Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We're not in Kansas anymore.

Today. Well, let us see, shall we? Woke up to a knock on the door at Kortney’s apartment, the girl who comes to clean her kitchen and do her laundry. Bought phone credit from a woman who accepted my 5000CFA - the equivalent of $10 – and she told me I was her new best friend. Sure. Traveled for ½ hour across Bamenda with a woman, nearly 3 times the size of me, sitting on my right thigh. Got to the car park and piled into an atypical, tiny, 1980’s’ish, Toyota’esk vehicle…4 in the front, four in the back. Mind you, the car is, of course, a stick shift…so go ahead and think about that…with 4 people in the front. Let’s just say it’s better for women to sit in the “mini driver’s” seat, lest the men suffer through 4th gear. Ok, anyway, got to village. Went to some random woman who had rice in one thermos, beans in the other, and ate some lunch…you should know, it wasn’t spicy enough. Then I took a glass of fresh palm wine (essentially juice at this stage in its fermentation) with Augustan, who insisted, and then went home, changed, and walked to the hospital. I waited for the doctor for 40 mins, despite the fact that I had an appointment with him, and at one point approached the lab and asked the 6 workers who were sitting around in there about how they test for HIV at the center, how much it coasts, and when their next free testing day will be. Right as I was offering up my hand to assist in the (time/date unknown) testing day, a man came up to me and politely told me that in their culture, one doesn’t stand in the door way. I turned around and realized everyone was staring at me (more than usual, which is quite the plight) and I apologized to everyone. They nodded their heads in acceptance, and so I apologized to the lab techs I was talking with, and they nodded knowingly as well. So I sat down, because I didn’t know how else to continue to speak with these technicians…they hadn’t invited me in, and I didn’t think it would be very tactful just to take a step back beyond the doorway and proceed to shout the rest of my “white-man” questions through the frame. So the man who informed me of my folly (and don’t get my tone wrong, these pieces of information which I receive from randoms is absolutely welcomed…especially when they do it public, as it provides me an instant venue to genuinely apologize to those who were offended by my ignorance, flash a big smile, clasp my hands together and bow a bit…in the way that old Asian man would do, and use the phrase “I’m learning”. It works…and nobody looses. And this happens to me at least once a week…for example, last week, these women were bitching about me “chopping”, or eating, peanuts in the car and throwing the shells out the window. They didn’t think I could understand them but I could and so I turned around to ask what was wrong with me eating peanuts in the car, and added that I see people doing it all the time. She then informed me that those people eat roasted peanuts, not the kind you shell. Apparently, it was my hurling of the empty shells out the window which was, apparently, not only offending the (now suddenly) jovial women, but it was also putting me at risk of facing up to five years in prison. Same routine, thanking them, hand clasp, “I’m learning”, boom…no biggie.) Aaaaanyway, the man sits down next to me and we chat about his 2 wives and his 11 children…his brother died so he inherited one of his wives.
Ok, as I’m typing this, a young girl, 12’sh, walks by my window with a baby strapped to her back. She proceeds to go back to this tree behind my house, set the baby on the earthy ground, and climb the tree to retrieve the ripe avocados. I would love to go out and hold the baby while she does this, but I fear that she will look down, see some white man talking in some indiscernible accent, and fall out and crack her shaved, little head. TIA.
Anyway, I saw the doctor, who directed me to the woman who works with PLWH/A, Ma Bia (I shit you not), and we talked about teaching them how to purify water (she added that she herself, a nurse, wanted to learn how to purify water), nutrition, and how to create actions plans. I will assess their knowledge at the hospital, 8 days from now, when those who are positive are due back to acquire their anti retro virals.
As I was leaving the hospital, I was stopped by a woman who said a gendarme (state issued police man, aka a Francaphone) wanted to see me. You don’t blow this off. So I spent the monetary equivalent of a beer taking a moto out to the station and back…only so this man could make me give him my phone number…and then call me 10 mins later. Bleh.
Then I bought eggs and bread…walked home. And here I am, and now that that girl is gone…I’m off to investigate what magical fruit is apparently hidden in the innards of my backyard tree.

