I’ve been back at post for a couple of weeks and its my usual siesta time, but I’ll share some thoughts instead. I found out the Tobacco man of the east will be coming out the 16th. I think our last post mate Janelle will be returning at the end of this month. Also at the end of this month we, the East, have a regional meetings where all volunteers meet up at the regional capital to discuss how things have been going at post and what possible collaboration projects we could do.
Some new things. I have some hired help. Originally there was an older man named Beroko who worked for the previous volunteer in this house, cleaning and doing laundry, but he is now a chef. He asked me if he son could do the same work. I didn’t want the help but he doesn’t go to school or have other work, like most of the youth here and in all of Cameroon. I didn’t want him here as frequently though. The previous volunteer had Beroko come by 8 times a month, so twice a week. I have his son, Harris, come by twice a week, but only 2 times a month. He gets paid 5.000 CFA a month. My place is now not as dusty during the dry season and he cleans my clothes better than I ever have. He's 22 I think. He’s coming by tomorrow actually, and he actually shows up on time, which isn't very African. But he also lives right across the street. By recommendation of my parents I have also started a daily recount journal. Not really a journal, but just what I did that day. Thank you mom and dad, the idea has been facile and beneficial. I think it will also be nice when I am old to go back and read about all the random things I did day by day. I have a blog, but these are mostly rants or observations of culture. I am also using the awesome journal my sister gave me as a gift right before I left : ) I Love and miss you all very much : )
I bought a couple of street DVDs one night and have only watched the music video collection of Michael Jackson (like 20 videos). Let me enlighten you on how random some of these illegal street DVDs are. One DVD called “Pirates de Caraibe 3” has all 3 Pirates of the Carabian, The Medallion with Jackie Chan, Walking Tall with The Rock, Sin City, and National Treasure. The second DVD has 8 Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Thats usually how movies are sold here. Either by genre, or by actor(s). My last DVD is 4 movies by Stallone and 4 by Chuck Norris. Everything but the Michael Jackson DVD is in French, so I figured it would be good listening practice. Let me get back to MJ though. I don’t remember a lot of MJ music videos, maybe the big name ones that are recreated for talent shows, but his videos are wild. Or bizzare. Like BAD. Super unique which I like, but I didn’t fully appreciate his style of creation. It makes me want to see “This is IT”.
I read a book called “My Life as an Experiment” by A.J. Jacobs and would highly recommend it. This is a book that was sent to me by my awesome Bybee. I feel I would get along well with A.J. and look forward to reading his other book that was sent to me. He just puts himself into different experiences and reports about them. I like putting myself into experiences as well, comme le corps de la paix.
I don’t know if I’ve shared this before but street manicures are popular here. I don’t know the cost, but there are individuals who walk around clicking scissors to get peoples attention who need their nails tidied up. Must be interesting to see hands all day, and feel different hands all day. I usually see the Muslims getting this work done. I’ve also only seen it on the hands and never the feet.
In PST I did a presentation on the Neem tree (the magical tree) because its an awesome species. One fact I brought up was that its popular to use the young stems as a tooth brush, especially in India. One morning I saw a guy walking around rubbing a twig in his mouth and he confirmed with me that it was neem. Called it the “La brosse au Afrique”. Side note. I love how popular salutations and good byes are here because of the variety of selection. Its going to be weird to go back and visit America with that sense of friendliness with strangers and it be accepted, for the majority.
One night for dinner I was having fish and baton with Stephanie and I saw some stuff gong on behind the fish mama stands that caught my curiosity. So while my fish was cooking I got up to investigate. One place, where I thought kids were playing foosball, they were playing craps. Everyone was very inviting but of course I had no interest. The next was a theatre. But it was a porno theatre. At least at night it is. I walked in through the curtain and theres porno playing on a 90’s TV with a bunch of benches and men in a dark room. They all yell at me so I peace out pretty quick. I asked my friend Omar and its a theatre throughout the day, 100 CFA per showing, but they just save the dirty stuff for night time.
When electricity goes out here, which has been happening more frequently, people can go to boutiques and pay to have their phone charged. The boutiques with generators bien sur. 100 CFA a charge. Or its also popular to charge your phone at the travel agencies. There are just open outlet plugs where people get to mooch off of.
Another interesting thing, in the clothing or sheet market area shop keepers will spread water on the soil in front of their shop to keep the dust down so their product looks good. This is because dust is everywhere during the dry season. I like getting to pee on the side of the road and watch a plant turn green again because my tinkle washes the dust off. This is another reason why washing shoes is so popular. I usually wear my bathroom sandals or Chacos out and my feet always come back gross. Shoes area really big here, like status wise. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that before. Which is why its important to keep your shoes looking fresh and cleaning them probably daily. I don’t yet, but assume I will. I’ve only cleaned my Chacos a couple of times and my mountain boots after the field trip to the NW region where we had to help push the bus up a hill. I bought some nice “leather” sandals to wear with my bou bou ensembles. Since they’re made in China I need to take them to a shoe dude to reenforce the work so they actually last.
