Sunday, February 23, 2014

Foreign Visitor, Actual Work, and a New Adventure in Mbakaou

I feel like every time I sit down to write to you guys I'm reminded of what my friend told me long ago.  I may have even mentioned it in this blog before (do you want me to go to search or actually use this time to write to you?).  The hardest pull for the writer is between finding time to write and doing things worth writing about.  Probably one reasons writers often become drunken recluses.

My friend Sarah visited Cameroon.  While she'd never spent time in Cameroon before, she currently works with Doctors without Borders in the Central African Republic.  It was less of me showing her the hard life in Africa and more her trying to relax in the relative tranquility of Cameroon.  Honestly the idea of vacationing in Cameroon is… somehow sinister.  I certainly can't complain about my rough life to someone who has to figure out how to provide doctors with the supplies and materials necessary to put machete victims back together.  And really complaining about Cameroon is all I ever do with other Americans; her selfless existence is a harsh mirror to try and look into.  Luckily she drinks wine and I know a few places that sell it.

We did have a pretty fine time.  We climbed a mountain.  We went to see a beautiful crater lake with another Peace Corps Volunteers.  There, we learned to shoot bows and arrows (something I hadn't expected to learn in Cameroon).  I showed her around my village.  I have a whole tour system now: Health Center, Market, River, Dam, Bar.  Then we spent a couple days at the beach.  She met a lot of other volunteers who asked her how the hell she could work in a warzone.  Come to think of it most Cameroonians asked her they same only they were more surprised when she said she was going back.

She was only here for a week.  It was odd vacationing so soon after vacationing, but I at least excused myself in that I needed to go down south anyway for work.  After she flew, I went over to Buea in the Southwest region.  The HIV Committee that I'm on was running an event at a yearly race they do up Mount Cameroon there.  When I say the HIV Committee, I really mean Ashley and Erica.  They put the whole thing together and the rest of the committee helped as we could.  They were disappointed in the success of the event, but I think that's just viewing how various things failed.  As someone who was not involved in the planning, I just saw 700 plus people get tested for HIV, thousands of people come up to our six tables to talk and learn about HIV and AIDS, a thousand plus people get packets of free condoms, and all of this done by the 20 or so Peace Corps Volunteers who came PLUS maybe 40 local Cameroonian volunteers who we had trained that week.  Yea, the DJ didn't show up. Yea, the hospital techs got there hours late with half as much staff as promised.  And yea, we could have better utilized the volunteers we had.  We'll learn from our mistakes and next year it will be even better, just as this year was better than the last.  (Therein does lie the biggest Peace Corps problem: none of the organizers and only a few of the volunteers will be here next year to run it again.  DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.)

I was impressed and super glad to be a part of it.  Even if I felt awkward being as insanely tired as I was at the end of race day.  I stood all day talking to Cameroonians and doing an insane amount of condom demonstrations, but other people ran a marathon up a mountain.  Whatever, I'll be using my refined skill for years to come; how often do you need to run up mountains?  And why?

After that, I spent a couple relaxing days in Kumba.  I went to a pool.  I ate what I swear to God was actual American fried chicken.  I met a cool German and a cool Dane, even if I made a fool of myself forgetting where the hell Danes come from (I loved Beowulf too).  Ate more good food and spent a lot of time just relaxing in the best ways possible, before finally working up the courage to spent the 24 plus hours of travel it took to get back home.

Course then my buddy Will passed through on his way back from the same event.  We drank plenty and took a half a day trek out into the bush of Mbakaou where we finally found my alleged National Park.  Unfortunately we did not bring any sort of guide and all the buildings there seemed deserted.  Whatever, there was a sandy beach, secluded section of the river, and some rapids to look at.  Still no elephants.  Really, the only wildlife I've seen so far are little monkeys and a large variety of birds.  Where are all these giant African animals hiding?  Lion King lied.

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