Friday, January 9, 2009


i am sitting in the dark, the power having been cut, on and off and on and off, waiting for my computer battery to run down before i worsen my eyes by reading by candlelight.

apparently it's been about 6 months since i last wrote my last blog (this sounds like i'm about to make a confession...). truthfully, i feel as if i have been here for long enough that i've stopped noticing anecdote-worthy happenings that people love to hear about (interesting gastronomic and gastro-intestinal occurrences) and can only concentrate on one of two things: work (specific projects, how to make them better, what is development?, am i actually accomplishing anything?, etc.) and the big WHAT'S NEXT.

and really: no one, save for my parents and perhaps a few, select friends and family members actually wants to hear about the nuts and bolts of my work. most other peace corps volunteers don't even want to hear it. forget best practices, let's talk best beer! so usually, i just go on quietly figuring, storing it all up in my head until my next meeting with my counterpart so i can flatten him with all of my ideas. let's not do things one step at a time! let's do it all now!

but i only have approximately 6-8 months left, which, according to my organization (the man), is not really any time at all. apparently not even enough time to share my best practices with the people that don't really want to hear about them. so i am caught between barrelling forward and wondering if it is time to step back.

and daydreaming about the future has a been a rocky road of bad GRE scores, intermittent internet, and sudden panic attacks about whether or not i am actually ready for or will get into the grad school of my choice over there on that elusive east coast, specifically DC, where i have always dreamed of living.

now, i am one application submission away from having my nights free once more to watch tv series until i have to get up and run around my house to shake the sedentary-ness of it out of my system. thank god for yoga, pilates, and dancing with the stars dvds, although i'm sure my neighbors think i'm crazy when i start doing the jive above their heads at 11pm.

on a different note: my mother recently came to visit me. parents coming to visit always breeds reactions from your fellow volunteers like you might hear in a shrink's office: "and how does that make you feel...?" give a little pause, gauge the reaction, then either offer condolences or congratulations. this is caused by the range of different travel experiences among parents. you will encounter many a volunteer who says, "my parents? coming to cameroon? NO. we can meet in france." it's true. unless you have parents that are willing to ride on the back of motos over bumpy roads, squeeze into the back bush taxis where the floor heats up so much going up hills you can barely put your feet down, inhale copious amounts of red dust, and sleep in a hotel with no running water and foam mattresses, it's usually a difficult trip to undergo.

luckily, my mother was just along... for... the... ride... she got to experience EVERY type of public transport that cameroon has to offer, from the aforementioned bush taxi, to hitching a ride in a private car (which you pay for, and i intend on doing when i go back home). her being here momentarily put me back into that place where i look at cameroon and think "wow, i'm in africa," which is one of the best feelings that you have and that unfortunately fades after the first 6 months have passed. seeing things through her eyes and reliving the discovery just makes me want to travel more. however, being up north and seeing icky tourists with khaki shorts, white chicken legs glowing in the sun, with huge cameras slung around their necks just made me want to disappear. nope, can't. even though i'm tan from that intense african sun, i still glow even when i want to be in the shadows.

now, i am back home (Bandjoun, if you're wondering), missing my mother. by the end of her trip, i felt like she wasn't just visiting, and it made me realize how much i feel like i actually live here. it's not just some maybe-i-can-put-up-with-this-for-two-years-without-dying situation. i am comfortable, finally. the fact that it really is so temporary frightens me. i am flickering between wanting to move on to a place where i feel like i have some upward mobility, acknowledgment, benefits, and anonymity walking down the street, and that strange, sinking feeling of regret that i am leaving a place that has become my home, not knowing how or when i will return again.


Anonymous said...

Emily, ma petite princesse, je suis toujours tellement fiere de toi! Ta vie est devenue vraiment profonde; tu en profiteras toujours, et tu laisseras un grand coin de ta vie la-bas. C'est la gloire, en verite. Sache que je pense a toi, et que je t'envoie mille jolis souhaits!
Grosses bises, Amanda Newlon, Mme!

Thea said...

I love how you used my visit as a segue to speak to the public transport in Cameroon -- and within the context of the transition you are now in, transition that moves you from a place to which you have developed a strong and quite visceral attachment, to another, which certainly represents the opening doors of further opportunity and adventure. There's definitely something about Africa that gets under one's skin (for those so inclined, I suppose), and that something is not just the dust! Not to overly romanticize, but it sure feels like it is the earth itself that somehow calls and attracts those who want to listen.

And about that public transport: remember how you said you realized the drivers in Cameroon are actually very good drivers to be able to drive in the conditions that they must? Coming back to The States, I've decided that they are actually *much better* than most of the drivers here, where each of us, in our isolated single-person-to-a-vehicle splendor, drive merrily along without a thought about who is beside us, who is behind us, and barely a thought about who is in front of us. The bubble we create with our Huge Cars is remarkable, and creates a remarkable lack of consciousness as we roll merrily along.

Goodness. I *am* having a hard time readjusting.

Steve said...


I was just surfing on your blog and thought I should introduce myself. I am steve, I am an engineer currently working in yaounde Cameroon. I graduated in the USA before going back home over 7 years ago. I see you are in Cameroon as well, What do you do and I hope you are enjoying the country.

Yours sincerely,

Steve T.
cell: +237 75 29 99 09