I mentioned in a previous post that after a week of in-service-training, about 15 of my friends and I went on a little beach vacation in a town called Kribi.
Our hotel was literally right on the beach for what amounted to about 10 USD a night for each person. Not too bad if I do say so myself. Our little beach was rather secluded from the other hotels along the shore, but at the same time everyday we got to witness Cameroonians fishing right off the coast. My friend Eddie and I even got to help untangle fish from a net one day with some local fishermen! It was the perfect mixture of separation from other “tourists” and still being able to experience what life is like for people living along the ocean.
Everyday we gorged ourselves on fresh-caught fish, crab, and some of the biggest shrimp I have ever had in my entire life. It felt as if we had all been transported out of Cameroon and into Hawaii. One of my favorite things we did was hike about an hour and a half down the beach to a pair of beautiful waterfalls. These falls are extremely unique because they originate from a fresh body of water but pour directly into the ocean. Pictures do not do them justice.
Above all though, it was just wonderful catching up with all of my friends who I hadn’t seen in three months and to find out what they have been doing. Cameroon has been nicknamed “Africa in miniature,” which is incredibly true. Each of my friends are having experiences completely different than my own to the point that it is almost bizarre that we are technically in the same country. Cameroon is endlessly interesting and I feel quite lucky to have friends that can help me better understand the picture of Cameroon as a whole.
As I was telling a friend, this vacation felt like the first time I could truly relax in 6 months. Even though there are a number of days when I don’t have much “work” to do, trying to integrate into the community, speaking a different language, adapting to cultural norms while trying to remain true to myself, and dealing with cultural miscommunications is a job within itself, and although fun, it can also be extremely tiring and stressful. Being with my friends on this vacation really rejuvenated me and the work they have done inspired me and motivated me to get back to work in my own community.
Some things I am planning to work on in the near future:
-Learning to make “paper beads” from a woman in my regional capital so that I can then in turn teach individuals in Njinikom as an income generating activity.
-Putting together a march of sorts for World Malaria Day (April 25th) to encourage individuals to sleep under mosquito nets
-Working on health lessons for two groups of kids, primary and secondary students, for an after school program once a week through an organization called The CREN that works with mostly orphaned children. Hopefully within a month the lessons will be done and we can start implementing the program.
-Trying to secure a booth in my weekly market to do health education. The idea is to pick a different topic each month (HIV/AIDS, malaria, water and sanitation, etc.) and set up a booth with posters of information so that individuals can come and ask me about various health issues. Everyone goes to the market, not everyone goes to the health center, so I figured this would be a good way to reach out to those individuals who I otherwise would most likely not come into contact with
-Continuing to do vaccination clinic lessons at my health center and in the outreach communities, continuing to work with the diabetes group at my health center, and starting to work with the HIV/AIDS support group at my health center.
There are a number of other activities I have on the back burner that I would love to start on, but so far I have found it really hard to get things moving here, so it is best to do a little at a time. I really hope all of these activities go through! I am finally starting to feel like I have clear ideas for projects and I am extremely excited to see them implemented in the community.