Monday, December 13, 2010

A Culmination of experiences

With the end of our African journey near in sight, we can’t help but reminisce about the many experiences we’ve had and the wonderful people we’ve met along the way.
All the summer volunteers with our hosts Genesis, Marceline, baby Brian and friend Charlotte

We hit the ground running in July teaching 50 or so kids computer skills during Holiday Classes at HINT.
We felt like the old sign needed a facelift, and all pitched to rejuvenate it!  BEFORE
AFTER!  Standing in front of the new sign with one of the holiday computer classes

Made a trip to a black sand beach and had the scariest boat ride of our lives!  10 people in a rickety fishing boat – we kept having to shift back and forth to balance the boat and keep from tipping into the landfill, err, ocean.  It’s amazing we made it, and without Hepatitis!
Carefully debarking the floating tomb

Thanks to Sabrina, a volunteer from the UK, we were all able to help out testing over 200 people for Diabetes and hypertension.  We made our way to a small village within the Tole Tea Plantation.  Eric helped pre-screen patients and got to hear some of these gems:  “It sleeps” (from a man), and “I have a rash here (woman lifts up her skirt…a little too far…)”.  Later that day, we returned with Sabrina to help with an AIDS/HIV presentation and information session.  It was certainly an eye opening experience to hear the misconceptions about the disease and how it spreads.  Also, I never anticipated their ideas of how promiscuous they thought the western world was, and questions about why people are more concerned about AIDs/HIV education in Africa than in our own countries.  It is heartening, however, to see people who care about being leaders and sharing the information with the rest of the community where they can.

Watched the World Cup surrounded by animated Cameroonians at a local bar – we’re thoroughly excited for the next World Cup in Brazil – who’s up for a trip?!

In Kumba, I swam in a crater lake with virtually no one else around and watched the stars come out from a Catholic church, goats providing background music.  It was here that I met the only Cameroonian Vegetarian to be found, and we bonded over our smoked plantains.  Also, it was the only time I ever rode 4 people to a motorcycle, fat driver included!
Rock Pier at Barombi Mbo crater lake

We were treated by our neighbor, Lyunga, to a movie premier at a local hotel.  He works for the studio that did most of the sound for the movie, and we were regarded as special guests.  We were treated to entertainment by musicians from the movie (from true African to Mo-town), and remarks from the director and actors.  Later, Lyunga recorded and mixed a version of Bush’s Glycerin, featuring  up and coming artists Andro, Lyunga, and myself!  I don’t think it will be hitting the airwaves any time soon, but it was seriously fun none-the-less.

One of the musical groups at the premier
Treated to a fancy meal at the Chariot hotel after the premier

The Computers for Schools project was a massive undertaking and consumed most of our time here.  HINT is now awaiting the arrival of yet another container FULL of computers to continue the program after we leave.
Eric in the container BEFORE distribution to the schools
AFTER!  Only a few scraps left - thinking of where all those computers are now makes me smile :)
The annual celebration of teachers was celebrated with a marching band, teacher Olympics, speeches, school demonstrations, and tribal dancing.  Ironically, school is not in session on this day.  Castel is one of the only beers available in Cameroon.  One principal informed us that this stands for “Come And See Teachers Enjoy Life”, and for about a dollar for 32oz. we certainly did!

I tried to take a French class from the French Cultural Center, but had no luck with my ever-absent professor.  The Center, however, did not disappoint.  As you walk up, there’s interesting (although rusted) sculptures that dot the well-manicured area around the building.  It boasts a decent restaurant and small library.  The library was just about the only place I experienced in Cameroon that was truly quiet – couldn’t even hear taxis’ horns from there!  Eric and I were lucky enough to catch a play there as well!  A troupe from Yaounde performed the play in, you guessed it, French with the assistance of some interesting marionettes.  Although neither of us speak French, we thought we understood the story-line pretty well – right up until the very odd “Shrek-like” ending where a monster came and swept up the girl to carry her off.  We truly enjoyed the art and cultural exposure!

Buea is quite homogenous.  It’s not like we are a minority here – I believe that implies there’s enough of a sub-population to constitute a group of people.  Instead, I would say we’re more of a novelty.  Evidence?  1) People have thought my freckles were a rash or bug bites  2) A little boy rubbed my arm to see if the white would come off  3) When I told a little girl that this was my real hair and not a wig, her eyes got about as big as oranges, and in a very dramatic, languid tone breathed, “Jeeeeesus…..”.

