Field Notes

Twelve Slaughtered Chickens and One Giant Spider: The First Week

After two nights in Philly, almost a day’s worth of flying, and two nights in Yaoundé, we finally headed to the southern region where our Pre-Service Training (PST) is held (more or less just google Ebolowe, the health group is in a small village outside the city) and met our host families.

My family roughly consists of my father, the pastor/state accountant student/election monitor, my uncle, Brendan (who is more of a brother as eighteen), my little brother, Evan (who I think is eight), and my little sister, Abigail who is a year and half. Plus the seven or so neighborhood kids who always seem to be around. Plus my sister, Madame, who showed up yesterday. Plus my mother and other siblings who live in Yaoundé, while my mother finishes exams.

Housing situation-wise, I am very spoiled. I have my own bucket flush toilet, we live near a water pump, and my family knows English. As I already generally understand French, this means we can all communicate fairly well (except when my family speaks Bulu). In the evenings my father likes to talk about Cameroon, the US and other things he’s seen in the news. So far we’ve already had conversations about polygamy in Cameroon, #BlackLivesMatter, and the differences between how our two societies respond to teenage pregnancy.

Of course there are still random French words I still don’t know. The other day I wanted to sweep and started trying to explain that I wanted something that would clean the floor through brushing, which didn’t work. Defeated I headed back to my room, but suddenly, I heard a sweeping noise outside. Calling my father I ran to the noise and asked him for whatever that was. (C’était un balaye).

They’ve also already started letting me help them cook and I plan on making them peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwiches this weekend.

On Sunday we had a day of rest, also known as a full day of cultural immersion. Highlights include: seeing a giant spider, first bucket shower, long church services, playing futbol with the neighborhood children, and receiving the following text from a friend:

“…my family slaughtered like twelve chickens and everyone is dressed up. I think there is a celebration.”

On Monday we started PST, which consists of technical training, language training, safety training, and so forth. We also receive equipment from Peace Corps such as handbooks, motorcycle helmets (for the street taxis), and water filters. Note on the water filters: Difficult to fill up without upper arm strength (things to work on) and for some reason mine filtered all my water onto my floor (which through mopping up conveniently filled up my water bucket again, saving me a trip a to the pump).

As we haven’t had electricity since the night we arrived and we only have internet whenever we head to Ebolowe for training, I’m not sure how often I will be able to blog for the time being, but I’ll do my best.

(Also if you are looking for some motivation to write me, first person to send me a letter wins 1000 CFA.)

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