Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My International Life: Cameroonian Love, Norwegian Runs, Swiss Fundraising

Dear all,

For the [white, female, self-proclaimed or otherwise] losers in love, I have figured out a way to always win! COME TO CAMEROON. Dears, here, I assure you that you will find a husband in no time at all. The other day, after walking around by myself and getting lots of cat calls and love proclamations, I was fed up with all the superficial attention. When a security guard showed me to a public bank toilet, then waited for me to come out, and upon my exit confessed that he found me quite pretty, I couldn't believe my ears! I spun around, looked at him with the most incredulous and questioning stare I could manage, and asked, ¨Really, you think it's cute when girls go to the bathroom?!?¨ I think he was a bit flustered, but he managed a ¨Well...uh, yes.¨ So there you have it - pee, shit, fart, burp, snore, and scratch as we might, ladies, there is always love in the world for us. Though I can't say I feel too happy about it.

I'm actually in the process of creating a fiance for myself, just to keep the men (even the ones at work, yes) off my back. So far, all I have developed is that he's my age and American...but I'm sure the rest will come to me in moments of inspiration and/or desperate need. (So far, the need hasn't been too great.) Any suggestions for character traits are more than welcome...though I think he should be pretty strong, just to keep the more fiesty and aggressive ones at bay. :) Oh geez.

I have moved homes, and now live with Ousman and Habida and their three daughters (names still unsure). The fourth daughter is away at school in Bamenda, which is good for me, because that's one less name to remember. They are a very traditional Muslim family - the wife stays at home - yet the parents have chosen to put a huge emphasis on the girls' educations, which is pretty cool. We already have discovered a lot in common, and have planned many awesome things for the coming weeks: a trip to Kribi's black sandy beaches, the climb of Mt. Cameroon, runs up the local mountain on Sundays, ice cream- and pasta dish-making activities (for me to lead), portrait-drawing sessions, and more. I am also looking forward to attending the mosque with them, and trying the Ramaddan fast, which begins on 05 October. The house is in a beautiful neighborhood called Bastos, and I already feel very safe, happy, and at home. Oh, and good news - the toilet paper is NEVER soggy!

Bastos houses a pretty affluent and international community, with internet cafes and phones, foreign restaurants, and overpriced grocery stores all over. My morning runs take me past the embassies of Equitorial Guineau, Norway, Italy, Spain, and Russia, the UN offices for agriculture and development, and a lot of other acronym'ed buildings that I can't yet identify. The houses along the roads tend to be high-fenced and well-groomed, and I think they resemble concrete sand castles of immense proportions - complete with turrets, spires, balconies, and weird gaudy carvings. It's strange, though...because between all the mansions are little red dirt paths leading the to their backyard slums, and people come crawling out from between the castles, with rucksacks on their backs, to join the road traffic on their way to work. Just another example of the image vs. reality conflicts of this city.

Work is moving along, though I find myself getting impatient with more than the sloooow Internet connection. Our PCR tests have shown nothing for the past few days, which might be an interesting scientific result if we knew we had good reagents. Unfortunately the chemicals date back to 1996, and with regular refrigerator storage equipment failures, it's as likely that they're inactive as it is that...let me see...the cabbage in the back of our fridge at home, from 2 summers ago, is gone bad. Outlook, not good. But we'll keep going, because I'm learning more and more that:
1) Cameroonians keep working, regardless of what they have;
2) Cameroonians often don't have everything they need; and
3) This is now true for me, too.
I have just been assigned the task of organizing a Swiss company's trip to Yaounde for the MIM conference - sponsorship/fundraising details, accomodations, etc. Basically, EVERYTHING, and all in French!!! I have a meeting with Dr. Mbacham this morning to discuss it, but I'm already looking forward to having a little project of my own. It will be nice to be able to (somewhat) control the pace of at least one thing I do.

Being immersed in a slow-paced culture really has interesting effects on a fast-paced busybody person; I feel at once calmed and relaxed, and also extremely agitated and antsy. Hopefully, I will eventually become a relaxed producer - you know, those people who keep their feet swung up on the desk, chair leaned way back, chatting for hours on end at the water cooler, and still get more done than anyone else? Yes, that would be the nicest result! Goal: Accept said Cameroonian guidelines. Relax. Be amazingly, impossibly productive.




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1:37 AM  
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Although the ad-blog is annoying, it has some truth to it... the Free PDF Download site is awesome! I got your email and think the plan would be great. Good to hear you moved, and can't wait to read more of your adventures.

4:03 PM  
Blogger pai hearts mara more said...

Mara, I'm learning about giant squid axons and the separation of Imembrane into components carried by sodium and potassium gated channels...what you're doing is sooooo much more exciting. love you and miss you!

9:24 PM  

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