Thursday, May 24, 2007

The blog begins and the countdown continues

I have less than two weeks before I depart for my Peace Corps assignment (Small Enterprise Development in Cameroon) and I keep slipping back and forth between extreme excitement and utter denial, punctuated by my ridiculous obsession with packing.

I was originally nominated for a completely different program in a completely different country, but dental problems held me up and, lo and behold, that program filled up and they wondered if I might want this one instead. Little did they know that Cameroon was my first choice, or that I just finished writing my senior thesis on the importance of domestic entrepreneurs for long-term economic development in Africa. Go team auspicious twist of fate!

The weather here in the Bay Area is beautiful, and although I longed to be outside every second lived in the library during finals at Lewis & Clark, I've been mostly confining myself to the house, sleeping til noon, distracting myself with mindless activities. I've been home for a week and a half and can't really remember what I've been doing. Recovering from finals, graduation, and moving out and away from that college chapter in my life. It's funny, because I have a really hard time dealing with transitions and yet I frequently subject myself to them. Keeps things interesting I suppose.

As far as dealing with the transition towards the Peace Corps and away from my former life, current tactics involve trying not to fixate on it. I am a chronic over-analyzer. Somehow it gives me comfort, or maybe entertainment, to think of every scenario, from best to worst case, and try and discern my possible reactions. It does not help that I do not know my exact assignment in Cameroon. Not knowing what to expect is killer, as my over-active imagination runs amok. However, I feel like I might have a little bit of an edge when it comes to expectations and perceptions, having recently spent a semester in Senegal. Over the past few weeks I have been attempting to stimulate lucid memory of my experiences there.

What I feel colored most of my experiences in Senegal was the lack of sterility, the rawness, of everyday life. Here, our meat is packaged in plastic and housed in long, cool aisles of box supermarkets. Our elders seem to be preserved in formaldahyde, living to 100. 70 is the new 50. Garbage is collected every weak and whisked away to an undisclosed location, never to be seen or smelled ever again. Living in Dakar provided a somewhat different experience. Whether it be watching a man carry a severed cow head on his shoulder down the street or sharing palm wine with a neighbor on a 4 hour drive in a packed bush taxi, every day accentuated my feeling of being an alien on another planet. I had approximately one existential crisis every day for 3 months. Only in the end did I finally start getting comfortable. Then I had to come home, back to the land of housecats and high speed wireless internet.

Interestingly enough, my Peace Corps training is about as long as I stayed in Senegal. After that, after the initial shock and starry-eyed marvelling subsides, real life begins. Or not. Who knows, it's a mystery!

From now until then, I intend to eat as much sushi as possible.