Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Senioritis: Peace Corps Edition

Today, at some point during my two-hour business class, the Peace Corps equivalent of senioritis hit me. It must have been the moment when I was teaching the importance of sharing knowledge they've acquired with others, since I won't always be here to teach the classes, and an annoying student who rarely shows up to class loudly shouted, "well you should just get married and stay here." I looked at him and said, "would you like to leave the classroom?" I don't care if he's 40. Don't be a jerk, or I will throw you out.

I've been getting back into my yoga practice. And this morning I did my one-hour session. But after the class tonight, I felt the need to roll out the mat again. If bucket-bathing in the latrine at night isn't such a pain the butt, I would have done another session of yoga to let it all go.

I am overwhelmed with the Books For Cameroon project. All along, I adopted the "one step at a time" approach, because if I try to think of everything at once, then there was no way the project would have progressed to where it is today. But now, almost a year later, there are still many more steps ahead, and I am exhausted.

I've begged for more money than I ever care to beg in a lifetime, not for me, but for the well-being of others. I've coordinated 10 schools within the 3 surrounding villages, on top of a few other far-reaching villages who all wanted to benefit from my project. My life would have been a lot easier if I just said no, but that's now what you do as a Peace Corps Volunteer, right? I've sent out a million emails to the team of volunteers whom, I'm sure by now, are so sick of my emails, in order to coordinate and ensure that 23,000 books get to the 35 libraries somehow.

When I met the fundraising goal of $11,500, people said to me, "well now you must be relieved, the work is done." Um, not quite, the work has just begun. I've ran around to all 10 schools to collect money, make sure they have shelves built for the libraries and that they are dedicated to the project. Then I realized I underestimated the cost of in-country transport, so now Théo and I are running around town trying to get big Cameroonian enterprises to sponsor our event. I think there is a big chance MTN Foundation will put up some money for our transportation cost. The last time I heard, the proposed figure is 1 million CFA ($2000). Crossing our fingers on that one!

Side note: Théo is the wonderful founder and manager of the local NGO RIDEV that many volunteers have worked with. I think he is the reason I have not gone insane yet with this project. The man is full of wonderful optimism and knows everyone, which makes life a lot easier. He also is aware of all the annoying protocol procedures that we volunteers hate. If it wasn't for him, I probably would've left this country with many libraries built, but also many important people offended. It was his proposal to organize a ceremony for the ministries and related officials to recognize the project. The ceremony itself does not do much for the project, but it gets in the good graces of Cameroonian officials, which is important for Peace Corps.

The books are estimated to reach the Douala port on February 22nd. So I'm working with Peace Corps and the Embassy to get this container cleared through customs with as little problem as possible. There is the logistics of how to get 20,000 books to where they need to be. Can you even imagine how many books that is?! I can't, but I suppose we'll soon find out. Who knew logistic management in developing country is a skill I'd acquire in Cameroon? Something more to go on the résumé, I suppose.

Logistics aside, the list of things to do and to think of goes on, and on. The library management training: besides writing the classes, I have to somehow organize all these schools and make sure they send the right people to come to the training. And after I train them, I have to run around and make sure they are implementing what they've learned. This is going to be a pure nightmare.

Let's not forget about the ceremony that I'm suppose to organize.... You see this is why I must go one step at a time? Thinking about it all is driving me into a freak-out moment.

Planning and organizing an event is difficult in the US, the country of efficiency. Imagine doing that in Cameroon - the country of... well, not efficiency. To be honest, I have been fairly lucky and have not ran into too many problems. But it's the sheer volume of things to think about that is becoming far too overwhelming. I suppose this offsets those first few months when I didn't do much... ça va aller...? on espère.

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