Update

So I just wanted to update on what is going on with my Peace Corps Response assignment. As you know from my previous post, my passport was lost in the mail….Well, about a week ago, I got some surprising information: It was delivered to my recruiter successfully! How, you may ask? Magic! I don’t know, I’m not questioning it. I’ve opted to leave at the end of October. Once I made peace with my departure date being pushed back, I signed up for an open house at a grad program I’m interested in. I’ll be going to Baltimore and visiting DC for a few days on October 14. I had already booked my flight before my passport was found, so I just felt it was better this way.

I am super pumped for my visit! I’ve got an action-packed week planned out. I’ll be meeting a ton of interesting people, finding out more information about this grad program (and hopefully making a positive impression), a tour of DC on a Segway, and a tour of the White House, plus general sight-seeing and catching up with Peace Corps friends in the area.

I don’t want to jump the gun, but I think I have figured out my career. What? I’m telling you, if my passport hadn’t been lost, I don’t know if I would have realized where my life is going. We’ll see how this visit goes, but it just feels right.

The program is a Masters in Public Policy, and I’m interested in concentrating in education policy. I feel like my life has always been on this path, I just wasn’t aware of it until now. It makes perfect sense as I am a strong advocate for education, yet was never really seriously interested in teaching as a lifetime career. I understand that classroom experience is vital, and wouldn’t you know that I’ve been working on applying to Teach for America ever since I got back. It was something that interested me, and now it seems to make sense why I was drawn to this. Granted, TFA is extremely competitive, so I know that realistically it is not a sure bet, but I’m going to work hard and see what happens. I’m also interested in the JET program, among other opportunities. My TFA recruiter is extremely friendly, energetic, and helpful in pointing me in the right direction. I’ll be researching education issues in depth the next few months, and eager to do so. Education reform is a deeply complex issue, and I see my role for the next few years completely as student: here to observe and learn how the system works–or is meant to work, and NOT as a reformer. I have no expectations, even after completing my MPP, of going in and changing the American education system because I know that I won’t be ready for that.

Mea Culpa

Sorry I have deserted you for so long. Believe me, it’s not because nothing has happened; everything has happened. I just couldn’t sit myself down to express it all. Seems daunting. So… I’m not even going to attempt it.

Since I’ve been gone I have:
Jumped out of an airplane
Traveled through 9 African countries
Met a hundred beautiful people
Finally visited my parents and family at home
Traveled to Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City
Said goodbye to a beloved family pet
Finally ended two toxic chapters in my life
Received two job offers
Accepted one

I’m going back to the Peace Corps, like an old boomerang lover. Just kidding. But I am going back. I’m going to Guinea within the month, but only for 9 months this time. I’m very excited. I can’t help but notice that I am always going into the Peace Corps in September. Funny.

Well, I won’t get into much for now. I just hope to reignite the writing bug in me. I want to work on this thing a lot more. I have so much to say, so much to process. A lot of it, though, is rather private. Once I figure out a nice balance between closed-lipped and exhibitionism, you’ll see a lot more of me.

Let’s build an orphanage!

Hey everybody!

So finally, FINALLY my project is up and ready for contributions.  Each donation is 100% tax deductible.

The orphanage that I work with here in Baham is being forced from their land.  Due to the generosity of the prefecture, they were given almost one entire hectare to relocate, but must start building within the next two years.  Please follow this link to make a donation–whether $5 or $500–every little bit brings us one step closer.  We don’t have much time, though.  Let’s get the $6,600 raised by the end of the month!  We can do it!

Marie Noel and Lisa during physical therapy

 

Soy, Tofu, and Tempeh!

Hey lovely babies! So it’s been awhile and mea culpa. I’ve got exciting/stress inducing news, but that post will wait until it’s a sure thing (no jinxies, please).

So what have I been up to lately?  Well, perfecting and promoting tofu, that’s what.  Tofu brochettes are extremely profitable for my lovely lady friends (income generation, hello); it’s roughly 7,000 CFA profit per batch! (What the WHAT?)  Yeah, you heard me.

