Gone are the sleepy days of Danfili. It’s embarrassing to realize how long it’s been since my last update. So many things have happened, here’s a long overdue breakdown.
In November I started to settle in to life in my new town, Ngaoundal. I started to poke around at each of the four health centers in town and settled on the public hospital for the arrondissement (think county hospital). I assisted with more prenatal consultations in one week than Danfili sees in a month, and stepped in to help during vaccination days.
I also hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for my Ngaoundal friends and a few volunteers. I was very proud to have pulled off baking three pies, mashed potatoes, green beans, chicken, and Mac and cheese, all from my tiny kitchen.
I enjoyed nesting and rearranging the house from how the previous volunteer organized things, and got to know my neighbors.
As town was getting ready for the holidays, my counterpart and I were busy with our peer educators. The week before Christmas we held a recap meeting and gave them a chance to present everything they’ve learned so far to their parents and friends. It was exciting to see them take things into their own hands and use the lessons we’ve shared.
I also was invited to my first wedding in Cameroon! It was a very busy, celebratory day and I enjoyed seeing how extravagant weddings can be here. One tradition is inviting all of the guests to wear the same fabric, which took the decorations to a new level! They also held three ceremonies- a civil ceremony with the mayor, a church ceremony, and a reception. My date was my special friend who I’ve known most of my time here, and boyfriend for almost two years.
The bride and groom share their wedding vows. They had three different outfits during the day! Meet Martial (everyone calls him Deco)! Here we are in the matching fabric for all the wedding guests. Our evening attire for the reception
The groom is a pharmacist and each of the tables was cleverly named after a medication.
I spent Christmas with volunteers cutting snowflakes, watching movies, and making hamburgers and French fries. They were delicious!
I started this month discouraged because my main counterpart, Dr. Manga, left Ngaoundal to start a specialty program in oncology. I am so proud of him, and Cameroon desperately needs more oncologists, but I was sad and felt a little lost about continuing my work with the health district.
I started meeting with a group of women to discuss nutrition, hygiene, and other health topics during their weekly savings group meetings. I enjoyed getting to know a group of new faces and stretch my fulfulde.
I also began shadowing a nurse who runs the HIV treatment center at the arrondissement, which has been rewarding and challenging.
Youth day was February 11th, but you would have thought it was a month long if you had seen me running around town. I helped the arrondissement organize an HIV Testing campaign at one of the high schools, and mentored my peer educators as they prepared skits for their school talent shows. Each group chose to present on healthy relationships, and they were invited to perform in front of the sousprefet and other officials. It was a very busy time, but so much fun!
At the end of the month I supervised a team of vaccinators in Ngaoundal, ate a burger that led to two feverish nights, and began reading about Ruth Bader Ginsberg. What a cool woman.
A month of ups and downs, but one highlight was hosting a group of volunteers who biked more than 140km to implement malaria prevention projects around the Adamawa region. In Ngaoundal we held a health talk and painted murals showing tips for preventing malaria. It was fun to work with so many people together.
Sleep under a mosquito net, take your prophylaxis, and get treated quickly for malaria during pregnancy so you and your baby will be healthy.
I guess one reason I haven’t been blogging since I arrived in Ngaoundal is that I’ve been busily trying to do too much. There are s many opportunities to collaborate with motivated people, that I’ve felt lost and dragged around at times. I have been resisting the urge to stay longer, and am trying to focus on the projects that will be sustainable when I leave.
I will write again soon, I promise. Until then, eat all the jelly beans and enjoy the beginning of spring!