The local water spot recently broke as well. Its not a pump forage, but just a spout that people fill their bidons and buckets at. I don’t know why its broken, my neighbors say its because kids play on it all the time. I think there’s more too it. Anyways, I am blessed at my post because I have a well that has a pump in it to move water to this water tower that is then gravity fed into my house. There are maybe a handful, < 5, other houses that have this in Batouri. My immediate neighbors asked to use my well so they didn’t have to travel to the other forage to get their water and I had to deny them because they then word would spread out that the white man opened up his well to the neighborhood. Its also really deep and empty since its the dry season and in my post book a previous volunteer mentioned that they let their neighbors use the well but when the bucket dropped it hit and broke the pump. So a large sum was paid to replace the pump. Getting asked for water, money, or a way to America has become very common. Kids usually ask for 100 CFA. Adults ask for a “financier” for a project they want to do or just for work. Then some people apparently have money, but need help getting to America. I have no idea how that works so I just tell them to visit the embassy in Yaounde to find out the process and application. I need to load a picture of what it looks like from my water tower just so you get an idea of what its like to live in this house with all its amenities. Initially over sight visit I thought I would like all the space, but now its just too much. I am surrounded by traditional houses with earth bricks and subtle tin roofs, but most have electricity and even satellite TV. Omar, my breakfast homeboy, lives in one room with a bed and shares that with another dude who I guess is a friend. Having this place makes me very hesitant to invite people over. There have been quite a few people who insistently ask when I’m going to invite them over to party or just to visit and I just say “one day” or “patience”. Patience is the common phrase if someone is sick or not doing well. “Just have patience and it will be ok”.
My community host, Hubert, who lives in a small pigmey village called Mindourou, actually came to Batouri for a visit. I didn’t get to see him over site visit because there was not enough time. From Batouri its about another 3 hours on the prison bus and if I miss the bus in the evening I’m spending the night there I would assume at his place on the floor. Well, last Sunday I get a random call from him at about 8 am saying he will arrive in Batouri in about 30 minutes. About an hour later he shows up and one of his sons is with him. I found out his son lives here in Batouri to go to school. So I assumed Hubert came into town so we could meet with the institution he works, CODAS, with together and come up with some ideas, plans, maybe a visit to his village. We walk to CODAS and its closed like most places on sunday. Apres ca we head to my place where we can rest for a bit, since he just traveled for 3 hours, and come up with a game plan. The plan was, meet later that evening, for dinner I guess, and visit CODAS Monday morning at 9. Time is very different here so I knew it was going to be around 11. I wait at my house all evening and never hear from Hubert again. I actually end up falling asleep waiting for him and wake up around 11 pm and get into bed. The next day I get up ready for the meeting at wait until about 11 and then head to CODAS to see if he was there. When I saw the guy in charge of CODAS I asked if he’s seen Hubert and he said “Oh, hes in village”, but I informed him that he came into town to visit. When Hubert arrived he informed me he would be leaving here Tuesday so I figured the meeting was not going to happen. I called him up Tuesday night to see if he got back to village ok (He has a village phone, its 1 phone for everyone to use in the village). Someone else answered and said Hubert would call me back. He calls me back and says he’s still in Batouri. So I make another attempt at setting up a meeting. I ask him if he could meet at my house tomorrow morning, Wednesday, and we go to CODAS to discuss possible work. He says sure, we’ll meet at 9 and head up there. He also apologized for not making the last meeting because he was too tired. I’m making the assumption he was just spending time with family here because he probably doesn't get to see them often which isn't a problem with me. I waited until noon Wednesday for Hubert at my house. I didn’t call him this time or go to CODAS. I feel if he’s not going to put in the effort in a meeting, he’s not likely to put effort in the possible work that could be done in his village. I haven’t talked to him since. I told him I would plan on visiting his village at the end of the month, but I would like to do with Janelle whose french is much better than mine. Its a 6 hour round trip and cost 3.000 and I know my french wouldn’t comprehend most of what would be brought up. Hubert only has like 12 teeth and he speaks very quickly. But then I remembered our regional meeting at the end of the months, so maybe it will be early February when I visit.
I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time out of their day to keep in touch, write a letter, or send a google text. It makes a big difference. The loneliness has sunken in for me after this first month. I get out explore, try to make conversation with people, explain why I’m here. But I finally feel the “fishbowl” effect that was constantly described to us throughout PST. Being in such a large “different” house doesn’t make it any easier. Its also a time period where we aren't doing much but integrating. Thank you again, it really makes my day.
One last random thing before I end; I saw a chimpanzee today when I was walking around as someones “pet”. I’ve seen other “pet” monkeys around, but never a chimpanzee. All I really got to see was this lady bothering the monkey and treating it like a child whose been in trouble. Yelling at it and trying to hit it with her sandal and then laughing. All thats going through my mind is that monkey biting this ladies calf or that story where the huge chimpanzee in America nearly ripped that ladies face off.
Nous sommes ensemble et du courage.