Domai…Oklaho….Cameroon!

By | June 12, 2017

There is a couple kissing on stools next to me. On the far side of the coffee shop, I see a girl with tortoise shell rimmed glasses. I have seen a lot of that style lately. At the table directly in my line of sight, two women are sharing a pecan-topped sticky bun. I saw them (the buns, not the women) in the display case downstairs and was tempted, but decided to get the breakfast sandwich and a coffee instead. Sticky buns are for after I’ve been back in my gym workout routine for a couple days. (At least that’s what I tell myself now, at the beginning of the week when my resolve is fresh.)

Domains 2017 Conference

Last week I attended “Domains 2017,” a small conference in Oklahoma City. I had never been to OKC although my brother (#5) and sister-in-law (#3) lived there for awhile before their first daughter was born.

Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City

Today I’m back in Monterey reflecting on my trip and planning my summer projects at work. The two are connected, but I don’t know exactly how yet, hence the reflecting.

Oklahoma

To ease into “work talk,” I’d prefer to talk about the pre-conference, when I got to hang out with two Peace Corps friends, get a personal tour of the city, reminisce about Armenia, and talk about things like work and relationships and “fat camp.”

But I feel weird talking about my trip to Oklahoma, even the non-work stuff, before I’ve talked about my Cameroon trip. I know, I left a teaser the last time I blogged, and then I went to Cameroon and came back, and carried on with my life while you, the reader, presumably did nothing except wait with baited breath for my trip report. Now here I am telling you that I’ve already gone and come back from ANOTHER trip that I never even warned you about.

Airplane View

Traveling. Flying. Staring out the window thinking.

Shame on me.

What kind of blogger person have I become? *

Domains 2017

This is a great segue… Blogging, personal and professional identity, thinking critically about how you present yourself online, and how hard it is to actually do the work and put yourself out there—all of these were topics of Domains, the conference I just attended. So we’ve come full-circle, back to the original reason for this blog post. I wanted to tell you about the conference.

But as usual, when I started writing, the words took over and the intent morphed into what it wanted to be, not what I had planned.

So let’s start where I’m meant to start, and I’ll cover the other stuff later. A promise to myself.

Cup

In short, this picture illustrates my lasting impression of “Domains.” It was kinda cool, kind weird, kinda social, kinda solitary, kinda recognizable but kinda made me think, I’m not sure how to describe it, and I don’t really know what do with it next but I have some ideas.

 

Cameroon Slideshow First

If you’re done reading and you just want to see pictures from Cameroon, here’s an album of Cameroon photos I posted on my Facebook page, that I’ve duplicated here for your viewing pleasure. 

If you’d like a little more… please continue reading below.

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A Little About My Trip

My trip to Cameroon was amazing. It was mini-Peace Corps + vacation for me. I went through all the emotions in the 10 days, with condensed highs and lows, just like I was re-living Peace Corps all over again.

The trippiest part for me was that there were so many similarities between my Peace Corps experience and this trip to Cameroon that at times I couldn’t remember that this wasn’t actually my Peace Corps experience. It felt like I was living a flashback. It was the strangest feeling I’ve ever had.

Some of the similarities:

In Armenia where I was a Peace Corps volunteer:

  • I was friends with, and spent a lot of time with a Peace Corps volunteer named Laura.
  • I taught Photoshop classes to students who didn’t speak English.
  • I was friends with an English-speaking host country national who was also my interpreter and mentor, and helped show me around and connect me with other host country nationals. (Her name was Anna.)

In Cameroon where I just visited:

  • I was friends with, and spent a lot of time with a Peace Corps volunteer named Laura. (A different Laura. This is who I was there to visit.)
  • I taught a Photoshop class to students who didn’t speak English.
  • I was friends with an English-speaking host country national who was also my interpreter and mentor, and helped show me around and connect me with other host country nationals. (Her name was Janet. I wanted to call her Anna.)

Both Armenia and Cameroon are developing countries, which means there were a lot of additional similarities, which took me even deeper into this strange “Evelyn/Alice in Wonderland” feeling. Public transportation was hot and crowded and unreliable. I washed my clothes by hand and hung them on the line to dry. People were ridiculously friendly, but also never stopped staring when I went out in public. 

In addition, the Peace Corps experience in general has a lot of similarities no matter which country you are in, so Laura and I had a lot to bond over. Peace Corps acronyms. Rules and regulations. Committees and initiatives. Trainings and conferences. And then of course, there’s the universal feeling of being far away from home and family and everything you’re used to—which is both exhilarating and crummy.

But in the midst of my flashback-hallucination, there was something else. Healing. There were enough differences that I was able to step outside of myself and see the Peace Corps experience without the attendant irritations and resentments that come from trying to learn and “do” another culture for 2 years. I didn’t have a history of setbacks in Cameroon nor did I come with expectations for what I would “accomplish” while I was there.

Because of that, I was able to put aside my own biases from my time in Armenia and apply a neutral lens to see what it could have been—or indeed to see what it actually was.

Does that make sense? In short, I got some perspective on my Armenia experience because of my trip to Cameroon, and that was cathartic for me.

There are of course many little stories to tell about Cameroon. For example, the Wood.

The Wood

My boyfriend is obsessed with wood, and has taken me shopping a few times in the U.S. to get exotic woods to make cutting boards. In Cameroon, we passed several gigantic logging trucks as well as a few lumber yards. We also stopped on side the road during an overnight bus trip (another story) for a few hours, and there were piles of lumber just sitting there. I found out it had been confiscated from trucks that had illegally harvested the wood, and it was there until the authorities could come to remove it. Surprisingly, I was able to identify several of the varieties of wood in those piles. Later on when I was souvenir shopping, I encountered a zebra wood bowl, and HAD to buy it because I knew what kind of wood it was! (And because it’s beautiful.)

89

Wood!

 

I have a ton more stories and not enough time or energy to continue writing right now. But I have a journal. And more pictures. And if there’s interest, I can share more at a later date.

Couch

A little tired. Just gonna take a nap. At my desk. On the couch.

Bye for now!

 


* Let’s just say that when I am teaching and encouraging others to blog consistently, I know that the reality is different. Despite whatever good intentions you have, execution sometimes feels like execution.


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