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to africa

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just want to spread a little love...

"For me, an area of moral clarity is: you're in front of someone who's suffering and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it, and you act. " (paul farmer)

5 days ago...

Campbellsville, United States

to africa
with hopes to cure
hopes to conquer
hopes to endure
to wade through the suffring
cast some hope on the ground
take the hand of the hopeless
allow hope to abound
plant hope in their eyesight
grow hope from the trees
eat hope at the table
feel hope in the breeze
i found hope at the sealine
at the black african shore
i stepped into the ocean
and ached only for more
i felt hope on the mountain
whipped around by the winds
hope bout knocked me over
forgot all my sins
stood at that summit
tried to soak it all in
sun burnt me discreetly
more hope's never been
just erupted from inside
Volcano of hope in my chest
just erupted all over
spilt out on my breast
come, momma, take some hope from me
i know this isn't all you'll ever be
come, baby, take some hope from me
i hope this isn't all you'll ever be

if i could pass you the world
just pass it right through
i think good things would happen
if the world was with you
cuz your heart's just like gold
and i hear what you say
about going to learn
and coming back someday
to spread a little hope
and share what you know
so your people can hope
so your people can grow
if i could open the world
just peel it open for you
believe me i'd do it
i'd cross oceans for you

permalink written by  theresa on December 25, 2009 from Campbellsville, United States
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mt cameroon: day 1

Buea, Cameroon

can i even begin to describe this adventure?

mt Cameroon sits at approximately 4,095 meters above sea level as the second highest peak in all of africa and the highest peak in west africa. she's an active Volcano, erupting 7 times in the last one hundred years. when the eruption of 1999 occured, geologists predicted that it would be another 10 years before another eruption could take place... then came the eruption of 2000, only 9 years ago! so much for prediction nature!

that morning of oct 13th we overslept just a bit, our alarm malfunctioned...OF COURSE! Helen helped us out by making us some kwacoco (a mush concoction of dried fish, prawns, vegetable, cocoyam, and various spices wrapped with a leaf into a tight, compact roll of goodness). we downed one roll in the back of a taxi, giddy and nervous as we watched the mountain looming above us on our way to meet our guides and porters. i was assuming the lack of activity since august was sure to raise it's ugly head in the next three days...and the "khata" left residing in my lungs was undoubtedly going to take it's toll on me as well....

as we gathered our supplies together, i was a bit shamed by the comparison of my bag and the porters. they would be carrying most of our food/water/shelter supplies and we (shaye and i) would carry only what we needed for the time being: spare clothes, socks, shoes, chinchin and about 2.5 liters of water....and 2 hiking poles.

we, the five of us and our mass of supplies, piled into a taxi and were transported to the end of a paved road where one building existed with little else. a sprinter was repeatedly tackling a small incline nearby as we gave our official introductions to one another.

hans: guide. experienced guide of 123 official tours up mt cameroon and numerous undocumented others. (he didn't tell us this directly, but we realized it later.)

mr. simon: "porter. not just for two days, but many years before."

edward: porter. guide on occasion in other locations, and guide-in-training/porter today.

at approximately 815am at 1010m above sea level, we started out steadily up a small path barely visible along the edge of the building. we stopped maybe five feet up to discuss a plant, it's purpose, and it's latin name.

really? is this the pace?

turns out that mr. hans has a vast amount of information stored in his head and he shares it humbly, generously, and often. the slow pace was difficult in the beginning, but mr hans repeatedly laid out that there was "no need to be sporty"....there was a mountain to discover.

we hiked initially through the Upper Farms of Buea where we saw the Lady of the Mountain (winner of many of the past Mountain Races)...she coasted away to the valley with ease i'll never know...
...past the prison and prison farms where prisoners waved their hands through the bars and hissed at us romantically...
...through the anthropic forest...which contained plaintain and banana trees, and volcanic bombs (giant boulders that had been thrown from past eruptions)...
...into the secondary forest...with more crops of cocoyam and other plantations...
...into the primary forest...with no human intervention and only a small path to lead us through the vibrant green of an african jungle...the tropical mountain rainforest.
...it was too exciting to feel any type of fatigue. besides mr. hans was an excellent guide and knew when we needed a rest, a swig of water, and a taste of chin chin and groundnuts.

