By Pat Jenkins
Jordan Davis graduated from Eatonville High School in 2011, where among other things she was a Daffodil Festival princess and captain of the cheerleaders and the dance team while growing up in the town she fondly recalls for its small population and single, blinking traffic light.
Her world is much bigger now. She’s teaching in the African nation of Cameroon, where she’s absorbing the unique culture of the French-speaking people while sharing her knowledge of English with them.
She was back in Eatonville for the Christmas season with her family after a 22-hour flight with stops in Brussels, Belgium and Washington, D.C. Landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is one of those cultural differences between here and Douala, the Cameroon city where the traditional greeting for newly arrived air travelers is “for everyone to clap and sing songs. It was the oddest experience when I first arrived, but now it has become normal,” Davis said.
Those and other experiences in Cameroon were shared by Davis in a question-and-answer session with The Dispatch shortly before her long journey for the holiday break. “It’s a story people would love to hear, I’m sure,” said Shannon Swick, her proud mother.
Dispatch: Tell us about what you're doing in Africa.
After I graduated college (Washington State University) with my bachelors in elementary education, I taught one year in the states but wanted to do something more with my life. Through International School Services, an online application, I was offered a position to teach in Douala, Cameroon. I currently teach first grade at American School of Douala. This is a great experience, but the real moments come from the visits to the orphanages, the conversations with the local Cameroonians, crossing the busy roads with no traffic lights, riding in a taxi with five complete strangers, and experiencing a completely different culture than what I was used to.
Douala is hot, it is sticky, everyone speaks French. But overall it is a beautiful country with people who are living their life just like anywhere else.
Dispatch: What went into getting the assignment to teach in Africa?
International School Services filters through applicants and helps them find schools which they are passionate about. The organization does the same thing for schools and helping them find employees they are searching for. It was a very efficient process, and I would highly recommend it to those who are wanting to teach abroad.
Dispatch: Was teaching an aspiration for you growing up?
I think as a child you consistently change what you want to do for a living. I knew I loved children, I knew I loved to help people, and I knew I loved to learn. When I went to (WSU) and I saw the work some of my sororities sisters were doing in the education program , I changed my major from nursing immediately. I’m currently receiving my masters online through American Public University in business organizational leadership.
I couldn’t be happier with the work I do. It’s challenging, yes, but what work doesn’t have hard days? Educating young souls is rewarding and life-changing. I think any teacher would agree with me.
Dispatch: What do people ask you about the U.S. and/or Eatonville? For instance, were they interested in our presidential campaign?
The questions about the U.S. are hilarious and interesting. First, I have to say I am from Seattle, not Washington, because everyone associates Washington state with Washington, D.C. After it is discovered that it isn’t Washington, D.C., people have no idea where Eatonville is at. When I tell them about our population and our single blinking light, they are astonished. It’s quite funny. I do miss my little town often.
They do indeed ask about the rain and gray skies in Washington. They say these ideas come from (the television series) ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ They also typically ask if football games are everything TV makes them out to be. Of course, I say they are and every person should experience an American football game.
After we talk about geography, of course the election comes up. People, even locals, know so much about the United States and our election. Everyone thinks they know who is going to win and constantly want to talk about it. Yes even all the way over here in Africa, you can’t escape U.S. politics.
Dispatch: What are your long-range plans professionally?
I would like to work for a non-profit that enriches the lives of children and families in third world countries. This is a big component of why I’m in Douala. I’m experiencing the culture in which I hope to be an active member in the future. Being here, my plans have slightly changed in that I want somehow for others to be able to experience what I am right now. I would love for the non-profit I create to have a plan in which young adults can experience something life-changing. I’m uncertain of what this looks like exactly, but with experience and education I think I’ll be able to create something magical.