Sunday, October 26, 2008


Well friends, the past couple weeks have included a few milestones, and what better way to celebrate than with a blog post? (A blog post about all the ways I've already celebrated, that is.) First off, I said goodbye to Karen's lovely apartment. Another person was scheduled to occupy it in mid-October, so I knew I'd need to vacate the fine place where Chris and I spent our last few months together in Cameroon.

I enjoyed it to the very last, hosting various meals and enjoying the large (by local standards) oven until the last possible moment. Here is my posse of work friends, toasting before dinner. They are (L - R) French, British, American, Dutch, and German, all enjoying Mexican food in Cameroon. How often does that happen?

Mmmm, quesadillas. (I actually cooked the beans Cameroonian style, with lots of garlic and ginger and a couple Maggi cubes, the way Julia taught me. They turned out really tasty.)

Also in the days before vacating the apartment, I hosted a delightful Food Club brunch, replete with banana-pecan pancakes, eggs scrambled with fresh basil and cheese and cherry tomatoes, and fruity tropical juice drinks. And my 'last act' on those dishes was preparing dinner for Marian (just back from furlough) and Ginger (owner of Bert Douglas the cat), both fascinating people who've been in Cameroon for many years.

Now I'm living in my friend Christy's apartment, just downstairs from the place I left, subletting from her while she's away for seven weeks. (We were both thrilled to discover that her absence matched up almost perfectly with the remainder of my stay!) She'll be back a few days before I leave. Anyway, her place is identical to Karen's in most ways, but laid out the opposite way, a mirror image of the old place. A key difference: as you can see, the mosquito net over the bed is blue!

After several days of cleaning and organizing, I'm feeling quite at home here, ready to invite others in. I've already had my friend Rebecca over for breakfast...

...And Beth came down to make cookies one night! Notice that she's armed with a hammer, which may not be a traditional baking tool, but for us it comes in very handy for breaking the Mambo bars into chocolate 'chips.' Beth did the hammering for this batch, and a fine job she did.

We were using the same recipe Chris used, and it was Beth's first time attempting chocolate chip cookies. They turned out great! As of this writing, I still have a couple left, but not for long.

A few mornings ago, the sound of chopping woke me up. Here's the sight that greeted me when I peered out the back window. Clearly this guy had been working hard.

Yesterday, the lovely Ann brought me some fragrant white roses from her yard. I had to take a picture because she's completely color-coordinated, from her clothing to the flowers right down to the oven mitt protecting her hand from the thorns. Yes, all is well in the new apartment.

Another important milestone duly observed was one full year in Cameroon. Chris and I first arrived here the evening of October 11th, 2007...amazing how much learning and transformation can happen in the course of a year. My friend Annelies is also celebrating her one-year 'Camiversary' this month, so we went out for dinner with friends to celebrate.

So yes, this October I've vacated one apartment, moved into another, and celebrated one year in Cameroon. But more wondrous still is the fact that as of this month, Chris and I have been part of each other's lives for six years! Yes, we met in October 2002, when I was fresh out of MVS and he was still fairly new in town, first over conversation and drinks at my Senegalese bar, then through innumerable other adventures, the extraordinary and the everyday. Nearly three years ago we embarked on the adventure of our marriage, and this year in Africa has been yet another remarkable experience. This picture of us was taken a couple years after we met, at a drag show benefit for my former place of employment. Can't wait to be sitting next to him again, with or without the red feather boa, and looking forward to whatever adventures the future may bring!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kribi Again

Even after several trips to Kribi over the course of the past year, with Chris and other friends, I was eager to go again, this time with a large group of (mostly) RFIS teachers on their October break. This trip is a tradition that goes back several years, so these folks have figured out how to maximize the enjoyment while minimizing the cost.

Kribi is such a lovely place.

Even lovelier when you add some friends and spend a few days there.

We stayed at Maison St. Benoit, a guest house with several rooms and a few small kitchens, plus a nice big porch and a sheltered deck that overlooks the ocean. We were 16, so we occupied four sleeping rooms and two kitchens. There were lots of other SIL folks staying nearby, enjoying the October school vacation on the beach.

We brought all our own food, and enjoyed some delicious meals as a group out on the sheltered deck, with the sound of the waves as a backdrop to our conversation.

Janell, Mandi, Christy, and Ruth are all very pleased about enchilada were we all!

Even the lizard had its own little insect buffet going on overhead, right next to the light bulb.

We arrived on a Monday afternoon and left the following Thursday afternoon, so there was plenty of time for playing games, taking walks, reading on the porch, swimming, and relaxing with friends. Here Christy gives Julia a shoulder massage, while Julia models her new side ponytail flip hairstyle!

Tuesday was Liz's birthday, so we had a little celebration for her that night. After a delicious spaghetti dinner, we invited all the nearby SIL neighbors over to our deck, as well as a hilarious French guy who was also staying nearby. Christy performed a rap she had composed for the occasion (with Lois and Julia and me serving as back-up rappers), and we all ate chocolate cake.

There was a rousing game of 'around the world' ping pong, involving much hilarity and many shenanigans. (That's the French guy with the shaved head and no shirt on.) A large group of us spent quite some time running frantically around the table, hitting the ball back and forth, and laughing uproariously.

Jenny crouches in readiness for the next hit, as Christy runs with all her might to the other end of the table. Go Christy go! By the way, I noticed that my left-handedness put me at a disadvantage in the game, since most people leave the paddle with the handle to the right. The breakneck pace of the game often forced me to pick up the paddle in some funky way, since there's no time to adjust. So if you're playing around the world ping pong, lefties beware!

