lundi 2 janvier 2012


            I am currently living in Menji, a small rural village in the Southwest region of Cameroon.  Most of my experiences here so far have been incredible, but some have been considerably less than that.  Because I am one of the only outsiders living here, I tend to be treated as more of a novelty than an actual person.  My time spent with the children makes me feel immediately at home though.  I love every single one of them, but my neighbor Christie is my kid in a way that no other child in Menji ever will be.  She explains Nigerian soap operas to me, kicks my butt in Old Maid, alerts me when there is egussi to be eaten, and claims to tell me secrets she hasn’t told anyone else in the world. She trusts and relies on me in a way that makes me want to live up to her expectations.  I am her “Auntie Kate”, and she is my favorite kid in the world. 
I routinely have around 15-20 other kids milling around my house each evening. They can never stay too long, however, because they have never-ending amounts of work to complete.  They carry much more responsibility than I had imagined was even possible for people their age.  It is very common for me to see 6-7 year olds farming, running shops, herding cattle, etc.  They are very anxious for me to start implementing projects throughout the community and are expecting me to have a very successful stay over the next two years.  The weight of my commitment has started to dawn on me for what feels like the first time.  It’s somewhat intimidating but it’s also pretty exhilarating. 

vendredi 21 octobre 2011


If you heard a faint, high-pitched shrieking sound last week, it was probably an echo from West Africa.  Just some American girl scared of the dark and her countless nocturnal enemies. Since my arrival in Cameroon: spiders have darted up my leg as I shower, ants have tried to get frisky with me in bed, and mosquitos have considered me to be a rare delicacy.  I have been trying to keep a positive attitude about these things, but when I found giant spider in the middle of my bed, it actually made my skin crawl. It’s my bed! I sleep there. What if I wake up and it’s on my face?

The first time I saw an oversized bug in my room, I curled up in the middle of my mattress wondering what on earth possessed me to move here. The other night, however, I took a deep breath, turned on some Toby Keith, and crushed him with my shoe. I’d like to think of this as some sort of personal growth.  Though killing a spider isn’t something people typically write home about, it’s just one example of how I’m trying to look at each problem I encounter here as an opportunity (whether it be to help someone else or to step outside of my comfort zone). And it’s always a great feeling to find you still have the ability to surprise yourself.   

samedi 1 octobre 2011


In Chicago, I would have never discussed bodily functions without a knife at my throat in addition with a pinkie promise that the conversation would never be made public.  But in my short stay here in Cameroon, I have found that there are few things my fellow trainees love more than trading digestive discord stories. Getting sick is a rite of passage here for all PCTs, but I’m happy to report I have yet to join what my stage group endearingly calls “The Carlos Club.”  I did forget to tuck my mosquito net in the other night, however, and am a little nervous about catching malaria. But sicknesses aside, Cameroon is everything I hoped it would be and more.   

I am currently living with my host mom and dad in the city of Bafia with no running water and inconsistent electricity.  My host parents, who do not speak any English, have agreed to teach me how to kill a chicken next week! We live in a cluster with three other large families and their Peace Corps children.  I have been deeply moved by everyone’s extreme generosity despite their impoverishment. Cameroon may be one of the poorest countries in the world, but by no means is it defined by the images of famished children many of us see in Newsweek. Still, when the heartbreaking statistics taught in our technical training classes, such as an 88% unemployment rate, (95% in rural areas) do overwhelm me, and I am very grateful to have my host parents who constantly remind me that there is always laughter. And there is always hope. 

Finally Starting to Hit Me

I’ve been on the verge of tears a lot lately. Not because I can be a sentimental drama queen. (Maybe it’s because I can be a sentimental drama queen.) Not because I won’t be able to keep up with Parenthood in Cameroon (Maybe it’s because I won’t be able to keep up with Parenthood in Cameroon) But mainly because I am trying to figure out the best way to say goodbye to my incredible friends and family by the end of the summer.

Imagining my life in Africa over the next two years is very bizarre. My new home will be in the beautiful country of Cameroon, where I will also have a host family (first 3 months), a routine, and some pretty damn compelling reasons to get out of bed in the morning. The smallest of details regarding my assignment have been spread like wildfire. My friends and family are actually proud of me. And I’m SO proud of them too- for landing first jobs, getting into law schools, med schools, graduate programs, etc. There is so much for all of us to look forward to, but I’m starting to make more of an effort to stay in the moment and enjoy Chicago’s small daily pleasures with the little time I have left here.

I am confident that while I am away many things will remain the same (such as my grandmother worrying about my nonexistent love life.) And no matter the distance, I will always be thinking about my friends, imagining what they’re doing, wondering how they’ve changed, and looking forward to our inevitable reunions. For now, the best way for me to say goodbye is to create two more months of great memories together. With that said, I gotta go. Lots to do. Like meet up JZwo, Magen, and the Sweeney sisters tonight at bar filled with “hot heating and cooling guys.” But I’m just going to screen the guys for Jessica and Shannon. I swear.

First Entry

A few people have expressed to me that they will never understand why I want to join the Peace Corps. And honestly, I am perfectly okay with that. I’m even willing to admit that there have been nights I have jolted awake with my heart in my throat wondering the exact same thing. So for my first blog entry I decided to post an excerpt from my diary in which I was trying to quiet even my own conscience of why it is that I’ve decided to take this huge leap of faith:

More than anything, I am drawn to the challenge. I have already learned more French in the past month than I have when I took it for two years at UIC. I can read it! (Sort of.) Though I won’t be tackling the French translation of War and Peace anytime soon, I’m giving it the old college try and studying for a couple hours every day. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but I know I need to learn it. Because it’s rude not to. Because it’ll make my life and my job much easier. Because I want to prove to myself that I can. Because, really, when am I going to have an opportunity to become completely fluent in a foreign language again?

And after feeling as though I spent my first two years of college locked up in a gymnasium, I want nothing more than a life full of experiences. Experiences that will continue to shape the person that I am and that I will carry with me with me no matter what happens. I need to be more concerned with building myself than my resume. And yes, the uncertainty of what my life may be like in Cameroon sometimes makes me a little uneasy. But I am welcoming this new chapter in my life with nothing but excitement and optimism. This is my first time traveling abroad alone, and I feel that Cameroon is the perfect place for me to make a crash landing.