As most of you know, we welcomed my parents, sister, and brother-in-law for the first two weeks of January. As most of you can imagine, we had a great time. It was full of lots of laughs, wine, and stories…aka, experiences that will only happen in Cameroon. Not only was it a vacation and adventure for them, it was also a huge vacation and adventure for Shaun and I too. We went to places in the country we had never seen, and we ate like we were on vacation … cheese, hamburgers, western food …!
We welcomed them in Douala, the biggest city in Cameroon who has one of the smallest airports I have ever seen. It was a good “ease-in” point, as Douala has many modern aspects, like street lights, but is still a huge African city. Once everyone arrived from either America or Australia, we took off for Maroua, the capital of the extreme north region of Cameroon. Shaun and I were spoiled and got to fly up there with the family. If you don’t fly, it normally takes about 4 days each way to travel via train and bus from Douala to Maroua. Maroua is also the closest point to Waza National Park. At Waza, we went on a two day safari. We were lucky enough to have an awesome park guide who, we joked, was more fun to watch him look for the animals than look for the animals ourselves! We managed to find lots of giraffes, antelope (of whom my dad took a million pictures of!), gazelle, warthogs, monkeys, ostrich, and lots of birds. One of the best views was from riding on top of the van, panoramic views of the Sahel desert! In between safari outings, we sampled traditional Cameroonian food for lunch, and slept in traditional round huts of the region.
From Waza, we drove about 200miles over 8 hours (that is how good the roads are here) to get to Rhoumsiki, but man, it was worth it! Rhoumsiki is on the Cameroonian/Nigerian border and is made of natural volcanic plugs that are just beautiful. We spent our last night in the north sitting out admiring the view, watching the sunset over Rhoumsiki and Nigeria, and topping off the night with a traditional Cameroonian dance performance. Shaun and I had an incredible time exploring the north, it is beautiful, and we were so thankful to have been able to do it together with our family.
We then made our way back down to Nkongsamba, and got to show our stomping grounds. We enjoyed a chicken dinner at a friend’s restaurant, learned how to dye fabric with the traditional wooden stamps, went to the waterfalls near by, and explored our town. It was fun to show our markets, walk around town and be able to have people understand first hand what our daily life is like. The family got to experience doing all our laundry by hand, taking bucket showers, cooking on our little two burner stove, and all of the small details that make up our Peace Corps service. Some of the highlights of our time in Nkongsamba were spending a few afternoons sitting on our patio being entertained by the slew of neighborhood kids, cooking and eating dinners together, and just having them take part in our lives here. I will say, too, the neighborhood kids fully profited from the family coming, they know with Tata Mollie and Tonton Shaun they only get one candy or toy, but man, with Mama and Papa, they got as many as they wanted! They were spoiled by having the family visit, just as Shaun and I were.
To end their visit, we headed down to Kribi. Kribi is the most resort-like town in Cameroon, and it sits on the Atlantic Ocean. We spent the last 3 days laying by the pool and swimming in the ocean. Rough, I know. Kribi, while tropical and resort-like, is still in Cameroon, so we still had many normal experiences, like riding in a taxi Cameroonian style…4 in the back, 2 in the front, plus the driver. Kribi also has great seafood at the local fish markets. At the market, you look through what your fish mama has for the day, choose either your fish, lobster or shrimp, how you want it cooked, and then sit at the plastic table and chairs overlooking the marina, and voila, you have a fresh seafood lunch! We had a great time in Kribi relaxing and chatting about all that is Cameroon.
Unfortunately, everyone had to move on to real life. For a long time before our family came, Shaun and I were saying we didn’t want them to come solely for the reason that we didn’t want them to leave…and we were right. It was so great to have them here, it was a challenge to come back to Nkongsamba. However, we are busy this week with some project meetings, getting caught up with emails, and working on our future plans for the rest of this year.
We cannot seem to say or express, really, how fortunate we feel that we got to host our family while were are here. Our experience in Cameroon is definitely an experience that Shaun and I are sharing together, and it was great to have our family see first hand what it is like, and be able to have them relate and know our life here. And not only that, it was just so nice to sit and chat and share the days together again. We continue to laugh about all that happened, and all of the ‘stories’ they walked away with.
So, thank you, Mom, Dad, Em & Giles, for coming to visit us, and for letting us vacation with you!