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Camp in Bandrefam was more challenging than in Baham. The girls were older and less involved. Several already had babies. They had trouble believing that HIV exists in their village, despite the testimonial and a recent SIDA death. I think that there were still some benefits (I hope), but by the end of the week, we were completely and totally and utterly drained.

Bandrefam itself is very different from Bamendjou. It's a small village, maybe 4,000 people and everybody knows everybody. This means a few things. For the girls it means that if they buy condoms, everybody knows. They don't even talk to their friends about sex here! For Julie it means that everybody walks into her house all day and if she has coffee or cocoa or bread, everybody knows and they ask for their part.

Also, the main water source for the village is a robinet (tapstand) that is turned on every other day for half an hour. !!! But it's often broken for months at a time, like when we were there. Then you have to walk down to the source to haul water. Fill a bidon, put it on your head and hike back uphill for 15 minutes. Julie has a 30-liter bidon, which we can't carry full because that is over 60 pounds on the head. She also has 15-liter buckets, which are difficult to carry because the water just slops over the sides if you aren't careful. I also carried the food across village on my head everyday. Rice for 40 is heavy!

We also carried dishes down to the source to wash them and washed our hair down there. There were about 20-30 other women and children down there, too, washing clothes and legumes and children.

It is easy to see the benefit of many children here, they do so much work! One boy was telling me how he has been carrying water since he was 3. And how he can carry a full bucket on his head without spilling any. I don't doubt him. On the other hand, everyone is hungry in the village. I tease Julie about not being able to say No to anyone, but you say no to a hungry child. Try it. Especially after they help you carry water. Especially ever.

We also celebrated my birthday in Bandrefam with vegan chocolate cake! Yummmm. I'm 25 now! Quarter of a century. Mid-20s. All that jazz. And running in Bandrefam was nice because it was so much flatter.

Anyway. After the long and exhausting week in Bandrefam I came home to Bamendjou. And it really felt like coming home. I had a smile on my face as we hit the Baf-Bam road and I anticipated seeing my little house and my little Cat and speaking my little patois.

I spent a glorious day at home relaxing and sleeping and cutting my hair. The second morning at home I went for a run, and then got a text from my APCD that I had to be in Yaounde TOMORROW OR ELSE I CAN'T BE A HOST! It was already 10 am, and Yaounde is a 4 to 6 hour ride from Bafoussam. Oh tiring world. I packed up all my dirty clothes, left my dirty dishes, locked up again, apologized to Cat, and hit the road.

In Bafoussam I found the bridge where on cherche (one finds) the private cars to Yaounde. Often drivers will pick up passengers to cut down on gas prices. I had been talking about this in Bandrefam about how we'd probably only do this under safe-feeling conditions, ie, not all guys in the car. But in racing and pushing to get inside a car (which I do, within 2 minutes, much better than waiting 2 hours at an agence) I realize that I am in a car with 3 other men. Ah well. The fates are kind, right?

Our car breaks down halfway between Bafoussam and Bangangte. Oh jeez. Now what? It's already such a late start for going to Yaounde! But luckily the guy driving is some sort of bigwig and he calls someone and they bring out another car and a mechanic to fix the old one. So an hour wait and we are on our way again. Just 4 of us in one car... it was luxuriously spacious. Upon arriving in Yaounde (a car-full and confusing city), they drop me off at the roundabout right by the Case. Excellent.

Yaounde. It's the first time I've been back since the first week we arrived. Bizarre. The Case (pronounced cause, the volunteer transit house) is full of folks from my stage and some others. I snag the last free bed (of 30ish). Jeez!

Yaounde. Days are spent in the Training Designing Workshop, where we plan the training for the trainees arriving September 17th. It is satisfying but also a bit mind-numbing. Evenings are spent socializing and appreciating the fine foods Yaounde has to offer. I spend my nights crying or trying not to cry about my ex and his new GF. Lame-o. Drama even in Africa, n'est-ce pas? But it keeps me from staying up late and drinking, and I get up early every morning to run.

Running Yaounde is kind of great. It is more anonymous than villages and I can choose how many hills I want to include (some, but not all). There are still the guys who derange ("I love you!"), but there are also hundreds of other people faire-ing le sport and running, stretching, footballing. Also it makes the rest of the day much easier. I can run 45 minutes without stopping now, so, boo-ya.