So here’s the recipe Tofu Au Cameroun:

Ingredients:

3kg untreated dry soy beans, three ladles of red wine vinegar, spices (here that’s Maggi cube, hot pepper powder (piment) and salt), a clean cloth diaper, and water

Step1. Soak soy beans for roughly 7-10 hours, drain and grind into a smooth paste (will resemble homemade ice cream, yum)

Step 2.  Take the cloth diaper and squeeze out the milk.  The soy curds can be saved to put into sauce.

Step 3.  Place soy milk in a large pot and bring to a boil.  (At this point you can sweeten and drink as milk).

Step 4.  Add vinegar.  Leave on heat for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and wait for the mixture to coagulate.

Step 5. Once it is cooled to touch take the cloth diaper and squeeze out excess water (and throw out).

Step 6.  Mix in spices to the meet.  Wrap in the diaper and tie securely.  Place under a large rock and allow it to set for 15 minutes (this creates a dense, firm tofu)

Step 7. (optional) Cut tofu into half inch cubes and fry in palm oil until crisp.  When cooled place meat on brochettes and sell for 100 cfa.  Enjoy!

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I’ve been on a cooking kick and reading my new favorite blog:  Sweet Tater Blog. Tater’s got all sorts of delicious recipes and funny anecdotes.  Her blog inspired me to learn about Tempeh, another soy-based vegetarian must-have.  Please visit this great site to learn all about Tempeh (and even get your own free Tempeh starter delivered to your door!) www.topcultures.com 

Give tofu transformation a try!  (And let me know how it works out in the Comments section).

Who sucks at updating their blog? THIS girl!

Back from vacation! Vacation? May not be the best word for it. Adventure, session in breathing during extremely physical discomfort? Yoga asana? Better descriptions. A great time? Definitely.

Traveled all over the Sahel of Cameroon, to the very extreme of the Extreme North Region, where women with scarification on their faces, dreadlocks with shells, coins, and metals woven in their hair, and vibrant Muslim veils in chartreuse, magenta, aqua, turquoise, mauve, electric tangerine, and lemon yellow, dotting the desert like colorful flowers decorating a sepia background.

Me? I haven’t slept (well) in two weeks, but it was worth it. I need a vacation to recover from my vacation. I motorbiked in a peasant skirt over rocky terrain, rode bareback on an old blind horse, swam in numerous oases, camped out in a stranger’s living room floor decked out with colorful carpets and prayer mats, pillows, and a wonderful fan blowing on me, and drank more coca cola than I’d ever care to admit.

Stories? You bet I got ’em. Cannot, could not write them all here, though. So sorry. Just close your eyes and imagine being at the verge of tears, uncomfortable, and yet so happy, you wouldn’t change a thing. You might have an idea of what I felt.

A Year

I am now past the year mark and have about 11 months to go with my service.  This has been the longest I have been without seeing my family and my friends from back “home.”  Even though I have been in Cameroon now for 16 months, 11 months sometimes feels like a long time.  I ask myself, can I do it?  After all I’ve made it this far, the rest should be a breeze, right?  I think it might be.  Maybe not all rosy fun times, but I’ve broken up the upcoming year into “increments” based on project time lines, travel plans, visits, and Peace Corps meetings, and it looks something like this:  January- Agro fair/Mid Service, Feb/March- Environmental Education training, April-North to present HIV/GYD committee for “in service trainees,” travel, Agroforestry seminar, May-My Mom comes to visit!!!, June-Batir l’Avenir, July/August-HIV Summer Camp, September- COS CONFERENCE(!), October/November- GRE, World Map Project down town Baham, Replacement Site visit!, December-COS (Close Of Service) and travel.  Put in this context, this year is going to FLY BY.  This is not counting smaller projects along the way which will take time as well.  Each new hurdle is another accomplishment and another step for “what comes next.”

So what exactly does come next?  I don’t know for sure.  I am definitely going to travel.  I have a “Round the World” plan that may be a bit too ambitious for the time being, but I’ll find a way.  I just need to make sure I have some cash left to start my life.  I’m wanting to move in to the NYC area and try to get a job (as a Peace Corps recruiter, but we’ll see…also side jobs like research assistant, server, babysitting are in the forecast as well) and work for about a year while taking some classes and taking the GRE Psychology Subject test.  I’m very interested in a clinical psychology phd program in New York, school shall remain nameless for the time being, but you can probably guess.  I still see myself living in “another part of the world.”  But I don’t want to tie myself down.  I’m all about options at this juncture of my life.

