School has been in session for about a month now. I hadn’t planned on having many more “first days of school” post grad but there I was Monday morning as nervous as I had ever been. My school is at the top of a very very very large hill. So not only was I nervous sweaty I was also “I’m-from-Florida-and-we-don’t-have-hills-who-put-this-school-on-a-small-mountain” sweaty. I got to school about 7:20, 10 minutes before our general assembly was due to start, and there was not a child in sight. In fact there was only one other teacher in sight, who saw how sweaty I was and insisted I sit down and rest. In true Cameroonian fashion, we started about an hour late giving me a full 10 minutes of first period after I fell down a hill in front of all my students. Thankfully, the rest of the day went pretty smoothly after that. My kids are starting to get used to their crazy American teacher who makes them run around to understand the difference between speed and velocity (although they still don’t seem to understand) or gives them different things to hold to understand the concept of mass.
I’m feeling more a part of the community here as well. The other week I had the privilege of going to a dueil, a part of the funeral process here in Cameroon. A dueil celebrates the life of the person who had passed away with traditional singing and dancing and of course food and drinks. The woman who had passed away was still fairly young and was well connected in the community. Her dueil lasted several nights with most of the village in attendance. The night I went was also the night we lost power. It was a surreal feeling to be sitting in the dark surrounded by the beautiful voices these women were lifting up to remember their friend. It was also touching to see how the community focused not only on the grief of losing someone but also the joy of having known them.
It’s really easy here to be alone. It’s easy to let yourself wallow because you didn’t eat any vegetables that day and you haven’t had enough water to shower since the weekend. Or to want to shut yourself up in your home where you’re safe because two drunk guys aggressively came on to you while you were loudly shouting no or “ne touche pas” in their faces. Or because you’re overwhelmed from a miscommunication with some of your community members and they’ve signed you up to be lead of a project that you’re not sure actually exists. Those are the lows, the valleys. It’s easy to get caught up in them and wonder how you’re ever going to survive the next 23 months. But then something else will come along. A cute little girl showing you how high she can count while skipping over a few choice numbers or a woman giving you a gift just because or even a conversation with someone you miss. The times that give you the peace of mind to say “wow. It’s already been 4 months?” Those are the peaks that give you the strength for the next time you find yourself at the bottom of a large hill.