red teeth for a week

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I’m overwhelmed by the radical emotions I come across here. In a day I can start out happy—wake up, turn on taylor swift and mix up my instant coffee with a spoonful of target mint hot chocolate mix (thanks katie!) and powdered milk. After only a few hours I’m fuming after being called “la blanche”, “makat”, “nassara” or just “white” over and over if I’m not in my village. I can schedule a meeting and feel great about how much I prepared and how grown up and organized I feel teaching adults, and then no one shows up until an hour after the scheduled time. I can come back from a trip, excited to be home, only to be greeted by “what have you brought me?”. C’est la vie au Cameroon. It’s great here and I’m really happy with my decision to sign up for this adventure, but at times it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had, and I don’t think I’ll truly appreciate my life here until I’m back in the states with the glow of computer screen across my face instead of the hot African sun.

Since the last time I wrote I’ve done so much, so let me catch you up. My last post was for valentine’s day and since then I’ve had a boyfriend for a record breaking 6 months! For those who can’t “Facebook stalk” Matt’s his name and he’s from Nashville, TN. He’s a community economic development volunteer in a village called Bangangté which takes me 2 hours to get to on the best of days which is rare. He went to school in Florida for business and grills a mean steak. I’m a lucky gal. My parents got to meet him when they came for a week to see my village, along with all my friends and colleagues and even another mom and dad who were in town visiting my friend Max. They were the guests of honor at a party I organized with all my best friends, teachers and elites of Bandenkop. The women made different dishes so my parents could taste everything in one sitting. Speeches were made, fighter whisky was drunk, and the first rain fell of the rainy season. On the last day I took my parents to a “resort” on a lake owned by a french millionaire where they got to sail with my friend, Henri, who is a french volunteer who also lives in Bangangté. On our way to the airport we got stopped by gendarmes and had to pay a bribe, and once in the city we got lost in the maze of tiny roads and taxi traffic that we almost didn’t make our flight. But we did. And I had a first class seat all the way to Italy!

My parents and I spent 4 days in Cinque Terre—a beautiful area made up of 5 fishing villages. We stayed in manarola with a view of the sea out the window and a giant checkerboard painted on the sidewalk before the beach. I ate pasta, pizza or seafood for almost every meal and wine with almost every meal. Good wine. Not boxed Penasol. Everything was pretty and clean, and people looked so classy I tried to hide the fact that most my clothes come from kilo bags of used clothing sold on a blanket in the markets of Cameroon. We walked a lot, ate a lot of gelato, rode trains and boats and took a million pictures. We spent a day in Piza and took the necessary pictures and I bought a tilted mug for Matt with the tower of Piza for a handle. Next stop was Florence. We visited the Uffizi art gallery and I saw all the art pieces I’d studied in college. It was incredible. Before getting on the plane I went grocery shopping with my mom and we stuffed my suitcase full of edible souvenirs. I hugged my parents hard and left the next morning before anyone in Italy was awake and headed for the airport. The brussels airlines angles saw that I had ridden first class to get there so they upgraded both legs of my trip back to Cameroon. The plane was completely new—complete with a reclining massage chair, personal tv with new movies I hadn’t even heard of yet. I drank champagne for hours and watched 3 movies. I could have lived on that plane..

Back in Cameroon I went back to post for a week and was completely depressed. It had been to much. I missed my parents, hot showers, soft beds and customer service. After locking myself in my house all week, only leaving to teach my classes, I left for Bangagnté and hosted a party at matt’s apartment to cook all the Italian food I’d brought back. I even managed to bring a couple bottles of wine. Everyone was happy and it reminded how much I love being here.

Shortly after that I got the news that I had been chosen to be Greeter for the new training group coming June 1. I’d applied in December, and had been following up for months. I really wanted this position every since we arrived in Cameroon and had 2 volunteers to grill about life in Africa and get us pumped up for our next two years. I helped with planning their 3 months of training these past two weeks with a handful of other volunteers who applied for the job. Now I’m back at post for my last week of school. I’m going to Bafang for Saturday to have a sushi and kimchi party with a fellow graphic design volunteer, Kalika, and then off to the airport in Yaoundé to greet the newbies!

