This blog is solely the responsibility of Rebecca Hartog and does not reflect the views of Peace Corps.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Peer educator training ceremony of completion: check

June 27 was the day we gave out the Peace Corps certificates of appreciation to our peer educators for finishing their training. It’s funny – people here go nuts for these certificates. They hang on to them for years, and if they lose them, they’re desperate to find a replacement or copy. So I was pretty happy that the celebratory ceremony we had planned went off well. We had invited about 50 elites to the ceremony and about half showed up, including the village chief. In my opinion, he’s probably the most important elite in village, so I was happy he came. In addition, many of the other elites who showed up are people who I’d consider friends. I was touched because I think many of them came simply as a show of friendship. Magloire and I gave short speeches and then the peer educators performed a sketch they had put together to show off what they had learned. The sketch was a bit rough around the edges since they only had about two weeks to throw it together, but I was proud of them nonetheless. Here are some photos:

Afterwards, we asked the village elites to present the certificates to the peer educators. Regardez:

On the left is Soeur Simone giving a certificate to one of my favorite peer educators, Yawe. Soeur Simone is French, 72 years old and has lived in my village for 40 years. The middle photo is my doctor giving a certificate to another of my favorite educators, George. The last is the commandant of the gendarmes giving a certificate to the only fmale peer educator we trained. Notably, you can see my village chief sitting behind them on the right - he went to college at the University of Minnesota. My village is full of oddities.
Finally, we took a picture in front of the foyer chefferie where we had held the ceremony with everyone who came. Of note is the village chief (in the brown suit front center), the doctor (in blue to the right of the chef), and Jean-Paul, my language tutor (to the right of Soeur Simone, the sole white person in the photo). Also, note how the grand majority of people are not smiling. This is pretty typical of Cameroonians posing for photos. I don’t know why they’d prefer to look unhappy in photos, but it’s pretty standard. Who knew that smiling for photos was an American thing?

After the ceremony, we hustled to get ready for the party that was to be held afterwards at the main bar in town. I had spent about seven hours that day preparing the snacks for the party with a gaggle of other women. We set up traditional wood-fires to fry plantain chips and croquettes, pop popcorn, and grilling peanuts. The peanuts were a particular pain in my ass. You wouldn’t believe how much work it takes just to produce a handful of grilled, salted peanuts – first you de-shell the peanuts, then you soak them overnight in salted water, then you have to dry them in the sun for several hours, and finally, then you build yourself a fire, and grill the suckers for about an hour while smoke from the fire fills your lungs and causes your eyes to tear up. When we were finished, we had reduced a 20L buckets worth of peanuts (with the shell on) to a salad bowl full of salted peanuts. I was so occupied preparing all the food that I didn’t really eat anything all day. By the time the party arrived, I was starving.

Unfortunately, all the food we had prepared was more snack food than something substantial, albeit delicious. Thus, between cooking for 7 hours and running around getting everything in order, and eating nothing substantial, by the time the party was over at 9 PM, I was ready to collapse. My peer educators wanted to party til the wee hours though, so Magloire volunteered to stay out with them. I clocked out at 10 PM; Magloire was out til 2 AM and then awake at 6 AM to train for two hours an upcoming soccer tournament. I see streaks of my former self in his insane energy, so I understand his need to workout for two hours at 6 AM after only 4 hours of sleep, but I also think it takes a certain brand of crazy to do that to oneself.

Anyway, the day was a success. Sylvie, the stand-in for my boss who’s on maternity leave right now, came to the ceremony as well. The next day, before heading out, she came over to do her official site visit. We talked about the work I’ve been doing and I really started to realize how many options for work I have. The talk was helpful, though it certainly made me feel almost overwhelmed with what needs to be done. I need to sit down and sort out what I want to do, what’s feasible, and what’s realistic in my time here.

Meanwhile, since then, I’ve been trying to relax and enjoy myself since the stress of the end of training. My adventures in cooking continue to enjoy success. The night after the ceremony, I made myself pizza (dough and sauce from scratch) that turned out really well. Here’s a picture:

Tonight, I made myself some unexpectedly delicious mushroom risotto. No photo, but it was extremely pleasing.

And, as if this entry didn’t have enough photos, here’s a few more of my neighbors being adorable:

1 comment:

Gabriela Garcia Calderon said...

Hello Rebecca:
It was indeed a very busy day, but at the end, everyone seems to have enjoyed it. So, the effort was not worthless.
Those little, exhausting things make anyone's day, don't they?
All the best from Peru.