this first week in cameroon has already felt like months! I haven’t had time to blog and the only email I have sent was a quick note to my parents letting them know of my safe arrival to Yaoundé, Cameroon and check my email and Facebook—all while using the tail-end of another peace corps trainee’s internet minutes at the hotel, and the connection was slooooow. welcome to africa. We spent spent a few days in Yaoundé getting shots and medical handbooks, kits and lectures on safety, water & food prep and the schedule of whats to come. My stomach started feeling weird just after the second meal. The hotel food was a little unnerving, and caused me to become extremely jealous of my uncle who got to serve in the peace corps in south korea. Each night the group hung out after playing cards and drinking Cameroonian beer which comes in 32oz bottles. It turns out we have a pretty great training group.

Some people reminded me so much of friends from home. A girl here named michelle is the spitting image personality-wise as my friend from high school, christine, down to the hand gestures and up-to-no-good smile, except that she cusses like a sailor. Another PCV came from her post to help with our first training week, and we’ve been bombarding her with questions and listening carefully to each of her words of wisdom and stories of do and don’t. She’s an extremely tiny asian girl who alleviated any worries I had of gaining 20 pounds in Cameroon as I’d been warned. She reminds me of Haylie from high school—she’s bubbly and has a big pretty smile that she uses all the time, and stands on chairs to get everyone’s attention.

Just before we loaded on the buses to head to Bafia we received little slips of paper with a clip art picture of a stork and the names of our host moms and dads and their professions, as well as the number of people living in the house. I was sooo excited when they were being passed out. We also got a little map with numbers associated with each house so we could find our relative location to the training sites and each other. I was happy with my family because it was neighbors with another PCT i’ve gotten to know well, Eric, and also my parents were a nurse and doctor with 2 others. The ride to Bafia was 2 hot hours in a dusty bus and when we arrived to the school it was full with “expecting mothers, fathers, brother sisters and cousins.” I could have cried it was such a strange thing. I honestly felt like i was a chile being adopted in a foreign country, and I couldn’t wait to find out who my new mom was. They called each PCT and each Family name one-by-one and they family greeted each PCT in the middle of our big circle with 3 kisses on their cheeks.

My father was Celestin, but his younger son (20) Jerry was who came to shake my hand and helped me carry my bags over to his mom Lydie, soon to be dubbed “Mama Lydie.” When the truck came we loaded it up with my bags and Eric’s who would be right next door and headed to our homes. I carried my bags inside and the 2 girls, Patricia (8) and Epiphany (14) started unloading/helping me unload my bags and arrange my room. By this point I hadn’t really eaten much in the past days and had already been the first PCT to visit the PCMO (PC Medical Officer) so I told them I was sick and sat on my bed while they happily did most of the work. At dinner they had big fried pieces of fish with vegetables in oil and rice, fried plantains and pineapple. I had some rice and went to bed early, happy with my family, but unhappy with what my body was doing to me. That night was the worst. I didn’t sleep at all. I got a fever and chills, rolling side to side all night. I ended up throwing up numerous times and eventually moaning for my mom. I had never been so uncomfortable in all my life. At 6 Patricia came in to wake me up and I told her I was sick and to get her dad. I looked up all the phrases to explain to him my horrible night. I called the PCMO who arranged a car to come take me to the catholic hospital.

I arrived and walked up to the “waiting room” which was a pair of benches outside of what more resembled and american summer camp infirmary ward. A few old lady stared at me as I tried not to think about throwing up. Finally I was called in and a nurse weighed me and took my blood pressure. In the next room I discussed in french and english what was happening to me while the whole time I just wanted to be horizontal. He told me he thought it was a bad reaction to all the vaccines I’d gotten and a reaction to the new Cameroonian diet of tons of oil. He game me what constitutes as pepto and had a nurse hook me up to an IV. She took me to a room behind the maternity ward building, and i sat on a bed while we waited for clean sheets and she repeated “Ca va passé.” (it will pass) as she smiled at me. The bed I was sitting on smelled like pee. Who was I to complain, though. Not only can I not explain that in french, but I could already tell going to the hospital was a luxury not a lot of people in this village can afford. I counted my blessings and when my sheets came I slept for the next 8 hours on and off out of tiredness at the beginning and then to forget how hungry, hot and bored I was.

Finally in the afternoon Monique, our go-to in Bafia, came by to check on me and I finally got the banana I’d been wanting for hours. Another PCT had arrived in the room next door, too, and I was so happy to have company. We balanced our IV bag on our head as we played cards and sat on the bench outside our rooms. At night our moms showed up with little pots of the foods we’d asked for. I had one of rice and one of pineapple chunks. We ate and chatted, and after they left I lit my kerosene lamp, journaled until I fell asleep. At midnight they nurse came to inject some meeds in my iv and I went back to sleep. In the middle of the night I needed to go the bathroom and as the bathroom door was typically locked I decided to go behind the another building off the courtyard as i’d seen another lady do previously in the day. The next morning they let me go. I was so happy.

The next days I was at the school doing language class and lectures on development and safety, but I can only honestly remember the intense cramps happening all over my stomach. After finding blood in the toilette, I freaked out and consulted my med handbook hoping to find a reason that wouldn’t direct me back to the hospital prison. I was in luck! I could now check ever symptom of bacterial dysentery! And this may not sound good to everyone, but for me it meant only one or two more days of pure agony, but i could stop taking the pepto that was doing nothing and just wait it out. The only good thing was that my host mom had made a vegetable soup I’d been eating with my tony’s seasoning for the last 3 days. so good!

The next day I was already loads better. I went to my first legit language class. I threw the frisbee around with people after classes. I sat at the bar and finally drank more than two sips of a cold orange fanta. At night I sat on my porch with eric and my host dad and just chatting and watching the bats fly by and listening to paul simon. I ate my first meal with my family! More fish, pasta and fried plantains and some pineapple. It’s amazing what being sick does to your mind. I absolutely loved that day. I could definitely do this for two years—and that’s not what I was thinking two days before.

Today was my favorite full day so far. I woke up at 7 to start my laundry. Mama Lydie instructed me step-by-step throughout the day, but first we emptied a sachet of laundry soap in a bucket of water and i put my clothes in to soak for the next couple hours. In the mean time Mama Lydie and I headed to the market by moto taxi. The market was extremely overwhelming—winding stands of fruit and herbs, some with spirals of dried fish emitting the strongest smell and a bunch of african women, men and children talking, selling watching me closely and joking with Mama Lydie calling me her step-daughter and laughing. I pulled out my local Bafia “hello” (why-emm-bay) and won over their hearts, though, and mama lydie and I continued on with our shopping. When we got back home I started on my laundry. Sitting on my stool on the porch elbow-deep in soapy water I began hand scrubbing each piece as Eric (my neighbor pct) sat in a chair next to me and we chatted and watched the people walk by the front of my house and practiced our greetings in french and bafia.

Later, eric and I left to meet up with the other PCTs at the usual bar to drink and throw around the frisbee. We had heard of a hotel that had french fries, shrimp and A/C and decided to check it out. It was everything we’d hoped for and more. They turned on the window unite just for us when we walked in and ketchup, and an amazing bathroom with a toilette that flushed, paper and soap! After, Eric and I walked home and did our homework on the porch as the sun went down and went inside when dinner was on the table. I love porch sitting no matter where I am. It’s always just what I want.