Friday, March 27, 2009

The Real World?

With one month left to vacation, I've been discussing the shock that I am about to endure when I step foot outside of the airport in Paris, then again in Taipei, and repeatedly with each city/village that I visit on the island of Taiwan. These discussions are quite amusing and I thought they are blog-worthy for the readers!

1.) Taking a shower every single day. Sometimes twice a day. I don't know what that is like anymore. Last week I was at Kate's house and she has running water and a cold shower with running water felt amazing. Then I visited my Chinese friend and I took a shower with hot water. I almost melted. Now, imagine having that every single day.

2.) Sit in a restaurant that is shiny and every single item on the menu will be available when you order it. I made this comparison when I taught the inventory session of my business class and I told my students how bizarre it was in the beginning when stores or restaurants would run out of things. But now, I think I will be amazed when they always have everything.

3.) The choices. Being able to choose from where do you want to have lunch, to where do you want to have coffee, to where do you wan to go shopping, to what kind of things should we buy. OMG the choices!

4.) White/Asian People Everywhere! Volunteers are just as shocked to see other white people as Cameroonians here. We are just so used to be the only one around. When I get to Paris, I will be shocked by all the white people. Then when I land in Taipei, I will freak out by ALL the Asians! Oh My Goodness.

5.) Constant electricity and high-speed Internet. I will be amazed that there is ALWAYS power. Always. Even villages in Taiwan where my grandmother lives has constant power. And then, high speed Internet. Where I can type in a web address and doesn't have to wait for it to load. Or I can open YouTube and have movies play. What?!

The list can go on, but I will let your imagination run wild. I am going to be the strangest person for at least the first week that I am in the civilized world. I feel sorry for friends who are hosting me in Paris and my family during that first week. But I am SO EXCITED!!


I think for the first time in the 10 months that I have been in Cameroon (I know, 10 months!), I can honestly say that I am truly happy here. My happiness is not due to new surroundings and influx of new adjustments that lead to temporary excitement. Instead, the bubble of joy is a result of finally finding my purpose here in village and really recognizing and appreciating the supportive community that surrounds me. There has been more than once over this past week alone when I was walking down the street with a big goofy smile and thought, "I see why volunteers extend a third year now." Don't worry, I am not extending. I need extreme efficiency and crazy Excel spreadsheets in my life after 27 months here!

I am in a really good place. Last night marks the half way point for my first series of business classes here in village. For the past three classes, I've had to teach them alone since Nura had other engagements. In the beginning, I was quite frightened by this prospect, but they turned out marvelously. For some reason, I think I connect better with my students when I teach alone. Maybe they feel less intimidated when there aren't two white girls teaming up. Each session that I taught alone, I had many students stayed after class to ask me various questions, and also to propose new collaboration opportunities. In the last week alone, I was asked to teach the class again in a neighboring village and the community will pay for my transportation, also becoming a project advisor for a local GIC, assist a student to launch his idea of brining a cyber café into Batié and teach students Excel. I also received many requests to teach English, but I had to put my foot down and explain that is not my area of expertise and I would like to focus my energy in topics that I am trained to teach. I think I disappointed quite a few with that announcement, but I have learned the importance of saying NO!

In addition to the business class, the library project is really rolling! We have decided to split the project into two phases. First to raise money so we can receive the 22,000 English books from Books For Africa, then phase two will be seeking book donations in French. The project has manifested into something quite significant, but all the volunteers involved are really excited and committed to see this project through. Let's hope everything works out!

One month until vacation, and just a little over one year until the end of my service. Time is flying by! I am glad I've reached the state that I am in. I am happy and still have another year to really get work done before going back to nutty efficiency! Hurray!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Village Drama!

For weeks now, things have been going remarkably well, almost too well. I kept saying it's as though something bad will happen to balance out all the goodness. I had a nice trip to clear my head, gained perspective, my business class enrollment exceeded expectation and has been going really well, work has been keeping me busy, etc. etc.

