Saturday, December 19, 2009

Travel, Trek, Goodbye, Travel

*please excuse the numerous errors below, (including no apostrophes)
Im typing on a French Keyboard.

Monday December 7th Continued
We ate lots and lots of corn chuff, negotiated rent with the mayor, said goodbye to Joshua, Andy, Jemma, Richard, Kozaku, Louise, Patience, Collete and family. We moved our stuff over to Sian and Louises and stayed there for the night.

Tuesday December 8th
We woke up early for our journey back to Buea and said our goodbyes to Sian and Louise. On the way down the road we saw Patience and she helped us to the motor park. I was so happy to see her again and so sad to have to say goodbye again. I wish I could bring her back with me, her and her son. A yound widow in Cameroon is a horrible thing to be. Our journey back to Buea went smoothly and we arrived around 6. We were very warmly greeted back and since our old apartment was occupied we were given a place inside the house. Esther was sent home to Bamenda to care for her sick baby so again we had a sad goodbye. After 9 days of no water wa had a shower, an amazing ice cold shower. And to top of the good day I got to talk to Joey and I was fed. Smile.

Wednesday December 9th
Today was a day of rest, laundry (from the no water and red dirt road days of Belo), and preparation for the great trek. We went to the MtCEO office and met our guide, and after we ventured to the market to buy our food for the 3 days journey. I made fresh green beans for
dinner YES FRESH VEGETABLES, AMAZING. (We bought the beans through the bus window while in transit, somewhere between Belo and Buea).

Thursday December 9th
We got an early start, headed to the office to meet our guide and porters, and begin the trek. Chelsea wasnt feeling well and about 45minutes in (around 10AM) she decided to turn back. We thought it better she be sick at home than on the side of the mountain and if nothing else, it surely wasnt going to make her feel any better. Her porter took her back and I continued on with my guide and porter. Resting point one=1000M. Resting point two, Hut 1 about 2000M, the last source of water for two days. Resting point 3 and dance to please the rock god, about 2300M. Here they burn the earth and we are at the level of the clouds. Looks like the end of the world huh?
Now my heart and lungs are telling me that if I dont stop walking it will be the end of my world. Resting point 4, The Magic Tree=2500M, the only tree in sight. I was told that between Huts 1&2 is the hardest part, with the pain I was feeling I was praying this was right. Done for the day by 3PM, Hut 2=2850M. Now we eat and play cards to pass the time. Sleep is nonexistent as the rats scamper over my feet.

Friday December 10th
A very long day ahead of us we begin trekking by 7:30AM. The first hour was awful. Maybe I just needed to start slower to get warmed up or it was still as brutal as the part just before the Hut, or both. Either way, I was questioning myself. My guide told me that this is where most people turn back, weakness, disgust, altitude sickness etc. I had to rest. I gave my porter my watch to keep my mind off the time and decided that no matter what I wasnt giving up so I might as well be happy about it. Ten minutes after we stopped there was a scheduled break at an awesome cave. I was frustrated that neither my porter or guide had encouraged me, saying that a break was coming. I talked with them and they told me laughing that we had passed two resting points already without stopping. I couldnt help but laugh, laugh and feel happy, feel that maybe I wasnt so weak afterall. I dared ask how high we were and was very pleasantly suprised. I explored tha cave and decided to press onward. The terrain grew molder and the air colder and we reached Hut 3 (about 3445M) in what seemed like minutes. Again shortly after that we reached the summit. It was only 10:30 and I was feeling really good.
The descent however is not the same route we came up. I knew we had a long long way to go. First the descent was tough, very rocky. Then we came to my vary vary favorite part of the whole experience- one hour straight of ful fledged running down volcanic ash, litlerally a mountain of ash, it felt like boarding in the wierdest way, boarding and running downhill at the same time. Since the porter and guide were ever behind me going at my pace I took off as fast as I could fly. After the ash the really no fun part came. I was over walking and the prize of the summit had been won. What was there to walk for? We passed a crased plane on the side of the mountain, walked through endless savanna, over the lava flow of 1942 for 90+ minutes, through flower fields, over the flow of 1999, 1982, 2000, and over another really neat from about 35 yrs ago that was all covered in lichen. Finally around 3:30 (ahead of schedule, without my watch) we reached Manns Spring. We camped at the straw and thatch shelter for the night and drank abundanly from the spring, oh and we feasted-hot rice.
Sleep was again difficult. By this time I had developed a relationship with my porter, Thompson. He is studying pre-law and gender studies at Buea university and training to run the race up the mountain next February (look up the race cause it is totally insanly awesome). He and I had good talks about gender and agriculture. He also knew the rats bothered me. I told him I was taking a benadryl to help me sleep; he decided it would be a good idea to at that point tell me that the king rat in Cameroon was a meat eating rat and that it surely wasnt a good idea to sleep to soundly. HAHAHA.