Woke myself up by sleepily rubbing my eye. Within a few seconds I was wide awake and splashing my old shower water in my eye…seems I still had some piedmont pepper on my fingers from cooking dinner last night. Pain. I was happy to discover that the electricity had returned, the 15 hour blackout wasn’t so bad but my phone was dead and I couldn’t call Dorrin to tell her that I wouldn’t be able to make it down to her place and back before dark…especially when there are no lights in the village anywhere. I’m going to be on a radio show on Thursday discussing public health, particularly amongst the youth. My friend, Comfort, does the show every Thursday with some guy. I could really knock this one out of the park or flop on my ass…any specific question might remain unanswered, as I am really not an expert in anything (except maybe beer).

Woke up to the alarm clock on my phone going off. I couldn’t find the damn thing anywhere. Finally, I followed the annoying alarm sound right into the bucket…which was full of dirty water from my foot washing session right before I put the tootsies in my relatively filthy bed. Woke up a few days ago to a goat tournament in my front lawn…two sets of male goats on their hind legs, rearing up, smashing their heads into one another’s. They ladies were circling around them, adding to the noise by letting out the most ridiculous blaaahhhhhhhs you’ve ever heard. They babies were chasing each other, mostly into the street where I feared the carnage could actually get bloody if a moto were to buzz around the corner. The radio show went fairly well…nothing like talking about masturbation and ejaculation for an hour the first time you’re ever on the radio. Sure. I have a little piece of a magazine add taped above my light switch: “You’re smile will last”. So far so good. My coworker is coming to get me in one hour so that we can go “on brusse” (“into the bush” if you will) and do some field work. This is not to imply that I will work in a field, as I imagined the first time I heard the term. After that he will drop me back off here and I will go to the hospital and try to meet with the PLWH/A, who are coming to get their ARV’s (anti retro virals). Tomorrow I want to go see about getting me a table and a couch. Just got back from a weekend in Sop and Kumbo with Rob. It was good, in fact, really good. He’s coming on Thursday. Yea, just living in an African village, dating a long haired, British man who lives 5 hours and a heavy coating in dust away…the usual. Ha, I just put my SIM card and my battery back in my phone…and it works just fine. Somebody call Verison and tell them to stop making shit phones that break if someone splashes you at the pool…the jig is up on them when there is a phone in Africa that can soak in a bucket of water all night, still wake you up in the morning at the right time, and comes back to life after 30 minutes of drying out.

Wednesday, 5:42pm: I am reading beat poetry, listening to the neighbor ramble in French through the walls. It’s sunset and it’s coming in my window, yellower here than I remember anywhere else I’ve lived. There is a slight breeze making the sheet I have hung in the frame move towards me, fall back. The fruit flies are mulling about around in the gusts, just out of my reach, intent on making me crazy. I feel content with the day, despite the absence of any “work”. But my whites are no longer brown, and my stove top is no longer coated in dried green leaves and tomatoes. I went to the bathroom, and every time I did, I did not want to honestly vomit…there has been an abundance of gagging in that tiny, tiled, rancid, brown stained room, until…today…post laundering and stove topping, I cleaned it…and was reminded of how it must feel to clean one of those outhouses after a 5daymusicfestival. No, I was not dealing with a gigantic basin filled to the toilet seat with feces, vomit, and maxed out tampons, but at least those cleaners have rubber gloves. I probably still have the last tenant’s poop under my fingernails. I walked ½ a mile to the market. These two children would not stop laughing at me. They sat, maybe 3 feet away from me, and watched me eat rice and beans. I drank the water and I’m sure I’ll regret it. I drank whiskey when I came home in hopes that it would kill whatever might be down there now…a mentality which I adopted on my Mexican spring break, where every cut and stomach ache was treated with tequila. Not a bad gamble when you’re going to get sick/lose a limb either way. I have taped quotes on my wall which seems and looks adolescent, but it’s nice to talk with somebody from my old life when I’m sitting, laying, thinking. The correlation between the last breeze and the onset of the Animal Collective song “Daffy Duck” on the ipod speakers just gave me a euphoric feeling. I will sear two huge handfuls of green beans for dinner, add onions and garlic. I watched the beginning of Beauty and the Beast today and wondered when people become middle aged enough to stop doing that. But for now I’m just wondering when my face will stop behaving like a pubescent, 14-year-old boy’s, and when I’ll finally have a hula hoop for my house.

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