21 September 2009

Arrival in Yaounde

After around 26 hours of traveling, the thirty two of us in our training group arrived at our hotel in Yaounde. Since then, we have been completely cloistered, spending all of our time in either the hotel or the Peace Corps compound. The official reason is that we don’t have Cameroonian ID cards, but I suspect that that isn’t the whole story; there are gaurds with Kalishnikovs posted on the bottom floor of the hotel. We’re stuck here until Thursday, when we go to our training site in Bangante, where we’ll have significantly more latitude.

Our training group at JFK. I’m in the lower right.:


Two views from the hotel:

SDC10291  This is the view out of my window, where you can see a freight train yard, among other things. I like to watch freight trains being built in the morning. Also, in the right, you can see a man driving some cattle through the freight yard. There is also some good bird watching out my window. I’ve been putting old bread out on my window ledge. I’d like to bust out my binoculars to see the birds in the trees in the foreground, but in front of them are some people’s houses, and I don’t want to be “le blanc” who’s spying on the locals below.


You can see the soccer stadium in the background of this picture.

Training has been necessarily boring. My arm hurts from my Hep A and Typhoid shots. I’m addicted to Bananagrams. I’ve found someone to play mandolin. I really miss being able to cross my legs (it’s rude here.) I unexpectedly tested intermediate low in French this morning. Thanks Rosetta stone! My French examiner was the very first person whom I’ve ever spoken to in French for an extended period of time. Everything else is fine, but I can’t wait to get out and explore. I do miss you, though. You know who you are.

15 September 2009

In and out of Philly

Hello all. The time of my departure has finally arrived. Tomorrow, I'll report to the Race Street Hampton Inn in Philadelphia for Peace Corps staging. After an afternoon session and an early morning series of nasty vaccinations, I'll take a bus to JFK airport and fly to Yaounde, Cameroon via Brussels at 4:45 on Thursday.

Since I last posted, I've been hanging out in Philadelphia and New York, saying some last goodbyes to friends. I don't really have any other news to report.

Stay posted for my first posts from Cameroon really soon.

If I don't have your mailing address, please email it to me pronto. Mine is in the left-hand column.

06 September 2009

In the Pines, In the Pines

Hey y’all! The day of my departure is rapidly approaching, and I’m getting ever more excited/nervous. There’s lots of mundane stuff to do in preparation for me leaving, but nothing worth reporting.I said goodbye to my parents last week in Atlanta, and Cari came there to pick me up on our way to the coast (more on that in a bit.) For those who are interested, here’s my schedule until the 17th, when I fly to Cameroon: I’m in Asheville, NC until the 9th, and then I’m flying to Philadelphia. I’m going to hang out in Philly for a day or so, and then take a Chinatown bus to NYC for the weekend. Then I’m going to return to Philadelphia for Peace Corps staging.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing this post is to tell you about an absolutely wonderful trip that Cari and I took. For a birthday present, Cari arranged as a surprise to take me to a place called The Hostel outside of Brunswick, GA. This “resort” is only a few miles from Jekyll Island, where J. P. Morgan and other early 20th century magnates docked their yachts and wintered, but it imagecouldn’t be more different in temperment. The most prominent feature of the Hostel is that all the accomodations are in treehouses! Really. Here’s a picture of the treehouse that Cari and I stayed in. The accomodations were basic but quite comfortable. We had an electric fan, a bed. There are three shared outdoor showers and two composting toilets. Other amenities include a glass house for meetings and morning yoga, free shared dinner every night, a wide assortment of musical instruments for communal use, art and craft supplies, and lots of other great stuff. The hostel was started in the mid-seventies. A rotating cast of staff members handles the day-to-day operations, and the guests are expected to do at least some chores each day.


The nerve center of the Hostel is a pair of geodesic domes, surrounded by a variety of outlying structures. The dome on the left is currently under construction, and will eventually replace the dome on the right. Currently, the dome on the right holds the kitchen, office, library and living room. Behind it is the screened-in dining room where we had dinner each night. Everyone seems to gravitate toward this structure in the evening. While we were there, they were also working on construction of an outdoor kitchen built of cob (a hay and mud matrix) with a wood-fired oven. It was really cool…



Another great feature of the Hostel was it’s pristine CLOTHING OPTIONAL lake. It really was as clear as a swimming pool; you could see probably 12 feet to the bottom. I guess that the surrounding swamp filters the water to make it so nice. Ooh, I forgot to mention that this entire place is built in the Okeefenokee Swamp, and true to it’s name, it’s quite swampy. There are a lot of raised walkways to get you from structure to structure, and the one and only thing that I could complain about is the oppressive number of mosquitos. I’ve spent a good deal of time outside, and I’ve also visited my share of swamps, but never EVER have imageI experienced the number of mosquitos that this place had. Here’s a shot of one of the walkways winding its way through the swamp.

Our hut, I think, was one of the best ones at the Hostel, although I have no basis for comparison. One of the coolest features was the fact that it overlooked a meditation labyrinth (“The third largest in the U.S., that we know of.”) I never walked through it, as part of it was underwater, but I certainly felt calmer just looking down on it from my window :)


So, in conclusion, if you’re ever in Southeast Georgia or Northeast Florida, you should absolutely make a trip to the Hostel outside of Brunswick. At $25 a night per person, it’s a great deal, and the people and accomodations are wonderful. Thank you so much Cari. I had the most wonderful time. Here’s a link to their website: http://www.foresthostel.com/

Happy trails!