i'll never be able to repeat the names of the places mr. hans brought us...nor the names of every plant and animal and sound he directed our attention to...not just the common names, but the latin names as well...

we stopped at a spring and Hut 1 around noon. i'll name the spring 'Butterfly Springs' because sadly my memory is that of my mother's. we devoured our delicious kocoyam and wrote our names with ash on the underside of compound's roof. there was a small shower of rain, which hans considered a blessing....and onward we go....
it wasn't long til we were on the brink of a steeply sloped savannah. apparently hunters and new trainers didn't appreciate the grasses so they set fire to them. not long ago shaye and i had seen fire on the mountain from our little home, so seeing the damage was quite interesting.

at 2000 meters, mr. hans and mr. simon performed a small dance and song to "please the mountain" in response to our foreign presence here. i thought they were gathering fern leaves in case of necessary relief, but found it was for quite a different event. they handed them to shaye and i and requested that we sway back and forth in rhythm to mr. simon's claps and mr. hans chants...so we danced, in hopes to honor the mountain...and continue to have such a safe journey.

as we hiked we watched the landscape miraculously transform. the jungle disappeared, the grasslands wore slightly thinner. we met the 'magic tree' that fades in and out of sight as you climb.....we climbed til it seemed we were level with the clouds....til humanity was barely visible below us...and heaven seemed only a step away... we climbed til we reached new plant species and an even steeper slope....we climbed off course a bit just to view a volcanic vent... we climbed til we reached Hut 2 around 5 in the afternoon....and this is where we stopped for day 1 of our adventure.

mr. hans brought shaye and i to check out a huge cavern with red soil at the base and ferns at the entrance. in the US they would've built stairs and hand rails, but here we lowered ourselves carefully step by step, rock by rock into the dark abyss. it was a dream.

and after that shaye and i roamed about like irresponsible children, posing on rocks and exploring the terrain like true adventurers, while mr simon chopped the firewood and edward and mr. hans prepared our beds. we laid a sleeping mat next to the fire and dozed while edward cooked a long awaited, delicious meal of rice and veggies in tomato sauce. we took some tea outside and gazed at one of the most brilliant skies i've ever seen. it'd take my whole life to count those stars. lucky us, we each saw two shooting stars...and only now i'm realizing we forgot to make wishes on them. not that it mattered... our dreams were coming true anyway (says shaye) haha... cornbusters....

but really.. really really... what a dream. we were on mt cameroon...in africa...climbing the highest peak of west africa...accomplishing...or at least attempting to accomplish...some of our wildest dreams. what else could we wish for?

and then we lied there..on a bed of wood only a couple feet off the ground...wrapped snugly in sleeping bags... laughing ridiculously at the situation we found ourselves in...too excited to be exhausted. who would've thought!

but somehow we eventually drifted off to sleep... completely necessary to prepare for the 5 hour climb to the summit that we'd be facing the next day.


permalink written by  theresa on December 16, 2009 from Buea, Cameroon
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Douala, Cameroon

in africa, there is such a thing known as "khata". this "khata" is very similar to the common cold. they say khata is caused from all the warm winds of the sahara desert blowing out to sea. dust clouds billow about. one step onto most roads sends a cloud billowing up about your calves and permeate the membranes of your nose and mouth. eventually, from all the introduction of foreign particles, your head becomes buzzy, throat is scratchy and sore, and you sneeze a brilliant yellow muke from somewhere deep inside. you feel feverish except upon taking your own temperature you find that you are very much within range....even below at times. lucky you. and lucky me for having had this experience for the last 5 days. a couple days ago i kept coughing and couldn't quit... and yesterday it felt similar to what i can only imagine it would feel like to carry 25 pounds of weight directly on my chest. the symptoms are just now clearing up in forms of phlegm cleared from the bases of my tired lungs. i hope tomorrow they're ready for the climb to mt Cameroon. one way or another i'm going up that mountain :D