On our last night, some of us went out for dinner and ate some delicious seafood at a restaurant right on the beach. It was the very same restaurant where Chris and I ate with our friends Alison and Jordan when we were there a month before. The food was still delicious, and the chef (Adolphe Mesmer) remembered me.

One day, a bunch of us went to see the waterfalls at the south end of town. They were beautiful and the water was flowing much faster and higher than the time Chris and I saw the falls last December. There was a mist of spray in the air.

Here we are, trooping over the rocks. We spent a few hours there, some folks relaxing on the rocks, some playing in the water (cold!) or throwing the frisbee.

Liz and Ruth had their own special adventure at the waterfalls. Both very athletic and stong swimmers, they decided to swim across the channel, something Liz and others had done in years past. But the current was incredibly strong, and it was impossible for them to stay in the narrowest part of the channel. Both of them were swept quite far out toward the open sea, where the crossing was two or three times as wide. Liz eventually reached water shallow enough that she could walk to the other shore. She's the tiny speck on the bank in the photo above.

Ruth was swept even farther out, until a friendly pirogue came and picked her up.

The boat man went to the other shore, picked up Liz (much to her relief -- she was worn out!) and rowed both of them back to us.

Oh, did I mention that there were dogs? Maison St. Benoit must have about a half dozen resident dogs who hang out on the beach below. Here are four of them.

Beyond this rock outcropping was our favorite swimming area. You could walk around the rocks except at high tide, when you had to go around on a road above. The water was lovely, the ocean floor was sandy and even, and the waves were decent, but sometimes a bit too calm for body surfing. One moonlit night, there was even a contingent of ladies that took a dip in the altogether, if you know what I'm sayin'. (Apparently this is also a tradition.) You bet I was one of them!

I missed Chris, and he would have loved being there with everyone. However, he did call to say hello on the night of this sunset. All in all, it was yet another wonderful time in Kribi.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Food Club

Who knew that I would leave the Bay Area, with its high concentration of 'foodies,' only to find another delightful group of gourmets? These women love to cook and eat great food, and a few times each month they get together to do just that. I've been invited to join them for the remainder of my time here -- hooray!

Here I am, toasting with Kerry, Liz, and Alison as we embark on the preparations for a fantastic dinner.

Ali hosted the gathering at her place, sporting a super-cute pink panther T-shirt.

Kerry raises a glass. She has actually trained and worked professionally as a chef.

Liz celebrated the beginning of October break by concocting some Thai iced tea. It was delicious!

Here are the raw shrimpies, spending some time in their saucy marinade. They're not much to look at now...

But in the end, they're looking downright sexy in their next of coconut rice, n'est-ce pas?

Ready to eat. Ali's son and a couple of his friends joined us for the meal, and there was another toast (with the Thai iced tea this time) before we launched into the food.

Afterwards, there was dessert (I made fresh ginger cake) and coffee with Amarula, a divine creamy fruit liqueur.

Kerry (holding the Amarula) cracks up as she watches Liz take a dainty sip from her wee little coffee cup.

There was ambiance (votive candle in coconut shell -- try this at home!), great company, laughter and conversation, and a few luxuriant hours later, all of us had bellies full of delicious and well-prepared food. That's 'food club' in a nutshell, really.

The aftermath: the kitchen was tired and so were we. Can't wait 'til next time, ladies!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Missing Chris

Sure, I'm his number one fan in Cameroon, but I'm in good company when it comes to missing Chris. Allow me to introduce a couple other members of the club...

CeCe works in the computer department up at the school, in fact for the time being, she pretty much is the department. After a key person left at the beginning of the summer, Chris lent a hand there when he could. His assistance was much appreciated, and he was acknowledged at the school's weekly chapel service just before he left. Here he is, saying a few words to the students just after being presented with a stylish 'Whatever' t-shirt. (Bright blue, on the podium just in front of him -- those of you in SF may see him wearing it.) CeCe definitely misses having Chris around, and inquires after him when she sees me.

And this is Philip. You may recognize him from our goodbye party; he's one of the day guards at our apartment building, and always has a cheerful greeting for all who come and go. In this picture, Philip is wearing a shirt that Chris left behind, and he's also strapped on Chris's big sandals. He says he's very excited to have inherited these things not only because they're useful, but also because they'll remind him of his friend in the U.S. So now when I'm going out to work in the morning, or returning from an afternoon of errands, Philip greets me and asks about Chris.

Friends at work, friends in the neighborhood...yes indeed, I'm just one of the many people who enjoyed having Chris around, and who are missing him now. But I'm still the luckiest one of them all, because I get to see him again in just two months!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Baby Friend

Yesterday afternoon, I spent a few hours visiting my baby friend Grace. Two weeks had passed since my last visit, and already she is bigger and more alert. She entertained me with her usual tricks: sleeping, eating, crying, and looking around. That's really all it takes -- I'm an appreciative audience.

As the nephew of Grace's father, Paul is technically her cousin, but being her senior by nearly 30 years, he functions more as an uncle. Here he demonstrates how he soothes her by rocking her and singing little songs. Since he lives in the same house with Isaac and Julia and Grace, he's often 'on call' for the late night shift if the little one starts to fuss.

Julia and Grace, mother and daughter, smiling at each other. Aren't they beautiful?