Now hop forward!  Backwards! Forward!  One, two, three, four...twenty!  Good!  Are you with me?  Now step up—no, face the mountain—there, that’s better!  One, two, three, four...twenty!  And squat.  Back straight.  Buttocks lower.  Lower!  Are you with me? Your partner will now place his leg on your shoulder while you raise it up and down while maintaining the squat position.  One, two, three, four…twenty!  Now you rest.   Ok, again.  Are you with me? 

Almost two hours later, we were covered in sweat (our own and that of our dripping Cameroonian exercise partners) and ready for the walk home on wobbly legs.  We’ll be back at the chipped cement basketball court for round two next Saturday at 7 a.m.!  Even better, two Saturdays from now we’ve been invited to join the monthly 17 km walk around the Buea municipality, which is always followed by pepper soup (a local stew of vegetables and occasional bush meat).

It feels great to sense the beginnings of a community forming around us (or really, to feel it is possible to squeeze ourselves into the rhythms of the incredible communities that surround us).  Many mornings, we go for jogs through town and are greeted as we run by big smiles and shouts of ‘Good morning! Ashia!’ (simultaneously a word of apology and encouragement in Pidgin). One especially encouraging man, who always seems to appear at a turn in the road as we come around it, has twice told us, ‘courage!’ as we have jogged by. Then, around midday, we head for ‘The Titanic,’ a second floor restaurant with two long tables facing each other where the owner, Fabian, dishes out the most amazing spaghetti omelets imaginable using just a tiny gas burner.

Later in the afternoon, the under 10 contingency of our neighbors come knocking, ready with hugs for ‘auntie Clara’ and ‘uncle Josh.’  (‘Aunt’ and ‘uncle’ are terms of respect here.)  Kelli, Junior, and Ana then proceed to draw us pictures, run in circles around the empty house, and ask to practice their French (interestingly, Cameroon is the only African country with two official European languages—English and French.  It was colonized first by the Germans and after World War I was taken over by the French and British before achieving independence in 1960).   

Most evenings we head to the market to pick up dinner on the street, greeting people as we go. Josh is particularly close with the man who grills delicious “suya”—skewers of beef marinated with onions and coated with ground pepper— while Clara gets a big smile every time she frequents the overhang where a woman sits frying dough balls in palm oil for puff puff—a dish that, our regular readers may recall, is served hot with hot pepper sauce and beans. We’ve even started cooking our own food at home. Several nights ago, Clara made up an amazing bhindi masala—Indian-style okra stew with rice—and we sat on the still-unfurnished floor of our living room with Hilary, a friend, as he talked about his educational work in the local prison.  

We’re having a low-key Sunday today, but are gearing up for an exciting week—meetings to solidify our teaching schedule at each of our three schools, student recruitment, and some serious curriculum development sessions. We’ve been dreaming up some interactive ways to connect our Cameroonian classrooms with US classrooms through e-mail and web-based cultural sharing. If you have any ideas for us, we’d love to hear them!

-Josh and Clara