This past Saturday, Loïc and Billy were working on my garden for me in the backyard. They pitied me and saw my disastrous looking garden and decided they'd help me. I went back there to tell them what seeds to plant and such, then they told me I need to go buy a bag of fertilizer (chicken poo). I had no idea how to buy it, so they said they'd go buy it if I give them money. Both are trustworthy kids who are my stable waterboys, so I said okay. I was in the backyard for no more than 5 minutes, came back to look for the wallet I had set on top of the bookcase - and nothing. Cell phone was still there, but wallet gone. I knew I didn't misplace it because just that morning I went to the bank and took all the fees for the business class. I even told myself to put that wallet away, but got distracted doing this and that around the house. So within that wallet was nearly $100 in cash (a lot in the US, much less here!), and my Cameroonian ID (can't go anywhere or do anything without).

I remained calm, and less than 10 minutes later, all the available neighbors were outside my house. I had called my friend Victor immediately, but he was far away and it was too complicated to explain over the phone.The "grand" (big man) in the neighborhood came with his car within minutes to access the situation. We knew it's a kid because the fancy cellphone was left untouched. So the big guy told the kids to investigate among themselves and find the thief. Meanwhile, I was told to be patient and it will be okay. People began leaving, the few people left were around my age, whom I never see! They were so nice and we chatted, etc.

Later in the afternoon, a group of kids dragged me to see the "village justice". I really had no idea what was happening despite of them explaining it to me 3 times. We got to this guy's hose, and he ordered to speak individually to the kids, then he ordered whomever took the money to put it back at my housegate before 7pm that night, or else. The "or else" part that I understood included unkind punishment and going to see the police. Later, Billy and Loïc revealed to me that they think it's one of the kids that was in the group. BelFrank was his name. He's the other kid that's still been coming by my house since the last episode.

7pm came around, of course, nothing. I remained surprisingly calm, holding onto slim hope that all will be fine. Next morning, I woke up after just few hours of restless sleep, where I had multiple dreams that the kid had buried my wallet in the ground in front of my house. Unfortunately, I woke up, and nothing was there. I went to Rose's house next door and some kids were congregating, and just then, BelFrank and his mother, along with his older brother, arrived on a moto. Apparnetly Rose had gone to his house first thing in the morning, and the kid wasn't there at 6am (what was he doing at 6am?!). We waited for Rose to come back from Church. Meanwhile, my friend Victor came on his moto. He was sorried to be gone yesterday, and when I explained what happened, the man was NOT happy. Victor is a man with authority in our neighborhood; he is the president of the development committee and is respected by all. He yelled at the kids and demanded whomever it is to drop the wallet off anonymouly that night. Rose came back later, another round of yelling went on, this time in the local language. Just happened that a few of the mamas were around, and they were all yelling at BelFrank and gesturing hand motions at me. I nudged Billy to translate, but he would only give me the gist of the information. So much less fun when you don't understand what is being said!

So come this morning, I went to the primary school that I used to teach at and spoke to the Directrice (principal). She loves me, and I love her. When she heard this, she was also angry. She ordered the kids living in my neighborhood in for questioning, and a pivitol story was discovered. Friday afternoon, BelFrank and this other kid stopped by after school and got water for me, then I gave them 200cfa to go find me some bread. No bread was found, but I gave them 50cfa as a token of apprciation. Apparently BelFrank had saw money in my wallet and when they left, told the other kid to go steal it. Nice kid said, "I'm not a thief, if you want it, you go get it yourself." Voilà! Truth revealed!

But of course the stubborn kid says he didn't do it. Everyone got sent back to class. I called Victor to say we were questioning the kids, and he came. Apparently when Victor came, Belfrank got scared and ran away from the classroom. There was quite the funny scene of Victor, a nearly 50-year-old man chasing after this little rascal in the fields, but to no avail. We've validated the thief and all I had to do was wait and watch the village soap unveil.

Later in the afternoon, Billy came to tell me they saw my ID on the side of the road by my house. Funny thing was that all the kids were afraid to touch it and I had to walk out there to pick it up myself. By nightfall, Victor came with Loïc to ask me a few final questions before they go to BelFrank's house to investigate. Throughout the afternoon/night, many neighbors stopped by to check on progress. I felt so loved. Then the real love moment occurred at 10:20pm, just as I began writing this blog post, Victor and two other chiefs of the village came by, along with Rose. They had beated it out of the kid and got my things back! It must've been quite the show since it went on for hours, but at last, victory!

