Compared to the village of Nguti, I’d like to consider myself more of a city-slicker. I’m from a city of several hundred thousands back in the States, and part of a metro area that combined numbers over a million. I’m not “village-oise”, as they say here.
Or I wasn’t until this weekend. This weekend, when I couldn’t stop speaking Pidgin, gawking at sites, and marveling at the white people.
The past few days were spent in Buea and Limbe, the regional capital and a beloved beach town, respectively. In Buea there is Mt. Cameroon, where every year the typically sane decide to run up the mountain and back down again, a 25 mile hike to the second tallest peak on the continent.
Peace Corps last year paired up with a German NGO based in Buea called Reach-Out, who focuses on HIV/AIDS education. The event was so successful that we decided to do it again. The night before the race we gathered at a volunteer’s house, made good food, painted cool posters, and met our region-mates, since a handful of us were new.
Bright and early we headed to the race to watch the runners take off. We looked snazzy in our matching t-shirts, which someone had realized said ‘Peage Gorps’ instead of ‘Peace Corps’. We get out all the education materials we brought, set up our tents, ate a burger and for the next five or so hours did female and male condom demos and talked about prevention until we’re blue in the face. After waiting out the rain we started a night of puff puff and beans and karaoke (Me and some gals brought down the house with an especially bad rendition of Destiny’s Child’s ‘Survivor’.)
To a country mouse like me, Buea is a dreamland. Buea is nice and cold compared to Nguti—One of the mornings this week it was 41 degrees outside! Buea has American music and fast internet and so much food it’ll make your head spin. Postmate Kate and my visit to the whiteman store consisted of several loud “Oh my god!”s when we saw things from Target, Walmart, and CVS. There was peanut butter, you guys. And coffee creamer and cinnamon and air freshener and body wash and paper towels and a real cash register with change for even your biggest bills!
The next day was even better, if possible. We spent the day in Limbe, a town known for their black sand beaches. At one point I was sitting at a table with friends, eating a pizza, drinking a milkshake and watching chimps play at the primate sanctuary. Later we headed to a deserted beach that looked like it was made of coffee grounds, where the water was warm, the mountains were beautiful, and in the distance you could make out part of Equatorial Guinea. I didn’t hear ‘whiteman’ all day!
While the volunteers closer to Buea and Limbe were obviously used to this, I could not, after three months in a teeny village, get over how luxurious this all was. Sure, I am significantly poorer in a matter of only four days, but it was so worth it.
Now I’m back home in teensy Nguti after an excellent bush-taxi ride where men and all the dudes in the car sang along to Sheryl Crown and Westlife, a forgotten 90s boy band. I was greeted with a puppy who missed me and work to do. Next big travel: Bamenda for my Peage Gorps 3 month check-up.