Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A week in paradise! um, okay maybe not

Ahhh, vacation, finally! The peace corps requires that we stay at post for the first three months of our service. This helps us in getting to know our community. After in-service training which I just finished, volunteers are free to take vacation and travel elsewhere in country. My travel/vacation plans this month are Kribi (meetings all day with beach in the evenings), climbing mount cameroon in Buea, and (most exciting) New year's in London with the parents. By the time I make it back to Batouri, I will have been a month away from post. I have no complaints as to the timing of this vacation.

So Kribi. I got there a day and a half early with three others just enjoy being at the beach before everyone else arrived. This was probably my favorite time of the week. We found a secluded beach 15k down the road of which we had to wade through jungle bookesque streams and crab-filled beaches to get to but worth all of it! This is where I can say skinny-dipping off the coast of Africa if it was ever on my check list of things to do, it is now checked! It quickly ended as a volunteer swimming close by was stung by a jellyfish. That put a quick stop to things. And yes, I now know several ways to treat jellyfish stings.

As the week continued, it was nice seeing all the volunteers that I did training with as well as being introduced to a lot of other volunteers. Being in the east where we are small in numbers it was a treat. During presentations, we shared pictures or stories of what our different posts were like. As soon as 5:00 came and we were dismissed it was a mad rush to the beach. However as the week dragged on, there was a fair amount of us that were falling sick. Of course the hospital diagnosed them with malaria, since its the catch-all when they are unsure. The ones still sick at the end of the week went back with the medical officers to Yaounde for further testing. The saying by the end of the week was that those robbed were the healthy ones.

And so that leads me into the end of the week. Yes, we were robbed and by gun-point most unfortunately. I share this not to freak anybody out, but to be honest about the experience. However, because of my audience I will be vague in some details. I believe it was caused for two main reasons: we were a large group of white people who had been hanging out at the same beach for several days at this point and it was around 10 at night. 21 PCVs in total were involved. We had made a bonfire earlier that night and at the point when it happened half had decided for a late night swim while the rest of us were at our bar/local hangout for the week at the beach. Three men entered firing warning shots in the air. We did nothing but hit the ground while they went around the table grabbing all of our bags. Within less than a minute it was over. Those watching from the ocean could tell more what went down. They walked away with my purse, wallet, & sadly my camera. We immediately called Peace Corps. When they arrived, the compliment we all received from everybody was how calm under pressure we were. And thus it came to be that it was not with the saddest of feelings that I bid adieu to Kribi.

Now I am in Buea staying with Bill Colwell and Trixy Franke, a couple that run the Buea SDA hospital. It has been some great R&R while I gear up for the trek up Mount Cameroon. Best moment of the week: walking into their house after a long day of travel to see a christmas tree and lights with christmas music playing. How comforting to the soul. Who knew it could be such a mood-lifter or how much I've missed it. :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

World AIDS Day

Probably not really publicized in the more developed regions of the world, but in a country where it is prevelant there was a lot more acknowledgement of it. Specifically at the high schools. Jackie & I started a girls club at the local Lycee Bilingue (bi-lingual high school). Thus named for it following both the french & enlish school systems. We have a pretty consistent number of girls (knock on wood) that have come so far. The plan is that we teach a topic for three weeks and then the fourth we have a fun day. Our first fun day was an exchange of dance. I taught the girls salsa dance and in turn they were supposed to teach me a Cameroonian dance. Were is the important word in that last sentence. There were too shy too.

But let me bring things back on topic. We just finished discussing AIDS/SIDA so when the administration organized a panel discussion for the day they incorporated our already organized plans for the day by inviting some girls to come up and speak to the whole school on the specifics they learned about the symptoms, contraction, myth/facts about the disease, etc. After this, Jackie & I got up to demonstrate to the whole school how to correctly use both the male and female condom. The female condom because of its little use or knowledge of caused some intrigue, but you could only imagine how much high schoolers would get riled up when these two white girls brough out a wooden penis to demonstrate the correct usage for a male condom. Oh how I wish internet access here wasn't too slow to attach pictures. May we all celebrate to be in good health!

Dude...I'm Sick

Well there we have it. In terms of things i've accomplished thus far in Africa, falling sick, check. The whole following post will be discussing my recent bout on the sick side, but know that antibiotics do wonders and restored me to health! I've done pretty well at avoiding sickness as compared with other people I trained with. I was almost six months in. What starting with a little cramping turned into a full blown fever and passing my day prostrate on the counch or enjoying countless trips to the bathroom. While I can't pinpoint what specifically I do know that it was something I ate. [yes, mom I know you are in your head telling me i need to be more careful with food] Hospital exams blamed it on too much bacteria in my system, or officially put...bacterial dysentery. On their records I did have "a little" malaria, but they are overly cautious with that disease and will over diagnosis. PCVs have no qualms about having a "poop talk", but for my first-world friends/family who might be a little more squeamish, let's just say there was no doubt in my mind I wasn't healthy.

So what's a trip to a third-world hospital in Batouri? Surprisingly,not so bad. Waiting, which one comes to expect, on the other hand not fun. Here is when receiving prefential treatment for being white was to my advantage. The doctor is the supervisor of, Jackie, the health volunteer here so he took me in soon as I arrived. Next came lab tests. The lab should open around nine but of course with the Africa time factor nobody came until 10:30. Luckily Jackie was there so I could pass the time with somebody. She was working in the women/children ward and I unfortunately passed the time watching women bring in their malnourished kids. One pays for their own needle and antiseptic swab thingie so that quelched that fear. Now for stool sample? At this point, I had been having horrible cramps every twenty minutes since 3 A.M., so stool sample on command was unfortunately easily obliged. But what did I use for a stool sample you ask? Well among my choices given were to find mango leaf or plastic bag. I chose the latter. Pretty thankful to have received a negative for Typhoid. If you are curious enough, i'll let you google what you've eaten if you test positive for it.

I fell sick with fever on a friday and it was better/worse, better/worse, until I woke it up with severe cramps Tuesday morning and my only direction for the next 5 hours was bed to bathroom and back. A weeks worth of antibiotics have brought me back to health. I have decided to de-worm myself for precaution sake every three months and lets pray/knock on wood there is not many more sickness to come!