Spent the day counseling 4 people before and after their HIV tests. Who let me do this? I’m not qualified for this. But the weird part is I am more qualified than…well…almost everyone here. That sounds terrible…arrogant, western, and true. But there’s nothing like asking a grown man if he’s married (yes), has any kids (2), and why he is in to get an HIV test. Well, he’s almost surely cheating, especially because he’s a teacher. Male teachers here openly sleep with their young female students in exchange for good grades. No, I’m not making a generalization or assumption…this is common place. Yea, Christ, it’s true, and gross. Anyway, this man tells me he has not put himself at risk…ah-hem, ok sir, so if you’re positive what are you going to do? “Tell my wife”. That’s touching, isn’t it? Bag a bunch of 13-year-olds and your wife at the same time…but at least he is going to tell her he has given her HIV if it turns out he is positive. Anyway, my job is not to judge…or at least I’m supposed to hide my judgment. Also, I never thought that I would eat so much parsley. Yup, we eat parsley leaves with nearly everything, celery leaves and basil as well. Making eggs? Toss in the green stuff. Pasta sauce? Green stuff. Soup? Yea. And it’s gooooood. I’ve pooped 4 times in the last hour which makes me think I might have to wash it better.
We counseled and tested 14 people for HIV today and they were all negative. It was such a relief, as I’m dreading the day I have to tell someone they are positive.
Today is a bit hard because I’m thinking about what standing impact I’m going to have here and nothing is coming to mind. I keep telling myself that if I can just influence one young girl, who then can, in turn, become a leader in this community…then I’ve done my job. But finding this girl in a village of 7,000 is not exactly easy. She can’t be sleeping with her teacher. She can’t shout “whiteman” at me as I walk past. She needs to be committed to school, her sexual health, Mbengwi, and herself. And most importantly, she cannot let her voice be lost in the male dominated discourse.
I accidentally just ate a piece of bread with mayo spread all over it…for the third day in a row. Things are getting dicey. But you know those nights in Michigan, summertime, and it’s around 6:30? When it’s still warm but your upper lip won’t crack a sweat-stash, crickets, kids, and the tops to pots are clanking about, and being a part of it and utilizing it…feels so good? A Thursday night baseball game. A glass of red wine and you cook some dinner. In Michigan I would eat it outside, but here I eat it on my bed and wash my dishes outside. But everything else natural about those evenings are my every evenings here. At this particular 6:30 there is some boy with a naked 2 year old on his shoulders, walking and shouting outside my window, in the back of the compound, through the trash scattered everywhere on the ground, and the fucking beautiful feeling that is an African evening.
My feet smell and it sucks because I’m sitting cross legged. But I got some new sandals for these “fingas fo foot” (“toes” in Pidgin, hahahahah, yes, really) and the name of the brand is “Dongfang”. Yes, really. At the top of the sandal is printed “Feminine Fashion Explorer”…it is unclear why it’s there but I think it’s quite fitting, don’t you?
Just talked to mom. I told her that I was Rob’s wet nurse for 4 days straight. She told me what wet nurse really means. Seems I’ve had it wrong for some time now. Upon reflection, I’m sure every other time I’ve used that term it has been relatively and severely inappropriate. Apparently changing the patients clothes and providing water does not make one a wet nurse…oooonly breast milk can award that title. Good.
Everyone here stays up so late, despite the reality that they will surely be up before 5am. The world is a vampire, and here is no different. Who sang that amazing song? Surely someone who spent a hearty amount of time at a strip club. I stomped on the biggest ant I’ve ever seen today and, as I lifted my sandal, my first thought was “god, that’s one juicy ant”…and then laughed audibly and noticeably alone, as that’s just one silly phrase. But you’ve all had those moments. One of my favorites was when I first saw Ellen’s standup. I was in my basement, 18 years old, and was still awake on a Saturday at 3am’ish. I was laughing so hard about the part when she runs into the window and loses her eye that I had to burry my face in the leather couch to keep from waking my parents. Laughing that hard when you’re alone is striking…you think as much about the fact that you’re laughing alone as you do on the fact that you’re laughing. This also happens to me when I accentually put my hooded sweatshirts on backwards.
Youth Day is happening outside my window. There is a group of 4th graders(ish) in my front yard playing two little bongo drums and using an empty Faygo bottle as an accompanying instrument. There is a precession of teachers, students, and your everyday people walking towards something…something will happen at the place where they’re going and I suppose I should get dressed enough to join them, investigate, “experience the culture”. Sometimes this gets exhausting…always participating in everything lest you miss anything. You know when you’re on vacation and there is some famous museum, say, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and you go just because you feel like you should? And when you’re there, you can actually feel yourself not enjoying the voluntary activity, but you tour the entire museum anyway, hoping that the next exhibit is not, in fact, filled with more old, aviation attire, but is instead profiling that time half naked women flew fighter jets as part of a Led Zeppelin performance? Well, anyway, this daily vacation has plenty of “museums”, and a few of them turn out to be pretty fucking awesome, while the others are just filled with a hunk of old junk accompanied by lengthy explanations. I bought two used blankets from the main market yesterday. The main market takes place every 8 days. I searched far and wide for blankets sans a ridiculous pattern. You know how, maybe 4 times a year, a blue-jeaned-man brings out those huge rugs adorned with leopards, eagles, and nauseating floral prints? And he hangs them up at a corner gas station? Yea, that is what the new, packaged blankets are like here. Yes, lime green does look good with red and brown flowers, and I do want to cuddle up every night with the beak of an eagle under my chin. Used throws: One of them is a nice, scratchy and brown, and the other is fuzzy, blue, and too long for my bed. Ca-Caw.
I left my only hairbrush in Bamenda and, as I have yet to find hairbrushes for white people in my village, I have been using a fork. Yes, since I realized I didn’t have a brush, I have consciously taken 3 showers…knowing I was going to have to spend 10 mins running the utensil I ate breakfast with through my nappy hair. Imagine how you would feel at the moment you step out of the first shower (from a bucket mind you…more of a bath without the soaking), reach into your travel bag, and there is no brush. And so I tried just using my fingers, but I was on my way to the first day of work at the hospital and…well, I had to rewet and I knew what I had to do. TIA