Count your blessings

I was going to write a blog post this past Sunday, but the past week and especially the weekend was so surreal that I thought I just needed to wait to see if anything else would happen to finish off the streak of bad luck. I will mention the least tragic thing first; on Friday I lost my phone to a thief here in Edéa. Earlier in the evening Blondine’s mom had prepared dinner for us and then a few of us decided to go out to a bar to get a beer, then a beer turned into two and we all decided we needed to go out dancing to finish off Evelyn’s first week here. A late evening and an Iphone in Edéa is never a good mix, but a phone is only a phone and life goes on. As the Cameroonians always say “laissez aller”. Each of my colleagues in the office has been stolen from at least once, so now at least I can say I’m a little bit more Cameroonian than last week.

The past week was Evelyn’s first week here. She arrived on Friday the third and we went to Cécile’s house for dinner and wine from there. It was a good way to start off her time here and when we got back we even started to watch a movie (La La Land) before she fell asleep. I understand her pain there, at the end of my week of training in Yaoundé I was exhausted as well. The next day was a big day for both of us. We cleaned house, and then went to the market to pick up some groceries and so I could should her around the town a little. Fred had already showed her the biggest supermarket in the town (Rida, which is about the size of a medium sized convenience store in Canada), but I was lucky enough to show her the central market. When we got back the electricity was cut and it would remain cut for the next two days. We used up our water supply just in time for the electricity to come back on on Monday. Because we didn’t want to stay in the house all weekend we ended up going to the pool twice; once on Saturday with Tatiana and her friend Boquin, and once the next day as a distraction. Sunday night (the 5th) was also the big match between Egypt and Cameroon so we just had to go watch the game, and we were also lucky enough to win! I felt so proud of Cameroon and I really felt patriotic for the country even though I’ve only been here for two months. The streets went crazy and it was difficult to find a motorcycle back for a couple hours after that because we needed to let things calm down. I may have felt somewhat patriotic, but I think that Evelyn felt it more than me; even though Evelyn is from Montreal, her boyfriend lives in Yaoundé and she has been here four previous times to do different work and to visit her numerous friends. She says she loves Cameroon so much that she misses it when she is in Canada more than she misses Canada when she is in Cameroon. This was refreshing for me to see such a perspective, and inspired me to look for more things that I love about the country, even if I am getting another wave of homesickness. Evelyn and I settled into living together well and it’s been nice to have her here, but apparently she had already decided before arriving in Edéa that she would move into Fred’s house once he left. His house is right in the center of town and she likes being a little closer to the action. I’m a little bit like a grandma because I really like my tranquil life on the outskirts of town in my little house with my christian neighbors and their kids. I am always surrounded by family here.

Last week went by really quickly. On Tuesday night we went out to a bar and danced a little there and later on in the week we had a beer with Fred’s friend (turned mine and Evelyn’s as well) Pierette. Another highlight of my week was that I finally was able to get the approval to move Cam-Eco’s website over to Weebly and start updating their social media pages. I am excited to get started on this when I return from Yaoundé, but this week has been rather unproductive for me without a phone and because we are all busy with the atelier that is being held for three days this week. You might be wondering why I am going to Yaoundé right about now, well, every three months here all of the Cuso Cameroon volunteers go there for a few days to participate in workshops and present some of our work to our colleagues. This will be a nice break and it comes at a welcome time just as I have completed a stage of my work plan. I will also be happy to finally meet the rest of the volunteers in Cameroon. The only other ones that I really know are Muriel and René because they were the ones that came with me, but there are a few others that came at the same time as Fred named Sandra, Isabel, Theodore, and Malissa. They are all about the same age as me so I am sure the experience will be at the least different than it was my first time in Yaoundé. Either way, I am excited to see the people I originally came to Cameroon with again.

Sunday morning I went to go and visit Fred as is the habit each week. But this time I would also get the chance to use the internet, which I hadn’t done since Friday when I still had my phone. I have kept the tone of this post rather light up until now, but that is because it wasn’t until Sunday that I was given some news that put a lost phone into perspective and I think has made many of us rethink parts of our lives. A friend from childhood was in a car accident on Friday night and was killed. Her name was Amber Wise. I have known her since grade 3 but around the middle of highschool we had a falling out and it wasn’t until this past year that we really got to be on good terms again thanks to my sister’s wedding. The accident is tragic and the only silver lining is that I am glad we hadn’t left anything unsaid. We were both going through a rough patch at that time in highschool but something that we have in common is we both were able to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and find happiness in life. She had recently gotten engaged to her boyfriend, was back in school and, from what I saw of the posts to her Facebook wall after her passing, she was inspiring people to live life to the fullest. She was open and kind and I should’ve been able to believe that the way she comported herself was genuine sooner. Something that I truly admire about Amber is that she lived life as if she knew it would be too short. By this I mean that if she knew she had a loose end to tie up with someone, or something to say to someone, she would say it even if it would come at an unexpected time or be given to an unsuspecting person. To me it seems like what was important to her was that nothing was left unsaid so that people knew who she was and what she was willing to take responsibility for. She was the bigger person in the way that she made the first step to rekindle our relationship and, although I tried not to fight against it, I wasn’t as open to it as I should’ve been either. There was one day when she told me that she would be in Toronto with her class that afternoon and she would like to see me if I was able to come downtown. That is when I told that I was sorry for what happened between the two of us during highschool, but I wasn’t ready to move on as friends. She was extremely understanding and we were both very civil; we wished each other good luck and ended with saying that we hope we can be friends again sometime in the future. Amber if you somehow know that I am writing about you, I want you to know that my heart is not only open to you, but I will open it to anyone that I have hurt or has hurt me in the past and make an effort to forgive whenever I get the opportunity to do so. This will be my tribute to you, and I believe that even in your death you continue to inspire people to do better and love each other. What more could you ask for to be remembered by? You have lived a good life. Rest in peace, and may we be friends again in heaven.

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