So, this experience turned out quite positively. I lost out on nothing; instead learned just how much respect and care that my villagers have for me. Every single adult here is some sort of a parent to me; this is something I won't find anywhere else. I had my wallet/purse stolen twice in London within a year, and both times, I was upset and felt violated. The worst thing about it is no one cares, and furthermore makes you feel like an idiot for not "being careful". In London, there is a system online that you can report theft crimes, and the Met Police gives you a courtesy call as routine and tell you sorry it happened, better luck next time. Yes I shouldn't have left the door open while stepping outside for a few minutes or I shouldn't have left my wallet in plain sight. But it is MY house after all. I love that not one single villager ever made me feel like it was my fault, because it isn't. Depiste how careless I was, it is always the thief's fault!

I am loving the village more by the day. This is the kind of communal love that one cannot find anywhere in the "modern" world, behind the big cars, triple locked doors, alarm systems and goodness knows what else. Never again will I lose a wallet with $100 in it, and have the whole town investigating and hunting down the thief for me. We think our ways of living is so much more "advanced" and "sophisticated" in the "developed world", but we must also think about what we are missing out: the simplicity, the basic good nature of mankind, and a solid support system with those who live around us.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Yes, this conversation IS happening...

So the day after International Women's Day, I walked into down and saw virtually no one during the 30-minute walk, and then during the last three minutes, I passed a guy and he said, "what did you get for me?" I gave him a dirty look and walked away. Then I got to la mairie (the mayor's office/community center) and saw a guy that is usually really nice and cool. The first thing he asked me was also, "what do you have for me?" Now, still kind of annoyed from the guy in passing just before, I decided to talk this one out. Starting out, I was just giving him a hard time about asking me for things, but then before you know it, I found myself in this conversation where this guy along with one other are telling me how I need to find a husband here and that women are meant to prepare food. I was all the rage and thought, "this conversation cannot actually be happening." oh wait, it absolutely is. I rebutted back that women do so much but are not being respected here. I work here for free and people don't respect me, calling me names and asking me for things. The guys just kept going on about how men provide and that I need to find a good husband here. So I said, "it's 10am, what are you doing here not working?" Then I started asking what it is that men actually provide, and I am not joking, this is what he said, "we make babies". SERIOUSLY? It was absolutely the most absurd conversation I've ever had. They make babies? The last time I check, all that is required of men in the "baby-making process" is have sex, which as far as I know, isn't hard work for them.

I had to end the conversation rather abruptly to prevent myself from screaming his head off in bad French. Thankfully, I went upstairs to the Mayor's office and the secretary general was super helpful in getting a team of men to set up the classroom I needed for tomorrow. Thank goodness all men don't just "make babies".

Speaking of my class, the enrollment for this village business class is 28 as of this afternoon! I am so beyond surprised. In the beginning, I was afraid I wouldn't get even 10 and terrified that I'd have to cancel the class. Suppose all that walking around town talking/begging of people worked quite well! Really looking forward to starting this class, albeit slightly nervous about doing it in French. I don't know if I would be good at it even in English! Roll with flow, I guess.

One last bit of news: I recently joined Twitter and in the beginning I thought it was kind of silly. However, it has connected me to a network of people I would never otherwise met and gotten great ideas about projects. Also, to expose this blog to a wide range of new readers. A guy I was following on Twitter wanted to interview me after reading my blog, and here are the interviews in English and French! I am discovering the power of social media and learning more to use this new tool to my advantage in the future. For a while I was feeling somewhat guilty about having Internet at my house, seeming too "posh" for Peace Corps. However, I never do anything the conventional way, so of course I am not going to be a volunteer the traditional way, being stuck in a village, completely cut off from the world. Instead, I'll be the volunteer that is so connected to the world that more people can actually learn about life au village!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

International Women's Day

The long awaited IWD is here! A few weeks ago, I purchased the International Women's Day pagne (fabric) with another woman in village and found a new tailor who made the cutest dress for me! Villagers love that I have a dress made in this pagne, albeit in a western style. I talked to people about what all goes on during this day, and found that there is a ceremony that takes place with a small march. Rose, my neighbor who works at the bank, told me it is scheduled to begin at 10am, but maybe I should get there around 10:30 or so. So, this morning, I sported my cute dress and slowly made my way to this particular school football field where the event take place at well after 11am and the event didn't actually begin until after noon. I am so good at being late now; this will cause a problem when I go back to the "real world".

