Water!

So I have now been in Bafia, Cameroon, for what, three or four weeks? It is currently the rainy season, and I keep remembering what someone told me about a week before I left the US: Cameroon in the rainy season is characterized by a lot of mud, and Cameroon in the dry season in characterized by a lot of dust. I’ve definitely gotten to experience some of that mud.

Bafia, I am told, is pretty modern and developed for Cameroon (especially compared to some of the places that a lot of us will be posted), but it probably shouldn’t surprise you to hear that I live on a dirt road that quickly turns to mud in the rain. I do, however, have a bathroom in my homestay house, complete with a sink, a toilette, and a shower head with a drain underneath it – and water doesn’t come out of any of them. Instead, I or others in my family have to go to the well in the yard across the street to carry water for use in the bathroom.

Luckily, the water that comes out of that well is clear, and I suspect treated, because a lot of other trainees and their families have to go all the way to the water pump to get water that clear, and man, is water heavy. Still even with the clear and probably treated water, I chlorinate it and put it through a Peace Corps issued filter before drinking it. A couple of trainees have had amoebas, and another found a round worm in the top (unfiltered) part of her water filter that definitely wasn’t a worm yet when she put the water in, and those are things I would like to avoid ingesting for as long as possible. Fresh fruits and veggies have to be soaked in water with bleach before being eaten raw, and other foods, especially involving water, have to be heated to a boil.

Laundry water does not need any special treatment, but it is a whole different experience to do that by hand and then worry about having enough sun to be able to dry it outside during the rainy season. Of course by the end of November I am told it will be the dry season again, and quite hot. By January Bafia’s wells will be running dry, and everyone will have to go to the water pump.

Of course by then I will be at my own post, and the whole water situation will probably be completely different.

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Je suis une stagiaire du Corps de la Paix du programme du development des jeunes

So it’s now been about two weeks since I first left on my Peace Corps adventure, and it’s been an eventful two weeks. After two nights in Philadelphia for staging and a day and a half of travel the 55 of us in my training group arrived in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

My training group – or “stage” en français – is divided into three groups: those in the Environment Program, the Health Program, and the Youth Development Program. And guess what program I’m in? Youth Development! Surprise! Or perhaps it’s not so much of a surprise for those who didn’t know that I was expecting to be in the Health Program. I’m very excited about this, though. The Youth Development group is actually the smallest group with only 13 of us, as well as only the second YD training group to come to Cameroon. So far it’s an awesome group of people – but then so are the other groups as well.

In Yaoundé they kept us busy with all sorts of logistical and informational sessions, as well as a few more interesting things. One evening there was a cultural event, during which we got to see some traditional Cameroonian dancing, which apparently involves booty dancing like I had never seen before. We also went to dinner at the home of the Country Director, along with the US Ambassador to Cameroon and several representatives of different NGOs, governmental agencies, and Cameroonian media. I sat at a table with the wife of the Ambassador’s Deputy Chief, who is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and got to hear about her service in Sierra Leon before the civil war.

On Wednesday we arrived in Bafia, Cameroon, where the bulk of our Pre-Service Training will be taking place. I now have a host mother, three younger host sisters, and a host father who works in a different city and only comes home on the weekends. My host mother is also the woman who cooks and sells lunch at the Peace Corps building every weekday. We just started language training on Friday, technical training on Monday, and had our first day completely free on Sunday. I’m just starting to settle in, so I’m sure that I’ll have a lot more to say about Bafia and about training over the next eight weeks until our Swearing in ceremony the day before Thanksgiving.