Papaya, Pink Stars and Prospects

“Oxygen is free. Breathe in as much as you can.”

I thought that returning would be really hard, but it wasn’t so bad, knowing I don’t really have that much time left. That being said, I’ve been busting my butt these past couple of weeks to push the projects I want to see happen and to do the things I want to do this year. It’s crucial that I do exactly that this year.

I feel extremely healthy. I actually do cardio at least every other day. My friend Autumn says there is no way I haven’t lost weight, seeing the way I eat and work out. I’ve become a little obsessed with “The Master Plan”, as me and Richie call it. I always boil water first thing in the morning for tea. Then after my work out, I drink my tea (with macha) and eat some cut up papaya (its super good for your complexion and really great for losing weight) with lime juice to add flavor. Sometimes I eat straight papaya for lunch too, but I also eat salads and fish. I just found this lady in the market who can get me spinach if I ask a day or two in advance. I just got a kilo of it and made a salad for myself for lunch. I will have to research recipes for more ways to prepare and eat it. I’ve never really cooked spinach before. I’m excited for the results, but also I just feel better and healthier- I think that is enough of a reason to continue The Master Plan. I’ve even started a bet with Eric that involves much less alcohol in-take. I just got fed up with myself for drinking more than I felt I should, and drinking isn’t good at all for The Master Plan anyway. If he loses, he will have to be designated driver for his friends one night, while wearing a traditional boubou, a dress-like shirt that descends past the knees, with a hat that Muslims in the Northern provinces typically wear. He hasn’t decided on my punishment yet. That’s the challenge. It makes a difference when you are actually counting what you consume, when you make note of what you are doing. Drinks are recorded in my planner, and so are the days I do cardio- with guess what? A pink star!

A few days after Tim left for France, I took Franck to boarding school (see my previous blog). I was worried about feeling sad, but some strength overcame me and I ended up spending the entire day cleaning (and doing the dishes wasn’t really that bad, ha) and moving things around so that Franck’s room is a general guest bedroom. It’s nice. Burned incense and had papaya salad for lunch. I opened all the doors and there was a nice breeze; and being alone was okay.

My work week officially started Monday. I researched Obama, e-mailed prospect contributors for future prospects, and posted my blog. I had tried to meet with my principal, but he ended up traveling. My activities at the lycee are up in the air in regard to teaching English classes.

I met with Serge on Tuesday, a radio DJ here. And I ended up on the radio that evening… since I did all this research on Obama, he decided to just have me do it that day! I expect a regular Tuesday debate/chat with Serge on his show this year. I look forward to working with different people, and I’m hoping that through working with different people, I will endingly have an even better impression of Cameroon in a different way. I really enjoy the idea of sharing knowledge with my villagers here, of reaching out to them this way; I’ve already been told this morning by probably 10 people that they were listening last night, that they enjoyed learning more about Obama. Next week, the topic will be ‘Success of The Student.’ It falls just in line with Club Success- a club, more like a course, that I will implement within my lycee.

I spent most of Wednesday with Autumn, a nearby volunteer who banks with me- and on those days we usually spend hours releasing the need to talk to another girl, usually binging on something great like cheese, pancakes or cookie dough. She is the most mature 21 year old I know, and the youngest volunteer in our stage (I am the second youngest volunteer). She is the inspiration for the last poem that I published. Her house was broken into twice within the past month (her phone being stolen on the bush taxi merits her “robbed thrice” title)! She has been staying with me, while trying to figure out and awaiting the Peace Corps to figure out how to deal with the security issues at her post.

Thursday, I had a meeting with Priest Michel, the founder of Kentage, an association that has constructed and maintained three orphanages in the past fifteen years. Michel is a wonderful character. He has dedicated his life to taking care of children that he says did not choose to be put in the position they are in. What especially touches me about Michel’s story is how he has become who he is today with special thanks to his marraine or godmother, a Spanish woman who lived in Cameroon doing community service. She made it her priority to send Michel to give him an education and the confidence in himself to succeed. Now, here he is, with a huge heart and many ambitions, talking about how he picked flowers from the village where she used to live, to carry them on the plane, to place in the vases next to her coffin at the funeral he recently attended in Spain. I am anxious to get an Education volunteer placed in the orphanage in Bakou, and also will work to get a water pump set up in one of the Badzuidjong orphanage, where there is no running water. I would love to work with Rotary International to see this happen.

I want to say thanks for thinking of me, and smiling when you do…. There is no doubt that your good energy comes to me, that your blessings rain over me every day. During my meeting with Priest Michel, he told me that he could see a lot of love in me- the way I act, smile, my stance, confidence in who I am… that he could tell that my parents did a really great job and that I was given a lot of love, and that it has become part of me. What a beautiful compliment. Everyone who loves me deserves to hear that.

Friday was so productive. First I went to the high school to see the principal- but he wasn’t there. His office was just recently burned down, so I know that he is going through a lot with that. Then I went by Kaori’a house. She is the Japanese Volunteer that just moved to my village, into the house that I used to live in actually. She was not there, but the little boy in the compound was there. After playing with him for a minute, his mom told me that it was his 3rd birthday. He was just born when Yune, the previous volunteer came. He was learning to walk, and now he is running around and his baby sister has started to walk and talk! It signified something in me, I can’t really explain more than that. Little by little, things do change and grow, and some of us are here to see the process happen. So I went to the radio where Kaori works- something I might have otherwise put off or not done because of “too much to do” or lesson planning. And it was nice. She asked me to help her buy a bed in Nkongsamba, so she ended up coming over later (after I started an application for funding for a water pump at an orphanage I am working with… that’s another amazing story) and we went. I bargained a really good deal for her, which I was proud for. Walking back, I decided to get some tapioca on a whim, to take whenever I had the chance to Franck at the boarding school (tapioca is something they eat a lot in boarding schools here), and then (after finding some silverware and cups I needed to buy) I ran into one of the teachers from his boarding school! Luckily he remembered me, because I didn’t remember him. It worked out so nicely because I just sent the tapioca with him to give to Franck! After that we went to my papaya lady and she gave me a ton of big papayas for a good price (that’s why I love her!), and a couple limes for the papaya. Kaori asks me if I want a drink and some food, so we get fish and Sprite, which I haven’t had in a long time… I usually get beer, ya see. And I had one beer left for the week so I decided not to use it there. It was really nice. Most of all, I felt good because I was hosting someone else… I remember how uncomfortable and awkward I felt all the time, and it’s obvious that Kaori feels that way too. She will come into her own, and this zone will become a zone of comfort, with the help of a few people, including me. I hope to ease that process like Yune did for me. My best days were always the ones in which I unexpectedly ended up helping someone else out.

Saturday, I relaxed with a hot bucket bath and green tea mask. I wrote a couple of letters and drank tea after my cardio blast. In the evening I made a pizza, using the specialty of pepperoni as a topping, and drank my last beer of the week with a friend.

About Tara

Tara received her degree in French and Communications before jetting off to serve Cameroon for 2 years with the Peace Corps. She has forever since been inspired to serve in humanitarian projects around the world. She's a writer, tour guide, business owner, property manager, wifey, dog mom, and traveler. Tara lives in Dallas, Texas, where she's happily married to the tech genius who keeps her website pretty.