I’m really glad it’s summer. I have a lot of ideas and I don’t have to teach kiddos so I expect to be a lot less stressed 🙂 I’ll try and be better at blogging. Bear with me. I missed you guys.


the nature of the beast

the past few weeks seemed like they were out of a movie. i was overwhelmed with lasts—taking in as much as i possibly could. i was amelie with her hand in the barrel of dried beans at the market. i spent my nights sharing time with all of my favorite people. eating at all of my favorite restaurants for the last time. katie and i sat awkwardly in the kitchen one night surrounded by boxes and cleaning supplies. our chairs were pulled up to a folding tv dinner table covered with our orders from india palace, one of our favorite lawrence spots. in the middle of the mess of boxes sat her record player and we listened to suzannah johannes as we scrubbed the floor we’d all walked on. i have no doubt her haunting voice will bring me back to lawrence in my dreams as i lay on my palette in the deserts of afrika. other nights it will be rusty’s voice, and i’ll be standing back in the replay or the jackpot surrounded by my favorites people drinking boulevard wheat. i’ll probably miss that..

my going away party at harbour was wonderful. all my favorite people filled the tables and i bounced around talking to everyone and giving the tightest hugs i could. i only cried once. lindsey, my old roommate and a best friend, arrived with her gaggle of architects. earlier she had given her final presentation of the project that kept her from going to my goodbye dinner. i got the chance to see the presentation and i had never been so proud of her. i watched the architects drool from speechless open mouths as she revealed more and more research and work she had done. it was amazing. as she began to tear up in the bar i could see she thought she needed me. we had supported each other these past years. talking late on the couch for hours some nights helping sort through each others’ lives. i teared up because i knew she didn’t need me anymore. i had seen her hard work and passion work out—anyone’s dream.

i drove off the next day. my last drive through the flint hills. i had a stack of mixtapes from katie and lindsey to soundtrack the journey.

i slept in my childhood room on the floor for the last time. laying in the position of the bed that once existed. my parents drove off the next day in the uhaul. i’ve been staying with my sister taking dallas by storm. one more day of saying goodbyes in texas.

this is an exhausting business..

nashville weddin

my roommate when i lived in nashville got married the other weekend and i flew out to see it all happen. it was the most beautiful and classic nashville wedding that ever occurred. pretty sure. they had the ceremony on the pedestrian bridge that crosses the cumberland river. the reception was on the rooftop of a building on broadway overlooking all the honky-tonks and bright lights that make up the quintessential nashville. her photographer took some rad pics. i got featured on her blog! maybe she’ll remember me when i ask her to take my wedding pictures.. just kidding.

clif notes

the trip consisted of ten days sailing around the bahamas with my parents following a well known boat race around the abacos islands. at the end of the ten days my parents dropped cresson and i off at one of the main islands where we headed to the airport and hopped on a plane to port au prince, haiti. we were picked up at the airport and taken to st. joseph’s where cress and i planned to help with a reconstruction project for what prior to the earthquake had been a boys home. we ended up getting transferred to their sister organization, wings of hope, in a town outside of the city and into the mountains called fermathe. at wings of hope we worked with kids with mental and physical disabilities helping with classes, feeding meals, maintenance, making faces and speaking broken creole. after breaking all the boys hearts we left with teary eyes to the bus station in port au prince. on the second level front row, we pretended to drive the bus and its passengers across the island to santo domingo. here we said howdy to a fellow tennessean running a hostel in the old town and had dinner at a lonely planet “sure bet” and tasted the national beer, presidente, for the first time. yum!

we headed out the next day to santiago where we met up with our first couch surfer, juliana. we stayed out until 5 am attending a huge annual concert for presidente beer in the VIP section and dancing at clubs afterwards. the next day we took a concho (small van taxi) to jarabacoa. where the hotel we reserved turned out to be closed and our motoconcho drivers (motorbike taxis) decided to take us to a cheap hotel they knew of in the city. bad choice. we pretended to settle in, but instead brainstormed how to sneak out to find another safer, cleaner place to stay the night where we wouldn’t fear for our lives. saved by the iphone we splurged on the tiny hotel 4 blocks down with the most stars and positive reviews. it was the ritz, compared. we told the concierge he was an angel and he blushed and helped us book a rafting trip for the morning. at 9 we were picked up for white water rafting down the yaque del norte river with a group of big hairy russians (minus the tiny blonde model with them). santo domingo followed, our final destination. we couch surfed again with jorge and his awesome family in a perfect spot in the middle of the city. we walked to the art museum and across the city to all the sights, finally seeing white tourists for the first time in weeks. i couldn’t help but stare. we spent the rest of our budgeted money on good meals and souvenirs, ice cream, an independent film and midday drinks in big city cafe’s. we said goodbye to jorge’s family at night and early the next morning we drove through the rain in a taxi to the airport. the entire ride i couldn’t believe the trip was ending.