Saturday December 11th
30mintues of rainforest, one hour of savanna, 30minutes of lava flow, 4hours of jungle. Civilization, oh wait, I mean a village, yay a village! After we passed the prison about an hour into the first day until we were in the highland farms of Bokongo (1700M) I didnt see a single person other than my guide and porter. Imagine that out west, oh wait, not possible. The trip was spectacular but I was ready to be home. I met Chelsea back and the house and to both of our relief she was feeling better. After a shower we met the porters and the guide for a beer and a little celebration. They gave us rocks from the mountain and honored me with a little speech. Actually, I got acompliment I hope to never forget.
Sunday December 12th
Rest. I was further honored by beging given a bar of beautiful pears (avocados, my faaavorite) and more mountain rocks. Chelsea and I met Thompson to watch a traditional wrestling match (part because Thompson rules, part because we didnt want to go to kingdom hall, part because,
well TRADITIONAL WRESTLING). Do you hear that Joey and Bennett?
Monday December 13th
Laundry. Prep for take off.This is me double tasking-trying to take Chelseas mind off of her anxiety to see Will and learning the ever important skill of carrying good on your head to free your hands. Hey, you gotta get the panties and socks off the drying line somehow.

Tuesday December 14th
Pack. Sell the phone back-haggle haggle haggle. Lots of goodbyes. Find a driver to take us to Duoala- haggle haggle haggle. Smooth journey. We arrived really early to avoid "moving in the night" and thus had plently of time for one last Cameroonian lager-Castel. We struggled to get through security. When we arrived our passports were stamped with the date October 6th instead of November 6th and thus it seemed as if our visas were expired. After that was sorted I got pulled aside for a water bottle, instead of making me dump the bottle they made me chug it until they were satisfied it was water. THEN they saw what looked like a giant bag of weed in bag which in actuality was a bag of dried vegetables we were taking back to Irene as a favor to our host family the Abias. So then I was searched and repetatively asked for a bribe, after about 5 full minuted of refusing to pay a bribed they let me go. Our plane was delayed three hours and it was perfect timing cause all of a sudden my stomack started to turn. Thats right folks, I threw up in the Cameroon airport bathroom. I almost made it out of Africa without getting sick, almost, not quite.

Africa is beautiful and I will certaily be going back. I dont have anything more to say because, well, I never spare even the slightest of details. More to come from France. Love to all.


*This computer wont flip the photos, Ill do it later. I figure sideways pictures are better then no pictures.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Highlights from Africa

Tuesday November 3rd
We had a glorious farewell of bowling and food (miso soup) in Phili all thanks to Vince, Michelle, Rob and Joey. So thanks guys for a great sendoff, American style.

November 4th -6th
Epic. We rode the bus from Phili to NY City where I said the hardest goodbye of my life. Our trip from New York to Paris went fine. Once in Paris however things became a bit more complicated. Thanks to some tears and France’s only inhabitant with a heart we somehow made our flight to Libya. However illegally it might have been accomplished seeing as we never went through customs. Upon arrival in Libya we were greeted not so warmly by a man in a mask. Then we were corralled to a room full of scary men with guns most of which were smoking. Again, we miraculously made our flight despite the oversight of a lack in time change over daylight savings. We couldn’t help but feel happy when we made it safely through Benin into Douala. With one foot off the plane it was apparent we had landed in the jungle. Sticky upon contact with the air we went to retrieve the two of our four bags that had made it. We were warmly greeted by a tired Lucy Abia. Into the cab we went for an unforgettable ride. About five minutes in we stopped by 5 uniformed and heavily armed police officers. (Let me remind you reader that it is now 3:30 AM) Upon seeing our white tired faces we were asked for identification. Our bags were in the trunk so I volunteered to get out and retrieve them. Feeling a fear I had never known before I told Chelsea to keep her ass glued to the seat. After what seemed like endless interrogation I was allowed back in the car where I then received a marriage proposal from the interrogation officer. After our driver bribed the officer we were allowed to pass. A further eventful ride introduced us to a whole new style of driving. The best possible word to describe this style would simply be: terrifying. Around 5 am we reached Buea and were warmly greeted by the rest of the Abia clan.

Friday November 6th
After some sleep we became acquainted with the family and the area around their compound. We were attacked with unwelcome food and spiritual intervention. We were forced to buy traditional African dresses for a purpose yet unseen.

Sunday November 8th
Purpose for African cabbas discovered…. Kingdom Hall. Lucy has become educated on what it really means to be vegetarian and although our religious differences will never be sorted she quickly mounted the challenge of vegetarian cooking. We are now eating well,…. Maybe a bit too well.

