Giving Thanks

Happy (early) Turkey Day and Happy 50th Peace Corps Cameroon Anniversary!

I’m totally zonked from the 50th celebration today (and I got to shake the First Lady’s hand…whoopWHOOP!), but I’ll try to make it as coherent as possible.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all time, and, more than ever, I am thankful for so many many things. Being away from home has made me realize that I am grateful for things that I had taken for granted all my life.

Sure, I’m more grateful than ever for ice cream, constant electricity, hot and constant running water, and private cars. But beyond that, I’m truly grateful for my friends and family. There are definitely days where a text, email, or phone call from the US totally makes my day, or even week. 

Something new, though, for this year, is that I am extremely grateful for the network of support that I’ve built up while here in Cameroon. Peace Corps Volunteers are a weird and different breed of people. There are just some things that only another fellow PCV could truly understand and relate to. And it’s those phone calls to other PCVs that often help me keep chuggin’ along when I’m having a rough day. But it’s also those hilarious texts like, “I keep burpin’ up sulfur and poopin’ out weird stuff. Giardia and worms??” that are so sick and twisted but oh-so-hilarious that makes you laugh and laugh until you realize that you’re all alone in your house, and only your kitten and dog are there to stare at you and hopefully not judge you. 

And then, most importantly, there’s the “other families” that you slowly adopt as your own along the way that I’m so thankful for. Sure, you can’t replace family or friends with others, but you can surely add them to a list of “adopted family members.”

I was so happy that today I eventually tracked down my host dad at the very last minute before he was leaving the ceremony. As different as we are, it was wonderful to see a familiar face, and someone whom I regarded as family for a solid 2.5 months (and even now). So I have my Bokito family from training that I have now added. And then from Bazou, I have the entire Kenne family that I view as a part of my family now.

And, for the past several days, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to stay with a very warm and welcoming US Embassy family, who immediately took me and another PCV in as their own. We spent this entire evening preparing for Thanksgiving lunch tomorrow (which I’ll be missing because I’ll be spending that with my PCV and Bazou family). But it was so much fun listening to Christmas music, enjoying modern amenities and luxuries, making Thanksgiving food (pumpkin pie and brownies, anyone?!), and playing with their two kids. It felt good to be sharing this holiday with people who get the same culture.

Sure, nothing can ever replace real family, but my experiences here sure have made me thankful for the fact that there are so many wonderful and caring people out there who will gladly take a stranger in and treat them as one of their own.

So this Thanksgiving, more than ever, I am infinitely grateful for:

1) The warmth, openness, and love that have been showered upon me for the past year from people near and far

2) Being American. Our country isn’t perfect, but being here makes me realize who wonderful the US is and can be

3) For my experiences in Peace Corps, for better or for worse. I certainly have found it to be challenging at times, and it’s definitely tested me and more ways than I could have ever imagined. But at the end of (most) days, I’m still so grateful for this opportunity and all the experiences that come with it

4) My two lovely pets, Pumba and Timon. Sure, Pumba may have fallen into a bad habit of eating Timon’s daily doo-doos. And maybe Timon meows a little too much for my liking. But they’re my family that I come home to each day now :)

5) All modern amenities and luxuries. That includes everything from ice cream to shopping malls.

Well, I could go on and on. But thank you to everyone who’s supported me in any way, shape, or form, especially in the past year. I’ll be thinking of you all tomorrow, as I have the opportunity to share my Thanksgiving with my close PCV friends and Cameroonian family. Save some extra goodies for me, because I’ll be coming home in 11 days!!!!

So much peace and love,

Wes, Pumba, and Timon

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