Just before school started, Andro planned a football tournament for area youth teams.  We secretly rooted for the HINT team, but it was Muea who won out in the end.  In between the qualifying rounds and playoffs, I made a presentation on Hygiene.  Imagine 150 9-14 year olds who’ve been playing soccer all day!  Even I didn’t see the answers coming when I asked them to name several ways germs could be spread.  When they started yelling “SEX”, I, about the only girl there all day, promptly moved on to proper teeth brushing!

Demonstrating what bad hygiene looks like (Secretly trying to squeeze in cute kitty pictures)

Throughout our time in Africa, we’ve climbed 2 active volcanoes, visited a wildlife rehabilitation center, saw a village chief get chosen, attended a charismatic church a few times,  played soccer and basketball with the locals, shopped (and haggled beautifully) in the outdoor markets, bribed officials just to see a shipping wharf, tried palm wine (bad), tried Cameroon soda (D’Jino=good), heard Toni say her first words, saw baby Brian take his first steps, learned how to carry a baby on my back with a piece of cloth, “learned” how to cut hair, had my photo taken with many strangers in their Obama gear, attended a graduation celebration,  made it through the rainy season (you can see all the way to the ocean and Douala now that it’s dry!), stared back at a Maasai woman who seemed just as curious of me as I was with her dress, jewelry, and wizened face, saw old friends, and made many new ones.

I remember when we first arrived to Cameroon.  It was already nighttime and we still had about an hour and a half drive to Buea.  I remember thinking how dark it seemed, but you could still see so many people weaving around the Soya stalls and other vendors alongside the road.  Many of them had fluorescent lights somehow strung up, and I thought it all seemed so chaotic and cluttered and wondered if the dim lighting was really accomplishing anything.  It’s amazing how a place opens itself up to you so that things that once seemed so bizarre become commonplace and second nature.  In fact, I may need a soundtrack of roosters and a carpenter’s saw just to get to sleep when I get home……… then again, maybe not :)

Cutest little longhorn is walking!

Chief being chosen by the sultan in Foumban

Just an example of how Obama shows up EVERYWHERE here!

Soya (meat on a stick) vendor.  You can get grilled fish, smoked plaintains, and even omelets cooked up by vendors all along the street like this!

Produce section at the market - plantains and "plums"

Dried goods section of the market

Playing hid-n-seek among Tole Tea Leaves
Trying palm wine - forcing the second sip....yep...yep, I don't like it

We can’t begin to thank the number of people who’ve support us throughout this journey.  The contributions you’ve made to HINT have gone a very long way in bringing educational opportunities to thousands of students.  The birthday cards, e-mails, phone calls, and care packages have continually reinvigorate our psyche and pushed us further than we could have ever gone ourselves.  There have been many challenges and rewards along the way, and we share every triumphant goal met with you!


At 9:00 AM, December 13, 2010, Blogger Denise said...

Wow Kristi... what an amazing experience that was. Enjoyed your photos and stories along with them. What a blessing yall have been to those people over there.

At 9:18 AM, December 13, 2010, Blogger Lindsey Z said...

Yay! Nice blog (again). My fave pic was the toddler in Longhorn gear - so cool!

I can't wait to see you two and I'm so glad y'all have had such an amazing experience!

At 2:18 PM, December 13, 2010, Anonymous Amber said...

Reading this makes me miss you both and our whole amazing summer over there so much! I cant even believe the picture of the empty container, that baby Brian is walking, or that its clear enough to see all the way to Douala from Buea. Wish I was there with you guys now! It sounds like the rest of your adventure has been great! I cant wait to talk to you both stateside shortly. Good luck packing up and saying goodbyes. Get ready for some culture shock on the trip home.

At 4:50 PM, December 13, 2010, Anonymous Melissa said...

Yet again, love the blog - and love how the experience seems to have really touched you guys and been so great!!! Couldn't remember exactly when you get home, but when you do, if you have time, swing by - you know where to find us and we MISS YOU!!!! ;) Hugs, Mel

At 4:52 PM, December 13, 2010, Blogger Pablio said...

What a nice and touching summary of your outstanding journey and selfless service. Thanks for and all! Can't wait to see all the photos and hear all the stories. Proud of you guys beyond description!
Safe travels home!


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