it had been the longest trip in the world at times, like a rubber band being stretched slow and popping back in an instant. we had been stretched thin physically and mentally. getting kicked out of hostels and the transit of travel had exhausted us, but it had also become our life for the past month. we had snapped to the end of our slingshot adventure. some days had felt like forever—waking up at 6 to work or staying out till 5 to dance. some were filled with tanning oil and 5 hour book reading stints while others were filled with bus rides, kid drool, hammer bruises and last minute changes to the plan. but through every situation we looked at each other and through smirks or smiles we reminded each other,

another day in paradise..

my babies went to amsterdam

I’m sitting in the Union computer lab with Ferrell right now as she prints off airplane tickets and talks about a last 53cent drink from the Kwik shop before leaving me. Everything comes so quick I don’t even have time to really think about what’s happening. I am happy about getting to eat anything in the fridge I want, and eating Ferrell’s Cherios that supposedly taste like metal. Good thing this is only for 6 weeks. Next February is not going to be fun, goodbyes-wise.

I’ll post up a picture later today with the backpackers holding the sketchbooks I made them. 😀 I hope they blog.

counting down again

three more days until my roommates leave for Siena, Italy. I am jealous beyond measure. mostly because I want to traipse around barcelona and paris and florence with them and sketch things in charcoal and dance in boites de nuit and barcelona music festivals with my girls.

lawrence is going to be wonderful, though. I’m not worried. I’m visiting home for a week in june for one of my favorite people’s bachelorette party & wedding! I’m super excited for the dancing that will occur, for the people who are coming directly reflect our high school prom group, and that was one of the best nights of my life. It began with sixpence none the richer on the radio with my favorite song kiss me, a perfect beginning. On the dance floor Monica ridgeway approached our dancing mass exclaiming she was jealous because of how much fun we looked like we were having. Nobody dancing with their date, all hands in the air and quinn using his best moves looking exactly like napoleon dynamite without trying at all. a pinnacle high school moment.

I hope it is the same at the wedding except with kirby and steen in the middle of the floor.

i woke up this morning and started designing the invitations to her panty party 🙂 can’t wait.

itchin to get outta here

fishing, reading, boating, tanning, beaching, sand boarding, frying, grilling, eating, playing, exploring, thinking, dreaming, writing, movie-ing, floating, swimming, bocce-ing, drinking, sitting.

I can’t wait.

But I have to. One more week!
dream day in lawrence

To all my Lawrence readers: if you could have a dream day in Lawrence what would it be? I finally had mine Friday. After my early class ended, I headed to Mass St. to roam. It’s my favorite place to wander. I had called The Dusty Bookshelf earlier to check on a book, and Josiah answered ordering me to come by and hang out. Carless and desperate, I had Ferrell drop me off and escaping the bitter cold and vicious flurries, I opened the door and started perusing the stacks. I tried my hardest to find the section I was looking for without any assistance, but alas I failed. Tyler, another Dusty Bookshelfer, set down her duster and guided me straight to the travel section. In less than a second, my eyes had jumped to the shiny blue spine reading: The South American Handbook 2006 edition by Fodors. I went around the corner to the neighboring nook with bookshelf walls of different genres. This nook houses the comfy green felted arm chair, referred to by some as “Alice’s chair”. Alice is the store cat with giant eyes.

After getting the evil eye from Alice a few times, I moved to the floor and sprawled out with my paper and note-taking utensils. Josiah stumbled upon Alice and me in the middle of a staring contest (I won) and offered me some tea. YES PLEASE! I responded. He asked what kind I would like, and without hesitation I requested my favorite, peppermint, which he wasn’t sure they had. Minutes later, Josiah returned with two steaming mugs, one smelling particularly of peppermint. Yum! So there I sat, planning a dream trip to a foreign place, drinking peppermint tea and picking Josiah’s memory about his past trip to Peru, hearing about places I “just have to see.” I wrote notes about every country south of the equator, falling in love with the idea of visiting each one and dreaming up future memories I have yet to make. Another snowy winter day escaped!

Oh, and I get a discount at the Dusty Bookshelf now, because of my new job at Acme.

Livin the dream.
top 5 travel quotes
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” Mark Jenkins

“Not all those who wander are lost.” JRR Tolkein

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

“I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'” Jack Kerouac

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” Cesare Pavese