Saturday, August 15, 2015

Leaving - For Good

There’s this song that’s been stuck in my head lately. 

“I’ve heard it said people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn and we are led to those who help us most to grow - if we let them. And we help them in return. Well I don’t know if I believe that’s true, but I know I’m who I am today because I knew you…”

(Can you name that song?)

My departure is looming, less than three months away - and some days, I simply cannot wait to get out. But other days, or even other moments in those same days, it really does feel as dark and dramatic as that. And it’s not because I’ll miss the food (no more macabo rapé or nkwi? oh darn.) and it’s not because I’ll miss parts of the culture (I’m less than you because I’m a woman? cool.). It’s because of the people who have adopted me as their own, loved me, appreciated me - and yes, even those who have taken me for granted. 

It’s because of my awesome counterparts who commiserated about the parts of Cameroon I couldn’t stand, enjoyed the things I loved, and celebrated all our successes big and small. Anne and Delphine, two women without whom I wouldn’t have made it through these two years. 

It’s because of all the other PCVs who went rode the same roller coaster. Though we may have screamed and covered our eyes or screamed and kept our hands up in the air, we all screamed together.

It’s because of this little boy - no, young man - Borel Faustin. This boy who came running to me, the definition of “grinning ear to ear” to show me his school report card when he passed at the end of the year. This boy who came running to me in tears when he had a splinter. I gave him one of my favorite t-shirts that I found in the market - a Zara boys t that says “Welcome to Hollywood!” - because I thought that was the best possible thing I could do with one of my favorite t-shirts. And he rewarded me with another one of those Hollywood grins. 

It’s because of these two little girls, Samira Paschale and Lauren Fabienne. These kids who drove me absolutely nuts, throwing my shoes onto the roof and ripping my baby sunflowers out by the roots. These kids who perched one on each hip, baby heads resting on either shoulder, and slept. Who reached their arms up to me with faces screwed up in screams and let themselves be conforted. Who learned to say thank you (we’re still working on please) and learned to make fish lips from me. 

It’s because of the 200 elementary school students who I watched transform from timid copy cats into creative and excited artists in art class.

It’s because of the 70 or so high school girls - and three boys - who I watched blossom into confident young adults during our after-school club. 

It’s because of the 46 young women trained as peer educators during our summer camp who said, now I can talk to my parents, now I am not afraid to speak in front of my class, now I know so much more - who looked us in the eyes and told us, Because of you, I’ve been changed for good.

No one can tell me these two years were a waste of my time, even in my darkest and most miserable hours, because I have touched the lives of all these individuals - as they have touched mine.

At the end of two years, it’s these people and relationships more than anything else that I will carry with me as I move on to my next adventure. Most of what I’m feeling, I don’t know how to express in either English or French, and I’m forced to turn back to this song that plays on repeat in my head. “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” I hope that I can come back in a few years and see how my friends and family here have changed and grown. But even if we never meet again, I know I will carry all these people in my heart no matter where life takes me. Most mornings lately, I wake up and I open my door and walk out into the sunshine and my chest feels ready to burst with all the love I feel for Bansoa and by extension the world. 

Fight on for love. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

East of the Sun Trip Part 5 : in which I conclude that the world is in fact magical

East of the Sun Trip Part 5 : in which I conclude that the world is in fact magical and get new bruises on my butt

Our fourth sunrise in Lobéké. We rise, significantly less shinily than the sun, and start for the savanna. Valentin calls after us: “Today, you will see a gorilla!” 

“Promise?” I grump back. 

“You’ll see,” he responds, with his ever-present grin. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

East of the Sun Trip Part 4

East of the Sun Trip Part 4 : In which we continue to take for granted the natural beauty around us to wonder miserably if we will actually leave without seeing any gorillas

One of the "mirador" or observation towers we spend hours in
After a disappointing morning at Petit Savanne, we start the 10k hike to Djangui. On the hike, we see several Colobus monkeys (the originator of moto-engine-revving-noise) and some elephant tracks (I don’t understand how such big animals can pass through the forest so quietly) but not too much else of interest. 

Look at his cute little bearded face! 
Despite the lack of animals, Valentin repeatedly brought wide grins to all of our faces. Valentin is Baka, but at six-foot-something he’s definitely not a pygmie, and he grew up in and out of the forest. He is so obviously at ease here, drinking crystal clear creek water from a folded leaf cup or lounging his large frame on handy vines, roots, or saplings. He makes me feel like a clomping clutz the way he moved with such ease and confidence. When we stop to rest, he drops our bags and goes gleefully traipsing off into the forest, returning with elephant poop or a half-eaten rabbit (he’d scared off the eagle) or a rotted turtle or a bird nest complete with three lil’ babies peeping inside (and yes, he hangs it back up afterwards where the momma bird could find it again). Once he leads us all through thick undergrowth the show us gorilla beds and gleefully—no other adverb does him justice—gleefully recount how a gorilla sleeps with its butt here and its head here and just sleeps like this and it SNORES (giggle) and he knows all this because one time he snuck up on a big male gorilla and scared it out of its nest. Casual, Valentin, messing with 500 pound animals strong enough to rip a man’s arm right off, probably with a ten year old boy’s exuberance and delight. 
Beautiful bird's nest.
"And this is where he puts his butt..."
During our hours in the observation tower at Djangui, we finally see some wildlife! Five water buffalo with their funny birdy friends, a bunch of birds including a teal sun catcher and a great blue Turaco. But, no gorillas.