permalink written by  theresa on December 12, 2009 from Douala, Cameroon
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Douala, Cameroon

well. saturday i was really surprised at the level of responsibility the doctor allowed us to have in our home clinic. it was exciting, because i was able to start at least three ivs and shaye had one as well. i sadly can't remember all of their cases...mostly malaria and one case of gastritis. i was surprised at the good mood of the place and was proud of our display in skill...not that i doubted it. i didn't, though i was getting curious if my "sticking power" had been depleted with all the disuse. luckily time hadn't rusted me over. all the time i spent at UK obviously grounded itself inside of me somewhere. ....but to explain the change of the place: it seems the doctor has eyes all over this town because shaye and i were "discovered" in our endeavors to the other clinic. this is really a long Story, but let's just discuss the end result: success. we had a long discussion with the doc on monday i think about some of our expectations related to work in coming to Cameroon and i believe some things were worked out. at least now we have formal permission to volunteer at this other clinic.

permalink written by  theresa on December 10, 2009 from Douala, Cameroon
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the other clinic

Douala, Cameroon

so...wednesday and today i've gone to this other clinic ran by mr. muma. it has been REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY great. there is currently a group of nursing students there working/volunteering some of their time...sort of like a clinical group. i guess they have to write some papers about it and i'm just thankful i don't have to do the same. but i'll do my best to fill you in.

on wednesday they were totally inviting. we met everyone and mr muma showed us around again. (i'll upload photos later). we started out doing prenatal visits. (which i've never done) it was TOTALLY awesome listening to the fetal heart sounds through this funky little silver tube that was small on one end and large at the other. the fetal heart was more like a feeling, a vibration in your mind instead of a sound though and i found that exciting. you just have this sensation of a heart..a life. and touching all these pregnant bellies and visiting the baby ward where there was a 2 day old baby and 3 other newborns with mom's eager to allow us to hold them. just that first day i started 2 iv drips for malaria patients and gave an IM shot to some kid. (they rarely give an IM in the deltoid...ALWAYS in the butt...poor kid) ...it was a totally fulfilling day. i learned so much about a clinical setting and prenatal info.

and today i went again because muma said they would be going out to the community to give vaccinations. obviously i couldn't pass this opportunity up!
i got there just after 8 am and changed into my scrubs. we set out fairly on time and walked down these rocky back paths to some random schools made of cement and tin. (unfortunately i don't have MANY photos because the batteries in my camera were nearly out, but i did catch a few!)... the kids were all sitting excitedly in mini chairs at mini tables...and some were crying because they thought the whiteman and white coats were going to stick them with needles. it wasn't long before they realized we only had oral "sweets" (medicines) for them to take and most of them were eager to take them when they saw their friends smiling faces. some even asked for more. we went from room to room of these weather rubbed buildings passing out these sweets. my duty was to mark the left pinkie of each child who had received each of the three medications: polio vaccine, vitamin A, and worm medication. the meds were only for children 5 years exactly and under, so we were dealing with probably some of the cutest kids in cameroon.
we went to maybe five different schools. at each one the kids would wave hands through the windows and cry "whiteman"... sometimes after i was nearly out of view from them.

i was offered a stick of sugar cane at one point. they laughed at me as i oddly fumbled the cane about trying to figure out how to even begin to eat it. but once they showed me i definitely had the hang of it. you have to bite the outer shell and tear it off with your teeth. and then you take a knife and cut the stem into four parts (this makes it easier to fit that whole bit in your mouth). you bite away one of those four parts and chew and suck on it until you're sure all the sweet watery sensation has left the roughage and evaded your senses. it's too enjoyable, really.

