I have found that developing habits here is imperative for me when it comes to settling into Edéa, and I have started to develop them in many aspects of my life from fitness, to food, to taking the motorcycle on my own (almost) every morning. For example, when I first came here I was worried about where I was going to do my exercise. I even brought my tennis racket hoping that I could use it. I was told there were tennis courts, which there are, but there is a lack of people who actually use them. Not to mention the heat would make it especially difficult. It may seem contradictory, but not being able to go jogging or play tennis here has actually forced me to adapt and find other ways to get some exercise and I have gotten into a steady habit of stretching and exercising for a half hour each morning and night and getting off the motorcycle early to walk the rest of the way to the office. The days here are also very consistent because I am so close to the equator and I think this makes getting into daily habits easier; the sun rises at 6am and sets at 6pm everyday, so I can wake up with the sun at the same time each day without much difficulty. This morning, for example, I got up about 6am, stretched, had some tea and read, and then had breakfast and got ready for work. Those of you who know me know that I am a “night owl” and I always have been, meaning that I like to wake up late and usually I have more energy in the evening. That was changing for me during the summer, and this change has accelerated since coming here; it seems that the more regular my routine becomes, the easier it is for me to keep up good habits. Roland can vouch for this because when we FaceTime (in the evening for me, and the middle of the day for him), I start to get dead tired around 11pm and will just be nodding along when it hits that point. As for my “food habits”, the food goes bad a lot more quickly here so I get food to last for about 2-3 days each time I go to the market. It’s just easier to always have certain foods for each meal (except for dinner which I switch up between pasta and rice because I’m super creative), so I end up buying the same thing every time I go to the market with specific portions in mind. Having these portions in mind has also forced me to eat less because I don’t always have the option to just grab a half baguette for a snack when I need to save that for the next day. I actually get pretty protective over my baguette portions. I even had a dream last night where my little sister (Robin) ate both of my baguette portions for the next two days and I was pretty pissed. She has yet to apologize. I might have to adjust again pretty soon though because at the end of the first week of February I am getting a new housemate! The house that I am living in has two bedrooms, and I have actually been using what will be her room as my exercise room so I guess I will have to give that up. But I am excited to have another women in the house who is my age, and who I can practice my French with all the time.
Another thing some of you might know about me is that every once in a while I am late for stuff. In Canada I was really trying (and I think I was really doing a lot better) at arriving on time or even early, but here in Cameroon being on time is not nearly as important as it is in Canada. Here, it is expected that you come at least a half hour after the time that you said you were going to come. It’s a very relaxed culture. In this way, I think I was built to be a little Cameroonian. It’s nice that if I have a couple extra things to do in the morning, I can spend twenty more minutes getting ready, or I have the option to go to the market before I go to work if I want. But this does mean that when I come back to Canada I might be reverted to my previous late-self for a little while, sorry in advance! (Sorry…wow, I’m so Canadian still, eh?)
Roland and I had been tossing around the idea of going to France after my placement for a while now, and this past weekend we finally got down to planning it. I have read that many people enjoy planning a vacation just as much as the vacation itself, and I can say this definitely feels true for us. I think it is a nice way to motivate me to give this placement my all so that I can really feel like the trip to France is a reward for all my hard work and, in terms of my language skills, I will be happy if I can have a couple fluent conversations with some people in France. I am really excited for this trip though. We are planning on meeting in Paris early June, and from there staying in Paris for a few days along with a day trip to Versailles. Throughout the trip we will also be visiting a bunch of villages in Southern France that I have chosen through careful research of articles like this one. We will also be going to the Alps, Marseilles, and (what I am most excited about) Porquerolles! I know, I am so hipster that the town I am most excited about is one that not many have heard of. But it is really supposed to be a “gem largely undiscovered by tourists”. Porquerolles is a little island that I would compare to Centre Island in Toronto, but for France and with nicer beaches.
I feel like this will be the time when Roland and I finally get a chance to take a breather and relax together, but I am also really excited for the village in the Alps called Annecy. It is supposed to resemble something out of a fairytale.
Anyway, I promise that looking forward to a vacation in France is not the only thing I’m doing here. I feel like I have gotten a lot done with Cameroun Écologie in the past couple weeks since returning from Christmas vacation. One thing I have been focused on is keeping Blondine involved in everything I do here so she will easily be able to take over from me when my placement is over, and this past week we worked together on making a Plan de Travail with a breakdown of the projects week by week. We now have a plan in place for when we will have our ateliers (workshops) to teach our colleagues new concepts and build on their skills relevant to their jobs. A lot of it is really basic stuff like teaching them how to use Google drive to make their work more efficient, or how to use social media to make their company more visible online. But the workshops won’t really be about the outcome, here people care more about the process and they will be happy with the workshops if they enjoyed them.
My social life is slowing down a little as work begins to accelerate, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get a little closer to the people I work with and encounter each day. Tatiana came over the other night, for example, just to say “hey” (or salut really) and we have plans to go to the pool together on Saturday. I went to the pool once before with Blondine when we were checking out the sports facilities here and it’s just gorgeous. I also think that it is usually empty because it is a little bit of a luxury to go there for people here. It’s about 1000 FCFA ($2) to use the pool each time and, just to give you some perspective, I have met some people here who make about 30,000 FCFA per month or less.
Blondine is also going to come over on Friday to make pasta and have some wine, so I will definitely let you know how that goes in the next post. I guess another good habit, and maybe the most important habit that I’m getting into here, is prioritizing spending time with the people I meet. If I didn’t make room for a little bit of a life, I’m sure the 6 months would feel more like a year. I’ll sign off for now, thanks for reading! And hey, I’m sorry I didn’t take many pictures for this post. You’ll get more next week!