Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So this is Christmas, and what have you done?

Bonne Annee! It’s 2009! Wow, just a year ago I was fresh out of college with a peace corps invitation to Cameroon. I remember spending last new year’s eve at a table eating some of Mitch’s great gumbo and answering everyone’s questions about my future in the peace corps… when in reality, I had no idea what I’d really signed myself up for. Hah. Well, it’s been a crazy year but there was never a dull moment. They say life as a volunteer can be a roller coaster ride and they’re absolutely right. Well, my experience has been anyway. The holidays started out great with a trip to the beach for In-Service training. All the volunteers from my training group gathered with a co-worker from their villages to collaborate on techniques to be more efficient at work. We had a bonfire on the beach and a band that played xmas songs. One volunteer arranged a secret santa and it was honestly a great idea. It was fun and heart-warming. We swam and ate plenty of great food. I had really yummy crocodile; I can even say it might be the best meat I’ve had here. Even better than porcupine.

I came back home and spent Christmas day with my post-mates and the family they share a compound with. There was some good wine (thanks Ehab) and a Christmas tree! We ate plenty and afterwards, I came home to spend the rest of my day with Zulu. I sang Elvis xmas songs to him and realized that I was spending the first Christmas ever without my family or friends. All of a sudden, I felt alone. I just wanted my peeps, some eggnog, and my Beach Boys Christmas CD. I used to complain a lot about working retail for Christmas and having to deal with crazy holiday traffic. I take it back.

I’m not teaching right now since school is out for the holiday break (it’s 2 weeks here). And almost half the population is Christian so lots of people spend Christmas the same way I was used to in the states. Well, minus all the craziness involved in gift giving. Actually, with the warm, tropical weather it’s difficult to get in the spirit of the holidays. People have been playing plenty of loud music and playing on the street with their new toys. Also, someone set up a photo studio and it’s kind of popular to get really dressed up and take a photo in front of a super cheesy backdrop. I haven’t built up the courage to have my photo taken yet.

Tomorrow I’m spending New Year’s day with my host family. I’m curious as to how they celebrate the new year. We don’t have black eyes and cabbage here, so what am I supposed to eat for health and prosperity? Maybe avocados and coco yams? We’ll most likely dance and drink some boxed wine. 2009. Heh, time is so funny here. I can never decide if it’s dragging by or flying by. I wish all of you a great new year. I can finally say ‘see you NEXT year!’

Oh and mom, I got a memo that your package has arrived! Woot!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Is it really December?

I apologize if I’ve become lax about my blog. It’s just days have become pretty mediocre and life ‘au village’ seems like business as usual. It’s strange because I was lying in bed the other night and I couldn’t sleep because of the chanting and drums going on behind my house. I can’t be sure of the reason: most likely a death but anyway, I was lying there staring at my mosquito net thinking, “This again?” And I had to wonder when did I start to become accustomed to nights under the net listening to drums and chanting… but not only that; when did it start to bother me rather than fascinate me? I think tomorrow’s trip to the beach will be good for me. I haven’t left the village since I moved here and I think a vacation will do me some good. I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends from training; I can’t wait to hear about their lives at post. Instead of bringing my vice-principal, I’m bringing the head of the English department instead. I’m happy about this because he’s become my friend and my “go to” person at the school. It’s easy to talk to him and he’s always happy to help me.

I’m done with classes until after Christmas and honestly, I need the break. I love my kids but sixty+ of them at one time can be overwhelming. I need a little time to organize my teaching plans for the second term. This time, I’ll be ready. Students are starting to see I mean business and they’re less likely to give me trouble now… however, they love making fun of me. There are a few phrases I use a lot and I often catch students saying them in an effort to mock Miss Brandi. It’s so funny to hear them with their Cameroonian accents try to mock my accent. “I say to close your mouth,” one will yell at another student, causing laughter amongst the class.

My majorettes impress me more and more every day. They’re super motivated and have learned the complete dance to “Thriller.” I keep reminding them, “remember, you are monsters so you have to keep your movements stiff and your expressions serious.” You should see them. They’re so cute because they take it so seriously. They find sticks off of trees to use as batons and hold additional practices without me just to make sure everyone’s on par. I’ve taught them to practice with “eight counts” so they don’t need the music. I’m so proud of them and can’t wait to see their performance for youth day in February.

So, when I’m not teaching, lesson planning, grading, or practicing with my majorettes, what do I do? Well, if I’m not cooking or washing clothes, I’m usually reading or writing. Elliott’s sent me some TV series and as a result, I’ve become addicted to LOST and am anxious to get the 2nd season. How did I net get into this when I was in the states?

Tomorrow, I’ll be leaving with two of my colleagues (one of which is the Peace Corps IT trainer) before sunrise. We’re hoping to make it to the beach by the afternoon, but Cameroonian public travel is about as predictable as Louisiana weather. (And yes, I’m deeply upset that I missed the snow. I hope you all have pictures to share.) So, I’ll have lots more to say after my trip to the beach. Hopefully, I’ll have some great photos too.