after we got through with the schools we went to the community. trekking up and down rocky mountainside paths to find all the "pickens" under the age of five. in the village were the younger ones and they weren't quite as eager to receive the sweets from the people in white coats. some screamed. some wept before we even got close. and one was caught quietly slipping away down the street. we sat at a little community center and waited while the town crier went to the random homes to announce our presence. while we sat i discussed my small understanding of the pidgin-english language with some local men.
i de talk small pidgin, you see? and i de hear pidgin more.
they were enjoying some shots of whiskey from these small sealed plastic bags. they said this was the way the poor man could taste good things. it was about 10 cents a shot. very tempting really.

so after we started heading back to the clinic i realized how exhausted i was. it was HOT. i was thirsty. i was hungry. and i was WELL pleased with the day! :)
four of us stopped at a little restaurant and i enjoyed a full plate of ndole (usually i share a plate with shaye) and a gordon's spark.

and back at the clinic i got to observe/assist with a circumcision. it was SO painful to watch. apparently the blade was slightly dull so i'm assuming it made it that much terrible for the 5 week old boy (they usually do it within the first three days). i was a little sickened honestly. she kept cutting and tying surgical sutures around pieces of skin...attempting to stop the bleeding. finally it stopped. i really was scared but... wow. it was intense to watch. i don't think i'd like to do one...but maybe someday. we'll see.

anyways. i'm about out of time but on one last note:


permalink written by  theresa on December 4, 2009 from Douala, Cameroon
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World Aids Day

Buea, Cameroon

cameroonians. rich in dance. in positive thinking. in peacefulness. in celebraton. in hope.
the nursing students decked out their fine white professional garb while shaye and i showed off our new african dresses. we woke early to prepare for the Aids March that would be taking place down the street from our home.
at first there werent many people...just a band and some nurses and other students. i did find a friend there: one of the nurses that occasionally works in our clinic. we met her hubby and ate her gato (a fried ball of dough filled with pepper! mmm)

the march started and there were maybe 60 people. it was a good enough crowd for me. the drummers and trumpets led and the people behind them enjoyed with dancing while meandering our way down the one side of the street. the sun was SO bright. thank goodness i bought a handkerchief since i've been here because for sure i've put it to use... and don't think i'm complaining..because i'm most definitely not. i'd take these hot sweaty days full of sunshine and music over a cold icy day in lex almost ANY day...(it's the people that draw me home!)

and more later because i'm almost out of time!! ah...these damn internet booths!

permalink written by  theresa on December 1, 2009 from Buea, Cameroon
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Douala, Cameroon

so there's been this entwining of people and experiences here. going out with friends i've managed to make a lot of good contacts and have met some great people and have been able to share some of the circumstances i find myself in. a.k.a discontentment with the patient load/work arrangements. somehow one person led me to another person and so on and so on and shaye and i have been invited to work with another clinic that seems more focused on the poor and less focused on trying to survive..oorr...not exactly sure of what the focus of our clinic is, but it's not quite what we were informed about. it seems that if the doc really was so intent on reaching the poor she would join forces with some of the clinics already at work to do the same deeds. Anyways. we're going to try and join them in their work during our free time and i'll keep you updated on how that goes.

last night was the barcelona vs. real madrid football game. there;'s a restaurant/bar at the end of our street that had it playing on the big screen. we decided to go for it...and i took sides with real madrid while shaye was rooting for barcelona just to be difficult. we were hungry so we were out to find some food as well (the restaurant for some reason wasn't serving last night) ... we bumped into a friend/neighbor and he paid our taxi fares to a place down the road...he didn't eat anything, but was uber kind enough to buy our one plate of "curried" (not really) rice and grilled fish. it was excellent! then we went back to see the last minutes of the game...as great as my hope was for madrid to pull out of their one down slump, it didn't happen. but it was still a good night... we can't help discussing often our joy of being in africa. it really hits me sometimes. i'm so blessed to be here. learning how other places of the world work. learning about these people and their hardships and their enjoyments. learning their way of life a bit. and everyday i learn something new about the way they see the world. i really love it.

thanks for all your support in coming here....

