Thursday, April 23, 2009

Finding My Motivation

A few weeks ago, I found out that I was selected for a fellowship with Catholic Relief Services, meaning that my time with my current organization will be coming to end at the end of June. It makes being here challenging, knowing I have something much better coming down the line.

Earlier this week I learned a bit more detail about the position with CRS, and it looks like I'll be moving to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, beginning in August. After working in Chad, northern Uganda, Niger, and southern Sudan, the thought of being based in a big green city, with mountains, nice restaurants and more is pretty exciting.

For the moment though I'm here, and I'm trying not to let the challenges weigh me down too much. It's mostly little stuff, but when it's all lumped together, the frustration builds. The heat is truly oppressive, for one- it feels completely unfair that it's already 100º F (38ºC) at 11AM, and thermometer regularly hits 112º or more (44º) at the height of the day. The hours between 1 and 4PM are the worst- the fan I have pointed at my face just serves to redirect the hot air more forcefully.

I think the thing I've had the hardest time with though, is food. When the only green things in sight are the canvas tents that serve as our bedrooms, plastic tarps, and acacia trees sporting massive thorns, it makes the thought of a salad feel like a distant, happy memory. Meals around here tend to be basically white rice and meat, with the meat basically looking like it was prepared by forcing a grenade down the unlucky cow's throat.

It isn't the conditions though, as much as just a feeling that I'm ready to move on professionally, and the idea of continuing to work in communications, which is interesting, but not what I want to be doing, is tough. Also, the second-class status that comes with being 'the volunteer' is always there, even if it's unintentional.

I don't meant to turn this into a bitch session though- I knew what I was getting into when I came to Sudan, and if I couldn't hack it, I wouldn't be here. Still, given that I know something better is coming along, it isn't the easiest thing to put up with life in a tent, crappy food, and oppressive heat as daily facts of life.

Whenever I feel like this though, it's hard not to feel a little guilty though, knowing just how I good I have it. Every walk I take down the road, through the market, or even around the compound reinforces the fact that I won the geographic and socio-economic lottery in so many ways, and that being able to leave Sudan in just a couple months is a luxury few people around here, if any, will ever have.

I find myself thinking more and more about what life will be like in Cameroon though, and how strange it'll be to finally be living more of a standard 'expat' life. I wonder if I'll miss some of the challenge that comes along with a place like southern Sudan. The previous places I've worked have all allowed me to claim a certain amount of 'hard-core' credibility, and I wonder how it'll feel to be in a place people go on vacation to, instead of from.

I guess the key is not letting Sudan get to me over the next eight weeks. Yes, things aren't ideal, but it's a temporary thing, and if I can manage to stay busy, I'm sure it'll fly by.

I hope so, at least.


On a different note, since I've learned that I'll be going to Cameroon, I've had another thought on my mind. How and when I can get back to Chad? It's just northeast of Cameroon, and I feel like I need to see the people I left behind so abruptly when Peace Corps pulled out. I keep thinking about what it might feel like to show up in Gounou-Gaya; how would people react? How many would remember me? Would it be different, now that I'd be 'the expat' living the big city? Those sorts of things concern me.

Then I think about what it'll be like to see my friend and 'host father' Marc again, to see his four daughters, the youngest of which used to chant 'Nyah-na-nehl' and clutch my leg as she waddled along in the way that only toddlers can. What about Hophyra, who I remember as a mischevious four-year old who loved to wrestle her big sisters at any and every opportunity. Will Ka-Idi and Tanga, the oldest, still be in school?

I'm sure it'll be wonderful to see them, but probably a little weird at the same time. Hard to say though; I guess I'll only know when it happens.

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