November 9th-11th
We spent a whole days journey of misery (21 passengers to a 10 passenger van) to retrieve our lost luggage. We spent more time cooking, doing laundry, and getting to know the slow of the African people. We peel egusi (pumpkin seed) and drink hot beer like real African women.

Thursday November 12th
To move from the Southwest province, Buea to the Northwest province, Belo is not an easy feat. We traveled 14 hours through 3 taxis, 2 busses, one flat tire and one breakdown until we finally arrived to our new home. We were quickly introduced to the other volunteers and taken a long way down a dirt road to Madame Margaret’s house. This first night in Belo was eventful indeed. Our belongings were swarmed with RATS and lizards before we could even shut our eyes. Halfway through the night our bed broke to form the shape of a ‘V’. With an infested room, not toilet, no running water, and a broken bed we decided to move. It wouldn’t be until later that we would realize we might have stayed in these conditions just to receive the kindness of sweet sweet Margaret.

Friday November 13th
We met the mayor, the police, and the rest of the staff. We began to figure out just what we had gotten ourselves into, volunteering for RUDEC I mean. We talked with Josh (our new supervisor-the founder of RUDEC) and he arranged for us to be moved into the mayor’s house. We were to be staying with the mayors SECOND of two wives and she didn’t seemed too thrilled.

November 14th-15th
We spent a long slow weekend getting used to our surroundings. The other volunteers had gone away for the weekend so we were left to our own devices. Although we had a rough start in Belo the town and surroundings are absolutely beautiful. We are in the mountains here with waterfalls at every corner. And the people, oh the people are stunning. This area is a family place with lots of children moving about, more children in fact than I have ever seen all in one place.

November 16th-17th
We spent the first part of the week meeting people at the school in Njinikejim village and having dinner with the other volunteers. We stated teaching math and English. I am teaching class 5 and Chelsea was working with classes 3 and 4. The school in Njinikejim has five classes but only three rooms. To further complicate things classes 1 and 2 are taught in Kom, the native language here. The problem arises when the children move to class 3 and are expected to know English at the class 3 level.
The other volunteers here (split between BERUDEP and RUDEC) all live in their own houses and pay monthly rent. We were the first to try a home stay, the guinea pigs. Unfortunately we were placed in the home of woman far meaner than any other I have ever met. So, naturally, we spend some nights at the homes of other volunteers having dinner with them.

Wednesday November 18th
We went up the mountain to Ndawara Tea Estate. The massive estate is owned by one man. He is one of the first men to be truly half Kom and Fulani (the once nomadic peoples that inhabited the highlands). He is a tyrant, an exploiter of his land and workers alike. (However, I was excited for the opportunity to learn more about large scale farming in this area. Since it seemed there was not volunteer project running in which I could spend the majority of my time on a farm I compromised to teach in the school. However, Josh knew that I was keeping it as a personal goal to spend as much time working on and doing research about farming and agriculture in the area.) It takes hours of travel on rough dirt roads to reach his palace so naturally the sight of it is amazing.

He keeps ostrich to eat and has peacocks and monkeys for pets while his people don’t have money to eat. However devastating I find the knowledge I gained of the tea industry invaluable.

Thursday November 19th
Today at school we did manual labor and planted a garden. Different world huh? That’s right 8 and 9 years olds running around in uniform with machetes in hand. Oh yes and our first real experience of no water began this day.

Saturday November 21st
Today a group of volunteers got together and traveled to Bafut, and Saboga Botanic Gardens.
We went to see the Fon’s palace in Bafut (the Fon is a sort of grandfather of the community if you will). BUT we couldn’t go to the palace because a body of one of the members of the Fon’s palace had been stolen from the mortuary and the people were reacting. The people had set up road blocks and stated to destroy the mortuary to provoke the police. We moved on to the gardens which weren’t much of a site. We ended up hiking to some rocks... HMMM.... rocks. I decided to climb up and then for an unknown reason decided to tear some flesh off my bum coming dowm.... HMMM..... rocks.

Sunday November 22nd
Today we hiked Mbingo cliffs to a HUGE waterfall. On the way we found a rad horseskull and vertebrae.

Lunch=yams and bananas. Oh and by the way what we call yams, well, they aren’t yams at all.

