In other words. I am here. I have returned.
I apologize for the lack of updates. No excuses really, other than my laziness, which seems to be increasing by the day, as I continue to live my life by my own schedule and according to my own self-discipline, of which I have very little.
How to summarize the last two and a half months?
Well, in September Raphael came for a quick visit to Fonfuka, which was great. We managed to get all the way to village in a CAR! Yes. A real, 4-wheeled, semi-functioning sort of vehicle. Not without an awkward encounter with a fou (aka a crazy) in the neighboring village, which resulted in him getting the crap kicked out of him as our fellow passengers leapt to our defense as we were being bothered.
Raph was here for my birthday, which turned out to be one of the best days here. We started the day off with an hour and a half hike to the small village of Tonghaki, where we supposedly had an outreach vaccination that day. No one showed up but a drunk fou. On va faire comment?
The whole day people were being so nice to us - randomly handing us money for drinks and phone credit, buying us drinks in the market - you name it. I had given my friend Sen and her family some money to buy a chicken so that Raph could taste our traditional meal of fufu njamma njamma khati khati. We sat as the guests of honor in their house, I made an awkward speech à la camerounaise, and we indulged, along with dozens of neighbors. Everyone was gitty from eating meat and celebrating a birthday - no disposable income means birthdays here are rarely an event to be remembered. The kids sang me a slightly modified version of Happy Birthday, entitled 'How Old Are you Now?'. On our walk back, we ran into a motorcycle coming from Fundong with a care package from mom strapped to the back! So a great day finished with a great evening of binge eating swiss chocolate by candle light.
|All alone at the vaccination clinic.|
|Raph and I in Tonghaki.|
|My birthday party|
|Raph and Sen|
After leaving them, I made my way to Bertoua for the first of many Halloween parties. Turns out, Peace Corps Volunteers really like Halloween. I was put to shame. Have no fear, though; I have already started preparing for next year. My first taste of the East was great - it felt like a mix of the Grand South and the Grand North, not nearly as derange-y as I had imagined, and anyway it didn't really matter because I got to see so many faces that I had missed for so long.
After a few days in Bertoua, a few of my friends and I took the bus up to Ngaoundere, where we got ready for the Halloween party there. A few days later came the Halloween party in Garoua. The climax of it all was the fantastic election party back down in Ngaoundere, where we drank beer all day and Red Bull all night. All worth it, because Obama won! Yay for being able to show my face in public. Ironically, November 6th was a public holiday here in Cameroon, in celebration of 30 years of Paul Biya...
The next day, a few of us took the long bus ride up to Maroua, which remains my favorite city in this country. Laura and I went to her village to work on a project we're collaborating on. I was immediately given a name, so I'm just giving you all a heads up that I will not longer respond to anything other than Aissatou. I had a great time seeing a slice of her life au village, and seeing more faces that I hadn't seen in ages.
My time in the Grand North came too an end all too quickly, as usual, and I began the long journey home. Slept through the entire 9 hour bus ride to Ngaoundere, and the entire 12 hour train ride to Yaounde. I've decided I'm quite magical when it comes to sleeping in vehicles. I'm currently in Bamenda, realizing I have way too many bags to physically transport back to Fonfuka. But that's a problem for tomorrow.
I am gearing up for a couple of exciting weeks back home. Next week I will be conducting a three-day training of peer educators on HIV transmission and prevention. I will train 21 motorcycle drivers as peer educators. A week later is World AIDS Day, which I'm hoping will be the biggest thing ever to hit this village. And only a few days later, I'm off to Uganda for three weeks with two of my best friends. I cannot wait to go back to Uganda, to eat matoke, to track gorillas, to raft the Nile, to see my homestay family.
Time is flying by. Before we know it we will be looking back at these moments as fond memories. I just try to constantly remind myself that this is the most incredible experience I will ever have, and despite the frustrations, I need to grab it by the horns and enjoy every second of this adventure.