“You have those great moments of despair and inspiration simultaneously.”
-Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Director of FXB Center for Health and Human Rights
I wish that I could find the time to write more often, but I am obsessed with living in the moment, on top of everything else that consumes me… at times I feel guilty about avoiding everyone and everything else to escape to externalize and re-process everything that is going on. And there is so much that I could hardly explain every little realization that comes to mind every day. There is so much happening at once. All that appears in my journal these days are “to do” lists: Grade tests, lesson planning, Contact the Embassy about educational travel visas, Read about Nation Builders (an organization that works with students to develop under-developed countries through mind-building that I may want to get involved with), research more furniture prices, write letters home, research Halloween lesson plans & activities for my 6ieme students, English Club stuff, etc. etc…
English club elections were held last Wednesday, the day in which high schools only have classes in the morning to leave the afternoon free for clubs and activities. It was so loud and annoying, as much as the kids were excited to be there. I have been meeting with the club president about the kinds of things we would like to do. Our plan d’Action includes the following: Organizing Bilingualism week (poems, speeches, music, games and prizes), Parade during Bilingualism week (with matching t-shirts and giving candy away), Reading materials, perhaps watching/discussing Anglophone films, Correspondence with an Anglophone school in Cameroon, Written correspondence with a French class in the states (anyone interested?), a trip to the Anglophone province (this needs financial assistance or a financial plan to make happen), and a fundraiser (such as putting together an English book that could help students and sell, or preparing and selling baked goods). I have yet to contact other PCVs that are coordinating English clubs in their schools, but any advice I would take on this, as my students are extremely motivated to be involved- even my young beginners that can greet and introduce themselves… it was a group of older students that approached me on the way home to ask me to coordinate the club this year, and have been visiting me ever since about the club organization.
Venting regarding the cadeaux. As inspired as I am to give what I can to the Cameroonian people, my latest issues are that of which involve the constant asking for things from everyone. While I thought that sending Martiale to school was a good deed, the news has spread to the needy people in the village. And everyone needs something, from money for school to tomatoes from the market or milk for the baby, to a flight to America. It’s an annoyance that I understand… the idea is that if you think that you may be able to benefit from the situation, there’s that 1% chance that you will if you ask. Everyone asks. It’s a matter of knowing how to respond/deny these requests, and adjusting to the cultural norms of this. Just as most Cameroonians, in general, do not know that calling out “white man” is impolite, many of them do not realize that asking for things is rude in an American’s eyes. And as I said, I can understand so I can’t be too angry, because if I were in a desperate state of poverty, I might just do the same thing- approach the rich American. And we are rich because America is a rich country. It occurs to me on a daily basis what Narcisse meant when he told me that poor American people live even better than the average Cameroonian. Where American highways are packed with modern cars, illuminated with lights and tall buildings, many of the roads are simply of dirt, where it is rare to see more than a few very old and rattling cars that taxi people from one village to the next, jammed tight with at least 6 people- and no buildings other than the wooden shacks, some of them homes with bare cement or just floors of dirt, and lights?! No street lamps. Sometimes it’s enough just to be here, in many ways. To be both inspired and in despair is a feeling I have never before felt- not quite like this.