this blog, I will present you with this history lesson from the Peace Corps Cameroon Welcome Book that really stuck with me:

Since the journey of Hannon the Carthaginian in the fifth
century B.C. to Mount Cameroon, which he named the
“Chariot of the Gods,” the country’s fortunes have been
subject to many fluctuations. In 1472, sailors from Portugal
entered the Wouri River estuary and were amazed by the
abundance of shrimp; they named it Rio dos Camarões, from
which Cameroon got its name.

I will be leaving to go to staging in Philadelphia on September 17th. From September 19th to December 4th, I will be in training (technical, language, health & safety) in Cameroon and living with a host family. From December 4th of this year until December 4th, 2011 (!) I will be living at my individual post working as an Agro volunteer!

What does an Agroforestry volunteer do, you ask? Well, it's pretty cool. I will be educating and providing training to farmers about the benefits of agroforestry technologies to improve production, provide windbreaks, renew soil nutrients, prevent forest depletion. I will be helping to establish and maintain nurseries, evaluating needs that can be met with agroforestry, and helping set-up medicinal gardens!

I obviously have a lot to learn myself! I'll also be speaking French and likely another language. Je dois practiquer beaucoup plus! As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I will also have the opportunity to be involved in secondary projects. Some examples of these are setting up women's groups, HIV/AIDS support groups, helping with a running team, teaching about nutrition. Secondary projects seem to cover the area between a community's needs and a volunteers interests/skills. Awesome!

What else? Send me a letter! (Or a care package) I know that it would be wonderful to have a word from home as I am in a whole new country and culture. Here is my address for September to December:
Zara Sykes
Peace Corps Trainee
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 215
Mail can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks to arrive. Be sure to write "Air Mail" and "Par Avion" on the envelope. Mail on boats takes even longer! If sending packages, "bubble envelopes" work best. If sending any food items, put them inside a ziploc bag. This will reduce chances that bugs or rodents will devour them. Number letters sent so that I can determine whether any letters do not arrive (I will do it, too, fancy, with roman numerals!). Theft of packages does occur. When writing the contents of the package on the outside, making it seem undesirable rahter than awesome may reduce the chance of theft and increase the chance that I will get awesome booty from you. I hear insuring packages is not a bad idea. I don't know how expensive it is. I don't expect big packages of love, but I would love to get a short note and a picture of you! I will even send you a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE, yeah?) if you want.

I plan to send myself a welcome letter!

So what next? I have 5 and a half weeks before I leave! I have a bunch of paperwork to do for the Peace Corps: passport/visa applications, updated resume and aspiration statement, get loan deferments, work out my financial arrangements for the next few years, etc. I am quitting my job in about 2 weeks, yay! From about August 30 til I go to staging on September 17th, I will be traveling to see loved ones!

I also have to figure out how to pack for two years in 80 pounds!

I am still in shock that I will be living in Africa in two months! Happy shock.