Peace Corps

Dancing for Money

Dancing for Money
November 5, 2007

“Creativity starts when you’re young.”
– Sarah Goehler, PCV

We are November now, as the rain season leaves us and as the air becomes hotter and hotter. It’s still in many ways strange that wake up to the birds chirping, sometimes kids yelling, or the sound of women washing clothes just outside. I’m chasing out cockroaches and arguing with moto drivers- something I would not have been comfortable enough to do 5 months ago. Ruth, with Peace Corps Security, came to visit me at post, to see how I was doing. It was re-assuring to hear that most of the Peace Corps Volunteers feel the same way- that they are not accomplishing much, and are concerned with what differences they are really making. She told me to stop measuring success and accomplishment by American standards, and that even by talking to a few people a day, I was doing something.

It depends on the day that my feeling of accomplishment fluctuates. It helps to journal the things that I’ve done at the end of the day. Teaching is difficult, and has never stopped being a challenge. There are always questions I pose myself- there’s so much I want to be for my students. I have demanded more respect these days, making kids stand up completely if they start to put their head down, sending a student out if he refuses to work, letting them know that I am angry, or letting them know that I am happy with them.

For Halloween, I was excited to share the festivities with everyone around me. I taught my little ones how to Trick-or-Treat! It was so cute. I started out the class by putting pieces of paper up that I had decorated, writing HAPPY HALLOWEEN on them. I wrote a simple text about Halloween and then explained the best I could. I told them that I wanted them to choose whatever they would like to be for Halloween, and they were to tell me what they were in the role play….they enjoyed learning the “ding dong” sound, yelling it out just before I opened the imaginary door and they yelled out TRICK-OR-TREAT! I gave each student a piece of gum from my package from Alicia. They loved it. Even though most students decided to be a monster or ghost or princess from the list I wrote out on the board, a couple of girls were doctors and one boy was a teacher. I am trying to bring more creativity into the students’ lives, something they don’t experience too much in the classroom.

I attended a funeral (a death celebration, rather). To say that there was music and dancing does not do the event justice. It was beautiful to experience the energy that passes through celebrations like that one. I ate way too much- all we did was eat and drink, for the most part. It was everyone’s pleasure to feed us, and no matter how little money each family had, if they were part of the celebration, there was food. I’ve been told that sometimes families wait for years to have the death celebration because it requires so much money. At one of the houses, African music was playing and a woman sitting next to me asked if I was going to dance. I told her that I would that very moment if she wanted to get up with me. All eyes were on the white girl dancing in the middle of the room. Before I knew it, people were getting up to put money on my forehead and giving to me- something that people do if they enjoy your dancing. So there I was… at a funeral, with four meals in my stomach, dancing for money.

I move into my house soon. I am going to Nkongsamba today to get mosquito netting for the windows, and probably a large water bucket for well water. What a life. I’m excited. The official move in date is the 10th, but I’m trying to start things moving a little before the weekend arrives. My host-mom is going to visit next weekend when I will be moving in. Yet another chapter will begin in this life I have created for myself here.

About Tara

Tara received her degree in French and Communications before jetting off to serve Cameroon for 2 years with the Peace Corps. She has forever since been inspired to serve in humanitarian projects around the world. She's a writer, tour guide, business owner, property manager, wifey, dog mom, and traveler. Tara lives in Dallas, Texas, where she's happily married to the tech genius who keeps her website pretty.