Monday, October 17, 2005

Trying to 'Get Real'

Dear all,

Although I came to Cameroon to make an impact in malaria research, conference organization, public health policy, socioeconomic assessments and understandings - and possibly all of the above, why not! - I have come to realize that it's Cameroon that is making the impact on me, not the other way around. As difficult it is to get a clear result from any of my unproductive, seriously impeded projects here, my own reflective thoughts and ideas keep whacking me in the head, quite clearly, every day and night (to which this lengthy blog can attest). Alla, who is a returning scholar in Cameroon (having spent an SIT semester in Dschang two years ago), scoffs whenever I talk about "making differences"; she explains that although Cameroon has lots to show and teach the eager learner, it is not organized enough to take lessons or to build systems with eager instructors. This is not an overly cynical attitude: the reality is indeed sad. Every experience here is making differences in me, but the here and now are not ready for change, development, or even reflection. Really, how can the country stop and examine its reflection - as we like to picture it, pausing to gaze into a pool of water near a clearing in the woods - when there is no time to gaze, and no clear water??

If I want to feel changes and be made to think differently, then this is a fine place to be. If I want my thoughts and changes to be made into tangible differences, that spread and affect more than just their producer, then this is a difficult place to be. Now that my MCAT scores are in and the hospital work has begun (making med school feel so much closer on the horizon), I am giving serious thought to my future. It seems that the careers we choose might not have to be the most entertaining, fun, or comfortable professions - but rather, strategic positions from which we feel we can effect the most change. Cameroon or the US, for biomedical research? The US. (Medicine or research? Not a fair question right now...try again later.) Putting up with sore feet and gross hospital smells is a small price to pay, if I think that I can really impact a community and a system in my work. I think that I will really appreciate this opportunity and possibility - in the lab or the clinic, who knows - when I come back to a more organized, connected world.

Cameroon should not be abandoned - for it has incredible things to offer (even though it cannot yet accept what others offer) - but realities need to be checked, and expectations accordingly adjusted. I feel that I am going to leave with much more than I came with, though I wonder how much I can possibly leave behind...



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8:01 AM  

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