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Well, it's been a while, blog. 2 months, it seems. One was very busy. One was very unbusy.

Since I last left you, I got to welcome all the new Agro/Health Peace Corps Trainees with Paul. It was crazy and fun and exhausting. Where our stage had a week in Yaounde to take care of everything, the new stage had 3 days. Except then they missed their connection in Brussels (really, a plane can't wait for 50 people?). And had to fly into Douala the next day. So they had 2 days and it was nearly all traveling!

How busy were we? The night that they got in, after they got into their hotel rooms and ate dinner, we had them start filling out forms... at 9 PM! We stayed up til 2 AM talking and got up at 6 the next day to go to Yaounde. They got in on Saturday and were in Bafia (their training site) by Monday. Paul and I were still running around getting them phones and regulators and finishing paperwork until Wednesday or Thursday. Gosh.

After that crazy sleepless, no-time-for-more-than-a-bite-of-food week, I headed back to post where I felt oddly directionless. I only had a month until I would be leaving post again and all my work momentum had pretty much dropped off.

So. There was that month. Of not much happening.

Then at the end of October I got to go back to Stage and co-teach some sessions for the Trainees, which was a blast. Well. More the hanging out with the trainees than lecturing about fertilizer chemistry. Alright, and it was mostly Richard who was doing the lecturing because he is a brain. Then I was home for a few days. Then I went to the West Halloween Party (as a maybe-creepy doll) and then I went to Yaounde....

... to pick up my parents!

Wow! It is weird having my parents here in Cameroon. It is like I am finally realizing that it's not all a crazy dream. Or alternately that the dream is crazier? We spent a day in Yaounde (ice cream!) and grabbed a (surprisingly) nice bus to Bafoussam and spent a few days at my post. We walked over to Baham one day to see Fovu and the Handicap Center and that was fun, though a really long day.

Then we headed to Buea to climb Mt. Cameroon! It was a little stressing and confusing to have so little say over how the trip was planned, but on va faire comment? We let the Ecotourism guide company buy our food and it was very Cameroonian. 12 loaves of bread. Maybe 2 kilos of rice for one dinner. 6 sacks of wine. To that I said, "No, my parents don't drink." The lady replied, "No, it's okay, this is wine even children drink." Oh, Cameroon.

The first day up the mountain was.... 6 hours of straight-up climbing. We gained 1800 m elevation, or about 6000 feet. No switchbacks. Just. Straight. Up. The last 600 meters or so I counted steps. Well. To 20 over and over again. Sometimes I would forget and get up to 30. Or 40. By the time we got to Hut 2, our bivvy for the night, I was absolutely DONE.

The plan was to summit on day 2 and hike down to Mann Springs and to go to the rainforest for day 3 and to come out on the beach day 4. Alas, the Rainy Season intervened. Day 2 we got rained in and spent the day playing cards and napping. Oh, did I mention that 10,000 feet is COLD? Even 5 degrees north of the equator. It dropped below 50 F at night. Brrrr! I was a cold Zara.

We met some other hikers on the mountain, Melinda and Joe, newlyweds from the Bay Area (California, represent!) and a radio reporter from Germany (who hiked like she was made of steel). Melinda and Joe made a summit attempt on our day 2, but got rained out. On day 3 we went for the summit and hoped to get to Mann Springs. The German (Bettina) had left at 4 am for a summit attempt and we met her not far up the trail. She said she had made the summit, though we later determined this not to be the case. (She didn't want to discourage us).

Up up up up up. It wasn't as steep as the first day, but the altitude was breath-stealing and I was getting at least a full inhale-exhale with every single step. As me and my Dad slogged uphill, my Mom was bouncing off the trail left and right to pick up trash, to take a picture, to pick some mint. What a lady! It was foggy and cold and windy and it got foggier and colder and windier as we went up. Visibility was rarely more than 20 feet. After 2 and a half hours we got to Hut 3 and we and all the porters were freezing (they more so than us). Samuel, our guide said we should go back down. We agreed, since the weather was awful and we figured he knew the mountain better than us.

But when I walked out of the hut, Samuel started going UP the mountain. I went back and told my parents we were going up and we continued. Up. Up. Up. Cold. Cold. Cold. It was much flatter from that point, but the visibility dropped and the temperature dropped and the wind kept roaring. I could barely see Samuel's figure in the fog in front of me and I would turn around and wait until I could see my parents barely emerge from the fog behind me. (I took the lead because I was so excited for the summit! My mom stayed back with my dad).