November 23rd-27th
School was pretty routine all week except we had Friday off for holiday. Monday we went to a girls soccer game-rad. (The oldest girl of the family we are staying with, who isn’t their child, is named Collete. She has been the only one to care for us really, it was her game!)
Tuesday was a big day for me…we rode to Mbingo and then walked to Mejung with Patience, the house help, and we worked the farm. From early in the morning until about four we worked and worked in the farm weeding the beans, clearing the land, and harvesting okra.
(Oh and I have yet to meet a Cameroonian who likes okra the way us southerners do). Wednesday was market day (the market comes here every 8 days) so we bought some food.
We also went to the Blind Center, this small building is a center run by a blind woman to promote the livelihood of the blind people here in Belo. She is amazing and the crafts they produce are beautiful and certainly worth buying, so we did. Thursday, Thanksgiving, was a little hard but we spent the day teaching, had some fresh corn and avocado that Patience had managed to find us for lunch (both of which are out of season and hard to come by right now) and had dinner with all the other volunteers (none of which are American and know the value of a big Thanksgiving feast) Friday we had a party in a neighboring village for one of the volunteers who was leaving. We spent time with the locals and heard way too many speak. One day this week Chelsea decided that she wanted to go home a bit early. Will, her boyfriend, will be joining us in Paris and then coming along with us in India for the first 2 ½ weeks. She will be leaving the same day he does. Of course I was a little panicked about being alone in India for a month, then in Thailand for 6 weeks, a finally in Hong Kong for 3 days. But I am very happy to let you know reader that Joey will be joining the three of us while in India and staying on with me the remainder of the trip.

Saturday November 28th
Today we had another epic journey to Bamendjin Lake. However this journey was well worth the trouble because we got to see wild hippos swimming in the same lake we were floating in in an old wooden boat.
Once we were back in Belo we went drinking and dancing to send Gary off in style.

Sunday November 29th
Morning brought my first African hangover. We had planned to venture to Bamenda (the capital of the Northwest Province) to stay with our dear friend Esther Abia. The cab ride was terrible, 8 or 9 people in the cab at all times, one hour of me doing everything in my power not to vomit. But when we made it to Esther’s I was greeted with a bed and GREAT food. We hadn’t been fed since we left Buea and it was nice not to have to cook (Cooking here is an entirely different endeavor, one that most often takes HOURS).
We spent the rest of the night catching up with Esther and Prisca (Irene’s older and younger sisters respectively) and simply delighting in the company. Might I say that feeling at home somewhere is truly priceless?

Monday November 30th
Esther and Prisca fed us and took us to the market. Bamenda is a much larger town the anywhere else we had stayed so we were able to buy some gifts for people and some treats for ourselves, peanut butter and chocolate included! After the market we headed back to Belo. We took a much needed shower at Richard and Andy’s house after having dinner there. Andy is a volunteer with BERUDEP and had been coming here for at least 4 months at a time for the past 5 years now. He always stays in the dame house and so a few years back he invested in installing a hot water heater. He and one other house in all of Belo have hot water (not even the Mayor). Can you imagine one month without hot water, many days with not water at all….. if you haven’t done it I don’t imagine that you can. I went to bed with a sense of cleanliness that cannot be surpassed, despite all the dirt still beneath my nails.

December 1st-3rd
These days were pretty ordinary. We taught and did some exploring after work. I got into a heated argument with a teacher about verbally and physically beating one of the children. Over the next few days he seemed very receptive to my comments and agreed to a new teacher education program that I outlined with one of the other volunteers. The teacher education is to include positive reinforcement tactics, creative teaching methods, and education about the benefits of a positive learning environment. That program is set to launch in January 2011. We also established a new means of determining the needs of children for a new tutoring program that should launch the same date. Chelsea and I explored MIFACIG on Tuesday and a little piece of my heart broke. MIFACIG is a local organization that promotes organic agriculture. They are a nursery and education center that is self sustained by the selling of bred trees and plants. They hold farmer education courses and continuing education for adult school dropouts in the community. This center would have been the perfect organization for me to work with but with one week left there is not time to switch. I had words with my supervisor about withholding information. We discussed looking at the betterment of a community through a larger lens and about his selfishness. Hopefully the next volunteers will be treated with a higher level of respect and understanding. If any of you want more information on how to help this community in any way or more information and the outreach organizations here please, please let me know. These people need help and they are certainly deserving.

Friday December 4th
Today we hiked to a Beautiful waterfall where we could actually swim. Happy is the only word.

Saturday December 5th
The happy wore off quickly for today we did an HIV awareness program and tested 48 orphans for the sick, sick disease. The experience was invaluable. Some moments were even enjoyable. Out of 8 female volunteers I was somehow the one selected to show the older girls how to use a condom by means of a banana. The girls informed me that they had already been taught. I decided to make them race to see who could wrap the banana the quickest. Boisterous laughter overcame me when one of the girls asked for scissors to open the condom. Think about it………. funny right? I told her no, “In real life are your going to be asking for scissors or ripping it open with your teeth?” The other girls laughed…. Oddly enough, she won! The sad part came when we got the results. 3 kids were positive. All 3 kids are ones who are orphans and DON’T have sponsors. So now the kids have free medicine but no way to get to and from the hospital every week to get them. The cost to and from the hospital is less than 3 dollars. That means that for about 12 dollars a month the child can receive adequate medical care and for about 24 dollars a month could be sponsored to have medical care, transport, school fees (school is NOT free here), food, and clothes. INTERESTED????????? LET ME KNOW!

