Sunday, May 18, 2008

Two Weeks in the Capital

May 18, 2008

Sorry about the hiatus on the blogs. My last blog got a lot of reaction and I’ll get back to that series in a short while, but I wanted to keep you updated with what I’m doing.

Last Thursday, I wrapped up my business class that I was running in Nkongsamba. It was a pretty rewarding experience. I think everyone really appreciated the information that was imparted and there are a few people that are already actively looking for ways to put it into practice. The class was 12 weeks – one 2-hour class per week. I taught business startup and feasibility studies, basic accounting, financial planning, and leadership among other subjects. When I head back to post, we’re going to have a small banquet and ceremony with the proceeds of the enrollment fees where I give everyone that passed a certificate from Peace Corps.

The day after my last class, I headed to Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital. This is where the Peace Corps headquarters is and where I and 15 other volunteers are planning the training for the next group of volunteers that get here on June 7th. The first week we spent discussing and making improvements to our own training. Then we put together the 11-week schedule and figured out who was going to teach what sessions. The program directors and other staff help teach, but it’s mostly current volunteers that run the sessions. We also put together arrangements for the incoming volunteers’ first few days in Cameroon. Tara and I were chosen to be “volunteer hosts” and will be greeting them at the airport, answering their many questions, and trying to help things run as smooth as possible.

This week, my second week in Yaoundé, will be spent doing “Training of Trainers.” This is where Peace Corps training staff will try to impart to us knowledge about learning styles, adult learning principles, and methods to make our sessions as effective as possible. These two weeks of seminars have so far been productive and well-organized, but exhausting.

It’s nice to be able to get out and relax when we have free time, but Yaoundé is expensive on a Peace Corps volunteer’s salary. I had a rather depressing moment yesterday as I went to a full-fledged supermarket for the first time in 12 months. The variety and selection were amazing, but so were the prices. Pretty much everything was imported and about twice the price of what I was used to in the states. All this while I’m making about 10% of my small non-profit salary I had back home. I ended up getting balsamic vinegar and a couple of soup mixes and forcing myself to pass on the incredibly tempting, endless varieties of cheese and ice cream.

Restaurants are expensive too, so we have been trying to make one big meal that everyone can chip in for each night. Enchilladas and soul food were the highlights, and we’re trying to put together some pizzas tonight. Staying in the volunteer transit house here in Yaoundé is nice: there is a washer and dryer, hot showers, lots of kitchen supplies, and a great DVD collection. It’s kind of like a little slice of home, but it gets old pretty quickly too. It’s kind of like a Peace Corps version of a frat house. There is a decent amount of drinking, people don’t get to bed until late, and keeping the place tidy is a constant struggle.

So that’s what I’m up to. Sorry for taking so long. I’ll try to get back to being more regular with my postings.


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