Last week we were fortunate enough to receive information about the sites where we will live as volunteers! Traditionally this does not happen during the second week of training. In other PC countries, it is far more common to receive site information during the sixth week. However, because of the variety of languages different volunteers in Cameroon are expected to learn, they made the decision earlier this year to make announcements at the beginning of training to give us more time to learn new languages and prepare for our posts.
In keeping with tradition, we made a game out of our placement. Where you get posted in country is often a murky process to trainees; we have interviews with our program managers and our language levels are sometimes evaluated, but no one really knows how sites and volunteers are matched. And so, a few stages ago the trainees likened post announcement to the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, and the Post-Sorting Hat was born.
Before the sorting, we were all nervous, not really sure what our future would hold (much like the first years at Hogwarts!) One trainee wrote a great poem to start off the sorting, and two others announced our placements as we sat, one by one, under the giant paper hat we constructed. When it was my turn, I wasn’t really sure where I would be placed, but was hoping to be in a Francophone region, and to be in a post that had a well-established connection to Peace Corps with recent volunteer presence. I got my wish!
I am very excited to announce that come November, I will be moving to Danfili, a rural village in the Adamawa region of Cameroon! Adamawa is one of three regions that make up the Grand North of Cameroon, and currently the only North region that Peace Corps sends volunteers. Adamawa is majority Muslim, and the Fulani cultural group, which speaks Fulfude, dominates the region. Adamawa has several big lakes and pastures that set it apart from the more forested South and more desert-like North. Optimistically, the Bradt travel book I brought with me describes Adamawa as “sparsely populated and very hard to navigate as there are only a handful of very poor roads and the railway line.” It takes about fifteen hours by train to get to the region from Yaoundé. Because of the remoteness, volunteers in Adamawa tend to get really close to one other and their communities.
Danfili itself is a small village of about 4,500 people, and about a 45-minute drive from Ngaoundal, which luckily has a train station. Danfili had a PCV in 2001-2003, and the site was re-opened in 2013. I will be the third volunteer to be there since the post re-opened. Danfili is 80-90% Muslim, and the community is considered conservative and traditional, but open to talking about the subjects that I am learning about in training. It sounds like the village does not have electricity, but my future compound operates a generator that runs (usually) during the evening hours. I will have to travel to the region capital, Ngaoundere, for banking each month, as will the other volunteers in Adamawa. I think we’re already hoping to coordinate when we travel so that we can see one another during these trips.
I had an opportunity to chat on the phone with the volunteer who is posted to Danfili now (she will be leaving in October), and she had a lot of encouraging things to say about the work that she has been able to accomplish with the men’s and women’s groups in the village. They are already asking about me, and sharing ideas with her about projects that we can do once I arrive. I will get to meet a few of them next week when we do our site visits, and I will also get to see where I will live! I can’t wait to share the highlights of that trip with you all!
Until then, here is a picture of me when I heard that I would be going to Adamawa!