Anyhow, this ceremony gathered all the different women's groups from all 10 quartiers in Batié. There were many faces that were unfamiliar since I mostly just hangout within the two quartiers between my house and the carrefour. But I think it was good for me to show my face and talk a bit to people. The ceremony wasn't as long as some of the other Cameroonian gigs I've attended, but just long enough that I was getting slightly antsy. Women were all either dressed in the IWD pagne that comes in three colors, or the pagne that represents their particular community group. Like all Cameroonian ceremonies, a lot of singing was involved. I quite love the overall ambiance in these events; it's nothing that I would ever find anywhere else. The people love to sing and to generally have a good time; they take joy in the simplest life pleasures. Something that all of us from the "modern world" could learn a bit from.

Women Singing & Marching!

The Women Marching!

Women Performing Their Days in Farm

I don't remember celebrating IWD in the US. I think it was celebrated in Taiwan, but I have nearly no memory of this day being important in the US. Now, all the holidays that I've ever experienced dedicating to one particular group of people usually means that's the day to honor them and give them something as commemoration. People who have birthdays receive gifts, on Father's day dads get presents, on Mother's day mothers get presents, Kids Day (in Taiwan) kids get gifts, etc. So I was particularly taken aback when some dude asked me what I was going to give him for Women's Day a week ago. This conversation took place while I was eating grilled fish with the mom of Ju's host family. I took the opportunity for a little "culture exchange" and gave him a hard time saying it's a day for women, I should be getting something. The mama loves my theory where as the dude explained the rationale that here, the men supposedly does the "giving" everyday so on Women's Day, it's women's turn to give. What logic! Ever since that conversation, I've made it a point to give every single man a difficult time when they attempt to ask me for something for this day.

Another thing I found quite strange occurred during the ceremony. Firstly, I find all the flowery language and formality rather annoying in these Cameroonian events. It's one of those culture things that I will never be able to get used to. This is the result of growing up and being taught the idea of equality for all these years. I don't find any reason for me to bow down to people; they aren't better than me. Even if it's Barack Obama, I'd give a polite handshake and nothing more. But that's the difference between cultures. Every single time someone begins to make a speech, he/she must begin by saying good morning to a list of "notables". Not even just a general good morning everyone and good morning to the officials. But instead, good morning Mr. Mayor, good morning His Majesty (the chief), good morning Police in Chief, etc. etc. I should take a count next time, but I am pretty sure 1/3 of all the speeches are dedicated to these salutation in the beginning, and a list of long live whatever whatever in the end. Anyway, let me get back to the strange thing. During one of the first speeches, some important guy said a phrase that was supposed to be the theme of this day. It went something like this, "Men, love you wife and Women, submit to your husbands". I heard this and I thought I heard wrong, but no, it was emphasized time and again throughout the ceremony. I cringed, badly. By no means would I ever consider myself a feminist, but you can bet I am not submitting myself to anyone, much less my husband. This is International Women's Day, a day to respect and honor the work of women in this world and you are telling them to submit to their husbands?! Between this and all the men asking me to give them something for Women's day, I understand why polygamy is still legal and widely exercised in this country.

