Since arriving in Buea Town about two months ago (wow! It’s hard to believe it has been that long already), it has felt wonderful to be gradually welcomed into the local community. We now have a Mami in the market whom we know to go to whenever we want to buy tomatoes, okra, potatoes, or veggies, and another Mami we seek out for pineapples, coconuts, oranges, and “pears” (the local term for avocados; and by the way, “Mami” or “Auntie” is a term of respect for an older woman, while “Pa” or “Uncle” is the masculine equivalent). I have now found my favorite suya stand and rotate amongst different Mamis selling fish on a given night; and Clara knows just who to go to for the best puff puff and beans in Buea.

On top of these market friendships we have formed in the last few months, we have also started seeing our students outside of classes more and more.   When walking through the market, we often hear kids shouting “Mr. Josh!” or “Auntie”—sometimes, these are our students but often they are neighborhood kids who just want to say hello. This past week, we both had the chance to visit a local outdoor basketball court where some of our students play basketball, and had a great time watching them as they learned to dribble, pass, and shoot, all under the guidance of a towering local ballplayer who was coaching them. We learned that the program, in addition to teaching students to play basketball, also conducts regular sessions on HIV/AIDS awareness for their players—it’s a great idea to pair sports with this kind of education, and we have heard from our students that they have a great time learning about both.

This weekend, more than any other so far, we have had lots of opportunities to spend time with our local friends. First, there was our long walk on Saturday. Those who have been following our blog for the last few months may know that we have joined a local exercise club that meets every Saturday morning for aerobic workouts and sponsors a once-monthly power walk around Buea. We were particularly excited about this particular walk because the leadership of our local club had invited participants from two other sports clubs in Douala (a large city two hours away from Buea) to come and join us.

We arrived at the Buea Mountain Club, our meeting spot, around 6:15 am to prepare for our walk. We donned some very cool T-shirts that had been printed for the occasion, got our blood pressure taken by a Peace Corps friend, and waited for other club members to arrive. At around 7:30, about 70 walkers from Buea and Douala had gathered there; we stretched, and then took off en masse down the long Molyko Road hill. After several miles of walking downhill, we took a sharp left and continued along the quieter roads ringing Buea, passing through banana plantations and quiet villages on our way back to our starting point. All the while, we talked to our friends from Buea and Douala, trying out French when English did not work (Douala, in spite of being so close to Buea, is in another province and is Francophone).  Three hours and 20 kilometers later, we returned to the Buea Mountain Club, slightly sunburned and very tired. A huge meal followed our walk, where we ate enough fried chicken, jollof rice, fufu corn, jemma jemma, and kwakoko to pretty much negate the effects of our walk. It was a very fun morning, and sore muscles the next day notwithstanding, we are excited for the next occasion to walk with our local friends.

To top off our great walk on Saturday, we had a chance today to meet and eat a meal with our close friend and local counterpart Walters and his wonderful family. We were warmly greeted by Walters’ father, mother, and sister when we arrived at their house, and were quickly served a delicious meal of rice and chicken stewed in tomato and groundnut oil. Walters’ mother, a farmer, told us about her crops, and generously offered us okra and dried maize from her garden; his father, the caretaker of a local school and a veteran of hikes up Mount Cameroon, told us about his hikes up the mountain and showed us two enormous viper fangs that he had gotten on a recent trip there. After two hours of conversation, we took our leave, promising to return again soon—we hope to visit them on their farm, and perhaps even have a chance to hike the mountain together in the months to come. They treated us like their own family as well as their honored guests during our visit, and so as we were leaving, I told them both that with my parents far away, I was so happy to have a local father and mother to keep me safe. They agreed, and welcomed us back to visit them anytime.