My long run of the week was scheduled for this morning, and it turned out to be one of those moments where I realized again (after nearly 16 months of being here) that I really am in the Peace Corps in Cameroon, in the middle of Central Africa.
The sun was bright and hot, a rare and welcome sight after months of rainy season. A tank top and sunglasses felt like the perfect running companion and I headed out down our hill to run through the Muslim quarter of town, one of the only less hilly parts of Nkongsamba. As I trotted along, a typical Sunday morning in Nkongsamba kept me fully entertained. I chased after goats, eavesdropped on mama’s chatting together, passed families headed to church in their Sunday best, kids laughed as they carried buckets of water on their head, and a sweet little girl with pigtail braids asked if she could accompany me…she ran with me for all of a minute before she decided there were better things to do. As the sun burned off high clouds, more and more palm trees and red hills were revealed, dotted with wood houses along the way. Intermixed with calls of ‘la blanche’, or ‘the white’, that I have trained myself to ignore were many encouraging shouts of ‘du courage’. It truly was a Cameroonian run; as I was using all the energy I had to run up one of the last long hills, I was greeted by a friend from the radio station. I couldn’t just wave and say good morning as I would have if I was running up any other hill anywhere else in the world, but greetings require a handshake, asking if everyone slept well the night before, and ending with enjoy your Sunday. It took all my energy to start climbing up the hill again, but I made it.
After a warm bucket shower, a spaghetti omelet from our favorite mama up the street, and an iced coffee on the deck…I am left feeling content and enjoying the little moment of peace that comes from witnessing a rare display of humanity running along Nkongsamba’s dirt roads.