I must tell you how lucky I am. My past three weeks have been filled with travels, good friends, and visiting exciting places-including home! Back in March or April, I realized that I had unused vacation days from Peace Corps, and my close friend and I started scheming about how I could best use these days. Why don’t I come home and visit? She was planning a trip to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, and offered to let me tag along. She and her fiance planned to run a race series called the Caldera Triple, which includes a half marathon at each park, as well as a 5km race in a nearby national forest. A sucker for all things national parks, running, and visiting friends, I couldn’t refuse their offer. In the coming weeks, I started training for our 29.3 miles by running through the “trails” in Danfili, which was no easy task. I love running, but because of various factors (read: rainy season, lack of anonymity, busy schedule, and in-country travels), my training was a little sporadic. Imagine waking up ready to run, only to hear the pitter-patter of juicy raindrops on your roof, and realizing that the whole town is covered in a slippery, chocolatey mousse-mud. Not really ideal for running. Luckily for me, at least as running is concerned, rainy season didn’t hit full swing until I had already gotten a fair amount of my training in, and before I knew it, it was time to travel back to the USA!
After taking two hour-long moto rides, an eighteen hour train ride, a five hour bus ride, and flying for nearly eighteen more hours, I made it to my first stop, Boulder, Colorado. After some delicious brick oven pizza and catching up, I curled up for sleep before we drove the eight hours to the Tetons the next day. Needless to say, my legs were restless by the morning of our first half marathon, and it showed… I finished the race faster than either of my previous half marathons! I attribute it to my jet-lag, enthusiasm over being back in the states, and the beautiful scenery along the route. The rest of the day we took in the sites, saw some beaver dams and lodges (relevant to my friend’s research), and had a wonderful dinner.
We had a whole week before the next race, but we never let ourselves rest. We were busy taking in the sites and enjoying the most of the parks. Half way through the week, we transitioned over to Yellowstone, which involved a little more driving-heavy days, but miraculous views and we made sure to take in all of the iconic monuments in the park.
The day of the 5km race was the coldest weather I have experienced since early 2015 (sorry, not sorry) and we were each feeling a little nervous about getting back to our campsite. Running another race in record time (my first 5km in under 30 minutes!), we started to head back to our campsite, saw snowfall, and turned back into town for a hotel. The next morning was one of the more difficult races of my career, but the views were still beautiful and ultimately what got me through to the finish line. Luckily the rain held off for our run, so we finished the race happy and dry, if not a little sore. Because the weather didn’t seem like it would improve greatly, we freshened up, packed up our campsite, and drove back to Boulder (another 10 hours!).
I’ll spare all the details of our next few days in Boulder, but I will say that we:
1) Discovered that the reason my laptop stopped working in October had everything to do with ants
2) Watched the new Wonder Woman movie, The Great British Baking Show, and 2002 classic PBS special, Frontier House
3) Prepared a delicious Cameroonian meal that included chicken, plantain chips, mangoes, and food processor privileges (for tomatoes, not everything!!)
Lucky for me, I was able to spend some time with my family in Minneapolis as well. My mom organized a small potluck which was a great way to catch up with friends and family and bask in the love that I have for them all. I cannot express how much it meant to me to be able to spend a week exploring the sculpture gardens, ordering too many ice creams, grabbing drinks, playing card games, cuddling, and catching up with so many of my favorite people. This week of my trip went far too quickly, but each of the moments are memorable, and ones I will cherish during the rest of my service, and beyond.
In typical Phoebe form, I saved packing for the last two hours before I had to get to the airport, and in super-human mom form, she helped me get everything to fit and kept me from crying in the process. Saying goodbye at the airport was the saddest moment of this trip, and I wish I could have stopped time for even a few minutes just to spend more time catching up, laughing, and almost burning cookies.
So, what’s next?
Now that I’m back in Cameroon (after an exhausting marathon of travel against the tide that is euphoria of being with loved ones), I will be gearing up for my next big project. I have applied for a grant to help me fund my health mobilizer trainings in Danfili, and I need your help. The money for this grant will go towards training materials, catering during our trainings, supporting the mobilizers during several outreach projects (including door-to-door malaria bed net hang-ups, a water source maintenance project, and a fixed location HIV testing campaign in Danfili). I had been conducting these types of meetings on my own, but once I started adding up the costs, I found that it wasn’t feasible to realize the communities goals for this project, or my ideas for what I thought could be possible. The reality is that the people I work with on health campaigns are volunteering their time away from their fields and other responsibilities, and I cannot comfortably expect them to do this work without incentives. I am excited for the opportunities that this grant will offer in helping me realize my goals of increasing preventive health awareness and access in Danfili and the surrounding communities, and look forward to sharing the progress of this project with you all via this blog! Thank you in advance, and feel free to share any comments or questions you have with me personally or by commenting.