After the ceremony, I went back to my neighborhood and had a coke with my favorite bar ladies. I bought them a round of beer, just to aggravate the men who were in the bar asking me for stuff again. I love my village ladies. They are so funny! I took pictures with the bar ladies and that was a riot getting the photo right on my camera! Despite of everything, I love hanging out in village more and more everyday. People are really fantastic and I already know there are things about this place I will miss.
Me & My Bar Ladies!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Roller Coaster

A while ago, Kate told me she misses going to amusement parks and riding roller coasters, and my response was, "isn't taking a car to Batié a wild roller coaster ride every time?" Today, I was reminded of that yet again. I have been in this country for 9 months now (wow!) and besides the first three months of living in the Peace Corps incubation, I have been taking the "public transportation" for 6 months now and luckily, knock on wood, nothing has happened. When you are on a roller coaster ride, the possibility of flying out of your seat is an illusion, the safety requirement are usually very strict and you are bound to be fine. Not when you ride a car here. You can so totally fly out of your seat.

This morning, after a visit to my Chinese family in Bafoussam, I returned to village with a blackboard given by the family, a roll of expensive conference paper I had bought before I was given a blackboard, the copies for the first week of my business class, and leftover birthday cake. I had help getting everything to the place where I could find a car to Batié. Cameroonians are champions at making the impossible possible. When you think no one else could possibly fit in the car, they find a way to squeeze the person in. When you think there is no way this car can run, it runs. When I thought how in the world are we going to get this blackboard in this car, they made it work, with half of it sticking out the trunck, nothing to tie it down. Then, we began the journey to Batié. The road from Baf to Batié ís especially hilly and when you have a crazy driver like I did today, which is often, there is nothing but counting yourself lucky when you actually make it to destination. The roads are paved, but only designed to have one lane for each direction. I wonder what Cameroonians would think of the 10 lane highway in all major metropolitan areas of the USA. Anyway, the drivers like to pass cars in front of them by more or less driving on the wrong side of the road. Maybe they have some sort of psychic ability, but as far as I could tell, you never know if there are cars coming from the other direction, especially with the turns and the hills. Luckily so far, no cars have been coming at too close of a distance.

During this wild ride, I thought of the all the ridiculous rules imposed upon us as Peace Corps volunteers, and wonder how riding in a car with this psycho driver isn't banned as one of the rules. As a kid, I was never a fan of authority. My mom can tell you because I like to reason and argue with her about everything. Nothing rile me up more than when she says, "because I say so". I despise power trips and meaningless authority. For this reason, I despise the gendarmes (national guard-esque people) that stop cars randomly to "check" on passengers/drivers. In the West, I have noticed that his problem is worse than elsewhere of the country I've visited, and it's significantly worse during the holidays. The people have a name for these gendarmes, they call them "mange-mille", literally translated as "eat-thousand"; reason being they ask the cab drivers for 1,000CFA (about $2) as bribe money every time they stop a car to "check". $2 may seem like nothing, that's 10 moto rides for me!

The new group of trainees will be arriving in June and PC admin. has been recruiting volunteers to help with stage. For me, I cringe at the idea because I wasn't much fan of this stage when it happened to me, much less going back voluntarily to help. I've been thinking why I am not keen on the idea and much of it has to do with all the "rules" they impose and the general inefficiency of the training program itself. Despite how I rationalize these rules, I don't understand them. During stage, there was the 7pm curfew and the reason was because staying out late is unsafe. But then there will be nights, about once a week, where these curfews were extended. So... how are these "special" nights safer than any other night? Besides, how is this properly preparing us for when we have to be out at night in our villages? I am quite sure it was more unsafe for me to walk around City of St. Louis at night than roaming around cornfields of Bangangté.

The curfew is the beginning of many many, a whole book full of rules. Can't go to Douala (the economic capital) because it's dangerous? Can't spend nights away from your village unless you take vacation (um, right. and let me clarify that as PCVs, we have 24 days of vacation a year, but that includes weekends. meaning: out of 365 days, we are only allow to spend nights away from villages 24 days. Meanwhile, PC admin gets BOTH the Cameroonian AND American holidays off, in addition to holidays...), can't take motos or ride your bike without helmets, can't refuse to take the malaria drug, can't travel out of your village the first three months and last three months of your service (meaning can't spend the night away from your village), can't this, can't that. What am I? 5 years old? Any good parents know that the more rules you impose, the more the kids want to rebel. When I am with volunteers of different country, I feel like the most uncool kid whose parents is totally psycho with all the rules. I never felt this way growing up because my parents were pretty darn cool. Now I know what it feels like. The training staff, who is Cameroonian, actually said to us once, "I just don't understand why Americans like to rebel so much and never follow rules." Now, here is a culture difference for you, we don't like to follow rules that don't make any sense. We have critical thinking skills, we don't do what we are told because you have more authority. This is not to say all Cameroonians lack critical thinking skills, but they do follow orders way better than I ever can.

