(To whom it may concern…mom and dad):
This is the big’ole spring and summer blog. The oldest post is at the bottom of the entire entry (April), and moves upwards towards the most recent (July).
It’s the last day in July. Where has this summer, the corn on the cob, lakes, bonfires, outdoor concerts, hangovers, and skimpy dresses gone? Well? Back home. Here, summer is rain, sweet corn is the grainy field corn we feed to large animals in America, fresh water gives you Schistosomiasis if you swim in it (a diseases caused by a kind of worm that gets into the bloodstream and causes bloody urine, and eventual kidney and/or liver failure), the closest thing to a bonfire is in my backyard where someone is burning their trash, any outdoor concerts seem to be put on by drums and the neighbor boys at 5am, hangovers…well, they’re still here, and dresses are tents of thick material (inside which one could hide an entire pregnancy).
Today has been the most beautiful day of this Cameroonian July…seems she decided to sneak one in there before August got it’s paws all over it. Earlier today, as I was marveling at the blue sky through my bedroom window, I moved my focus beyond my billowing lace curtains, and onto one of my neighbors peeing in my lawn. Ah yes, the birds chirping, Louis Armstrong rasping from my computer, fluffy clouds, the smell of earth, and a women urinating a few feet from my bedroom window. In fact, our eyes met. To tell you the truth, I ducked. Instinct. Then my brain kicked in and I remembered: T.I.(f’in)A.*
*For those of you who might have forgot: This Is (fuckin’) Africa.
I was sitting with my friend, Celine, who not so coyly suggested I buy her a beer (I was wondering why she was accompanying me to buy tomatoes and avocados), when someone told me that my sister was around. This means there is another white person in the area. They assume we all know each other because most of the time we do, but in this instance I did not know this Norwegian visitor. She met her husband while at school in South Africa, a man who is from Mbengwi but moved to live with her in Norway. They have 2 kids who were, as was the mother, coming to Mbengwi for their first time. Gilbert, her husband from Mbengwi, called his friend who lives here still, Ras. Ras is his taken name, after his religion, Rastafarian (he later informed me that he is a Rastafarian Jehovah’s Witness. He did not seem to notice the glaring paradox). After leaving the bar, we all went to Ras’s place. He is a fairly successful musician, who has four houses throughout Cameroon, and is a single dad. This is quite unusual, especially as the mother is still alive and living in Cameroon….in fact, the first time I’ve encountered it here.
I was in Yaounde for a week, and on the bus ride down there was a group of women who decided to sing church songs…for 5 straight hours. No joke…I would not kid about something that horrendously annoying. I was having fantasies about turning around and rapping an entire Eminem album in their faces, and/or telling them that they are selfish human beings, terrible singers, and should get out and walk the rest of the way so that they can think about their actions. Extreme, you say? I ask you to sit in a tiny bus with people sitting on top of you for 7 hours, and then have the woman who is singing/squawking at the top of her lungs (for 5 of those hours) sit directly behind you. Oh, and she is clapping her (apparently) Hulk-like hands so close that the air she’s displacing is rustling your neck hair. Ah, just another life lessons in non-violence.
I brushed my teeth with anti-fungal cream by accident. The Peace Corps nurse says I’ll be fine, but my mouth is numb aaand I’ve used my fingernails as a shovel inside my mouth.
Well, I’m back in Cameroon from America. I am sure of this for a few reasons:
I have diarrhea.
I spent an hour this evening pulling maggots out of my cat’s leg. (I spent the next 4 days pulling the other 20 out…and there are still more).
After four 25-year-olds ate sandwiches comprised of scrambled eggs, a few cut-up pieces of 4th-of-July-party-hot dogs, and ketchup…. someone used the phrase “that was amazing” genuinely.
I had to brush my hair with a fork (again).
Nearly 50 strange men and 20 strange women have asked me for my phone number.
I watched an entire season of “Chuck” all the way through with interest…kindled by complete boredom (oh my god, who are those writers?).
It’s 7:20 and I’m starting to get irritated that I cannot watch Jeopardy.
I pulled out 4 recent American magazines from my luggage and all 4 of the sociable PC volunteers in the room did not talk (lest it pertained to one of the articles) for –honestly - 2 hours.
I heard my cat crying really loud, and when I went to check on him I discovered it was a baby goat outside of my kitchen window that had lost his mother.
There was a white person in the airport and I knew him. The lady at the phone store, who kindly gave me a ride during a rain storm, asked me if I know this white person named Mary who lives in Bamenda. I do.
After talking for a few minutes on the phone, my friend (who was in the midst of a 7 hour bus ride) casually mentioned to me that she has typhoid (“but is fine”). She is the 6th person I know who currently has typhoid.
There are mice in my ceiling.
I filled up my cat’s “litter box” with a fresh batch of dirt from my yard…a loathed procedure that has to be done in accordance with the rain (as it is rainy season). It is especially irritating, as I now have to dig up the dirt with my bare hands because my gardening gloves and my hoe are locked in a room…one of two which I locked before I left for America, hid the keys, and then returned from the land of the free (and cheese) only to realize I had actually hid them from myself…I am truly locked out of half of my house.