permalink written by  theresa on November 30, 2009 from Douala, Cameroon
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a good day

Douala, Cameroon

wow. today!
the doctor didn't show up to the office until after noon. enough time to tell us that "someday" we'd be going to schools to educate some kiddies about the risks of contracting HIV, so I ought to recreate another copy of the HIV poster I made to hang on her bare, blue clinic wall. so i did..thinking how nice it was to travel all the way to africa to make posters. anyways...maybe some kid would show some self control after staring at the 'white man' in the front of the room holding up a shiny poster.

in between drawing lines and letters and various pictures displaying the avenues of infection, shaye and i sat roasting in the hot african sun...enjoying the short time of warmth while it's available. i'm sure to miss it.

the doctor left early...before 3 this evening. as usual, if she goes the atmosphere turns slightly more relaxed. laura (another nurse) was curiously out behind the clinic disturbing a fire and pushing around through some of the brush. in a few moments she came to us, wordlessly chomping on her own cob of roasted corn and handing off another to us to share. we were VERY excited! some of the kernals had even showed early signs of yummy popcornness. we enjoyed. we enjoy a lot here.

a patient came in and because the MD was incognito we didn't think we could do anything for her, but apparently there were orders made prior to this day (great communication).
omeprazole IV push stat
we pulled out a vial of omeprazole and searched the information sheet within the box to figure out the proper rate of administration. we also had to do this with no IV. the woman kindly had disappearing veins, but i was happy to see them and more happy to stick them as this was the first stick i've done in 2 months! she thanked us for the administration, and i thanked her for needing medicine...and coming when the doctor wasn't there.

so, since the doctor had left and we can't really do anything much without her or her keys there, it was our chance to escape the clinic and explore. we had no other engagements and, as it's rare for our schedules to be so free, we (shaye and i) set out with a few goals in mind. first on the agenda: Beno Bakery.

We walk into this tiled, tin-tabled heaven with it's crossiants, hamburgers, sodas, and sweets lining the glass display and try to hide the fact that we're drooling. we had spotted pizza and quiche here the day before and knew a sooner-than-later visit was a must. we carefully selected some of the juicier looking pizzas and the last quiche assuming it was last because it was something to be desired. wow. were we in for a surprise. we sat and attempted to keep our cool, but our eagerness over took us. wow. the pizza looked so delicious. juicy. it didn't exactly look completely fresh, but...stale pizza always tasted good at home, right? ....so.

the first bite. hmm...mine resembled a bit of soggy cardboard with dry, wrinkly "veggies" and ancient cheese (not properly aged). i debated on setting the piece down before i finished, but the shit cost a whole dollar so i was like..hell no. not wasting that! (you can buy two beers with a dollar!!) ...and inside i was having some high hopes for the quiche so i figured i'd suffer through it.
and..the first bite: for me, i took the tip of the creamy triangle delicacy with memories of my mom's on my taste buds....which quickly were put to rest. i soon realized i was not in my mother's kitchen enjoying her fresh quiche but rather found myself in some sort of food hell. slime stretched from the product to my mouth and the mush sort of violated my senses. as i breathed out, hoping maybe the aftertaste would be somewhat sufferable, i found myself publicly gagging. i didn't take another bite and neither did shaye. we managed to take down some crust, but...it was a failure and "possibly one of the worst food experiences of my life" (claims shaye)...like taking candy from a baby, but not even that. it's like...giving a kid something that's supposed to be candy and it turns into shit as they put it in their mouth. BUT...as much as it was a failure, it was a success. we sat a bit longer wondering how to dispose of our garbage a.k.a. what they tried to call food...enjoying the sunshine, the african people, and the dance beat ringing out to us. we were alone. we were in africa. and it was excellent.

next we tried to check some internet, but the place was packed. we decided to undo the wrong that had so cruelly been done to us, and went in search for some proper african dish to satisfy our cheated bellies. we walked...and walked....and walked. twice we asked people where we might find a "restaurant"....they would then ask us if we were speaking german. no...we're speaking english. just like you. seriously? they have signs with "restaurant" in various places.. maybe we say it weird. anyways. finally after some vague directions we saw some people dishing out on some eru and decided to give the place a try. thankfully. we pounded a rich plate of ndole (in doe-lay), yummy sweet soft plantain, and some gordon sparks (a fine citrus gin fizz)...all for three bucks. luckily shaye and i have similar appetites and interests...it's been a LOT of fun today. i'm sure these african people must think white girls only know how to smile and laugh too loud.