I am, however, thinking about finances.  529 plans, investments, Roth IRAs, setting aside money to buy property one day.  It’s amazing the perceptional shifts which come automatically once this ideas start swimming around your mind.  I find myself changing.  Before I firmly believed that any one person sitting on wealth was sinful, if not THE ultimate sin when there is poverty and starvation.  More than one home a sin when there are homeless.  I still feel myself clinging to these points, but there is a shift brewing and I feel at the precipice of something huge.  Is it possible that Peace Corps service has made me more….gasp…conservitive???  Oh, the horror.

One thing is certain.  I. Do. Not. Want. To. Be. Poor.  Period.  Been there, done that.  When I was younger, I would flat out tell ya “Hey, I don’t know how, but I’m gonna be rich when I grow up.”  Then I changed.  I refused to say “idealistic” because I believe this to be a sell out term.  I was completely and totally socialist.  No rich.  No poor.  Enough for everybody.  No, if I do become “conservative” (barf, yuck, spit) I will call myself and everyone like me a sell out.  And I’m thinking about selling out.  At least a little.  Can one be a “bit of a sell out?”

Well, to the Paul Farmers of the world (and no, Oprah and Bono, you do NOT belong in this category because the vast amounts of wealth you hang on to, far exceed what you give away (and show me the proof that your donations have made any sustainable positive change, but I’m a harsh critic.  Rest assured, I’m toughest on myself) I salute you!  You have donated all personal wealth, time, and body to helping the poor.  You are unselfish.  But I am finding, that I, in fact am.

So how will this story end?  Will I turn out to be a Wall Street, wise-ass, tight pursed business woman, or the free spirit living off the grid in some B level road in the country?  We’ll have to just wait and see what develops.

Maybe I can look the hippie, living out of the van and washing my hand-sewn clothes on a rock by a river all the while with a nice nest egg in some account online somewhere…?  Who’m I kidding?  The world is gonna fall apart in a few years anyway.  😉

Do you have financial advice for our directionless author?  If so, post in the comments section!

Soul searching ?

Get ready for a whole slew of randomness!

I hate my neighbors, I love my neighbors.  I hate this country, I love this country.  I hate this job, I love this job.  And there you go.

What does this mean?  Well, it means if you are thinking of joining the Peace Corps and wondering what it’s like, you have your answer.  This experience are those sentiments expressed over and over, sometimes even during the course of a single day.  I have gone one year without vacation.  I am an oddity.  We get 2 days vacation leave/ month.  HOLY COW that’s….yep…48 days in two years of service.  How ’bout them apples?  So why have I gone over 365 of those days not on vacation or traveling?  The answer is a bit complex.  I suppose I could sum up with one sentence:  Growing up as a child, my family took exactly ONE vacation, and that was to Maine for 2 weeks (my dad drove there in back and I spent a total of 6 days in the backseat of a Geo Prism).  I’ve traveled plenty, don’t get me wrong, but “vacation”?  Hardly ever.  When I studied in Paris I took one week and met my boyfriend for a week in Switzerland.  Why wasn’t I gallivanting off to new awesome destinations like many of my friends?  I suppose it’s because, honestly, the thought just didn’t occur to me.  Vacation is something you talk about, not something you actually do.  Well, NO MORE, my friends.  I’ve got a week at post, a week working at the fair (that is if they don’t cancel it for a third time), a week at Mid Service (getting poked, prodded, and giving all of THREE stool samples), and then I’m hitting the road and hard like a Mother F*****!  I just might not come back.  Kidding.  Maybe.

Well, I’d love to post pictures of Christmas and New Year’s, but it takes like 3 hours to do that, and I just don’t feel like it right now.  But I probably will get around it.

I’ll leave you with this thought.  A few days ago I stood in line at the ATM and looked over at the Gendarme “sitting guard.”  He was slumped forward, resting his chin on the barrel of his large gun.  I just thought, “hm.”  The guard next to him polished off his Castel beer, and wished me, “Bonne fete.”