My friend Rose Mary is here, cleaning my floors. Can you imagine someone coming over to hang out with you and then they just start cleaning your floors? All the while I’m sitting here typing nonsense. The only reason I allow this dynamic is that she really needs money to pay her school fees and I don’t want to just hand it to her.
I got a kitten. His name is Miaka, which is a loose translation in my village dialect for “ashia”, which is Pidgin for “sorry”, “thank you”, “it’s a pity”, and “hello”. Either way, we’re obsessed with each other. When I had to leave him with my friend Tim for the week I was in Yaounde…well…I dreamt about him almost every night. It’s my suspicion that he was dreaming about my beautiful, fat ass as well.
Ok, things that have happened which are worth mentioning:
As most of you know, after rob and I fell apart, I was a heart broken little lady…which lead to my friends rallying around me…aka I’ve had visitors in my village on rotation. It’s been amazing. During the course of one of these visits, Thryn and I decided to try and find the waterfalls that are listed in my Cameroon guide book (Abbi falls), and so we got our rain coats, moto helmets, and water bottles ready and prepped to find the thing. I called my best friend here, Augustan, to make sure they were flowing (during the dry season, which we just finished, some waterfalls stop flowing because of the lack of water) and he told me they were and that…well, let me tell you the exact conversation: “Augustan, how?” “No, Fine” “I want to go to the Abbi falls, are they flowing?” “Yes. You people should come here and take me with you” “Ok, we dey come” “I am waiting”.
The falls are huge. Absolutely huge. How everyone failed to mention them seems quite beyond me… and then I remember that I’m in Cameroon and the nonsensical makes sense.
The power is out today because Cameroon exports it to Gabon on some Sunday’s. It will come back on around dark…which makes it hard to write this, my reports…watch Gossip Girl on my laptop. Ha. Believe what you’re hearing kids, I’m board enough to be watching the vapid and strangely captivating show that is played on (I believe?) the CW. Good.
Yesterday was Labor Day…which is not celebrated with camping trips, cheep beer, potato salad, and yard games (dammit). Here…we…march. Barf. I was told to arrive at 8:30am on the main street in Bamenda. So there I was, 8:28, waiting. I should know better by now. Ok, here is the part where I start complaining about people being late…and those of you who know me well will start rolling your eyes. Alright, I know, I know…I’m not the most punctual person…but hear me out with this one. So I arrive at 8:28, expecting the other members of my NGO to be there, but they arrive at 9:30 instead. This is when the march itself was supposed to begin. So we go and stand on the street around 10…under the rude eye of equatorial’ish, African sun. At 1pm we started marching. By then I was ready to take my clothes off, pour my limited supply of water over my head, and then roundhouse kick everyone square in the jaw. After the march we went to my NGO’s office for a “party”. This party included nearly 5 straight hours of praising God, reading passages about work from the bible, regaling everyone with stories of prophecy some of us were feeling in our hearts right at that very moment, aaaand then eating some fish….before telling more stories of miracles and God’s will, our fear of God, and our holy mission. Right up my ally.
I returned home after my inter-service training in the West.
Sat down at my friends’ palm wine store and I debriefed him on my travels. A million people approached me and asked me where I’ve been…while nearly all of them knew where I was and why I was there, but that doesn’t make difference in their musings about me leaving them and going back to America, dying, disappearing. I chatted with one of the men who came to greet me – we went through the whole rigmarole – and then he told me that my voice sounds like a trumpet. He proceeded to howl out a few trumpet notes before turning to me with his conclusion that the cause of this musical inflection in my voice was “that thing” I’ve put in my nose (…my nose ring). I told him sure. Bull’s eye. Then one of the town drunks came to sit with me and the nice, old lady who was enjoying a glass of fresh-from-the-tree-wine with me. He told me that he is the father of everyone in the world and that if he has to “ease himself” (pee) he always does it away from the ladies. Bull’s eye. So then I decided to walk to the hospital to great everyone and tell them I had returned (if you don’t do this after being away people act very slighted). On my way there I got a call from my NGO telling me that a motorbike would be in Mbengwi to pick me up and take me to Bamenda for a meeting. I told them that I had plans (I was suppose to pick up my new kitten and I had to talk with the nurse at the hospital about work) and they told me to cancel. So next thing I know I’m zipping down the dirt road from Mbengwi, getting slapped in the face of my helmet with rain, donning a traditional African dress with matching head wrap for a solid 45 minutes. Bull’s eye. I worked for two hours with my coworker (named Little…her son is Treasure) before I caught some random car full of fat women back to my village after the driver shouted “Mbengwi” at me out the window as I was buzzing by him on a moto. It’s not really hitch-hiking if there are other strangers in the car with you…right? It’s safer than it sounds mom…take a deep breath.
When I finally returned to my house I made some Mac’n’Cheese, poured myself a glass of wine from a box, sat on my new, dapper couches, turned on an episode of “Chuck”, and tried to forget that my relationship of 4 months (and was more intense in my mind than it was in his….apparently) just fell apart and that I’m completely alone –and completely surrounded - in this tiny, African village. Bull’s eye.