We could tell we had reached the top ridge when the wind started ripping so fast that you had to lean your full body weight into it in order not to tip over. We passed false summit after false summit after false summit and always another lurking shadow would appear in the fog. Until finally I see Samuel throw himself down sitting with his back to the wind and we were at the top! All the sign pieces were strewn on the ground and I found two pieces of a sign, one that said SUM and one that said IT. SUM IT!

My parents were close behind and one of the porters came up, too (previously unbeknownst to us). We took a few quick pictures and then beat a hasty retreat. On the way off the summit I realized I couldn't feel my hands (4 layers and a hat and two hoods, but no gloves, oops!) and I looked down to see that they were looking pretty yellow. I unzipped my two outer jackets and jammed my hands in my armpits, but then the wind was coming from the front and wanted to blow my hoods off. I grabbed the hood ties in my mouth and ran down the hill grinning into the wind.

The descent back down to Hut 2 was warming but quad-jarring. Sleep came easy. Day 4 was 1800 meters straight down. I was slow slow slow. We got off the mountain and ate some chicken and plantains and watched a National Geographic special about mysterious elephant deaths. Then we headed to Limbe for HOT SHOWERS.

The hotel in Limbe was really nice, and being on the ocean was nothing short of INCREDIBLE. I love the ocean and I can't believe I've been away from it for over a year. What a mistake! The hotel even had a pool, though I never got in it.

Day 2 in Limbe we went out to a private beach at a fancy hotel and played in the ocean. Before I went in my mom asks, "Are you sure you want to wear your glasses in? That is how I lost mine in Hawaii." I say, "Yeah, I'll be fine, I'll just hold on to them if I go under."

Always listen to your mother.

2 minutes later and I am bliiiind. At any rate, the ocean is fun regardless of whether or not you can see. I spent some hours throwing myself into and over waves and I think it is the first time I've played in the ocean since I was 6 in SLO. We head back to the hotel for more hot showers and then walk to town for dinner (shrimp!). Being blind is bizarre and discombobulating and I reflect on how many people in this country probably can't see very well or afford glasses (which cost about the same here as they do in the states, what is up with that, Cameroon? Need some Zenni Optical up in here).

Sunday morning we head to the bakery and then the Agence and after 3 hours we head towards the West. Amazingly the whole trip goes smoothly and we hop from Limbe to Carrefour Bamougoum outside Bafoussam to Marche B in Bafoussam to Socada in Bafoussam to Bamendjou.... where I have my backup glasses!!!! Being blind and traveling a new route in Cameroon with my parents was terrrrrifying, talk about the blind leading the blind.

Cat is happy to see us and my Dad is happy to see Cat. I think they are in love. We have a big dinner of green beans and couscous (de Mediterranean) and bread and sardines (Cat gets the tin and is a happy cat). Then packing. Then sleeping. Then up early to go to Yaounde. Too much travel!

We got to Yaounde yesterday and got train tickets this morning to go up to the North on Thursday. Exciting! It's rainy now and it's nice to take a little break from vacationing so hard. 2 days to gather our thoughts and laundry and watch some movies and play some games.

Pictures now, updated!

Love you all!

I put my mom to work in the garden. She is a good worker. She planted an herb garden and some salad veggies. Thanks, Mom!

Fresh gnocchi and pesto. Yummers.

My Dad loves my Cat. Apparently my Cat is freakishly tiny.

Turns out my mom loves pagne, too. Yaaaay, pagne!

My parents at Fovu sacred rock site. With his beard and white skin and sombrero, little children kept thinking my dad was a juju. Juju! Juju!

At the Handicap Center in Baham. I let the newest resident try on my glasses. He was ADORABLE! Kept running up and hugging me. :) They think he is deaf. When he first got there he ran away... like 30+ km away. But someone found him and got him back.

Mom and I walking back from Baham. Lookin' classy.

Before heading up Mt. Cameroon. We were so naive.

In the forest it was humid. My glasses were all fog. But they were glasses!

Mom and I on Mt. Cameroon. She is energized. I am exhausted.

Hut 2 Luxury suite. Polished wood bench bed. Mouse butlers.

Preparing potato soup in our out of doors kitchen. Day 1 was beautiful.

Day 2. Mountain. Why you dey vex me?

SUM IT. One plus one na one.

Bisoh, Samuel, Dad and Me. In gale-force winds. But happy!

Samuel made Dad a walking stick so that going down would be easier. They are fwiends.

Emmanuel watches as Bisoh and Isaac's friendship grows. Can you believe we had 4 porters and a guide? Felt very weird. Very weird.

After the mountain. Back row: Samuel (guide), Isaac, Samuel (porter), Emmanuel. Front row: Random guy, Bisoh, Me, Mom, Dad (you probably guessed those ones).

No longer blind! Cooking green beans! Happy!