Also we watch music videos on Trace (Ciara, Rihanna, Soprano, P Diddy, Ice Cream Truck...), track championships, tennis championships, the occasional movie. TV is weird.

On the weekend after TDW we have a faux-beach party. Bikini tops, water balloons, margaritas, salsa, ping-pong, dance party goodness. It is nice to have a vacation from village-life, even if just for a few days.

I also manage to find some time for pagne shopping (oh my gosh, so much pagne) and some grocery store shopping (ice cream? I eat a liter in a night, I stock up on quinoa, soy sauce, tapatio). One night we go out for indian food. Mmmm, chana masala and daal and paratha and a free dessert of gulab jamun (sp?), which is cheese-y fried dough balls in cumin-honey.

3 days of TOT (training of trainers), which includes giving a faux presentation to get feedback, and it is time to leave Yaounde. Gosh. Finally.

I leave the Case by 6:45 am, and am at the agence by 7. A porter from a different agence grabs my bag and I have to chase him down. He tries to get me to choose them through trickery and lying. Finally I just grab my bag and start dragging it and him across the mud yard. After a minute he lets go and I go buy a ticket at the correct agence. I snag a window seat in the back row of a giant bus and wait for an hour while it fills completely.

The bus ride takes a good 5 hours, and is more crammed than most of my Baf commutes. Something in my leg is pinched and I can't unpinch it. Oww. It still hurts today. After 5 hours I make it to Baf and meet up with Liz for lunch at les Arcades. Then I swing by the Post Office for packages/letters galore! I'm juggling 5 bags by this time and make it to my gare.

I got home yesterday after 9 odd hours of traveling. I met a young woman on the car from Bafoussam to Bamendjou and she helped me carry my things home and we sat and talked for a while. Well, she talked. I was exhausted, but it was also a story I could not end. She asked if I had noticed the cuts on her lip. Yes, I had, I said (they were very noticeable). And then she started telling me about her faux-husband (they can't afford to get married, but they've been together for 3 years). How he had hit her. Just this one time. Never before. That he didn't mean to make her bleed. How her mother advised her to leave him. But if she did that she would have to go work with a cousin who is part of a church that eschews medical care. And that is not in her heart. How her grandmother advised her to stay. How she can't read or write and other men who have proposed to her have dumped her on finding this out. This man, however, is paying for her to learn to read and write. What do I say to this? Sure, in America there are resources for battered women, resources for illiterate adults, resources for finding a job, perhaps even more understanding men and family members. But here, what do I say? I asked her what she wanted to do. She wants to stay with him. I told her that I didn't think that there is ANY reason for a man to ever hit a woman, regardless of if he leaves a mark or not. I told her that in America that is illegal and he would go to jail. But. What do I say? Also she has a 12 year old daughter who lives with her mother in Douala. Who she can't afford to send to school.

Anyhow. Today. I slept 13 hours last night. The West is FREEZING! I am wearing a hat and a sweatshirt and my toes are like ice. I need to clean my dishes, the hair off my bathroom floor (from when I cut it two weeks ago), unpack... Sunday I am meeting up with some other Westies to do Yoga and deliver packages. Wednesday I am going back to Yaounde. Friday the new trainees arrive, FIFTY of them. Wow. Then I have something like a month at post. Then a week at training. Then in November my parents come for a month+. !!!

Who's a busy lady?
It's me.Camp in Baham. One day the rain was pouring on the tin roof too loud to do anything but play. So we played.

Making sure the two anglophone girls understand the anatomy lesson we are going over.

Liz & I prepping for camp one morning.

Taking photos with the summer school we were not involved in. Every picture is better with la blanche? Oh Africa.

Explaining how a female condom works in a Tangui bottle vagina.

Washing my hair at the source in Bandrefam. Plenty of spectators.

Carrying the not-full bidon. Probably still 20 L, ~40 pounds. Julie and Kim carried it up the steep part. I took it for the "easy" part at the end.

Blowing out matchstick candles on my vegan chocolate birthday cake. Yum.

Anika, Liz, Kim and I at Julie's house.

Oops, I cut all my hair off!

Parting thoughts... Doing the girls summer camps was my favorite thing I've done so far and it really reinforces my dream of doing women's health work. Really.

Also, all my love. It's been 51 weeks in country. Next week I will celebrate my one-year anniversary with the arrival of the new trainees. Even though we've been apart for a year, you are all in my thoughts and I can't wait to see you all again! Love love love love LOVE.