As predicted, my bucket did become my best friend while battling food poisoning this week.
I’m not sure what exactly caused it, but I’d venture a guess at the dinner I had the night before sickness struck. Power was out, my homestay mother was sick (with what I now know to be malaria) and my homestay father was working late. To make up for it, he brought me two beignets and some yogurt. I was starving and managed to make the food do a disappearing act in mere minutes. Either the yogurt was off or someone had some nasty hands on my beignets, because by the time I woke up the next morning my stomach was twisting, my head was on fire, and my lymph nodes were swelling. Something was being battled inside of me, and I was going to be cause in the crossfire.
I slept most of the day away, between trips to the bathroom, and luckily was as good as new the next day. In a few acts that manage to prove that I work with the best people in the universe, by the time I had returned the next day I had received a get-well card, several phone calls from my higher-ups, and two visitors to my bedside. Peace Corps people have each other’s backs.
This week we’ve been talking about the oh-so-taboo S-E-X in classes, focusing in on reproductive education and HIV/AIDs counseling and prevention. We’ve played Sex Jeopardy (with matching innuendo-filled team names), done male and female condom demonstrations, and talked about how exactly babies are made. This had been my favorite section so far, and I’m pretty sure that come post-time I’ll be focusing in on the business of bonin’. Doing something involving responsible sex education in the states has always been an interest to me, and in Cameroon that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the level of education the people here have versus the people back home. I’ll be speaking to people with next to no knowledge on how pregnancy occurs, how STIs are transmitted, and what exactly it means to have HIV. Sometimes those people have already had babies, a venereal disease or been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. My work here could have a direct impact on the people I’m talking to.
Some of the stats here are pretty disturbing with regards to female health. Less than 10% of the population uses contraceptive correctly and consistently. Almost a quarter of girls will get pregnant before the age of 19. The population has an HIV/AIDS rate of 5.5%. A quarter of the women have had breast ironing. Of women in Cameroon, 80% have had “massage” post-partum, where hot water is poured on their breasts and stomach to hopefully reduce the stretched skin back to pre-pregnancy size. “Casual prostitution” is becoming increasingly popular, where women trade various services (like moto-rides) or things (like sachets of whisky or new clothes) for sex with several different partners. Some places marry their women off before their first period. Others require that a girl has had a baby before marrying to prove she’s fertile.
Cuddle farm may have to wait.