And just a note on the general inefficiency of the training: the only thing I got out of the three months were hanging out with a wonderful group of people. I didn't learn too much technical skills since I just graduated from business school and everything except the Cameroonian context they taught us, I already knew. And the Cameroonian context they taught us still left me completely lost during my first few months in village. But what pushed me over the edge was all the language training. I didn't really learn French until I got to post, and have been doing a lot of self study. I have just very recently learned the participe présent tense of the French verb. How did I not learn this until now? I don't think one should be allowed to teach language unless one has had to consciously acquire another language other than the mother tongue(s).

Okay, end rant. I've gotten it out of my system. Thank you freedom of speech (for this, I am grateful to be a Taiwanese/American). And for those of you that actually read this whole thing, I love where I am and what I am doing, I just hate rules, and inefficiency. :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Getting Out

Ever since the self-imposed 72-hour house arrest a while ago, getting out of the house has become increasingly more difficult. Then the acquisition of Internet has made leaving my house everyday a serious effort. There are just so many productive things I can be doing online that it takes a lot more to justify a trek into town. However, every time I made it out of the house and into town, I am always glad to be out. Just making the initial steps is a challenging task.

I spent much of last week out and about recruiting people in village to attend my business class. Many conversations were had and I've began to really feel my place in the village. I was initially quite nervous about Juliette leaving since she was such huge part of my support network here. But in fact, things have once again worked out perfectly. Having Juliette and Gregoire here in village was the best transition into my new life in Batié. I couldn't have asked for a better setup. Now that months have gone by and I can really carry my own weight without them around.

The improvement of French has really helped and I feel much more confident starting projects now that I can more clearly explain myself and understand the others. The increased interaction with villagers has left me finding myself in many surprising situations. Last week I learned that the new girl working at the bank has a mom who is a tailor, so we went together to have my dress made in the International Women's Day fabric. She was such a kind lady!

Yesterday I went to a neighborhood quite far away to advertise my business class and had some really great conversations with people while eating my beans and beignet. Those moments were small, but I felt infinitely more productive than teaching English. Explaining to villagers that their banana-selling is a small enterprise for 5 minutes makes me feel more productive than a week of English teaching.

Then today, I needed toilet papers and had absolutely no other reason to go into town because I did all my shopping yesterday but forgot the most essential item. I had planned on doing all my work at home for the day, so was annoyed at my forgetfulness. Finally at 2pm, I dragged myself out of the house and made my way into town. On the way, I shared a moto with a guy who was very respectfully calling me madame and paid for my ride. So nice! Then I walked by a bar and it seem as though there was a party going on. I stopped in to say hello to people, and before I knew it, I got roped into having a Coke while they drink their beers. People were really excited because some notable from our town had been appointed by President Biya as some governmental delegate, which supposedly means he'll be doing great things for the town. Whether or now he really will do something, I don't know, but people were proud and excited about this.

This group of people were mostly speaking in the the local language, but still attempted to include me in conversations. We discussed my origin; whether I am Chinese or American. Then we discussed Taiwan, how it is not really China and it is definitely not Thailand. I informed them that Bangkok is in Thailand not Taiwan and the English colonized Hong Kong not Taiwan. And that we speak Chinese on the island and not English. The villagers love when I explain how there are many local languages in the Chinese culture other than the official Mandarin Chinese, kind of like in Africa. They love that! People asked me where I learned my French. I've been asked that a lot recently. So it's obvious that I don't speak French Cameroonian style enough for them to realize I learned it here. Some guy even said I speak French better than them today, which I very seriously doubt is true.

