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Home again, home again, after a long week in Baham doing girls' camp. Wow! What an experience.

I've come home to a very lonely cat. I'm sure he'll be very sad that I'm leaving again come Sunday for another girls' camp in Bandrefam.

So. Last week. I had my site visit. It was fine. I was far too stressed before it happened. My APCD came, we talked about how post is going work-wise and health-wise and whatever-wise. We visited Marcel and talked about the water project. We visited Marie Noelle and saw her community farm and then went to Odile's farm in Nkonkouo. Then we went an talked to my supervisor in village about how my counterpart is a flake. I also don't get along great with my supervisor (he is the one who thinks I should be a man and give him all my stuff). Then we went back to my house and had a big delicious lunch! Then my APCD left.

Then I had some really good conversations with my ladies. They also don't like my supervisor, but they do like me and are glad we are working together. They were disappointed I was leaving for 2 weeks to do the girls camps, but we are going to do a marcotting workshop when I get back.

Friday evening I left for Baham. It seems so long ago. I don't even remember what bed I slept in that night. Saturday morning Christina came and she and Liz and I went to the school where we had a classroom and tried to find some peer educators. After waiting a while (and prepping for the week) we walked downtown and found one girl. She said that she would find more girls to bring.

So Saturday and Sunday were more laid back than planned, but we had fun with the peer educators and talking about what it means to be a peer educator and a woman, what is puberty, how can you prevent HIV/AIDS, STDs and pregnancy, what is the immune system, what is HIV/AIDS, etc.

Monday morning we arrived to find not very many girls. But there was summer school in the morning and we stole all the girls from there. Which gave us a larger variety of ages than we planned on. Instead of 11-18, we had 7-18. We went around and had everyone say their name, their age, their grade and what they want to be when they grow up.

Hmm. It's hard to remember the order that everything happened in. Christina gave some great health presentations, including one on the fecal-oral route that had ALL the kids attention, from teeny to grand. We had an activity where all the kids drew/painted a woman that they admire and then presented it and spoke about why they admired her. All the little girls said the same thing. She is pretty and nice. But when we got to the older girls there were some really interesting things said.

Julie came on Monday and Liz and Julie were amazing with planning all the activities for the camp. Truly. Truly truly truly.

On Wednesday, I think, I gave a presentation on women's and men's reproductive systems. It was a lot of fun. I got to explain what puberty is, what a period is, how you become pregnant, what happens when you're pregnant, what a clitoris is, what the function of all the organs are. We also had a question box so people could ask questions anonymously (though most people were pretty comfortable asking questions) and we got some verrry interesting questions. Some of them were kind of worrying (one girl asked if you could get pregnant the first time you had sex, and then later asked why you would miss a period) and some were really good discussions (should you tell your family if you have HIV?).

Thursday we had a visit from an HIV-positive woman. She came and spoke to us when we were doing training and Julie and Liz got her to come out for this camp. In the morning we went over biology of HIV/Immune system stuff, and then she did a testimonial. It was really eye-opening for the girls. They were very surprised to see that she was a strong, healthy woman and also had been living with HIV for over 10 years. The girls asked some really great questions of her, too, and they were sad to see her go. Many girls got her number. Even this morning, a guy came to ask for her number. It's crazy to think that something like 5% of the population of Cameroon has HIV and so few people know about ANY resources.

Today we went over STDs and family planning/contraception. We also did a lot of review and questions and true/false games. The girls really learned a lot! It was good to see how much more they knew about HIV transmission and about their own bodies and about how to protect themselves. We also did condom demonstrations today, and of course that was HILARIOUS. We even had a female condom and showed how to use it on an inverted water bottle.

Our only drama was Thursday afternoon. Is it possible to make it a week with 40 girls without drama? I would guess no. We were trying to do an activity for self-esteem. Each girl wrote her name on a piece of paper and then we passed them around the room for every other girl to write a compliment on it (this was with just 28 of the older girls). Unfortunately, some girls started writing mean things, too. Really mean things. And then there was an accusation and a denial and an angry fight that ended in tears (which are NOT okay in Cameroon) and I cried to because I was so upset (which is NOT okay in Cameroon). We had a talk with 2 of the girls who had been writing mean things (though there were more) and of course they were only writing mean things about girls who had said mean things about them and everyone's feelings were hurt because of insults. We had some serious discussion, but the day ended on a low note. In the evening Liz, Julie and I remade each paper with only compliments. The girls definitely all smiled when they got them today.

Anyway. The end of camp was nice (what an exhausting week!) but also sad. A lot of the girls went out of their way to say thank you and we thanked them, too. I think that everybody got something out of the camp (even if it was just a free lunch) and I'm hoping that it will continue to effect positive change in these girls' lives.

Okay. Photos!

PS: Also it was sooo much fun to spend a week with the girls! We baked dessert almost every night. Zucchini bread (twice), pumpkin pie and chocolate cake with frosting. Yum yum!

PPS: Oh and on another day one of the girls started having a lot of trouble breathing and was crying and beating her chest. It was very scary. After it passed we talked and I guess she has a heart condition, some kind of palpitations. Some other girls went to get her mother, who sent a raw egg for her to drink. Normally she has medication but they are out. Oh, Africa.

PPPS: Oh yeah, and the new German volunteer in Baham has arrived. She is getting thrown into the mix quickly!

Camel and me. She was a sweetheart and very shy. She always helped to clean up without being asked.

I made my first pumpkin pie in Cameroon! We didn't have cinnamon, but it was delicious.

This is Prestige. She is drawing a woman she admires.

This is Hornelle. She is drawing a woman that she admires.

Caren is telling us what she likes about the woman she admires. I'm pretty sure she said that she was "jolie" et "gentille".

Gaelle is talking about the woman she admires, I think it is one of her teachers.

Jafercine is telling us about the woman that she admires.

Sonia is showing us the woman she admires. I think that this is the first time most of these girls ever used paint!

Yollande is telling us why she admires Julie. I admire Julie, too.

I'm talking about a woman I admire. Can you guess who it is? It's my mom!

Anne drew her brother and sister. I think her drawings are adorable. She was very shy and quiet the whole time. Every once in a while she'd smile, though.

Chocolate cake with sucre glace. Mmmmm.

Adorable baby goats next door to Liz. They were very loudly playing hide and seek outside her room this morning.

Here are all the girls when Madame Njiki (president of a living with HIV group) came to visit. She is on the right in the yellow skirt. The girl furthest to the right is Aline, Liz's neighbor. She is 12 and has the cutest laugh and is still refreshingly naive and innocent and open.
Girls playing jumprope during a pause. They also played a lot of circle dance games.

Prestige in a cape and Megane on a stump.

Julie is explaining our next activity.

Christelle, Marie-Claire and Anika watch HIV education movies in French.

This is Fanny. I've met her before at Liz's. She's sweet, but also has a pretty tough exterior. She was one of our peer educators. We had problems with her showing up late and teasing other girls. But she also broke down in tears and ran off when falsely accused of writing insults. She brought me fresh corn and a pineapple, and I convinced her to come back the next day. It's tough being a teenager, and more so a girl and more so in Cameroon. I think we'll stay friends for a long time.