This week went from awesome to epically bad within a record amount of time. Here’s the story:
The beginning of the week was the busiest I’d been in a while. Monday and Tuesday mornings, I got up early and went to school. I had informed the new principal of the high school that I wanted to do a large HIV testing campaign, with high school-aged students as my main target.
So, armed with a bunch of bananas, condoms, and chalk, I went from class to class with the aim of teaching the following things:
1)What HIV is
2)The 4 modes of transmission (blood, sperm, vaginal fluid, and breastmilk)
3)How HIV is prevented (abstinence, fidelity, condoms, including a condom demo)
4)That there would be a free HIV testing campaign in Bazou in 2 weeks, and that they were encouraged/invited to get tested
I let them ask questions and made it interactive. Without fail, everytime I pulled out the condom and banana, the entire class threw up their hands are started making “OOH ooh!!!!” sounds. I’m glad that I did this in my second year of service, when my French was much better. When students, especially the boys, would make quips about what I was doing, I was quick to respond, garnering cheers from the rest of the students. I think I earned some street cred amongst the students. Who said that Madame Wesley was a boring old American?
At the end of the day, I had talked to over 1,000 students. Although some of them were pretty rowdy, I think I got my messages through to them. And when I was done, I felt I’d finally accomplished something. It may have been small, but for the past several months, work had been extremely slow.
Afterwards, I told relayed what I had just accomplished back to my sister via the lovely Gchat. Her response was something along the lines of, “I think you enjoy this a little too much.”
And hey. Maybe I did.
I guess it’s nice feeling like I actually taught something useful outside of my once-a-week health classes. I feel very strongly about the fact that these students need a solid sex ed class, but aren’t learning it at home or at school. This is the biggest need that I see within my own community, so I’m glad that I can contribute positively in some way, and not just lump around the house. Not to mention the selfish reason that I just enjoy working.
I had taught in 3 of Ramelines’ kids classes, and when I showed up at the house, they all told me that the other students found my presentation interesting and pertinent. It was also a nice ego boost when they told me about how they were impressed with my French (what what?!).
Anyways, that was the beginning of the week.
Now for the second half of the week. The Bad.
Last week, I was informed that money from Peace Corps Washington had been put into my account for my HIV testing campaign. But upon arrival to the bank, no money was to be found. So I immediately called up the person in charge of this, from the PC: Cameroon side of things. After lots of emails and phone calls, it seems that the money got deposited into the wrong account, but nobody knows where exactly.
The bottom line is that my HIV testing campaign, set to take place one week from now, has no funding to get HIV tests and no likely feasible solution to get us the money that we need in order to pay for the test materials. Postponing event would mean a far less effective campaign, as once exams are over, the student population will empty out from Bazou. And I’ve already been informed several times over that adults will not likely get tested.
This has been beyond disappointing and frustrating. For once, it seemed that the receiving end (the students) were motivated about a project I was going to do. It’s taken me 1.5 years to get to this point.
Ever since last fall, when the library fiasco happened, it subsequently forced all my others projects to come to a screeching halt, I’d be trying to pick things back up and try to put them back together again. Just like Humpty Dumpty.
While I know that I grew a lot as a person these past 19 months, I don’t count that as justification for being here. I came here thinking that I had something to share with the community, that they could in turn use to empower themselves. I’m fairly certain that personal relationships with people in this country will go a long way. I’ve made some great friends while here. But it’s also hard to justify a full 2 years abroad on the government’s money.
I also remember reading an article about how Peace Corps teaches its Volunteers, probably better than any organization, about failure. I get that PCVs will fail at handfuls of projects. That’s just the way it goes. But that’s talking about individual projects, not exactly an entire service.
As I’m heading towards the end stages of my service, I can’t help but look back and critique what I did and did not accomplished. My “did not accomplished” list is looking far longer than the former. I always considered myself as someone who always set decently high goals, and generally achieves them (or at least lands somewhere near my goal). But this time, I feel like I totally missed.
I know I tried hard, and that there were an absurd number of completely unexpected/ridiculous obstacles in my way, mostly due to village politics. But I think I’ll be left for a while questioning myself if those were valid reasons for having accomplished so little, and if I did everything that I could have done to contribute in this community.
I think that with time, my perspective will shift a little bit, and maybe a little more positivity will come through. But, for now, everything is very un-sugar-coated and bitter tasting.
Hopefully things will turn around soon.
Anywho, here are some highs and lows:
- Needless to say, my VAST grant not going through
- Rameline was busy all week in preparation for going to the US, getting things in order at her health clinic and also at the farm. I’ve been quite bored without her around. I also waited around for an entire day for her to never show up :-/
- Timon peed on my floor this week and knocked my little camera off my table, breaking it.
- I found that my big camera has some sort of fungus/mold growing inside of 2 of the lenses, despite my best efforts to keep it in a dry sack with rice and moisture-absorbing packets. Apparently that basically means the end of my camera
- Teaching the students at school. It was tiring but I had a lot of fun teaching
- I got a package from Meghan and a letter from Melody!! DEFINITELY boosted my mood. Thank you thank you thank you to you both!
- Kinda gross, but in two days, Timon killed a cockroach, lizard, mouse, and spider. He got the cockroach in his mouth, spit it out, let it run around aimlessly, re-trapped him, ate him, spit him back out, etc. In between he was licking out the roach guts that gushed out. He basically did the same with the lizard. First eating the tail, then the head, then some guts. He also got a mouse, which was headless by the time I saw it. I woke up this morning with a decent sized spider in my living room. I put Timon in front of it – and CRUNCH. He was gone!
- After a million frantic emails/calls back and forth to the US and to a Cameroonian travel agency, which proved to be, well….very Cameroonian…. we finally got Rameline’s flight changed so that she will officially be spending one week with my family in the US after her program ends and before she heads back
- I finally left post and went to Bangangte just for a few hours to pick up my package/letter and to hang out with a few PCVs. Though brief, it was definitely a much-needed destressor.
- I’ve been eating my feelings via mangoes. I will definitely miss mangoes when I’m out of this country.
- Last week, I got to vaccinate another baby! One in the arm and one in the thigh. Looks like he’s gonna HATE all white people/albinos for the rest of his life.
Well, I think that’s all for now. I hope I have slightly more upbeat stuff to share next week.
Peace and love
Wes, Pumba, and Timon