Later on that night all the volunteers got together and had movie night. It was really great; the simple pleasure of a movie is so underestimated.

Monday December 6th
We taught and sadly said goodbye to our students.
Today we pack for our departure tomorrow. We will spend our last week in Africa saying goodbye here, traveling the distance back to Buea, resting, hiking the second tallest mountain in Africa, Mt. Cameroon, resting again, being tourists in Limbe for a day, and traveling to Douala for our departure to Paris.

So far it has gone by fast. We have gotten to do a great deal and have met many wonderful people. The land is beautiful and the experience invaluable. I cannot believe we’ve been gone almost 5 weeks. Please write to me. Although it is very difficult to write back I am thinking of all of you more than you know. I miss my family and friends. To those of you who I have not spoken I tell you this, I think of you more often than you know, in Africa time moves slow and each of you are on my mind. Special thanks to Dr. Tara ….I ain’t been sick yet (except when I spent that money you saved me on beer). More to come soon I hope.


P.S. This stupid computer won't let me post pictures so there aren't any for this post of the last one. HOWEVER! I will post some pictures later. Also you can go to google and search FLICKR CHELSEA BURNEY and there are a few pictures there.

P.P.S. So I found a computer where I can post pictures obviously... YAY. And I forgot to mention that one night I almost cut the lower part of my nose and upper lip off because I decided to chop the African yellow pepper. You DO NOT chop this pepper, you simply cook it whole and take it out, its enough, I assure you.
I also forgot to mention that grasshoppers, well theyre a delicacy of course.

Long long overdue

Tuesday October 20th continued From the outfitter store we drove to our little nook for the night. It was super cold so we hopped in the back of the truck and just talked a while while we sipped a little more Evan Williams to keep warm

Wednesday October 21st

I woke up early and saw the sun coming up over the snowy rocks, beautiful. Joey made cowboy coffee and cheesy vegan grits (aka grits with nutritional yeast-genius). I lied backwards out of the truck and ate over the tailgate to stay warm. We went into town to wander while we waited for it to warm up a bit. We checked out the other outfitter store and local thrift and grocery stores. From there we drove down Hole-In-The-Rock Road to attempt hiking the slot canyons Peek-A-Boo and Spooky. There was a section of road we couldn't pass though so we turned back, went down the road in another direction, and hiked to a dinosaur track site-super cool.

See the scary dinosaur?

And his big footprint?

We left Escalante and headed to Capitol Reef National Park. There we hiked Hickman's Arch.

As we were leaving the sun set and through the rocks we could see a sliver of the sky. It had turned vivid pink and deep blue between the red and brown rock walls, the valley filled with bright yellow trees-ahhhhh, it was alright if you like that sort of thing I guess. Then back on the road to Goblin Valley State Park.

We broke down and paid to camp in the state park (first and only night we have/will pay for a place to sleep). The campsite isn't really what we were after, we were after the hot shower. And let me tell you, after six days of hiking and running around southern Utah a hot shower was spectacular. After showers we had dinner- canned corn, instant potatoes, and canned seitan (from the fake meat store in Oakland-thanks John!). I really must be southern after all, I love those types of meals. All in a days play.

Thursday October 22nd

From there we drove to and hiked Little Wild Horse Canyon. Super neat slot canyon. Back on the road to Moab. We rolled in and explored a little. Joey headed back out of town to ride his bike. Exploring I did go. I walked all over Moab, into gear, thrift, and gift shops, galleries, the local co-op (Moon Flower), bookstore etc. I asked different people where all the best spots were and got the dirt on Moab. I ended up settling in Arches Book Company-great great bookstore with lots to offer (including stickers that read “reading is sexy”). While there I did the usual checking of things on the internet and made some important phone calls. Feeling happy and empowered I was leaving the bookstore just as Joey called to meet back up with me. We went to the local beer spot, Moab Brewery (good beer and chilli), and had a little date. It was fun! Then we headed back out of town to a little camp spot Joey found while on his way to go mountain biking. There we sat on the back of the tailgate with our feet propped on a camp chair drinkin' wine and talking. Great night.

Friday October 23rd

From our campsite we rolled back into town to use the internet. We went to the local vegan friendly spot, Love Muffin, and hung out there for some time before heading into Arches National Park. In Arches we started at Devil's Garden Trailhead and hiked to Landscape Arch, Navajo Arch, Double O Arch, Dark Angel (a spire), and Private Arch. We hiked back via the Primitive Loop Trail and got a spectacular view of the bookcases.

