Tuesday, March 19, 2013

International Women's Day!

Why don't we celebrate Women's Day in the states? We should! I am changing this for when I get back. Start planning everyone...March 8, 2014 at my house where ever I am! But note...men will be doing the cooking for all of the women in attendance in order to keep with the spirit of the holiday :)

So here is the lowdown on this holiday...this is a holiday for women! Surprise, surprise.  The men are supposed to take care of the kids and the household chores while the women go and celebrate. This year there was a round table discussion with all of the really important people in Meiganga about ending violence towards women: rape, domestic abuse, young marriage, ect. The most ironic part of this is that the Minister for Women's Affairs is a male; sometimes things are just confusing here. There were sporting events, soccer and handball, and a cultural festival where women did traditional dancing, lip singing, skits and poems. My favorite act of the night was when Fanta, my community host, stuffed her shirt and pants with pillows to make her look fat, then proceeded to dance around, acting drunk and falling down making fun of the military. She even was saluting the military officials who were seated right in front of her! 

On the actual day, there is a parade. I marched with Centre Socio, a technical school for girls who learn sewing skills. I have been helping teach health classes there during my entire service. We all wore the same outfit in either blue and pink. (Fanta even made a similar model as me because this was my last Women's Day in Cameroon) After the march, Fanta, a few other friends and I went out and celebrated until 11pm. Someone even gave me 500 CFA because I was dancing the Pingus, a tradition dance that I will glad show everyone when I get home, so well!

Overall it was a wonderful week! Enjoy the pictures from this year and start preparing for next year; this time stateside! 

The teachers and I in front of Centre Socio. This year I marched with the school I have been helping teach health classes throughout my service

One of the highlights from all of my service...marching with a drag queen!!!

Centre Socio girls, drag queen and me after marching.

Fanta to my right is who I danced the whole day and night with! Her and her husband are my closest friends in Meiganga!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Too Soon

Do you remember my blog post entitled: Gbaya Funeral? I have heard the cries of funerals before living in Meiganga. I have heard the screams; the tearful singing; the whaling. I've heard it before, but I did not understand it; until March 6th. That Wednesday afternoon I got a phone call from one of my scholarship girl’s mom telling me that Louise had just passed away. I went as quickly as possible to the house to be with the family. This time I understood the crying. I was fighting my tears the entire motorcycle ride there. I ran into the house crying; whaling. This was someone I have worked with for my entire service through the Centre Socio classes and A2Empowerment scholarship.  As I was running to find a motorcycle to get to the house a friend stopped me and asked me what was wrong. I responded, “My daughter has died.”

Rewind two weeks before Louise’s passing. I got a phone call from her mom telling me that her daughter was sick and was going to die. She needed help quick. I went to the house casually not knowing what to expect. I remember thinking that it couldn’t be that bad; people are sick all the time; it couldn’t be that bad. Well it was that bad. I brought over a doctor friend the next day to see Louise thinking that maybe he could do something the hospital couldn’t. I overheard just a little bit of the conversation. TB and AIDS is a deadly combo and that’s what she had. It all made sense right then; the gradual weight loss, why she was sick all the time, why no one actually said what she had. You see, where I live if you have HIV/AIDS it is almost like you are a leopard. There are no support groups, you are shunned, and you are basically alone. (But statically you are not alone because my health center area has the highest HIV rate for all of Cameroon and my region has an HIV rate of 17% of sexually active people. There are even some neighborhoods in the bush that are thought to have an 80% HIV rate.) As the doctor and I left the house I touched Louise’s leg to say goodbye. She had lost almost all of her weight. I felt both of her bones.

The next day, her mom took her to the hospital. In Cameroon both TB and HIV medicine are “free.” (I am using quotes because they are not actually free, it’s just what NGOs like to say to make themselves feel better and get more people to donate to their cause…but that is another topic) Had her mother taken Louise to the hospital when she started to show TB systems we might not have had to burry our friend so young.

She was 20 years old. She was a mother of a 7 month old son. She was a daughter. She was a sister, youngest of 14. She was a friend. She was intelligent, loving, dance machine; just an overall sweet 20 year old girl.

I now understand the tears, the crying, and the whaling. I might not have understood the exact words that the women were singing, but I understood the meaning. She was my daughter.

I have been debating sharing this story. You are just reading a portion of it. It is worse. But unfortunately this is the reality. There are many stories just like hers. It is all too common. And it is all too tragic.

Emma, Louise, her mom, son and me at our A2Empowerment opening ceremony.

Please pray, send positive vibes, good wishes; whatever you choose to do to Louise’s family. Please pray for her son who is severely malnourished, he is 7 months old but you could easily confuse him for a 2 month old. Please pray for her mom, she has already lost 4 kids that I know of. Please pray for her friends. And please pray for the other Louises in Meiganga, inCameroon and in the world; there are far too many of them.