First meal at new house: avocado (“pear” in pidgin), tomato, on 2 slices of sweet bread, seasoned with some Italian and hickory spices (garlic salt is still packed somewhere in some suitcase/trunk/market bag), and ground nuts. Hawaiian punch made from a state-side packet and some filtered water that took some work to acquire. And a bitter cola nut to finish things off (nut which you eat for its caffeine).
First night at the new house: mattress on the floor, bug hut atop, new, stiff sheets inside with my two new, stiff leopard print pillows and my old, feather pillow and it’s familiar flannel pillowcase. Woke up a million times during the night, staving off the inevitable “shitty shitty’s” which I knew were eminent. That’s pidgin for exactly what it sounds like. I would love a nice A.P. (American Poop). Got up at 6 and had finally broken into a fever…body trying to fight whatever fecal situation/food poisoning/god only knows I’ve acquired this time. Calls for another acronym: T.I.A. (This Is Africa). Started to feel good enough to walk to the market around noon.
First items bought in the Mbengwi market: 3 “pears”, 4 tomatoes, 2 cucumbers, toilet paper, 2 loaves of sweet bread (not a huge fan, but it’s all they have), 2 boxes of matches, 100 CFA worth of ground nuts, 2 candles (for when the lights go out after dark, which the most surely will), credit for my phone, and a big blue bucket. I will use this bucket for everything. I immediately used it to flush the two toilets that are in my new apartment. There is no water hooked up yet so the only way to flush them is to pour a bucket full of water down it. Kinda works. I then filled it up again and left it outside, where it is now, warming for me to “shower” from it. I will also use it to wash my clothes, something I might take on tomorrow if I don’t move a few apartments down. The lock on my door is janky and I told my landlord he has to fix it or if something happens to me all the people in the US would blame him. This tactic, as I intended it, will make him work much faster…I’d give it about 2 weeks and a call every day from here on out until it happens. It’s really not that dangerous, I really just want to have the best locks, because why not? Update: the night I wrote this I became locked in my room. I flipped. Needless to say I have a bruise on my hand and my lock was fixed in the morning.
New apartment (for the moment): 2 bathrooms with indoor plumbing, yes, I agree, sounds impressive from what you were imagining. No. Nope. Each is about 2 by 4 feet. Literally. This would not be a problem if I didn’t also have to shower in each one of these (assuming the showerhead works…haven’t had water yet…so for now, bucket showering in a room that is so small….annnnnddd has an African toilet with what looks like baby leaches in it (I really do think that is what they are)…either way, not very contusive to washing the ankles or anything else that requires you to bend down. Well, and the bucket is on the ground…so I guess you’re pretty much eye to eye with a toilet for 50% of the bath. Either way, even in the last 20 hours which I’ve been here Mbengwi…the indoor toilets have come in quite handy, despite any other downfall. Better than walking around the house to a hole in the ground, as I had been doing when I lived at my host family’s house. 3 bedrooms…one will be a meditation (once I get bored enough to try it)/office/extension of the tiny lil’ kitchen, the other will be my room (with one of the bathrooms off it), and the other a guest room (for all of those who have told me they will come visit…at least until you discover how much the yellow fever shot costs….and other PCV’s…it’s the land of acronyms, but I’m sure you’re astute enough to put that one together).
I have ground nut stuck in my teeth but my hands are too dirty for me to put them anywhere near my mouth…and washing them would require some unpacking (and I don’t know where anything is at this point) and then a bit of a treck to find water. I am going to a compound after I finish with my bath (don’t worry, I took two Imodium) to continue on with the funeral which began yesterday (officially), for my supervisors husband/my pseudo host dad. There, they will drink palm wine (“white stuff” in pidgin), coming directly from the tree. Sweat…on the first day/hours it’s taped, and as it rapidly ferments it becomes rather bitter. Not a bad taste if you ask me, but not every white is of the same opinion. They call me “white man” here, and by call me I mean yell at me. Not as annoying as it sounds as long as you can laugh.
Mbengwi: my new village. After a bumpy, dusty, brain scrambling hour, you arrive in this quant, little village…tucked in the palm treed mountains, houses spread out, toilet paper available, rice and bean serving “mama’s” around every turn, tucked right in thrrrrr’ (as Nelly would say…sorry to all of you over 40….) I have already seen a youth center, the burial of an honored man, three men in a row walking, holding each other’s hands, a cockroach crawl out of my sink, the car park where I can hire a car to take me to Bamenda, the regional capital. When I finally got the key’s to my place, and opened it (about 6pm yesterday), a group of 7 of my Cameroonian guy friends walked in right behind me and plopped down a huge box of dried fish. They ate it on my little patio and spit the bones (the ones which they didn’t chew and swallow…not kidding) in my front lawn.
What I can hear: Celine Dion song playing outside. They love her. Love. 21 year old boys will blast it, assuming it is impressing you, as it is every other Cameroonian. All I can think of is Alma soccer camp (anyone ask Mary, Marisa, Emily, Callie or Biff what they think of when they hear her…I’ll bet you get a similar answer). Also, moto’s. Ton’s of motorcycle/vespa things buzzing along the main road out front. Banging, from the building which is being built across the street and probably, like many of the other building projects around here, will not get finished. The one down the street from me has so many plants growing it in I made a note to myself that I have to go through it. I’m imagining the secret garden but I suspect, like everything else here, it will not turn out the way I expect. Which means this place could turn out to be a Mecca, or a spider/rat filled death trap.