December 21, 2007
Last week was In-Service Training, or IST, a weeklong seminar that’s scheduled for volunteers and our Cameroonian counterparts about three months after being at post. If you remember from one of my blogs from Pre-Service Training (PST), we had created a petition asking for IST to be combined so that Small Enterprise Development and Education volunteers would meet at the same time. Well…it worked. We were all really happy to be together once again. There were only 31 instead of the 36 of us that signed the petition because 4 decided to end their service early and one was medically separated, but those of us that were there had a great time. One reason – it was in the #1 tourist town in Cameroon, Kribi. Located in the South Province, Kribi has some of the most beautiful golden beaches I’ve ever seen. It made you feel like you were in a screen saver.
Because we knew the sessions were going to last until 4pm most days, 6 of us decided to go a day early. We got in at about two, found a not-too-expensive hotel on a secluded beach and then went to check out the town and get some dinner. We had a nice meal, most people getting their first taste of crocodile, and then headed back to the hotel where we could sit on the beach. We did more than sit, though. We made a fire and ate s’mores as the waves crashed into the shore.
The next morning we enjoyed the sun and the ocean until about noon, get omelettes from someone making them on the beach, and then headed to the hotel where we’d be staying to meet our friends and our counterparts as they came in. We had a nice dinner that night at the hotel and started the sessions the next morning.
Overall, IST felt useful and well organized. A lot of things from PST were reinforced and we got some new information too. Some examples of some of the sessions were the roles of our counterparts and ourselves, designing sustainable projects and where funding is available, problems and solutions we’ve run into at post, and info on the different volunteer committees that we can join. We also had free time to go out each afternoon and evening and three birthdays happened to fall that week, so go out we did.
It was a great week that ended too quickly, so instead of leaving on Saturday morning, a dozen of us decided to stay an extra night. That’s right – one on the front, one on the end. We headed to a different beach and took a hike to the Chutes, the only waterfalls in the world to fall directly into the ocean. It was gorgeous! Then we hired a couple of guys to paddle us back in a large dugout canoe all the way to the beach where our stuff was. Because we argued them down to a really low price, we bought them each a beer when we got to shore.
That night there was a music festival on the beach strangely similar to what you would see in the US. Every restaurant in town had a booth there selling food and drinks and there was a huge stage with bands planning all night. At one point I noticed a random white person dancing on stage. She actually wasn’t random, though. It was Tara. When we figured it out, four of us went to watch her make a fool out of herself. Unfortunately, though, we got a little too close to the stage and they pulled us up too. We already feel a little like celebrities, everyone watching us all the time solely because we’re white living in Africa. But here we literally got our five minutes of fame dancing on a stage for a Cameroonian festival.
Not what I expected when I left Baltimore, but I’m having a pretty good time.