I have been close friends with Bakari for about a year. After English club last year, he engaged himself in the Club Success that Tim and I created together at the school, and it certainly would not be as successful without him. During the feast of lamb, I accepted to accompany him to a cultural soiree, when I became curious about the Muslim religion. And since, he has come to my house almost every day to talk about English, or culture or whatever comes up. I am lucky to have such a friend so open and curious.

So last night, he mentioned that he had not prayed three times that day, and I told him that I would pray with him. “Are you ready to become Muslim?” he smiled. “No, but I am ready to pray.” We both stood on my rug barefoot, before he taught me a phrase I wasnt sure would come out of my mouth. “Why do you pray in Arab, not French?” He told me that Muslims believe that God favors those who speak the language.. “oh, you need something to cover your head.”.. “Why?” He responded, “to remove temptation from the devil, because your head is sacred.” His eyes looked up and then said he would fully explain when he found out. I grabbed the small, blue sheet on the chair and put covered my head anyway. He showed me how to sit, with both feet touching the ground; “when you pray, your feet pray too” he said. The next thing he said meant ‘You are the beginning and the end.’ “When you bow, you first look where you will put your forehead, and when you bow, your nose touches the ground too.

Incase you did not know, Muslim means ‘Submission’ in Arab. Submission to God; the goal is to submit yourself completely and unconditionally to God. And I will not ignore the fact that there are many negative ideas and beliefs, as well as acts comitted just like every other group of people, that have created a negative stereotype for Muslims in America, but I will say that all of the Muslims I have met here are wonderful- humble, calm, at peace… something I admire and wish I could eminate from within my own self. And while I disagree with many of the view on females (having to ask permission before leaving the house, unable to pray without when they are on their period, and some believe that women should not look at men in the eyes), I can appreciate the main goal, especially learning from a man who promises to cook for his wife one day, despite the tantrums his conservative grandmother throws when he enters a kitchen. He practices because it helps him reach peace, because he wants to submit himself to peace, service, education and all the other things that should be God’s will. We can all respect that.

So while I didnt understand everything Bakari said in his prayer, I did catch him looking at his hands to then rub on his face and body. When I asked, he explained that the idea is that your prayers become part of you- what God wants for you. He looked to his left and then right. “Its like you have two angels, one on your right who writes down all of the good you do, and to your left, one who records all of the bad. You must ask God to look over them, and after death, prophet Mohammed will look at these and then decide where you will go.” Okay, I said. “What role does this play in your prayer?” I held his beads, threaded together- like a small necklace that I had noticed.. “this isnt necessary to pray, but its like OMO”. “What?” I said. “OMO, the soap. It helps you to keep clean. It reminds me of whats important, what I am praying for.” I liked that thought, and decided at that moment to get my own, and make a list of things I want to constantly pray for and concentrate myself on also.

I dont want to be Muslim, nor Caltholic, nor Protestant nor Buddhist. I just want to know God, which is to know love and to live with a peace inside myself and everything I do.

New York will declare March 22nd as WORLD WATER DAY!!!

Thanks to our generous contributer to the Water For Orphans project, Lavona, the Congress have been convinced to declare this day of national recognition for the need of potable water all over the world!

I connected with the Muslim community, through a good friend of mine, Bakari, this past weekend. Here are some photos of the traditional henna they did for me, and with the wedding party. It was very interesting. The bride had to remain covered from the husbands family for about two days- until they gave everything that she and her family asked for, or otherwise her dowery. It seemed like we were the ones that got to have all the fun. I was worried that she didn’t even want to become married,and was afraid of being given away from her family, but later found out that Muslim women have the most power in their marriage at the beginning, that there is a very fine line between the official marriage and not being married, so the husband is obligated to really try to make the bride and her family happy, especially in the beginning.

The two photos featuring Franck are from Youth Day, a National holiday where children parade and dance in the streets to celebrate their youth. I went to Nkongsamba to share the fetstivities with Franck. He really enjoyed the grilled fish that I bought for him.

The last photo is just to let you know how traveling looks like in Cameroon most of the time, when I cant flag down a private car.. huge buses; with all the baggage on top, including goats. This photo was taken on way back from Yaounde, when a tire literally flew off the bus, and we sat there stuck for a few hours before catching another car. Ouai! On va faire comment?

Aladji, a very important notable and development agent, is Angels (my fellow Texan PCV)best friend in Bangou, and so I took part in the celebration of the death of of his father that happened last year. Funeral celebrations in the West, Bamilike province, are always a joyous and elaborate experience filled with food, wine, dancing and tradition that I would not want to miss! I have absolutely never enjoyed a funeral so much!

The following photos are from Bangangte, with my original Cameroonian family. Two sisters were both baptized; you can see them both wearing white in these photos.

The last few weeks have been filled with schedules, to do lists, and spending quality time with people here that I really care about. This is much like what our Peace Corps horoscope (a prediction of feelings and how to cope with throughout our service) said we would be doing when Tim and I looked over that same piece of paper again. I am in my last four months, as Education volunteers leave in early summer, just after school is out. But I am hardly worried about finishing classes at the high school where I work. What consumes me more is the excitement of the next chapter, the fear of leaving this life behind, and simply trying to take it all in and enjoy every moment. Between teaching lessons, preparing radio shows, funeral celebrations, writing in my post book to help prepare the next volunteer who replaces me, meetings about future projects (The School Development project was fully funded- the bureau AND the latrines, thanks to generous contributors and Friends of Cameroon!!!), and spending time with my family and friends, including wanting to be a part of every step in my good friend’s pregnancy, it hardly leaves me any time to sit and reflect on this life. I am so busy living it.

I did partake in my host family’s huge Baptism celebration last weekend. My little sisters, the oldest and the youngest, were both baptized. When I arrived, the backyard was full of about twenty women, preparing for the party, and a few men were burning the hair off of a pig they had just killed. When it felt like it was about to pour down raining, I looked next to the fire where there was a glass bottle containing water boiling with a piment pepper inside. When I asked about it, they told me that it was to stop the rain. All I could do was chuckle, half-convinced that it worked in some way, because it never did rain, no matter how dark the clouds became. So I peeled garlic until my finger nails were sore, and cut enough tomatoes to fill up a bucket- I did what any good Bamilike (a Cameroonian from the West province) girl would do! And in the end, we all shared the joy of eating all of these great dishes alongside the neighbors, friends and other family members who united with us to share the happiness of that day.