NEXT...we went to watch some dudes playing some fine football (soccer). maybe it wasn't just the soccer that was fine. we met some fit african ladies who encouraged us to start doing some sports while we're here. one of these girls was so fast she could beat some of the boys and keep a close second to the others. while we were watching i had this STRANGE sensation. i was watching this girl climbing over the fence and then sitting on it: her long sleek legs dangling, her face shining from the activity, bush grasses blowing behind, and sun setting to the side. all of a sudden i was born in africa, grown in buea, and i came here nearly everyday to play soccer on this dusty field and enjoy my friends. i was standing alone on the plain of this cameroonian city. i would go home to my family that night. i would cook my eru and say hello to my brothers or my sisters. the world felt so small and yet so so big. it was like i was made here...my blood became the water and my heart became the dust and my mind was caught somewhere between them and the sun....kind of a weird feeling actually...i honestly don't think this is where i belong forever, but i'm so happy to be walking on this part of the earth. i've been so blessed to know these people, see their homes and their families, feel the sweat they put into life, the passion they put into love...the desperation with which they look to their futures. it's inspiring. i'm humbled. i'm honored.

and i'm still in africa.

permalink written by  theresa on November 25, 2009 from Douala, Cameroon
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Douala, Cameroon

again my blogs have become somewhat lacking, haven't they? ashea (AW-she-aw{sorry})

saturday night we were invited to a celebration party. it was some kind of formal "passing on" of the leadership positions in a formal school group, while also welcoming the new freshmans into the roles. the invitation declared that the time frame was 8pm til dawn. we were VERY curious how this would play out. i wore a dress that i got here in Africa as did Shaye, the volunteer from New York. everyone there looked SPLENDED, dressed finer than anything i ever wear. girls wore beautiful cocktail dresses, while many guys decked themselves out in fine suits and ties. we were served a 'refreshment' of popcorn, dried fish, peanuts, and a white breaded sandwich of sardine paste, which was surprisingly enjoyable. after the ceremony everyone was served some wine. the red heaven was sweet but not quite as sweet as my manichewitz from home. soon...the dancing began! and might i say that these cameroonians if they can do anything, they can dance! i've seen 3 year olds shake their booties better than me and apparently they only become more skilled with age. quite impressive. so, all night we danced. i met some people, enjoying their company... enjoyed some castel...some more sardine pasted white bread... and i was surprised at how quickly the time passed. before i knew it 5 am was there and our escorts were waiting to take us home. we strolled still dancing to the roadside to catch a taxi. in the wee hours of the morning, fit cameroonians were beginning their morning 'sports', running up the mountain roads like machines. the new lab scientist, papa joe, was in rare form, wildly directing the taxi in our direction, rushing everyone into their positions, being quite the comedian in his probably state of exhaustion. we were seen safely home by papa joe and two other friends. as happy as i was to see my bed, i was sorry the night was over...we had too much fun! ...so i lied there repicturing the dancing cameroonians until passing out from my own definite exhaustion...
looking forward to the next day (or the same day!) when we would visit muna market....if we ever woke up!

permalink written by  theresa on November 22, 2009 from Douala, Cameroon
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the beach!

Limbe, Cameroon

so yesterday we took the trip to the beach. it was SOO nice! ..except for the initial taxi ride, in which the emergency stick was prodding affectionately against my tail bone the entire time.

unfortunately, i'll have to write more about this later...enjoy the pics!

permalink written by  theresa on November 15, 2009 from Limbe, Cameroon
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