After hiking Joey made ramen noodles Thai style (with peanut butter and spices) and it was surprisingly amazing. We headed back into Moab to find something to do. When we realized there was nothing to be had we decided to make our way to Fruita. We wandered around Fruita and found that it is quite the teeny town. We snuggled up in the truck once we found a campsite and Joey played chess on the computer while I proceeded to snore apparently. Smile.

Saturday October 24th

Back in town Joey and I explored both of the two bike shops in town and the only thrift store (where I purchased my second unnecessary item of the trip-an adorable tan burlap type dress with a high waist and great neckline-for the lofty price of $2.08). Joey headed to Kokopeli for some epic riding. I went to one coffee shop and then due to intense noise pollution moved to the only other one in town. Productive research took place. When Joey got back we got some amazing French Fries, both regular and curly, from a local place called Munchies. Seeking entertainment we drove from Fruita to Glenwood Springs. Quickly upon arrival in Glenwood Springs we realized there was little if any cheap entertainment there either. We ate at a little Chinese/Japanese dive, awesome. Then we proceeded to Doc Holliday's for a beer. While we were having dinner and drinks we starting talking about my restaurant idea. (A few days earlier I told Joey if money weren't an object that without a doubt opening a restaurant would be my first choice, as I had told him and many others numerous times throughout my life.) Somehow the topic came up and we spent the rest of the night writing out a menu and coming up with all sorts of ideas for what the place would look like, be called, how it would be run etc. That night as I lied in the back of the truck I dreamt about a restaurant.

Sunday October 25th

Usual morning (grits and coffee). On the road to Denver. The restaurant still in the forefront of my mind. Here's the thought process: 1. I'm not sure precisely what I want to go to school for yet although I feel sure I want to go 2. If I go to school without a purpose in mind I an likely to be unsuccessful, 3. I love to cook, 4. the idea I have for the sort of place I would open is amazing, 5. School will always be there, 6. I am super determined and if anyone can make a restaurant happen I can........ hmmm I could go on and on. Another thing I was noticing (not to state the obvious but, I am extremely long winded and this blog has turned into more of a journal than a blog, I can't seem to keep up with my journal and this. Hopefully I will learn to make this whole blog endeavor a little less lengthy upon my grand departure.) but back to the other thing I was noticing- I always seem to find it necessary to tell about the food we've cooked and eaten in the blog. Those details somehow seem more important than some of the more grandiose events even. Food for thought.

We arrived in Denver to meet Amie, Joey's cousin. The first night there we just showered (amazing) and met up with some of Joey's family for dinner. We went up the mountain to this little cafe in the middle of nowhere to eat. After dinner we came home and watched a movie. Joey’s family… great by the way.

Monday October 26th

We decided to head to Boulder for a tour of a Meadery! Yes, that’s right a mead winery. So first we dropped off Jolene and I sadly said goodbye. Then we headed to Redstone Meadery for the tour. Let me say it was great, the owner-hilarious, the information and facility-fascinating, the mead-spectacular.

Oh yes and the tasting-complimentary. From there we explored Boulder and of course I found the perfect pair of shoes on the final day of our journey. A brand new pair of Patagonia approach/trail running shoes that were
marked down over 50% because they were the display pair. I was very reluctant to buy them since our trip was over but I figured I would need them just as much for my upcoming adventures, so I splurged. On our way out of Boulder we took some photos and got mini bagels and pumpkin smoothies. Back to Amie's and then to the airport. Wow it went so fast-back to Nashville.

The next few days were pretty hectic preparing for my trip, toying with applying to grad school, celebrating Halloween, and experiencing far too many goodbyes (that can't be healthy).I'll spare the details.

For your viewing pleasure I have however attached a photo of my stepfather the lion and his beautiful tamer as well as a picture of myself as none other than Raggedy Ann alongside ummmm….. dressed up Joey.

Today is Tuesday November 3rd, one day before departure! We are currently leaving Charlottesville headed for Philidelphia for the night. We'll play in Phili tonight and tomorrow ride the train into New York for the day before catching our night flight to Paris.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So this is the Rainforest huh?

We are safe in Cameroon. We are in a small village called Belo in the Northwest province. We will remain here for about one month.

I have an old post to put up from my U.S. trip complete with photos. We also need to post all that has happened since we left Knoxville almost two weeks ago. This is the first place we have settled and will be updating as money and internet connections allow. I will hopefully put up my old post within a week or so.

We will start teaching at the new primary school on Monday and working on the orphan project on Tuesday.

