Monday, May 13, 2013

Had to Climb the Rocks

Last week I was sitting in the maternity at Banso Baptist Hospital when the words of an all too familiar song penetrated the air, competing with the voices of a dozen or so women and the cries of their newborns:

Give pikin bobbi, give pikin bobbi.  Give pikin bobbi as long as ye wants 'em.  For all kind chop we de give 'em, bobbi be number one chop for ye.

Those were the words from our theme song from the audio program we developed and tested to promote exclusive breastfeeding.  All of that finished in July 2012 and I thought I would never hear that song again.  But, I was wrong.  One of the maternity nurses at the hospital continues to play the audio program for all of the women right after they deliver, reminding them of the wonders of exclusive breastfeeding.

 See Pa, I de hold two fists.  The na be the amount of starchy food ye de take for one time.  You get plenty sugar for blood and you need to reduce em.  

In the past few weeks I've been visiting different hospitals in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon, mostly to see how the nutrition counselors are educating mothers about infant and young child feeding.  But with chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension on the rise, I also find myself periodically counseling patients about diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.  Which is exactly what I did when I first came to Cameroon as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  

Last Thursday was Ascension Day, a National Holiday in Cameroon, and a marker in the Christian calendar of when Jesus ascended to heaven.  He ascended 40 days after Easter and since I returned to Cameroon just before Easter, it is also marks the number of days passed since I've returned.  On Ascension Sunday, I was reflecting on what has happened since I've returned, both in these last 40 days and in the last 7 years.  Before I left for Cameroon the first time, my friend and I had a saying from a popular song at the time, "You have to climb the rocks to see the mountain view."  And that certainly has been true of my experiences in Cameroon.
View from the bottom of Mt. Cameroon on Ascension Day

In Cameroon I've climbed a lot of rocks, both figuratively and literally, and its been amazing to look back and see how all of it has molded and shaped me for what I am doing now.  How what I thought were insignificant conversations or experiences then gave me a perspective that I appreciate and use now.

Kate and Eunice, May 2006

The Tuesday before Ascension Day, May 7, marked the third anniversary since my good friend Eunice died of cancer.  As I was reflecting on all of the events that lead up to her death and all that has happened since, I realized that if she hadn't gotten sick, I wouldn't have come back to do my doctoral research and if I hadn't come back to do my doctoral research I wouldn't be doing the work that I'm doing now and enjoying such contentment, joy, laughter, and love in being back. 

View from the top of Mt. Cameroon

I know the journey isn't over and I've only reached the plateau in the continual ascent, but every so often its good to stop, take a breath, and reflect on how far we've come.  

We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.
Psalm 66:12