I've really grown a love for the French language and have been fervously learning it through different methods. I've been recalling how I learned English just a decade ago and it's been really interesting seeing the comparison. The topic of conversation when one is 12 requires much less vocabulary than a 22-year old. I find myself trying to talk about the education system, business management, project finance in French and that is not easy. Where as when I was 12, we talked about what one is doing on weekends and who is having a crush on who. Those are infinitely easier vocabs. Also if you are 12 and going to school where everyone speaks English and you don't, you learn very very quickly because you do NOT want to be the weirdo that can't be understood. If you recall your middle school/junior high years, there is nothing worse than being different from the norm. But now that I am 22 and nothing but different from the people I am living among, speaking French can go both ways. I can speak the bare minimum I need to get by and then come home to English books, English movies/tv shows, etc. and never speaking French properly or I can go the other way and self-force immersion. Learning a lanugage when one is older takes substantially more energy and motivation. It's a really interesting process and I am still discovering things about acquiring languages everyday!

Anyhow, got off track a bit. But all in all, things are so much better now, almost near wonderful! I am once again having the "my life is so crazy and amazing" thoughts while I walk down the dirt road into town. That's a good sign!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Working Under Pressure

I've always been the kind of person that works much better under time pressure. This is why during my days in university, my grades were the best during the semester when I worked two jobs and volunteered too much. Free time allow me to say, "i'll do it later" and meanwhile feel my time doing a whole lot of nothing. And because of this, getting things done and feeling a sense of productivity has been difficult for me as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Up until a few weeks ago, I had a very structured schedule of going to the bank in the morning and teaching in the afternoon. But I was not particular excited about either of those jobs and they exhausted me too much to work on other projects when I returned to my house. Finally, I took it upon myself to change things. Quitting the teaching gig was the best decision ever because now I have all the energy to focus on projects I actually care about. Next week begins my first series of business classes and because of bad timing, I only have these last two weeks to promote the classes. However, the slight time pressure makes me work so much better. I'm out and about everyday in village talking/explaining to people what the classes are all about. Many tell me they don't have an enterprise, so I've been explaining that if you sell something and I buy something, that's an enterprise. It hasn't been easy going out there and gaining interest from villagers. Then it doesn't help when the people who do get it tell me that it's not easy because villagers are close-minded. They tell me it's easier in the city. Well no kidding, why did they think I was doing in the village? Maybe they wonder why I am wasting time in the village when there are people who are ready to learn in cities. I wonder that sometime myself, but that's beside the point.

I am going on vacation in May, so I've given myself these next two months to make serious progress on three projects that have been on my mind for a while. One is working with Victor to get the Peace Corps Partnership proposal out and begin seeking funding to finish building the community center in the neighborhood. Victor is really motivated and want this center to be completed and full functioning before I leave. I hope that happens!

The next project is the library project I had proposed a long time ago on the blog. With time, I have realized what is realistic and what isn't. Purchasing textbooks for the school is not yet a realistic goal for this school and that was the majority of the last proposal. Meanwhile, I solicited help online to see how I can approach this library project and got a response from Books For Africa, who will send us a 40-foot container of 22,0000 English books if we fund-raise the shipping fee. So now, I have gotten myself into this ridiculously large project involving several volunteers and over 20 schools. Meanwhile, the project will need to seek other funding or NGOs who will donate French books for the volunteers working with Francophone schools. This project is slight bit scary, but if it works, it'll be really exciting!

Lastly, I am hoping to work my Camtel connection with the big man in Bafoussam to see how he can help us set up a Cyber/Multimedia center above the MC2. My counterpart who has been less than excited about my projects actually was very keen on getting this one going, so here is hoping. There is not yet a cyber café in Batié and generally no access to computers. If we can get this project going, then it will pose a lot of teaching opportunities. And I can't wait to teach people the marvelous thing that is the Internet!

The three projects are in the beginning phases, but I hope before I go on vacaion I will have something more to update and you readers out there who can either donate some of your pocket change or tell me who would want to send their money my way for the projects! For the library and community center project, I will set up Peace Corps Partnerships, which are the official way of soliciting funding for Peace Corps projects. So, stayed tuned!