Please write us, we love to hear how everything is going there.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sunday October 11th
We woke up and went to Huntington dog beach with Annie, Sarge and Sprout. We didn't know until we arrived that there was an event happening. There were all kinds of tents set up with different types of doggie activities and accessories. But the coolest thing we saw were surfing dogs-whoa. After some time at the beach playing with the dozens and dozens of dogs we went down main street to check out the scene and visit Ian at work. He took lunch and we all went to El Pollo Loco for lunch-ah the crazy chicken. Then we went back to the house, hopped on bikes and rode to the local goodwill. When we got back we got ready to go over to Ian's parents' house to make homemade pizza for dinner. Ian's parents were very nice and they had such a lovely home. From there we rode bikes all around and went down to the Newport beach pier.

Monday October 12th
I decided I wanted to cook a big meal for everyone. First thing in the morning I looked all through Annie's kitchen and formulated a plan. We all went to the grocery store and I picked up a few things. Annie went to work, Joey went out on a bike exploration, Ian stayed home to study and I started cooking. I ended up marinating tofu that I put with sauteed vegetables and making a crazy three bean, pepper, mango, sweet and white potato casserole with pumpkin butter, cilantro and lots of other stuff, o yeah and guacamole and no bake oatmeal chocolate peanut butter cookies. So when everyone got home we ate. Then we went to see Inglorious Basterds, good movie. MMM sleep.
Tuesday October 13th
We had a slow morning and when Ian got home from school we went back to Huntington dog beach to surf. The conditions were awful, it was 2-3 foot but the water quality was bad from the rain and it was super choppy from some pretty harsh winds. Needless to say the surfing didn't go so well. Annie met us at the beach with Sarge when she was done with work. We headed back to the house and showered up to get back on the road south. From Costa Mesa it was a short drive down Highway 1 to Dana Point where I used to work. We stopped in at Stella's and said hello. There were still quite a few people from my day working there. Back in the car we drove to San Clemente. We stopped by what would be our temporary home base, the Headrick residence, for dinner. Laurie made good food as always (lentils, kale, onions, and rice). Joey and I then made the rounds. We went to my old house, 150 Miramar, and saw Brandy and Harlan, then to the Pier and to Greg and Kristen's. Faith was asleep so we didn't get to meet her. Back to Gary and Laurie's to sleep.

Wednesday October 14th
We woke up to another spoiled morning. Just like Annie, Laurie had gone out and bought a bunch of vegan groceries for Joey and I-so sweet. Like I said-so spoiled. We had quinoa for breakfast and coffee with soy creamer-yes! My good friend Shannon was on her way down from San Bernardino. It was looking like a cloudy day so we decided to save San Onofre for the next day and to run around town instead. First we drove up to Laguna Beach and ate at Taco Loco. They have awesome vegan Mexican and American cuisine, they also cater to the non vegan/vegetarian crowd. Even though Taco Loco is the best spot in Laguna we decided to explore. We went into the downtown area and walked around. Went into an old candy shop and stocked up. On our way back south we stopped in Dana Point at one of my all time favorite spots, The Lavender Lounge. They have a huge selection of teas, however, this is not what makes it great. The coconut meat that they put in the tea, like little chewy bites of sweetness, is what sets this tea apart. With our tea we ventured into Revo, a bicycle shop/espresso bar and into a neat little thrift store. We went back to S.C. and I got to see Isabella (Nate's niece, Gary and Laurie's granddaughter). She has gotten so big and is an absolutely beautiful and joyful child. Back from our adventures we showered and headed to Greg and Kristen's to meet little Faith and make dinner.
Ryan came over for a bit, we all cooked and drank together. And again I got to play with an adorable little one. (Don't worry I don't want one of my own, I just like playing with them and making them laugh-it kinda warms my heart). A few of my old work friends organized a little party at a condo in Laguna so Joey, Shannon and I went there next. I got to see Michele, Michaela, Kiko and Gill and that was nice. We didn't stay there very long, just long enough for some good stories to come out and to catch up. The three of us retreated to Greg and Kristen's for the night.

Thursday October 15th
We woke up and headed back to the Headrick house to grab boards and head to San O!!! The conditions were great, 3-5 foot and glassy, the beach wasn't very crowded either. Joey took out his kayak for a while and then attempted his first real day of surfing while Shannon and I caught up on the beach.
Then she and I went out and had a great session. It was so fun and what little I do know about surfing came right back. Yay San Onofre! After beach time we went back to the Headrick's for family dinner. Laurie made chilli and Mardie, Rob, Naomi, Isabella, Gary, Joey, Shannon, Laurie and I all sat around the table and ate together. Sadly I didn't get to see Eric or Jeff, they were both feeling a little under the weather. We all had a good time together just talking and keeping one another company around the fire.

