Saturday, November 24, 2007

a change of plans

i realize that there have been rather large time lags between my blogs lately. it should be because things have settled down and my life has become boring. this is true to the extent that i haven't been doing much as far as work is concerned which leaves me moping around the house, reading East of Eden and cooking. however, in every other aspect, my life has been completely bouleversé (overwhelmed, turned upside down).

from my entries, some of you may have ascertained that work hasn't been easy at my bank. what i haven't written about so much are my feelings regarding the town itself. in fact, it's difficult for me to express them in a way that wouldn't seem offensive over the internet.

in short, i don't want to get out of bed in the morning because i don't want to deal the level of agression i encounter without fail every day the second i leave my house. this is not an exaggeration. i am too scared to leave my house after the sun goes down (6:15 all year long; we are located two degrees from the equator), even to cross the street to buy a grilled fish. my building and several adjoining others have been broken into in recent years. recently, the boutique across the street was robbed by bandits who were desperate enough to bore a hole through the cement wall to steal toiletries, notebooks, and a little money. these people aren't kidding around. all of these things, coupled with several reports of brutal mob justice in town and my own personal experience with machete bandits during training, have left me feeling weak and jumpy and jittery, although reasonably calm in every other town i have visited.

i also realized that my body doesn't react well to our required malaria prophelaxis, Lariam (anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, dizzines, crazy dreams), so decided to switch to something that makes me feel a little more sane in an already crazy environment, although the side effects can apparently last for months afterward.

all of these things swirling around in every crevis of my daily life and mind and existence for far too long finally struck me with the realization that changing posts was necessary for my work and sanity and safety.

let me tell you. this decision has not been easy. before i came to cameroon i remember reading other peoples' blogs and noticing how much they complained. i did not want to be that person. i came to cameroon with a lot of confidence. i had studied abroad and traveled. i speak french and am extremely independent. i haven't wanted to give up on this post. i have wanted to be able to muscle through it and show everyone and myself how tough i can be, but i've realized that staying at this post will not only make me unhappy, it will hinder my effectiveness in work. i want to work in a community where i feel welcomed and respected and safe.

luckily, my program director was sympathetic to my feelings and okayed the change.

there was a lot of deliberation about where they would send me. in the end, we've decided that i will move to a smaller town about 1 hour east of where i am now. it's beautiful, with scenic views and quiet corners. my counterpart will be a woman. peace corps has trained volunteers there before, so the town is very familiar with americans. there are community groups that have already said that they would be willing to work with me. there is also an IT volunteer posted there, giving great opportunities for collaboration. i am very, very excited about it, especially after an incredibly successful house hunt and a positive meeting with the president of the administrative council (the position which the chef holds at my current post).

my only enemy now is my inflated expectations. i am still worried that maybe it wasn't the town and work that were so bad... maybe it's just me. i worry about this despite the constant affirmations by people i respect of the incredible roughness and difficulty encountered in my town. i'm sure that with this change, good things will come, and perhaps they will be easier and faster coming. things will not, however be all angels and roses and chocolate kisses. i will have to adjust all over again and, frankly, right now i feel too tired to do anything but stare blankly at a movie screen and eat lots and lots of sushi. but it will come. and it will be good and better.

happy thanksgiving everyone. i am thinking about you.