Third Goal Days

October 1st, 2015 by | Tags: , | No Comments »

Alex and his mom reunite for the first time in a year.

Alex and his mom reunite for the first time in a year.

This past week, I was in Yaounde not to only see my love, Alex, who I had not seen in two months, but also his mom, Judy, who traveled from the US to Cameroon to get a taste of our life in Cameroon.  Seeing Alex and his mom reunite for the first time in a year was a very emotional experience.  We showed her Musee d’Art Camerounais, Mont Febe Monastery, Peace Corps Office, and a French bakery.  Giving Judy a small tour of Yaounde was just a small part of educating her about Cameroon.  Majority of our time were spent conversing with her about the life of Cameroonians, social issues in particular health and our work at our posts while eating and introducing her to Cameroonian food.  She tasted fried plantains, ndole (bitter leaves with shrimp), and a couple different grilled fish.

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Fish with Fried Plaintains

When Alex and I both shared with her our struggles in seeing each other as we live so far away from each other in spite of living in the same country, she said, “Isn’t there an airport in Bamenda? Can’t you fly to Ngaoundere from there?”

“Yes, there is an airport but it’s not in operation.  Actually, here’s the story.  When I was telling my counterpart several months ago about how much I miss Alex, she told me that I can just go to the airport that was right there and fly to Ngaoundere.  A woman happened to be walking by us and overheard our conversation.  She said, ‘That airport has been closed for two months.’  We eventually learned that the airport has been closed to fix the communication infrastructure system.  Moreover, Peace Corps Volunteers are actually not permitted to fly in country because the flights are often unreliable and frequently cancelled.”

In this conversation, she was given an insight of the reality of infrastructure in Cameroon.  Alex and I both shared our experiences of traveling in country.  “I’ve been in a sedan taxi…sedan taxi…with as many as 10 people in one car,” said Alex.

“I’ve been in one with as many as 11 people,” I said.

“Children will sit on people,” Alex said.

“People can really be on top of each other,” I said.

When Alex and I shared with her that we’re planning a trip to Kribi Beach, one of the popular beach destinations in Cameroon, for holidays in December, Judy advises us to go ahead and book a hotel before they get filled.  When Alex pulls out his computer and looks up hotels, Judy asks, “Is there a Hilton or Marriott there?”

“No,” I said.  She was given an insight as to how there is very little presence of American companies in Cameroon.  I should add that McDonald’s do not exist in this country.

Then we discussed our work.  “What projects do you have coming up?” Judy asked us.

Alex explains that he is working on educating his community about malaria prevention by not only giving presentations at schools but also visiting homes to see if families are sleeping with nets and converse with them about the importance of sleeping under the nets.  He also shared that he’s hoping to start a support group for people living with HIV/AIDS and also a support group for persons with disabilities.  He also mentioned that he would like to do presentations on family planning at the schools now that schools are back in session.

I shared that I am starting a series of nutrition workshops and continuing to conduct malaria workshops.  I also shared that I applied for a grant to conduct a one day HIV workshop and HIV testing for about 250 persons with disabilities.  Once if I get the results of HIV testing which will tell who is HIV positive, I hope to start a support group for persons with disabilities living with HIV.  I’m also organizing a women’s empowerment workshop for women with disabilities.

Our conversation led us to discuss about sustainability.  We discussed whether or not building wells or water pumps or toilets for the community creates a sustainable impact or if providing education and training to the community members is far more invaluable than handing out an item to them.

Alex also informed her that homosexuality is prohibited in Cameroon and even discussing it is a very sensitive topic.

We shared some of our proposal stories.  While Alex has not received proposals, he has had a few women come up to him asking him if he will propose to them.

We also shared a few maladies related stories, which she as expected did not enjoy hearing.

While Judy was able to get a good taste of Cameroon, I have come to realization that Cameroon has a lot of room for improvement in tourism infrastructure.  She did not visit Alex’s post because the idea of taking a 15 hour train ride from Yaounde to Ngaoundere and then taking an eight to ten hour bus ride on an unpaved road while being squished with other people and on top of all, using a latrine in his home did not sound appealing to her.  Cameroon has so many beautiful spots that are worth seeing but until the roads are fixed and Cameroon bring in good quality hotels and tourism services, not too many tourists will be visiting here.

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