“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I first received my invitation to Cameroon, one of my first thoughts was, “Oh my god! I’m going to really be in the ‘Hard Corps!’ I’m going where electricity and water is really lacking. I’m going where it’s going to be hot and probably humid and there is no air condition.” Cameroon is after all located by the equator and on a continent where a large number of people are classified as “poor.” As I wanted to see what Cameroon looked like, I went on Google, typed in “Cameroon” in the search box and clicked on “image.” Most images showed very dreary looking landscapes. The skies were cloudy. The roads were muddy. “I have to walk in that mud?” I said to myself.
‘Hard Corps’ is a term coined by Peace Corps Volunteers that means volunteers are going where very little amenities exist. I was initially disappointed that I wasn’t going to Peru or Nepal or somewhere I could enjoy the beautiful well-known landscapes, especially mountains. I wasn’t going to a country normally called ‘Beach Corps’ such as Fiji, Jamaica, and Indonesia where beautiful beaches and resorts exist and I could enjoy a nice weekend gateway while working hard. I wasn’t going to Mongolia or Krgyzstan where I didn’t have to worry about heat. I wasn’t going to Ethiopia, Thailand or China where I could enjoy the world’s best food. I wasn’t going to Albania, Macedonia or Moldova where I was going to have a greater chance of getting electricity and direct water access. I thought I was for sure not going to experience “Posh Corps,” a term coined by Peace Corps Volunteers that means volunteers go where they can enjoy modern amenities and/or infrastructure.
I quickly reminded myself that I was viewing Cameroon and other countries through a lens called “stereotype view.” I knew that I was still going to find ways to fall in l’ve with Cameroon once I arrived there because I have fallen in l’ve with every country where I have visited in the world. I also reminded myself that I applied to join in the Peace Corps because I wanted to face challenges, and “Hard Corps” is what I should have always expected.
Since arriving in Cameroon six months ago, I quickly saw that I can still have a “Posh Corps” experience in Cameroon. I was first welcomed in Mengong by a wonderful host family with open arms who cooked some of the best food I have eaten in my lifetime which includes beignets, spaghetti omelette, marble cakes, fish with potatoes and beef with veggies. Cameroonian food are just as amazing as Thai and Chinese food. There are bakeries where I can find delicious chocolate croissants, vanilla cake with frosting, and donuts with cream. Pizzas are still found in the big cities. I never liked soy milk until I came to Cameroon and now, I’m addicted to the drink.
I have electricity at my post along with running water and internet. About 70% of volunteers in Cameroon have electricity. Many Cameroonian families have television where they can access channels from the US including Disney, CNN, Nickelodeon and National Geographic. Cell phone signal is widely accessible throughout the country.
There are mountains in Cameroon just like Peru and Nepal. Northwest, the region where I’m living looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale. There are waterfalls, lakes and rivers everywhere we go. Adamawa, a region in north of Cameroon, looks like an African version of Tuscany. I’ve seen far more rainbows in the country than I would in a year in the US. The temperature is cool year round in the Northwest. Even when I was in Mengong, Ngaoundere and Yaounde, I found that they were hardly hot at all. While there are indeed muddy roads, there are also paved roads. While rain do come and go, we have many sunny days. Cameroon has two of some of the best beaches in Africa, Kribi and Limbe. Many volunteers go there for a short getaway.
Most importantly, I have the best job and couldn’t have asked for a better assignment. I work with people who are truly motivated to make an impact. More importantly, I work in an area that I’m most passionate about and that is close to my heart – people with disabilities.
I now believe that no matter which country we are assigned, we can still experience great luxuries. We should go to any place in the world with an open mind. “Posh Corps” is all about how we make the best of the Peace Corps experience and search for positive characteristics of the country. Every country in the world have its share of problems and its share of beauties and luxuries. Also, we should not allow stereotypes sway our impression of the country, and we should realize that the media is only looking through a tube. By this means, just because the media talks about how there is lack of water and/or electricity in many homes in a country, it does not mean that running water and electricity is completely absent in that country. Moreover, even if we are in a situation where there is no electricity and running water, we can fully realize that we are incredible human beings who can adapt to changes and challenges.