Friday, February 6, 2009

Waterfall Trekking and Birthday Celebrating

So, it has been a little while since I updated this…sorry kids. I will do my best to catch you up now:

About two weeks ago, a bunch of fellow volunteers came to Fontem to hike to the waterfall nearby. It is called Lebialem Falls and everyone has been telling me since I got here that I just HAVE to go and see it. A few of my good Cameroonian friends offered to be our guides so we picked a Saturday and went for it. Little did I know that this hike would be the single most physically challenging thing I have ever done in my entire life. Seriously. I am not overreacting. It took us about 3 hours to get to the waterfall. The first part wasn’t so bad, there was an actual road that we followed and the terrain wasn’t too steep. We did have to cross two pretty sketchy, Indiana Jones looking bridges though. One was made of metal cable that had single pieces of wood on the bottom to walk across. The other was a log, just a log. There was a smaller log a few feet above to hang on to but really, it was just a log. We hiked this part for about an hour then my friend Rasking (a Bob Marley loving, dreadlock wearing, flute playing as we are hiking, peace – loving artist from Lewoh) stops at a tiny entrance into the jungle and signals that now, this is where we will be going. I laugh because I think he is kidding, but no. So we enter the jungle and there is barely a trail and bush surrounding us. This wasn’t even too bad. What made the hike really crazy is that we have to hike down to the valley where the pool is where the waterfall falls into. The hike down the valley is incredibly steep. So steep in fact that we have to scoot down on our butts for some of it because if we walk upright we will go tumbling down the mountain. It was hard and all a lot of us were thinking about as we were scooting down this incredibly steep incline is, how the crap are we gonna get back up this? So, we make it down to the valley. Then we scale some huge boulders in the surrounding area to get to the waterfall. Now, once we got there, it was totally worth the hellacious climb down. The waterfall was beautiful, like something out of a dream. There was a nice, cool breeze and flowers surrounding the water streaming down into the pool. I was definitely glad we came. We stayed for about 2 hours or so, then we had to head back so we wouldn’t get caught out in the jungle after dark. We start to hike back and my legs are still so tired from the hike down, I know the journey back is going to be epic. The really steep incline we hiked to get down here seems even steeper when you are climbing up it instead of down. I felt like I was on a climbing wall for an hour that just wouldn’t end…and you can’t stop. It’s going to be dark soon and you are out in the middle of the bush where no motos or cars can get to you, you just have to keep going. We took breaks and trekked our way back to the top. When we finally made it, it was an awesome feeling. Then of course, to top it off, it started pouring down rain as soon as we made it to town so we walked back to the house completely soaked, completely dirty, and completely exhausted. All in all, I’m definitely glad I went…but I’m not doing it again any time soon.

In other news, I’m an old lady. I celebrated my birthday on January 27th and I am now 23…that is crazy to me. Am I an adult now? I certainly don’t feel like one. To celebrate Brad and a couple of my Cameroonian friends came by. There was Stanley, my carpenter and go-to Lewoh friend for pretty much anything I need and who also went to the waterfall with us, Rasking who I mentioned earlier, Sebastian who is Stanley’s brother and the student who gave me my cat I have now, my neighbor (her name is very Cameroonian and I don’t know how to spell it) and her sister. It was a nice little gathering of some of my good friends here. I made homemade rolls, imitation fetticini alfredo, and pumpkin pie. The Cameroonians nodded politely and smiled when I asked if they liked this American meal…but there were definitely a lot of leftovers.

More news, I am getting 6 more computers for my school! The Peace Corps got a donation of computers and I have told them that my school desperately needs them so they donated 6 of them to Lewoh. I am so excited to have more practicals with working computers. I am traveling to Yaounde this weekend to pick them up from the main office. It works out perfectly because the vice principal of my school is getting married in Yaounde the same weekend I am going to pick up the computers so a lot of the teachers are going to be there to help me get them back to Lewoh (through bush taxis and sketchy agencies…fun stuff).

Youth week is beginning which is kind of a big deal in Cameroonian schools. I am not really sure exactly what happens, there is a lot of talk about youth empowerment, dancing, poems, and presentations. As for me, I gave a seminar on HIV and AIDS to some interested students. It went surprisingly well. I first played a game with them where they had to identify different statements I made about HIV as myth or fact, like “I can get infected with HIV from hugging someone with HIV” (myth) or “Mothers with HIV can transmit the disease to their unborn children” (fact). They did pretty well at this and got most statements right which is great. Then we talked about transmission and prevention. At the end I had them divide into small groups to come up with challenges they face here that makes them at risk to get HIV. The group work went pretty well, they mentioned things like lack of parental support, poverty, and rape. A lot of students kept bringing up that girls are at risk because if they don’t have money, they go out and use sex to get men to support them. It really is a big problem here because women are still treated as inferior to men and there aren’t a lot of job opportunities for them. We talked about how getting an education and developing life skills like self esteem and independence will help combat these challenges, but there are still a lot of problems that need solutions.

Well, that’s all for now…more soon

Love all of you and missing Austin and Mexican food,


i~RN said...

I loved reading about your waterfall adventures! Kudos to you for doing that! I'd be staying at the top of the valley, saying, "I'll just sit here and wait." LOL!
You're doing such good work with your students! They're so lucky to have you.
Love you! Robin

Katie said...

Connie - This is Katie, your former coworker from From the Heart Therapy. Just wanted to let you know I am keeping up with your stories and loving reading about your adventures - thank you for sharing! What fun!

And Austin misses you too!

A. Tintinu said...

Hi Connie. How're you doing? I'm called Anselm and a native of Lewoh currently living in Maryland, US. I was surfing and stumbled on your blog. What an amazing job you're doing there! Keep it up. I can see that you've quickly realized how different it is that way and the degree of adjustment that needs to be done. I can tell you're doing pretty well though and Good luck! How much time do you still have there?

Take care.