Friday October 16th
Since the surf was so good the day before and it was just getting better we decided to postpone leaving S.C. until the afternoon and get in one more day at the beach. It was great, super sunny, perfect conditions and I got to see Ryan and Olivia. From the beach we went back, showered up, packed up and said goodbye. Just before we left Gary picked up Mateo. He was on a job in San Clemente so I got to see him too. Thanks so much to Laurie and Gary for giving us a great place to stay and taking such good care of us. Thanks to Greg and Kristen for being such great friends to me. And thanks to Shannon for being awesome, plain and simple, awesome. We got a late start on the road and hit some traffic. Around the San Bernardino area Jolene decided she needed a little bit of love. Joey and I stopped and called Andy for some pointers. We tried a few things and decided we needed a mechanic. Shannon found us a place to stay with her friends mom Sue. YAY SUE! We stopped there for the night and took refuge in the home of a kind and gracious stranger. The type of person who helps one to remember that good does exist in every nook and cranny of this crazy world, you just have to find it.

Saturday October 17th
We had a sort of hellish morning trying to find a mechanic open on a Saturday who would work on a carburetor. Finally, we found Eddie's-great shop, great guy. They figured out what we needed, fixed it cheap and quick and sent us on our way. With Jolene purring like a kitten we headed North past Las Vegas to Zion National Park. A close friend of mine Barry was on his way back to San Clemente from Vegas so we stopped on the 15N in a little blip on the map, Baker, to eat together. We ate at the Mad Greek, and to our surprise it was awesome. Barry enjoyed telling Joey all of my embarrassing stories before we got back on the road to southern Utah. We enjoyed the pretty drive through the land of the Joshua Tree. It was nice to be back in the car just the two of us. I consider myself blessed to have a partner who is a such a wonderful friend, someone I can talk to, someone to confide in, someone who understands me. We all need someone like that. If you have someone like that make sure they know you love and appreciate them. That night we slept at a pull off just outside Zion.

Sunday October 18th
Wake up, coffee mission. Since the majority of the next week would be spent in National Parks Joey broke down and bought the Golden Eagle Pass, good for all the National Parks for an entire year. At $25.00/day per park it's totally worth it. We got in to Zion and rode the shuttle up to Weeping Rock. We got off there and hiked Hidden Canyon and Observation Point. The names are pretty self explanatory. Both hikes were super physical and after about 10 miles of hiking I was pretty tired. We rode down and made dinner in the park. Baked beans with vegan links and instant mashed potatoes=best dinner ever. Leaving town we stopped at the local rental/outfitter shop and they gave us directions to a free campsite. The campsite was very secluded. The sky was so clear, we could clearly see the milky way and the Big Dipper (or it could've been part of Pegasus) We sat underneath the endless sky and watched for shooting stars. (I know it sounds cheesy but we really did see several shooting stars.) Our brains unfolded further and further and allowed the release of our thoughts as we drank more and more warm Evan Williams and Coke (yuck).

Monday October 19th
We woke up at our awesome campsite and headed into town for our habitual morning mission-coffee. From there we headed back into Zion and hopped on the shuttle. We rode the shuttle all the way to the Temple of Sinawava (then due to false advertising back down to get water and then back up again) where we got off and headed to the Virgin Narrows. This super classic hike was totally rad. The first mile is paved and runs alongside the river, then it just stops. From there the hike just gets better and better. You walk upstream (up river) through the cold water (~50degrees) in the river bed. The canyon is beautiful and extreme. Another scene impossible to capture on film. We walked upstream for a few hours in awe all the while. After getting down we hopped back on the shuttle to dry out and head back to the truck. We made dinner in the park again. This time leftover vegan links with pasta and marinara was the evening cuisine. After dinner we went to yet another outfitter store in search of some fitting shoes-none to be had, then to a cafe, then back to our awesome campsite.
Tuesday October 20th

TODAY! This morning we woke up, made grits and cowboy coffee, and hit the road.
We arrived in Bryce National Park before noon and went for a hike. We did a couple of short loop hikes and saw some amazing sites. Bryce is equally as impressive as Zion but in a way all its own.
The jagged Hoodoo (towers) are quite unique. Amazing color contrasts of white, yellow, orange, red, tan and brown surround you there. The view is spectacular, on a clear day you can see over 100miles into the distance. Near the middle of our hike we heard thunder and it started to sleet. That's right I almost got a sunburn yesterday and it is sleeting today-go Utah. We went back to Jolene and headed for the visitor center. We enjoyed the neat little museum they had there and hopped in the car to press onward toward Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. Now we're sitting in a little cafe/outfitter store having the Polygamy Porter-yum.

Oh and here is a picture of Jolene that I have been meaning to add.